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B-to-B Brands Need CMO Insights into Consumers

 

According to Ad Age’s writer Brian Rafferty, leading B-to-B Brands should be paying attention to consumers. To compound such an observation I posit that B-to-B brands also need to pay full attention to CMO’s insights. Why? A new AdAge research report called B2BNow , gives such brands a 10% increased chance in purchase consideration–A fact that will magnify a CMO’s importance in the C-Suite chain of command.  Marketing experts have been studying the consumer for many decades. This differs from traditional B-to-B marketing that begins with sales teams mapping out corporate buying tendencies, and waiting on marketing departments to create the right message for the right buyer in the right buying cycle. Unlike corporate B-to-B research of enterprise behaviours, consumers remain the best subjects for charting and influencing predictive behavior on all brands, consumer and enterprise alike. You might ask why. Simply put, we remain people selling to people.

 

A recent PBS documentary aired, focusing on the tremendous ground-swelling success of Johnny Carson’s late night show.  When interviewing celebrities such as Dick Cavett, Joan Rivers, Ed McMahon, Jack Parr, David Letterman and Jay Leno, all pointed to Carson’s innate understanding of the consumer, or in TV terms, his audience. The Carson built his show’s high ratings on understanding that TV was a cool medium, first articulated by Marshal McLuhan in his breaking book, Understanding Media. By not producing a show at a level he could not maintain, such as the early hype of a product that than dissipates for a newer, shiner product, Carson discarded hot and heavy approaches to his audience to allow them to enjoy something that becomes more familiar each week, each month, each year. He did this by showing his own perfect timing for laughing at humor, departing from incredible trailblazing interviews of his former host, Jack Parr that though he placed his audience in awe could not maintain such performances’ for more than five years. The difference of understanding the consumer audience led Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show to run for more than 30 years as the number one late night talk show. Today we might call this the best long tail ever executed in media history. As the genius Marshal McLuhan wrote:

 

Everybody experiences far more than he understands. Yet it is experience…that influences behaviour, especially in collective matters of media and technology, where the individual is almost inevitably unaware of their effects upon him.

 

In a world where TV as a cool medium of the 60’s and 70’s has grown into a hot medium in 2014 it remains incredibly difficult to relive such a long tail occurrence. Again, no one said it better than McLuhan when he explained to the world what the new world is really all about.

 

The phone extends our voice, television extends our eyes and ears, the computer our brain and electronic media, in general, extend our central nervous system.

 

Apple Computers changed consumer and enterprise habits with its iTunes product followed by the iPhone, bringing myriad images, sounds and interactivity to simultaneously assault a person’s senses. In order for a corporate purchaser to relate better to each offering, Apple ensured brand familiarity, one that you constantly and unconsciously register, because it resonates comfort, which equals trust. This is the way that people relate and behave, be it myself as a consumer, an enterprise buyer, or as a President of a media company.

 

Two other great examples the AdAge article uses to articulate the importance of consumers to B-to-B brands begin with IBM’s Smarter Planet, which asks anyone seeing its ads to “join in the conversation.” The second example focuses on Cisco’s campaign of “Tomorrow Starts Here” about its Internet of Things, from networks to coffee makers. Both campaigns promote familiarity in a person’s everyday life. This remains a growing trend, as technology continues its expansion into all things in our lives, influencing both the consumer and business professional that resides in us. This leads to innovation being exciting, but also frightening. Being frightened does not encourage purchasing behaviour.

 

On a consumer note, when I personally think of trusting an electronic car that will do all the driving, I as a consumer require more convincing, more exposure, more branding type videos and social ratings to achieve a better comfort level and familiarity before I can make a smart and comfortable purchasing decision.

 

It’s no different than my ability to make a purchasing decision as President of a media company.  I am often asked to consider investment in several different new social or ad network platforms. From a business process, I turn first to my CIO when it’s not the CIO asking me to consider such a request. Ultimately, at some critical point we will both turn to hear from peers, trusted advisors, personal sources and consumer-based social outreach conversations to find a position of comfort and familiarity. This is what I term a base blanket of coverage with more than just our own industry sector. In particular, we are all looking for input that comes from both knowledgeable trusted friends outside of our own networked-environments. Again, it comes down to human behavior best tracked with consumers.

