A New Agency Model: An Interview With Peter LaMotte from GeniusRocket

With agency models in the marketing world in a state of flux, opportunity is ripe for new, more nimble and potentially more innovative agencies to arise. One such agency is GeniusRocket, a small and creative firm focused on video production that brings together the best of traditional advertising with modern crowdsourcing ideas.

GeniusRocket has developed a crowdsourcing model that enables companies to source ideas from a hand-picked and vetted community of creative and video production professionals. Collaboratively, GeniusRocket works with clients to ensure that content produced fits clearly with the client’s vision and strategy while still providing the security, privacy and control associated with more traditional agency models.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to ask a few questions to Peter LaMotte, the President of GeniusRocket.

Q: What do you feel are the most notable benefits for clients of GeniusRocket’s unique agency model?

A: I think it has to do with comparison to what else is out there. The paths that have always been there have been “go local”, meaning essentially freelance – like a local guy or someone you might know – or go to an agency for the creative space. What crowdsourcing has done, through its evolution, is provide a third alternative. By using GeniusRocket, clients get the benefits of privacy, creative oversight and direction, and quality that an agency delivers as well as the speed, choice and the affordability of your traditional crowdsourcing paths. So, it’s meant to be the best of both worlds. We feel we’re the best approach out there for creating video content for a brand that really isn’t interested in just sophomoric humour or some of the stuff that tends to come out of contests. When you say “hey, $5,000 to the best video” and anyone can submit ideas, you tend to get a lot of college humour, a lot of students participating. When people are truly looking for agency level production, and quality of ideas, GeniusRocket delivers that through our crowdsourcing model.

Q: Often times with more traditional agencies, you’ll have the same creatives dedicated to a client account over an extended period of time. Is that possible through your model?

Yes, it is. Traditionally in an ad agency there is a small team dedicated to an account – and when a brand goes to the agency, you will typically get variations of the same idea. Someone will pitch idea A, and someone will come up and say “that’s great but what if we do this”, and all of a sudden you have ten ideas but it’s really A, AB, AC, AD. Someone else may come up with something new, but it usually ends up being B, BC, BD, again variations of the same idea. Whereas what the the crowd delivers through crowdsourcing and GeniusRocket’s curated process, leveraging established relationships with professionals, is a diverse range of creative and production choices. As a result of our relationship with the creatives, if a client comes back to us and says “I loved working with that team”, then we’ll make sure the same team either participates in another crowdsourcing initiative with the client or works directly with the client. Now where we see that happening more is actually in the production side, so what people will say is “gosh, I love the fact that we got 25 original professional ideas from you”, and “I love the fact that I used that production company, is there anyway going forward we can continue to work with that production company?”. We do that a lot, for one of our biggest clients we’ve done six national TV spots with them across three different projects, four of them done with same production company.

Q: How do you envision agency models evolving over the next number of years? Are you seeing other agencies coming in, with models that are similar to yours?

A:  The trouble with large agencies trying to adapt to this changing environment, and yes they do have to adapt, is that they’re going to have a tough time shaving off excess baggage that they have to make themselves more nimble. It’s not that they’re not going to do it, its just going to be difficult for them and they’re really going to turn to maybe more virtual teams than they have in the past and learn a lot from what is working at companies like GeniusRocket and Victors and Spoils from a more traditional approach. I believe you’ll see some disappear, more will acquire companies like ours to give them that agility

For a post on another innovative crowdsourcing firm in the ad industry, read my interview with Ignacio Oreamuno from Giant Hydra.

Building a Brand Presence on Facebook – A Great Example by Silk

Recently I’ve been paying particular attention to how CPG brands are leveraging Facebook. The reality, from what I’ve observed, is that most CPG brand Facebook Pages are literally engagement graveyards. Sure, the brands might have attained a high number of “likes”. However, for the most part, many brands are still treating Facebook primarily as a promotional tool and not as a social platform for nurturing a deeper level of engagement and brand affinity.

