Thoughts on Rebooting

Thoughts on RebootingI recently finished reading Mitch Joel’s latest book, CTRL Alt Delete. In his book, Mitch shares thoughts on how businesses and professionals essentially need to do a reboot – transforming both processes and ways of thinking in order to survive and thrive in today’s rapidly evolving business environment.

Personally, over the last few years I have initiated a number of significant changes in my own career – shifting my focus to digital and social strategy after having gotten my start in traditional marketing, with a strong desire to play in the intersection of culture, technology and media. I can definitely relate to much of what Mitch articulated. What I have really come to realize however, is that the process of “rebooting” isn’t a one time deal – far from it. The truth is that businesses and professionals, from a career lens, must now constantly examine and adjust things as technology and people’s behaviours evolve.

Here are a few things that I am now thinking about:

1. Creating Utility Through Content

It almost goes without saying that any content a brand produces, whether for social, web or email, should somehow provide a tangible benefit and level of utility for readers. However, the stark reality is that people are getting absolutely inundated with content from all directions – and many brands are still not putting enough thought into what they produce. The end result? One big, giant mess of content.

It’s true that most content has value when it comes to search optimization and the long-tail. However, I think brands need to think much harder about what content they’re producing – perhaps with a “less is more” mindset. I am definitely keeping this in mind for a content strategy I am currently developing. I am also looking for ways to extend the overall experience people have when engaging with content – creating a richer experience through multimedia and deep-linking to my company’s website.

2. Escaping the Box

Over the last few years, I have invested a significant amount of time in digital and social strategy education – including reading an endless stream of articles online, maintaining a healthy diet of books through Amazon, and attending a number of events and conferences. I’ve certainly had my fill of digital and social. What’s missing, however, is exposure to new learning – perhaps not directly related to the discipline of marketing.

Gaining insights from a variety of subject areas can fuel inspiration and enhance creativity, potentially leading to unique and compelling solutions to customer pain points. Understanding digital technologies, including underlying architectures and opportunities for evolution, represent one such notable opportunity for strategists. Another might be learning a new language? Why? Because language is a gateway to culture, and a preliminary step in leads to better understanding – an asset given Canada’s diverse population.

To add further context, my friend (and digital strategist) Rachel Lane shared some thoughts on how she learns in her post “The Education of a Social Media / Digital Strategist“.

So, I am now looking at ways to branch out and broaden my exposure to new ways of thinking. In the immediate future, I am endeavoring to learn more about Design Thinking. Down the road, I intend to learn another language – this goal has now been added to my five year plan. There will be more added, but I think this is a good start.

3. Finding the Right Mix

This topic could entail an entire blog post … or even a series of blog posts. Lately I have read a lot of articles related to personal needs to “disconnect” more. I have felt the need myself. While I enjoy connecting with people online, much of the interaction is very “surface” in nature. At the same time, from a career perspective, it’s clear that 9 to 5 does not cut it anymore. At least not for those of us who work in marketing. The continual need to learn, combined with increased business demands and competition, necessitates that people spend more time focusing on their jobs and their careers.

It’s a reality, and one that I don’t mind because I love what I do. It’s not work. Case-in-point, I wrote the majority of this blog post on a Sunday afternoon.

However, I am still adjusting, and I realize that I need to find the mix that’s right for me. Increased career and job demands don’t necessarily mean that I need to be online all the time. So, I’m striving to manage my time better. I’m seeking (and planning) opportunities for quiet – for deeper thought, learning and reflection.

I’m also going to drink more coffee. No, not just for the sake of it!  I want to spend more time with people, reconnecting with people I’ve met before while also making new acquaintances – hearing their stories and learning from them. Hat tip to Elena Yunosov in part for inspiring me to do this.

These are a few things on my mind. What are some things that you’re thinking about?

The Rise of Mobile and Location-Based Marketing

The rapid advancement and adoption of mobile technology, as well as the evolution of location-based marketing, are creating significant opportunities for companies to increase profitability and grow their customer base. Marketers are now better poised to influence action near the point of purchase in a timely and relevant manner – and we are just at the tipping point of what’s to come.