 

Lastly, another area that is trending on the importance of consumers for improving performance of B-to-B brands can be found in the search for CMOs to sit on Boards of Directors.  According to Spencer Stuart, though only 38 of more than 9,800 US board seats available at Fortune 1000 Companies are filled with chief marketing officers, such boards require digital and mobile expertise, which is based upon consumer insights. Bonnie Gwin, CEO at Heidrick & Struggles states, “Boards are really looking for fresh perspective, and strategic business insights…which CMOs can also bring to the table.”

 

Cigna, a Fortune 1000 company is leading the way by recently asking Mark Addicks, CMO at General Mills and Michelle Gass, chief customer officer at Kohl’s to sit on its Board of Directors

 

Consumers and Innovation need people to buy in and to embrace B-to-B brands at some level, at some point of attempting to win new customers. It helps generate business demand while ingratiating your brand into a person’s reality.  As Natalie Zmuda from AdAge writes, ” Your seven year old should be able to understand what your company does, no matter how complex the underlying products or solutions are to create or provide.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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CASL from a Canadian Publisher’s Perspective

 

 

Well, I’ve never been terribly taken with the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC’s) social policy initiatives in supposedly protecting the public from adverse business practices in telecommunications, broadcast and now email communications.

 

However, I must say Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) takes the cake for the worst, and one of the most stringent spam policies on the planet. I actually thought for a minute that the government-funded organization did get a lot of the issues right with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), but hey, regulators need their jobs, even if it’s at the cost of losing entire sectors such as publishing for starters.

 

I’m sorry. I’m simply not impressed. The publishing landscape at the best of times has been a brutal place to keep Canadian content alive while competing with the U.S. The federal government has been more than fair, over many years, protecting Canadian publishing firms through providing grants that helped place them in more equitable terms to compete with a much larger machine to the south that speaks the same language. But now with shrinking margins, more aggressive American competition, deconstruction of print as a sole offering, coupled with much heavier investments in one’s database, it’s a recipe for disaster.

 

Canada loves monopolies. Interesting, given our very social slant to be righteous with policies that cripple growth, paired against making a profit if you’re not a 1,000+ employer in this country. Why do I say this? I employ less than 100 people, making me a small to mid-size company in Canadian definitions of a SME.  Having been in the publishing industry for three decades I can personally attest to the cost of constant database cleansing to ensure we meet our industry standards for audit purposes. This was very important each year, especially when running a print subscription database. However, it was far more doable than attempting to opt-in the many who visit you digitally. And, guess what, it now extends beyond my industry to all industries. For the largest of companies this becomes the price of doing business. For the smaller of companies, this becomes the price of losing a business if you don’t know the ins and outs of permission-based e-marketing.

 

The government is giving us all three years to get our houses in order. But that is actually a fallacy if it is implicit consent given through business contracts that do not explicitly agree to receive messages from the business. Bottom line is explicit consent from a recipient that is in place for 2017, will need to be renewed each year to ensure your opt-ins are never older than 24 months from last contact or opt-in. This means a permanent program of database cleansing and e-marketing initiatives must be put into place in a permanent structure for your company to elude federal fines and damage to your hard-earned reputation. This is a serious investment for all of us. So, where do you start?

 

Obviously this will be a boom for CRM vendors, properly set-up call centers and marketing service providers that have the expertise and ability to create a plan, implement the solutions you can afford and then execute to keep your database healthy, or CASL compliant. The costs from a government perspective to police such activities have not as yet been discussed in a public forum. But from a business perspective I can share some of my own insight. And it goes like this:

 

1)   You must segment your current customers/stakeholders from your prospects. You know, the ones that were supposed to grow your market share.

2)   A simple CRM system such as ACT or a more progressive system like SugarCRM up to the largest of enterprise CRMs such as those SAP provide will be necessary. How else will you manage your records? After all, this is not a one-time exercise. It’s a permanent part of now doing business in Canada if you wish to stay in business.

3)   You will require dedicated staff to keep your database updated with documentation to prove you are fully compliant. Oh, you can’t afford new resources. Ouch! Well you can outsource this to competent facilities with proven track records in keeping databases current. A new type of opportunity for me, a publisher, as we’ve been doing this for 30 years.