However, I came across one CPG brand that truly stands out for it’s focus on using Facebook in its proper context as a social platform – Silk. Silk is effectively using its Facebook Page to build conversation and brand engagement, while also creating sales opportunities through contests and coupons, and I believe that other brands can learn from them.

Here is a snapshot of activity on the page, as well as some thoughts on how engagement can be further enhanced.

Positive issues being discussed:

  • Numerous posts and comments about the delicious taste of Silk’s products, as well as the variety of available flavours
  • Notable community appreciation for product coupons offered by Silk

 

Negative issues being discussed:

  • A couple of concerns have been expressed regarding product quality (see post on June 24th by Kelly Elliott, post on May 15th by Suzanne Morrison and post on May 9th by Bill Gilchrist)

Synopsis and opportunities for Silk to better connect with people and spark conversation:

  • Silk has developed a very healthy, active and engaged community on Facebook – the brand is well-represented and the discussions, for the most part, are fun and light-hearted
  • Several opportunities exist to enhance and expand the conversation, further engaging with the community, building on what Silk has established:
  1. Entice community members to share how they use their favourite Silk products as an ingredient in recipes – potentially sparking ideas for others.  Include a related picture for each post, such as a dinner dish or a dessert.

    Sample Facebook posts:

    Do you have your own recipes using your favourite variety of Silk as a secret ingredient? Please share what they are in the comments below!Which favourite recipes do you like to include Silk in?

    Cobbler, cookies, and cupcakes – yum!  Do you have any favourite recipes that include Silk, which you’d like to share?

  2. Share how Silk contributes and gives back to the communities it participates in. Many people now look beyond the products and services a company provides, with a desire to know how a company participates in initiatives focused on the greater good. From Silk’s website and several mentions on Facebook, it’s clear that the company cares about health and environmental causes. Silk should communicate the partnerships they’ve established and the initiatives they’re involved with to the community – by doing so they can spark discussion, generate positive word-of-mouth, and enhance customer loyalty.

    Sample Facebook posts:

    Did you know that we are partnered with The Organic Farming Research Foundation, a national non-profit that fosters the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems? http://ofrf.org/ [link to The Organic Farming Research Foundation; include The Organic Farming Research Foundation logo with post]

    We are committed to taking care of our planet and providing healthy food choices. Here are some inspiring organizations we’ve partnered with: http://bit.ly/OaCegr [link to “Working Together” page on Silk website, listing partner organizations]

    We are focused on renewable energy – we offset the electricity used to make our products by purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates, representing energy from sources such as wind and solar. What are some things you do to reduce your environmental impact? [include picture of wind turbines with post] 

  3. Silk products offer a number a number of notable health benefits, which should be made more prominent in discussions within the community. Focusing on health can help educate community members on benefits they might not have been aware of – generating conversation and helping to build word-of-mouth.

    Sample Facebook posts:

    My favourite health benefit of drinking Silk is __________.Have you had a glass of Silk today? Did you know that each glass of Silk True Almond beverage contains as much calcium and vitamin D as dairy milk? [include picture of glass of Silk, beside Silk True Almond carton, with post]

    Silk beverages are great sources of protein. Check out the recipes on our website for some healthy and tasty Silk-based smoothies: http://bit.ly/LsmVOx [link to recipe search on Silk website]

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.

Canadian Marketing Association Summit 2012 in Review (Day #2)

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the 2012 Canadian Marketing Association Summit. The annual two day event was packed full of insights and information from true visionaries, with content focussed on this year’s theme on connections – how connections with consumers, customers and with each other are made, maintained, and measured.

This post provides a review of the speaker sessions for day #2. Click here to read a review of the sessions for day #1.

Ethan Zuckerman
“Lessons from Revolutionaries – What Activists Can Teach Us About Social Media”

 

Ethan Zuckerman is an activist and scholar whose work focuses on the global blogosphere, free expression and social translation in the developing world. He is a fellow of The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law, founder of Global Voices and the director of the MIT Center for Civic Media. Ethan provided an engaging talk about the role of social media in recent world events, from which business parallels and learnings can be derived.