Research presented in May by Mary Meeker, a venture capitalist and renowned Internet authority, reveals that we are still in the early stages of smartphone adoption.

From Meeker’s Internet Trends 2012 presentation:

  • 3G penetration is just over 60% in North America and only 18% globally
  • Year over year 3G subscription growth is 37% globally (31% in US and 34% in Canada)

Meeker also revealed that consumers now spend 10% of their media time in mobile and 7% in print. Conversely, print accounted for 25% of advertising spending in the US in 2011, while mobile only accounted for 1%. It seems reasonable to conclude that companies stand to benefit by shifting towards mobile.

Smartphone adoption is key to location-based marketing, which focuses on the integration of media to influence people based on physical location. Asif Khan, Founder & President of the Location Based Marketing Association, stated in his presentation at the 2012 Canadian Marketing Association Summit that only 13% of 3G subscribers use location-based services to search for deals or offers – underscoring the opportunity for marketers, as consumers don’t yet have set expectations.

Marketers can already leverage location-based marketing in a variety of ways – for example, promoting nearby offers through mobile ads or location-based apps such as Foursquare. Many more innovative ways are emerging, using customer data and technologies such as augmented reality to create relevant and engaging experiences.

Technology is advancing and media habits are changing. Now is the time for marketers to embrace location-based marketing.

Building a Customer-Centric Company: Lessons from Coca-Cola Content 2020

Marketing was much simpler when information flowed in one direction, from company to customer. However, with the rapid proliferation of touch points over the past decade or so, and the ability for customers to generate and share their own content about brands, the nature of the game has truly changed – forever.

While most companies realize and understand this, the extreme rapid pace of change has left many somewhat bewildered and slow to adapt in shifting from a product or company-focussed organization to one that truly is customer-centric.

Last year, Coca-Cola produced a visionary and informative video communicating their vision for marketing and communications over the next decade. I recently learned about and watched the video, and I wanted to share my key takeaways – I have done so below.

First, here is the video. Trust me, it is well worth spending twenty minutes of your time to watch.

Key takeaways Coca-Cola’s Content 2020:

1. Content Marketing is Going to Become Critically Important

 

People are drowning in a vast ocean of information and content. Most of it, when viewed from the perspective of a particular individual, is completely and utterly irrelevant. However brands that are able to create interesting and meaningful content – in the mindset of customers, that is – will be better positioned to set themselves apart. In developing a compelling brand story, companies most focus on fitting into the unique individual narratives of a customer’s everyday life, and in someway creating real and genuine value. Marketing “fluff” just won’t cut it.

2. Company Structures and Processes Need to Evolve

The environment has changed, and company structures that were well-suited for the mass marketing era have become antiquated. In particular, companies need to become more open and willing to partner with different contributors in an effort to collaboratively achieve objectives. Essentially, companies need to consider new ways of doing things – such as, for example, inviting input from customers through crowdsourcing or perhaps partnering with a technology company to reach customers in a new and innovative way.

3. Companies Must Adapt to an On-Demand Culture

 

Digital technology and social media has truly facilitated the development of an on-demand culture. While marketing and communications campaigns, finite in nature, will still play an important role – companies need to focus more on being present when customers want them to be present. Engagement opportunities now exist 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, across multiple touch points.

4. Think Big, But Keep Business Objectives in Mind

The rapid pace of change necessitates that companies become more innovative in how they engage with customers. An innovative corporate culture requires big thinking – ideas that push boundaries, perhaps getting companies out of their comfort zone. However, in developing innovative approaches, companies must not lose sight of their business objectives. Connecting the dots might not be easy, and the path might not always be clear, but companies must consider how “idea X” will help the company achieve “objective Y”.

5. Learn to Operate in Perpetual Beta

 

Test, learn, measure and refine. Companies like Google continually test and refine products – often not even dropping the “beta” label once a product has been launched.  Big, creative thinking and innovative content requires testing, and the reality is not everything will work. But companies that focus on identifying successes through measurement, and refining those successes based on insights gained, will be well-poised to create relevant content for customers that truly has meaning and provides value.

What are your thoughts?