4)   Segment industries. Don’t bite off too much at once if you are on a limited budget. Work with sales and internal marketing to understand priority names.

5)   Work with people/companies that understand database audits.

6)   Work with a trusted brand that signs a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to ensure from a legal perspective your data remains your data.

7)   Start working on a plan now, or call in database professionals that can help you build out your plan from technology to customer interfaces.

8)   Lastly, let your voice be heard through your professional associations and political representatives, because you care what happens to Canadian SMEs and your own business.

9)   Thank you for listening and watch for more articles on CASL.


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Content & Advertising in the Image Economy

Today we live in an Image Economy.  Content and Advertising are consumed within this context. Bygone days of how to create content and campaigns has changed to the degree of being unrecognizable to a publishing house or advertising agency.

In an Image Economy specialists write to deliver client or customer solutions, for advertisers or reader/online audiences. Not such a bad thing, given everyone appears to be in a rush to ask, find, absorb and act upon a solution to their question rather than an intellectual pursuit. The name of the game is engagement, not clever insights, not even number of page views consumed, unless its simply for brand exposure. LinkedIn gets that. As of May 15th they will sever its polling to be replaced by user questions only. A far greater level of measured engagement takes centre stage in such an approach.

Listing the types of writing on any commercial site can take your breath away with five major buckets, or ways to go to market today.  We can begin with Brand Impact Advertising. What does this cover? Billboard,Welcome Ad, Homepage Takeover. This sounds like a spy ring or at its most innocent indoctrination, scope creep, for above the fold space on one’s site. In today’s world, we call it “Share of Voice” or “Share of Wallet.” In the case of a homepage takeover, you literally knock out all your competitors from placing ads for however long you are allowed to hijack the page. Does this annoy your audience? Yes, but if its free content its the price for admission.

What is considered sexy ads, or should I say advertorial content disguised as non-advertising pieces of information, has been given the name of Native Advertising described as:

 an online advertising method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing content in the context of the user’s experience.

A lot of Native Advertising is delivered through blogs and social programs such as Twitter Chats. An interesting chat, but purely editorial, meaning no sponsorship dollars attached, was the recent BitCoin chat by Candice So from ITBusiness.ca.  This is considered the new content, which engages, grows community and positions the moderator as an important moderator with influence on the subject-matter. Most importantly, you can instantly measure the level of engagement to understand how your content is being accepted and acted upon. Then there is Custom Content. It can be delivered in many different forms. Videos, Articles, Research, Briefings, Tutorials, Infographics, Microsite Builds and Apps for your smart phone. The content must now be presented in a sophisticated package for accepted visual consumption. To produce the content it now takes on the need for design and technologists besides content specialists. It usually requires a project manager and a developer matched with a strong HTML designer. The end product is as credible as a syndicated study from the most credible research house or Institute of Higher Learning with a slicker more engaging presentation. And then one sees its not just the content influenced by the advertising, it is the design holding the information which must meet our visual acceptance in an Image Economy.

According to Jonathon E. Schroeder, in his paper called Visual Consumption in the Image Economy, he refers to a scholarly artist, Arnheim, who wrote  

one must establish what people are looking at before one can hope to understand why, under the conditions peculiar to them, they see what they see.

In other words, you must examine what engages your audience first, to be able to influence with content. And so the game of advertising and content now must also be scientific and methodical in its approach to be truly memorable, providing the influence we all crave to create.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Legal and the Blog

With the free flowing information available to all of us on the WWW, we forget that reading is different than cutting and pasting to make up a fabulous post on your blog, your social tweet or an impressive Google+ page that bestows why you are so fabulous. As a Publisher and virtual author this is a concern to me,  as it is to any publishing/marketing organization. It should be a concern to you. We are taught not to plagiarize in essays during the years we believe expulsion can be the ultimate consequence. We are taught in our novice years at work not to covet others’ ideas, as it would certainly come back to haunt you. Why  are we not teaching the legal rights of copyright infringements for digital posts? Is it because cutting and pasting is such a basic task, one we all learned in kindergarten and is forever now part of our DNA?  Cutting and Pasting will always be popular because it is an exercise in instant gratification to which marketers and authors now consider as part of their own storytelling. The cut is the new ink and the paste is where legal can decide to step in.