Some key points from Ethan’s talk:

  • Darfur and the Congo are both mired in ongoing travesties, however the Congo isn’t gaining nearly as much international aid ($300 per capita vs. $11 per capita).
    • Media attention based on celebrity support for international charity plays a role – such as Angelina Jolie in the case of Darfur.
    • However, it’s not clear whether attention generated from someone who has a wider following, such as Kim Kardashian, would necessarily result in a similar difference in aid (side note: see this post Ethan wrote for an overview of a new measurement unit for attention, the “Kardashian”).
  • The attention fallacy: “If all you do is gain more attention, change is going to happen”.
  • Attention is not the same as engagement – social change is a long, difficult process.
  • Tunisia, the first country to force its rulers from power in the Arab Spring, has gone through incredible change.
    • Initially, people did not hear about protests due to media suppression.
    • Distraught Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor, lit himself on fire – incident captured on video, and sent to Al Jazeera.
    • Sadly Bouazizi died, but he also became the hero of the movement in Tunisia.
  • Revolutions need multiple channels, including new media and old media.
  • Social media enables amplification but not synchronization.
  • Effective campaigns enable people to watch, share and learn as the campaign spreads.
  • Major error in Kony 2012 campaign – the campaign was spreadable, but could not provide answers for hard questions.
  • People want to be heard – need curators and translators.
  • People want to belong – need authenticity.
  • People need stories – stories should be moving, compelling and real.
  • Revolutions come from people doing what’s right for them in their own best interest – need to help them do that.

Twitter: @EthanZ


Jordan Banks and Marie-Josée Lamothe
“How Canadian Brands are taking advantage of the Digital Transformation through the Power of Friends Influencing Friends”

Jordan Banks is the Managing Director of Facebook Canada, and is responsible for leading and managing all commercial operations at the Facebook Canada office. Marie-Josée Lamothe is Chief Marketing & Corporate Communications Officer at L’Oréal Canada. In their session, they shared thoughts – each from their unique perspective as social platform and brand – on how companies can leverage social media and social influence.

Some key points from Jordan:

  • Facebook is just “1% complete” in its evolution.
  • Facebook doesn’t have all the answers, it changes a lot and often.
  • They do things differently – they’re growing fast, but are still small.
  • Several keys to brand building on Facebook:
    • Make social an organizational priority.
    • Realize that social is 24/7 – need to always be “on”.
    • Test, measure and learn.
    • Develop a strategic media mix – consider using traditional to drive online activity.
    • Create great content – “content is king”.
    • Be social and lightweight.
    • Think about why fans should care and share.

Some key points from Marie-Josée:

  • Avoid becoming “Groupon” on Facebook – don’t primarily focus on discounts/promotions to attract fans.
  • Shift focus from marketing promotion to ongoing engagement.
  • Challenge is to provide great content – while always remaining “on” to interact.
  • Social media provides the means to make consumers into true advocates.
  • The traditional marketing model is dead.
  • Need to become less product-centric, more community-centric
  • Cited example “Canada’s Best Beauty Talent“.
    • TV on demand.
    • Activated by Facebook pages.
  • Organizational structure at L’Oreal – customer care and consumer research report into the same person.
  • If companies continue to focus on the old model, the 4 P’s, they will use the consumer.
  • Need to innovate at the same pace as the consumer – and leverage analytics to ensure you’re reading the consumer correctly.
  • L’Oreal invests heavily in employee education.
    • Digital media course for employees.
    • Code of ethics for social media, educating what’s at risk and what’s at stake.

Twitter: @Jordan_Banks, @MJLamothe


Asif Khan
“Realizing a Multi-Channel Location-Based World”

Asif Khan, a veteran tech start-up, business-development and marketing entrepreneur, is the Founder and President of the Location Based Marketing Association. His talk provided some interesting data on the growth and opportunity for location-based marketing. Asif also shared some case studies.

