Friday, August 1, 2008

A Brave New Online Marketing World

Remember the mid-90’s when the internet was in its infancy? We were mesmerized with this nascent in spite of the fact that we were only viewing a few relatively static chat rooms and limited sites. But the possibility was there and the ambitious soon began to flood the market with ways to exploit this new undiscovered country. Some early ideas worked and others, such as CRM, were great ideas in theory but horrible in practice.

Well thanks to the ASP, SaaS, and Cloud Computing the once clunky software implementations that weighed the original CRM offerings in infamy we now have very feasible options that are even accessible to the average Joe Smith operating a small business on 123 Anywhere Street. Take a product tour from Marketo, Infusionsoft, Netsuite, Omniture, or Exact Target and you will be equally impressed. What was once a vague and brilliant idea has now become a hard and fast reality.

Alright, this stuff is great. You get the point.

Let’s discuss who should be concerned with such applications. It is really quite simple. Anyone who is looking to create a more visible and measurable relationship with its market or audience will greatly benefit from things like web analytics, online marketing, or marketing automation. Let me give you a few quick examples:

- The owner of a Dental Practice who has two primary customer bases (those who just need cheap, basic services and those requiring the more expensive activities like cosmetic dentistry) and wants to create separate messages to those audiences.

- The partner of Business Consultancy that is dealing with a longer sales cycle and wants something to help him nurture his leads.

- The mid-sized consumer product company that wants to more closely communicate with its top customers through something like a blog.

- Any Small, Medium, or Large company that wants to keep tabs on its competition by getting constant updates every time one of them is mentioned in the press.

I could keep listing plausible scenarios. The fact that we now have technology that can provide scalable results to the myriad of data points that surround each customer interaction should be music to the ears of anyone with a desire to grow their business. Gone are the days when 90% of the time was spent querying a database trying to obtain data; now the bulk of the effort can be spent creating actionable intelligence that can drive business strategy and grow revenue.

Take advantage of these programs. Evaluate some of these technologies. If you don’t have the budget to fully implement and run one of these applications then find an outsourced partner that can do that for you. Your business will thrive and your customer relationships will be as rich as a double fudge brownie sans milk.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Why marketing is essential to your company’s survival

To paraphrase an old maxim, “Change is constant.” We see it in our lives, we witness it within our communities, and we certainly face it every day at the work place. Companies that don’t embrace this truth run the risk of losing relevancy, market share, and the hearts and minds of their consumers. The enterprise that can effectively gauge trends and act on them has the clear upper hand; just ask Ford, Yahoo, or Palm the price of not adapting to market trends.

The marketing organization is in a unique place when it comes to shaping corporate strategy. It conducts the market research that helps determine product characteristics. It monitors the competition and pores over endless trade and industry journals. It has the structure and discipline to handle the insights gained from the sales force in the field. Marketing conducts the focus groups that are designed to flesh out the concerns, wants, and desires of their consumer base. These kinds of insights are invaluable. There is no better organization within the company to be manning the ‘crows nest’ to help the company steer clear of threats and challenges.

So marketing is in the cat bird’s seat when it comes to determining corporate strategy. What are some things it can to do to ensure that it gets its just due?

• Aggregate and effectively manage information- Make it a point to collect information. Make it a bigger point to organize your data in a manner that allows it to be easily sorted and accessed. There is a tremendous amount of gold that can be mined with a little bit of focused and structured data mining. Create an appropriate taxonomy that will allow you to easily search through everything ranging from point of sales (POS) data to the results from your latest email campaign.
• Invest in someone in a strategic capacity- Earnings pressure typically force most companies to become short sighted and cut back on concerted strategic efforts. While the short term results might not be affected it has a major detrimental impact on the company to be able to forecast events in the future. A smart company will have someone whose job it is to manage all market observations and to provide thoughtful recommendations based on these trends.
• Find ways to communicate with your customer- You need to have a meaningful and frequent relationship with customers. There are several traditional means to do this such as focus groups and telephone interviews. Technology also allows for many new forms of interactive or permission based marketing initiatives. Your most loyal customers will be flattered that you are considering their opinion and will often provide brilliant and frank opinions.
• Capitalize on your internet strategy- We live in a time where we are swimming in information. Chances are there plenty of chatrooms, blogs, and web communities that actively discuss your products relative to their competition. These sites are gold mines for determining what is taking place on a grass roots level. Don’t be afraid to aggressively obtain customer information and don’t be afraid to use that information in tailoring your marketing campaigns.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Profiting from Great Ideas: The Grand Conundrum

History is full of stories and characters that can be used for our current benefit. It is not uncommon for Executives, Politicians, or Teachers to quote from the likes of Socrates, Confucius, or Lincoln. One such historical figure that I will use for the sake of this entry is the great Heron of Alexandria.

Heron was born during a time when the golden ages of Greece and Rome were at full shine and he lived in a place, Alexandria, which offered fertile soil to the best ideas of the age. So with his natural curiosity and tenacity he set about uncovering some of the most ground breaking ideas and inventions of antiquity. Historians credit him with the invention of the syringe, force pump, wind wheel, and even steam engine.

It is said that his work on that steam engine was on the cusp of igniting the industrial age almost 1,700 years before it took place. Just think about how differently western history would have unfolded if this took place! What if someone would have given deeper thought to how the steam engine could be applied in more practical settings? But instead, his brilliant ideas were regarded at the time as novelties reserved for the theatre or amusement.

Now for the business corollary….

In order for ground breaking changes, program, products, or innovations to take place there needs to be two principle things. First, there needs to a properly formulated idea that can address a need or challenge facing the company or its customers. Second, once the idea has been validated it needs to be executed. In other words it needs to be transformed into something tangible that can affect the bottom line and keep the CFO at bay. Otherwise it will suffer the same fate of Heron’s steam engine and remain nothing more then a vague novelty that benefits few.

So first, good ideas need to be generated. We’ve all heard about the term ideation and we are all instructed to ‘think outside of the box’. We try but do we reap any benefits? A good ideation event should allow for all ideas, even hair brained ideas, to be considered. They should involve a wide range of people and even provide ample room for customer input. They should also come with a clear road map. People are more inclined to think when they are confident that their ideas will have an impact.

Secondly, lets move on to the road map. You need a blue print that turns your steam contraption into the steam engine that can ignite the industrial revolution. You need to clearly define who is in charge of the commercialization of these ideas. You need to make them responsible for the process but you also need to give them the necessary support and resources to succeed. Many great ideas have died on the vine because there was incomplete ‘buy in’ or because resources were held back. This is the difference between a corporate exercise in futility and a corporate driven at excellence.

Overview of Lacuna Services

As the website mentions, Lacuna Strategic Marketing Services offers a wide range of services that cover the myriad needs faced by marketing professionals who face budgetary constraints.

This presentation offers a little more detail on what is offered.

A Warm Welcome

Greetings and welcome to our little corner of the web! The aim of the Marketing Oracle is to provide concise, insightful, and regular messages and learnings to professionals who are looking to refine and grow the marketing operations within their organizations. These messages can help all firms, large and small, and will be provided by members of Lacuna Strategic Marketing Consulting as well as its strategic partners.

Stay tuned and visit often. Our goal is to provide insights that will help your company reach its infinite potential.