It’s a dilemma in today’s age of instant gratification wherein digital literacy has led to opening the gates of plagiarism. We all want to be considered ‘thought leaders’ but find someone else has articulated it better, or with more facts and well constructed arguments. I too find myself in such situations which is why the recent findings and recommendations released this week from the Ontario Community Newspapers Association hit a cord.  Media Lawyers Stuart Robertson and Douglas Richardson of the Toronto law firm O’Donnell, Robertson & Sanfilippo are the legal contributors to this weighty report that impacts not only the newspaper publishers but also all publishers and authors currently active in digital content.  Here are some high level findings that answer a lot of questions the OCNA has been fielding:

 

It is often thought that when an article appears on the Internet, it is a fair use to publish it because it is in the public domain . Not true . Somebody owns the copyright in the article and it may have been placed on the Internet for use . But something on the page should be clear that you can publish the article before you do so – i .e . a licence for you to use it . Examples of this are press releases – where it is very clear in the circumstances of the appearance of the article on the Internet that it is there specifically for your use as a publisher . But if there is no such clear indication that you can use something on the Internet, you should consider how you might go about using the article while respecting the copyright of its owner

IT World Canada has always been a media player in the Canadian arena of B to B publishing. Over 30% of our staffing costs cover journalists and authors who produce original content for the digital frontier, which can also be on request delivered in a printable output. Creating original material is costly, which is why the cut and paste endemic will not dissipate anytime soon. But remember there is a huge difference between articles written through instant gratification and the wannabe thought leaders compared with original copy which translates into Content = Consideration.  This type of post or article will always be sought after and appreciated. There is no worry about the legalities of copyright. There is only the passing and sharing of your own enlightenment.


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Brand Advocates

 

Most don’t think of employees as your best brand advocates. Most employers don’t think of social media for employee brand advocacy that can be tracked back to the bottom line. According to journalist Bernie Borges, EMC was able to document a “6% share of EMC voice in online conversations” from employees.  Very impressive but now what one might ask?

EMC’s full-year 2012 revenue was $21.7 billion, an increase of 9% year over year. That catches all CEOs’ attention.  Yet we too understand the marketing department’s attention was captured at the 6% of social voice.  Reactions from the top will of course be different from the marketing department glad to take some hard-earned credit for a perfect implementation, yet the CEO still sits and ponders the bottom line.

How do you take the 6% of share of voice and translate that into sales and/or reduction in expenses?  Let’s assume for sake of argument EMC’s marketing budget is 12% to achieve sales leads, brand extensions and messaging to capture a share of voice in all media channels. Now lets look at the 6% of share of social voice it has achieved by simply lighting its employees’ passions. This example speaks volumes in how to maintain a great brand and attract millennials to your stable of talented hires without a huge investment.

As the President of one of Canada’s top B-to-B media companies we continuously see a fluctuation of product spend year-over-year. One year its all about share of voice, another year its all about share of wallet and yet another year the million spent on advertising brand or message/product/service is directed solely to sales lead generation activities. It’s 101 to state we all need to plan, harvest and grow the delivery mechanisms our clients’  demand at any given time. It’s 201 to know that is hard to do.

Keeping your internal staff up-to-date is as much a challenge as constantly manipulating your work flows and design to ensure your company has optimum delivery in all areas. Providing the right communication vehicles for such internal conversations that will flow out at some point to external stakeholders is not only necessary, its also mandatory for success.

I applaud EMC for its use of a social platform that allows its employees to converse. Yes, we started with brand but we end with survival. Social is not the latest fad, though its powers have not been properly presented to the CEO class, where one sits back and states “now what?” Social is like the telephone. Imagine doing business without a landline or mobile. Really, try and imagine it. Never having a conversation. Always texting to ensure the relationship is formed, is solid and is growing.

Good luck with that! You must have enough understanding and vision to know in today’s world you can’t control the conversations of your employees or your clients. All you can do is enable the conversations.  Thank you EMC for such a great example of how its done.

 

Read the full article by Bernie Borges at Optimize This

 


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New Years Blog

And so 2013 went out with the lights, power and heat! 