Some key points from Asif:

  • Location-based marketing is about the integration of media to influence people in specific places.
  • By 2014, smartphone sales will top one billion.
  • Why use location based services:
    • Navigation – 46%.
    • Find restaurants – 26%.
    • Find friends nearby – 22%
    • Search for deal or offer – 13%.
  • Everything has a location – whether at home, on screen or using phone.
  • Offering deals via mobile is important, but must be relevant and of value to recipient
  • Mobile apps and checkins not necessarily best method of delivering offers.
  • Simple but fun wins – gaming (SVNGR, for example), trivia and augment reality can engage.
  • Leverage location-based marketing, brands have opportunity to:
    • Connect.
      • Interact with and engage an audience.
      • Provide rewarding experiences.
    • Collect.
      • Acquire data (including location-based) through permission-based relationships.
    • Convert.
      • Drive to web, store, or location for an experience.
  • Content can be generated, tagged and made addressable to people based on where they are.
  • Innovative example of using Foursquare to drive sampling – the GranataPet SnackCheck (see the YouTube video – very cool!).
  • A place is wherever you are – every person, every place, everything is geo-addressable.
  • Companies in Canada are behind on location-based marketing.
  • Shoppers of the future require platforms that allow them to research, review and shop anywhere and at anytime.
  • Retailers that leverage location-based marketing and embrace technological advances will be better suited to increase profitability and grow their customer base.

Twitter: @AsifRKhan

Canadian Marketing Association Summit 2012 in Review (Day #1)

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the 2012 Canadian Marketing Association Summit. The annual two day event was packed full of insights and information from true visionaries, with content focussed on this year’s theme of “connections” – how connections with consumers, with customers and with each other are made, maintained, and measured.

I thought I would share a brief recap of the sessions I attended, inspired by a similar post Michael Zipursky from FreshGigs.ca wrote summarizing the recent VISION marketing conference hosted by the British Columbia Chapter of the American Marketing Association.

Key learnings from the sessions on the first day of the conference are below. Click here to read a review of the sessions for day #2.

 

Sir Ken Robinson
“Leading a Culture of Innovation”

 

Sir Ken Robinson, PhD, is an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation. He is also one of the world’s leading speakers with a profound impact on audiences everywhere. Sir Ken Robinson spoke about leading a culture of innovation – his talk was both humorous and inspiring.

Some key points from Sir Ken’s talk:

  • To be creative, we must actually DO something.
  • A systematic approach to innovation is needed – it must be engrained in a company’s culture.
  • Education systems are locked in the past (see Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on how schools kill creativity).
  • The transformation of technologies is unpredictable.
    • Apple’s App Store necessitated development of advanced credit card processing technology.
    • Twitter’s original purpose was to enable people to communicate what they’re currently doing to a small group.
  • Everyone has creative capacities – companies that are innovative understand this.
  • Most organizations are built on command and control – if you want innovation, you must think differently.
  • Innovative companies focus on “climate control” as opposed to “total control” to cultivate possibilities and creative capacity.
  • Companies should focus on developing the talents of everyone, rewarding creativity.
  • Create an innovative culture through habits and habitat – deliberately and systematically.
  • Innovative companies mentioned by Sir Ken Robinson included IDEO, Zappos and IBM.

Twitter: @sirkenrobinson


Bryan Pearson
“The Loyalty Leap: Turning Customer Information into Customer Loyalty”

Bryan Pearson, President and CEO of LoyaltyOne, is an internationally recognized expert and author in the fields of enterprise loyalty and coalition marketing with more than two decades experience developing meaningful customer relationships for some of the world’s leading companies. He is also the author of The Loyalty Leap – an insightful book that I just finished reading.

Some key points from Bryan’s talk:

  • Companies can’t cost cut their way to growth; they must connect differently with customers.
  • There are three ways companies compete
    • On efficiency (Walmart)
    • On product (Apple)
    • On customer intimacy (through which we can all win)
  • Media is fragmented, consumers encounter 5,000 to 10,000 brand messages daily.
  • Companies now have an opportunity to capture oceans of data.
  • Need to focus on moving from product centricity to customer centricity (see blog post I wrote on customer-centricity).
  • The three R’s – relevance, recognition and reward.
  • Through data integration, companies need to deliver better on relevance.
  • Several dimensions to relevance – spatial (location), temporal (event based), individual and cultural.
  • Companies can tailor offers taking the dimensions of relevance into account.
  • Shell leveraged customer data from Air Miles to provide customer offers during a period in which their preferred gas stations were closed for renovation – sales actually increased.
  • Nike is great example of building loyalty without control of channel, through Nike+ apps.
  • By being customer-centric at heart, companies have an opportunity to become relevant.
  • Companies must leverage data collected, but it’s key to be transparent to build trust – always use data in best interest of customer.

 

 

Twitter: @pearson4loyalty


David Shing
“What’s Next for Media?”

David Shing is the Digital Prophet for AOL and recently was the head of Media and Marketing for AOL Europe before relocating to New York in 2011. He literally gave the most fast-paced, high tempo presentation I’ve ever seen – sharing insights on the digital revolution, trends he sees unfolding, and how to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape.

Some key points from David’s talk:

  • Fragmentation is accelerating – portals, search, blogs, aggregators, feeds, social networks.
  • Digital content should entertain, inform and provide utility.
  • Attention is the new currency and simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
  • Nike+ FuelBand is a great example of combining physical, digital and social.
  • Location, location, location – social identity broadcasting (when, where and what) is accelerating.
  • People are getting overwhelmed – defriend and unfollow will be a trend.
  • It’s not about size, it’s about influence.
  • Companies need to create experiences authentic to the environment.
  • Generic advertising must evolve to influence marketing.
  • 0.02% is now the average display/banner ad click through rate.
  • As economic woes continue, consumers will appreciate small acts of kindness – even branded ones.
  • Cause marketing is now 3rd largest for sponsorship dollars.
  • What’s next?  Conversations, not campaigns. Conversations, not chatter.
  • Online videos are becoming increasingly prominent.
  • Companies must be an engine of difference to consumers
    • Foster social utility – it’s like like water, electricity
    • Encourage a remix culture
    • Find the right people
    • Harness pre-existing communities
    • Embrace co-creation, and fast fail foundation

Twitter: @shingy


Jim Lecinski
“ZMOT – Winning the Zero Moment of Truth”

 

Jim Lecinski is the Vice President, U.S. Sales for Google, and he leads Google’s advertising business nationally. His focus is helping major marketers and media agency partners in the Consumer Packaged Goods, Pharmacy & Healthcare, Food/Beverage/Restaurant, Branded Apparel & Durables and Media & Entertainment industries adapt to the new digital marketing realities.

Some key points from Jim’s talk:

  • The traditional mental model of marketing: stimulus -> first moment of truth (in store, point of decision) -> second moment of truth (experience product/service).
  • Recession and technology have changed the model of building brands.
  • A new moment of truth has arisen – online research.
  • Consider:
    • 83% of people regularly rely on review sites when making buying decisions.
    • 93% of Canadian online population conducts research online.
    • 47% of Canadian online population go to product review site.
    • 58% of people indicate online research influenced buying decision “a lot”.
  • TV is still an important stimulus – it prompts more action at ZMOT.
  • With mobile, ZMOT can happen at point of purchase in store.
  • Local searches, coupon searches are growing.
  • The number of sources customers use for information is increasing significantly.
  • How to win the zero moment of truth?
    • Put someone in charge.
    • Find the zero moments in your category.
    • Answer question’s people are asking you (research on Google).
    • Optimize for mobile.
    • Be fast – keep on top of trends and opportunities.
    • Win with video.

Twitter: @jimlecinski


Brent Choi and Andrew Simon
“Maximizing Your ROC – Return on Creativity. How to make innovate thinking work harder for your company.”