 

What happened this year that made it different from any other year?

 

The big move to digital was accomplished by most. But the big move to replace print ad revenues with Run of Site (ROS) advertising in premium branded sites, were far more tepid than was hoped. With cheap impressions being delivered by many ad networks, the need to keep branded sites alive now comes down to original relevant content being ever-present. It’s really pushed the old saying, “Back to the Future.” But even quality versus quantity this day in age is only one slice of the answer in maintaining and building upon a media content business that many of us still refer to as Publishing. Most of us began understanding this reality by early 2012. By the end of 2013 there can be no doubt that the business of Publishing is into a very different survival scenario for 2014 and beyond. For those of us who really get it the future can be very bright. But for those of us that believe but did not prepare for such a day, the future will be cut short swiftly.

 

The projected future, strictly coming from a B-to-B Publisher’s perspective, is original content is always preferred. After all, it makes sense that Premium content will always have a place with your best readership demographic that most times translates into some loyal AAA customer advertising. However, for advertisers wishing to tap into the extended cosmos of readership impressions, Ad Networks not only take a place in advertising spend, but also will have a place far into the foreseeable future.

 

And so having worked through the ebbs and flows of changing times, I believe for overall health to a Publishing organization, Hybrid strategies remain the friendliest advice. If you look at your client base, I would be very surprised if your Top Ten customers have not added something new to the arsenal, allowing for revenue growth. Companies can only cut so deep, or so many times to get to the point of profitability.

It therefore begs the question that if your top clients are reinventing certain lines of business, in order for your offering to remain relevant and address solutions to such new things, a Hybrid strategy for maintaining or growing your line(s) of business remains essential.

 

Large statistical numbers tracked daily by e-Marketer to Nielsen ratings paint a brighter picture if you are prepared to look at your current business differently. Where once there was good old fashioned headlines and stories in newspapers that kept the Guardian or Globe and Mail a must read, there are now sites that feed whatever content you wish to snack on. But to counteract the loss of readership loyalties you can also take a great writing pool and re-contract them out to create brand journalism for such sites offering such snacks, or for different brands outside of your own.

 

On events, a mainstream for B-to-B publishers, perhaps such brand journalism can add much muster, as top clients continue to grow event platforms for customer retention.

 

And of course, there can be no single revenue stream so powerful as lead generation. When marketing is held to the fire to prove ROI, ads that lead nowhere but to millions of impressions with no attached proven action can be disastrous.  Can’t you just hear the internal conversations going on! “Yes, I spent $1,000,000 and according to accurate dashboards, it garnered 50M impressions in one month. “

And then you hear, “So what? Where are the results from sales?”

Now send your lonely sales representative in to calm the seas and bring home the contract. Think again, or think not.

 

To end this personal diatribe, in this year that now comes to a close with power outages and torn tree limbs across our Canadian landscape, I must say it has been a big move to HYBRID and ensuring the very best kind of delivery. As a B-to-B Publisher it is no longer good enough to be a master of your trade. We, as B-to-B Publishers, must be a Jackal of all things content, all things Internet, all things ROI, and all things relevant. That is the new mastery of publishing or media services. For without current relevancy, without the premium services that wrap all things together within your powerful media brand, we can’t help the marketing person confidently answer the question of ROI.

 

To all my readers, I wish you a wonderful safe and joyous Season and always, a Happy New Year.

 

 

 

 


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B-to-B Brands Need CMO Insights into Consumers

  According to Ad Age’s writer Brian Rafferty, leading B-to-B Brands should be...
article post

CASL from a Canadian Publisher’s Perspective

    Well, I’ve never been terribly taken with the Canadian Radio-television...
article post

Content & Advertising in the Image Economy

Today we live in an Image Economy.  Content and Advertising are consumed within this...
article post

Legal and the Blog

With the free flowing information available to all of us on the WWW, we forget that...
article post

Brand Advocates

  Most don’t think of employees as your best brand advocates. Most employers...
article post

New Years Blog

And so 2013 went out with the lights, power and heat!    What happened this year...
article post

Social Notes 2 Share via @fawnannan

Here are a few of the articles and commentaries across the social web I am making a note of, and sharing with you. Trust you will enjoy them as I do.