 

Brent Choi, Chief Creative Director at Cundari Group, and Andrew Simon, Partner and Chief Creative Officer at Blammo Worldwide, discussed creativity and shared some examples of innovative companies that foster a creative workplace culture.

Some key points from their talk:

  • Creativity is a discipline, a commitment and an investment.
  • Google does it well.
    • Employees allowed to spend 20% of their workweek on special projects not related to their normal workload.
    • Creativity is considered a collective pursuit.
    • Failure is fine – employees are encouraged to openly talk about failures.
    • Google has a vending machine for computer parts.
    • Free lunch offered, encouraging people from different areas of company to talk.
  • General Mills “Bold Experiments” strategy rewards brave decision making.
    • Cited Cheech and Chong promotion of Fibre One brownie.
  • Procter and Gamble has developed a “playground” property which employees can make use of, to incubate ideas while also escaping from the office.
  • To think creatively, companies need to break free and think differently.
  • Bring together people from different disciplines, with different ideas and perspectives.
  • Successful companies are ones that embrace creativity.

Twitter: @brentchoi, @andrewlsimon


Adam Froman
“The Age of Intelligence: From Insight to Action by Harnessing the Voice of the Customer”

Adam Froman, Founder and CEO of Delvinia, believes that digital platforms can be used to create meaningful, human connections between companies and their customers. His talk focussed on how companies can capture attitudes and behaviours of their customers to develop customer-driven strategies and improve customer experiences.

Some key points from Adam’s talk:

  • Much has changed over the last few years, but what hasn’t changed – need to get messages out to consumers, need to collect feedback to derive insights.
  • Voice of the customer has emerged, opportunity to collect feedback leveraging technology and attain 360 view of the customer in real time.
  • Three parts:
    • Ask customers for their opinion and perspective in real time.
    • Listen to what customers are saying about your brand.
    • Observe behaviour to understand how to enhance customer experience.
  • Ask:
    • Companies can use a variety of methods to attain opinions, including surveys, online communities, forums.
    • Three key motivators, from customer perspective – trust, privacy and reciprocity.
    • Opportunity to leverage innovative methods and platforms in collecting data (crowdsourcing cited as example),
  • Listen:
    • Leverage social media monitoring platforms and analytics.
    • Understand community participation (1% are heavy contributors, 9% are somewhat active, 90% are lurkers).
  • Observe:
    • Companies must integrate data to enhance decision making, understand behaviour and attain actionable insights.
    • Tableau and Clarabridge are companies that enable integration of CRM and social data in one place.
  • Five voice of customer key success factors:
    • Accept every customer is digital and they control the conversation.
    • Don’t let technology lead.
    • Think big data and integration of data.
    • Voice of the customer requires collaboration.
    • Voice of the customer is a customer experience.

Listen. Engage. Connect.

This post originally appeared as a comment in response to a post written by Mitch Joel. Mitch asked readers to provide thoughts on what it takes for marketers to listen, engage and connect in today’s world. The two people who submitted the best responses, selected by Mitch, won complimentary tickets to the 2012 Canadian Marketing Association Summit. I was fortunate to be selected (my answer was ranked third but one of the other winners wasn’t able to attend).

Hi Mitch,

Several keys come to mind which should be considered.

Recognize that social media is about people.

Companies need to have the right people in place, whether in marketing, communications or customer service, with appropriate skills and education on social media best practices. These people, on the front lines, are essentially the face of the company – they should be both empowered and trusted when engaging with customers.  Enable people (your customers) to like your people (your employees) and thus your company.

Spend time learning.

Given the nature of the rapidly changing marketing and communications landscape, continuous learning is a necessity for people at all levels – so that a company’s employees are well-poised to listen, engage and connect. Marketers should regularly spend time reading social media and technology blogs and books, as well as occasionally attend conferences (such as The Art of Marketing).

Understand that listening leads to engagement and connection.

Marketers should start by listening to their target audience, in an effort to understand them – their needs, their nuances, their language. Engagement should start once sufficient listening has occurred. However, any marketing outreach can’t just be about the brand. The conversation must be relevant and genuine from the perspective of the customer, and it must somehow add value. Marketers that focus first on listening and have customer-centric mindset, will have a better opportunity to establish true engagement and connection.

Be proactive and build relationships.

Related to the point above, marketers should be proactive in building relationships – both with key influencers and other people in the target market. Relationship-building can occur by commenting on a blog, interacting on a social network, or perhaps meeting in person at an event. Investing in a relationship can truly help at a later point, perhaps when an social initiative/campaign is being launched that could benefit from engagement of key influencers.

Provide great content.

Whether making use of a corporate blog, or sharing information through a social network, marketers need to invest time and effort in cultivating and curating content that is relevant and provides value to existing and potential customers.  Time invested in listening to customers’ needs can truly pay off here, as insights gained can feed into the content developed. By becoming a trusted resource for customers, engagement and connection with customers will be enhanced.

Show that you care.

Simply put, a little recognition can go a long way.  If someone mentions your brand in a positive light, thank them. If someone cites an issue or concern, ask them why and do what you can to help them – in a genuine and, ideally, expedient manner.  You may not always be able to please everyone, but you certainly can earn a lot of respect by showing that you care.  Again this goes back to listening, which provides opportunity for engagement and connection.

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?

Building Relationships and Winning Business Through Content Marketing

It’s well-known that the nature of sales and marketing, specifically effective strategies that fuel sales and drive business, has changed dramatically over the last several years. Digital technologies and social media have truly given customers a voice – an opportunity to engage with companies they do business with and share feedback, whether positive or negative. Further, the customer buying cycle has evolved with the firm establishment of online research as a critically important component. Customers are seeking information that informs and adds value to their decision making process, and they now have access to copious information from a variety of resources – including your competitors.

This shift has resulted in the need for companies develop a strategic focus on nurturing longer term relationships prospects and customers, as well as invest in content marketing.

Defining Content Marketing

According to Wikipedia, content marketing is “an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to engage current and potential consumer bases. Content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering high-quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action. Content marketing has benefits in terms of retaining reader attention and improving brand loyalty.”

Executed effectively, content marketing can significantly help you nurture relationships with prospects and customers – leading to a high level of customer loyalty and increased demand generation for your company’s products and services.

Becoming a Thought Leader

The motivation behind content marketing is the belief that educating the customer results in your recognition as a thought leader and industry expert. The focus is on informing customers and prospects about key industry issues and topics, sometimes mentioning the products and services you offer – but not overtly spouting their virtues. For example, you may chose to write a blog post that educates customers and prospects on data storage compliance regulations in industries such as financial services and healthcare. Or, alternatively, you could execute an email marketing campaign to provide customers and prospects with access to a white paper that provides detailed insights and information on a relevant topic.

A variety of tools can be used for content marketing, including:

  • E-newsletters
  • Blogs
  • Social media
  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • White papers
  • Company website

Companies need to consider which tools are most appropriate based on their specific target customer.

Getting Started

Leveraging content marketing to cultivate thought leadership and build sales over the longterm requires a well thought out plan, hard work, perseverance, and devoted resources. It isn’t easy, but given the right focus, it is very achievable.

Consider the following questions when developing a content marketing strategy:

  • What information do prospects often ask you for, when evaluating your products and services?
  • What information can you provide, that would truly provide them with value and make their decision easier?
  • How can you best provide information to prospects? Via a blog? Emails? Videos? Webinars?
  • Do you have the in-house resources to create the content?
  • What other online resources, such as industry blogs, trade media, or association websites can you pull content from?
  • Are you prepared to share content on a regular basis?

If you would like to learn more, and you have some time to spare, please listen to this interview with content marketing expert Marcus Sheridan (aka The Sales Lion).

Why Every Vancouver-based Marketing Professional Should Consider Leaving

I am a Vancouverite. The city is my true home, and will always be near to my heart. I was born and raised there, my beloved family is there, I have many dear friends there, and I literally live and breathe the West Coast lifestyle – the mountains, the ocean and yes, even the odd yoga class

It was for all of these reasons I diligently tried to build my career, in the wonderful world marketing and communications, in Vancouver. I worked hard, and was fortunate to gain significant experience in both B2C and B2B marketing through progressively senior roles at Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company, Ethical Funds and Texcan.

However, there was an underlying problem which at first I ignored, but in reality would have to face head on.

Vancouver is a small city that is not at all conducive to career growth and opportunity for marketing and sales professionals.

I first thought about this when my first boss and mentor Frank Dennis, the President & CEO of Swiss Water, recommended that I move to Toronto to advance my career. Through several subsequent information interviews that I had with marketing and advertising professionals, with experience in both Toronto and Vancouver, their advice was consistent: “move east, young man”.

A few years later, after spending a couple of years too long in Vancouver and an an awesome stint with Chaordix, a Calgary-based startup, I find myself writing this from my apartment in the the High Park area of Toronto. I have a job that I love at Asigra, and have settled nicely into my new city.

If you are in Vancouver, or in another small city looking to develop a career in marketing, I urge you to at least consider moving to a city that will provide you with better opportunity and resources to flourish in your career.

More Opportunities

Canada is unique, particularly compared to the US, because so many tier one and tier two companies are based in the Greater Toronto Area.  With so many companies operating here, there also are numerous ad agencies, communication firms and startups doing work with notable brands. In Vancouver, one can easily count on one hand the number of employers that have large marketing and communications departments.

It is true that competition for jobs is fierce, given the area’s population base, but Vancouver honestly just does not even compare to Toronto when it comes to opportunity. Not even close.

Consider Your Future Lifestyle

There are plenty of smart people in Vancouver, some of whom have cultivated great, rewarding careers in marketing and communications. However, there are also a lot of “consultants” – which honestly means there are a lot of people in Vancouver who are looking for work.

Sadly, salaries are also suppressed in Vancouver. It is a “destination” city, and that fact combined with fewer opportunities and lots of people looking for work means that employers just don’t need to open the salary vault. Simple economics, actually.

In a city which the Economist magazine recently ranked as the most expensive to live in in North America, the math starts to become dangerous – particularly when it comes to assessing one’s lifestyle and savings over the long term.

With a fair degree of certainty, I can say that marketing and communications salaries are higher in Toronto – I estimate by as much as 15 to 20%, when compared to an equivalent role (if you can find one!) in Vancouver.

Learn, Learn, Learn

I have found that both Toronto and Vancouver are rich when it comes to opportunities for learning and meeting people through networking events and seminars. I relish the opportunity I had in Vancouver to contribute to the BC Chapter of the American Marketing Association, and I always enjoyed attending social media events such as Third Tuesday.

However, there is a very distinct difference when it comes to the opportunity to career-related learning opportunities in Toronto – particularly with respect to social business and digital media.  In Vancouver, there are far too many people who profess to have social “expertise” without any proven, tangible business results to support their claims. These are also the people, in some instances, that are speaking at events. Sorry, I have a problem with that!

In Toronto, because of the size of the marketing and communications ecosystem, the people who who speak at events are able to do so leveraging tangible knowledge that they have developed through experience with top tier national brands.

Through events such as Social Media Week, PodCamp and Third Tuesday Toronto, and through many information interviews I have had since my arrival, I can honestly say that my rate of learning has greatly accelerated over the last year – for which I am very thankful.

Having said all of that, I can honestly say that the social life in Toronto isn’t all that bad either. Actually, it’s a very active, rich and culturally vibrant city. Yes, I am missing the outdoors lifestyle – the mountains and the ocean can’t be replaced. By hey, one can always make do with what one has access too.  Here’s a post I co-authored with Toronto native Debbie Horovitch on how to establish social roots in a new city.

I hope you found this post to be helpful. If you have any questions about making a move for career purposes, or about Toronto in general, please feel free to get in touch – eric.buchegger@gmail.com.