Bring customer insights full-circle: 4 ways to tell a stronger story

Customer Evidence, Marketing Musings
 

Recently, we sat down as a team to talk about what makes Projectline different from other customer engagement and consulting companies. As we shared various stories about who we are, what we do, and why it matters, we found that some of the best input came directly from the feedback we have received from customers. Their perspective is probably the best indicator of what it is we do better than other companies.

Of course, we know how we see ourselves as different from our competitors, but that is tied more to market positioning. But in this meeting, I was reminded that it’s healthy to ask your customers how THEY think you’re different. The more you deviate from actual customer feedback, the more you are talking about positioning and less about proven differentiators.

So how can you make sure that your customers’ insights about your product or company are being integrated into your story? How can you use their feedback to tell other possible clients what sets you apart?

  • Look for your enthusiasts online. When people tweet that they love you, why is it? Don’t just say thanks—pass those tweets back up to your sales or marketing team or make a note to include their messages (at least in spirit) in your explanation of how you’re different. Bonus: they’re already short and sweet.
  • Look to reviews. If bloggers have mentioned you, reviewed your product, or noted new developments in your brand, what have they seen as different? Read between the lines: what made your brand or product worth reviewing?
  • As you gather customer evidence, think about using the insights beyond the case study or testimonial. Have sales teams consider what each story teaches them about why the customer succeeded, and consider incorporating those key points into the core story about your brand.
  • When advisory boards or customer communities provide feedback for future iterations, use their feedback to inform sales and marketing as well as product development teams. Even if the feedback is critical, look again: customers are often most critical about the features that are most crucial to their business.

What Does Business Intelligence Mean for Your Business?

Business Intelligence, Marketing Musings

Depending on who you speak with, Business Intelligence (BI) can mean reporting, scorecards, KPI’s, data warehousing, or any number of other tools—but what does it really mean for your business? At its core, business intelligence is about providing business insight that allows you to position your resources to create the greatest impact. To do that, BI should provide insights that can act as a focal point for business decisions.

Let’s break it down…In my role with Projectline, I am tasked with helping develop new business. Like all business development managers, I have goals for revenue growth, new business development, and the care and feeding of existing business. These goals aren’t mutually exclusive, but my time is limited. At the end of the day, business intelligence, for me, helps analyze the best way to spend my time to accomplish the goals we’ve mutually set forth. How do I measure my success? I can look at the number of sales calls and meetings as one metric.

How often have we heard “sales is a numbers game”? While in its simplest form this may have a lot of truth, it takes on a new (more powerful) meaning if I can determine the areas that will provide the greatest amount of growth relative to sales effort and overall cost of sales. What will provide long term sustainable growth as opposed to short term revenue gains with little or no possibility for future revenue? What changes are going on in my customer’s business that require me to refocus my efforts? In an idealistic sales environment, I would make calls on everyone who is ready to purchase and is biased towards purchasing what my company has to offer. While I most likely will never find this sales utopia, I can refine my focus based on the business intelligence gathered from a combination of my CRM system, outside research, and collaboration with my colleagues and business network.

In order for business intelligence to be meaningful, it must start with the overall goals of the company or organization. From these come divisional goals and ultimately personal goals that map back to the organizational goals. When business intelligence is highly mature in an organization, it encourages collaboration and provides an incentive for positive changes in behavior. Business insight helps to overcome our personal bias and tendency to be overconfident in forecasting or making assumptions about our business. Finally, if you can map compensation back to these personal metrics, you are on your way to the holy grail: having everyone contributing and supporting overall corporate goals.

Questions about BI? Feel free to contact me at brianh@projectlineinc.com.

What Does Buzz Mean for Your Online Marketing Plans?

Marketing Musings, Social Media

Now that the initial duststorm has settled on Buzz, we (along with our clients) are starting to wonder: what will this mean for us? Will Buzz be a new channel for engaging with customers or a set of personal and semi-closed conversations? Will it be a boon for marketers or a disaster for privacy concerns?

Mostly, let’s try to answer one crucial question: if you’re an enterprise marketer, do you need to add another social media channel to your plate?

My answer, in several flavors:

  • Not yet. Buzz is, like Facebook, set up for most interactions to happen between individuals (it’s linked to Gmail accounts for now) rather than between brands and individuals directly. Unlike Facebook, though, there is no separate entity (‘Pages’) for brands. Building your professional network on Buzz makes sense, but your brand may not need to jump in just yet. In all likelihood, Google intends for brands to participate by buying Google advertising real estate rather than behaving like users.
  • No…but you need to pay attention to your other channels. Buzz aggregates RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, and photo sites. Shared Google Reader items will suddenly be easier to converse about and re-tweets by Buzz users may start semi-closed comment threads. Your content will—if it’s worth it—be able to reach your readers’ networks more effectively than before. If you’re going to work on getting up to speed in response to Buzz, focus that energy on your content: make it valuable, worth sharing, and well-done.
  • Yes, for some things. By default, Buzz makes it publicly visible who you follow and who follows you. This has some major security and privacy implications (which have been covered elsewhere), but for marketers it means another way to discover circles of influence. Identifying the public profiles of major influencers could provide wonderful insights into who they’re engaging with on a more reciprocal level than Twitter offers.

But at this point, within a week of Buzz’s launch, it’s hard to say how this will affect the social media landscape. What do you think? Will this be an extension of email and RSS, a new way of seeing the old tweets, or a more fundamental shift? What do you hope to see happen as Buzz settles into people’s lives and inboxes?

Annoyance or Altruism? How Super Bowl Spots Tried to Engage You

Customer Engagement, Marketing Musings

Just a few weeks ago, we blogged about the Super Bowl vs. Social Media question and how Intel and Pepsi had answered it. Now that the Super Bowl and its commercials are over, let’s take another look. Who made a splash? How did the commercials attempt to engage beyond their 30-second ad spots?

Here’s what we saw on Sunday:

  • Pepsi’s withdrawal from the Super Bowl time slot meant an easy monopoly for Coke. Coke ran two ads during the game as well as sponsoring the Hulu.com AdZone 2010 (for those lacking televisions) and running a philanthropy-based promotion on Facebook. As the New York Times’s Stuart Elliott put it, “Coca-Cola is telling Pepsi-Cola that when it comes to Super Bowl advertising, you can walk and chew gum at the same time.”
  • Much of the post-game ad-analysis focused on pants (or a lack thereof) and alleged misogyny. In ads for Budweiser, Dockers, GoDaddy, Chrysler, and even Dove, gender stereotypes were trotted out and replayed for laughs or titillation. Unsurprisingly, those ads were also the ones that showed up embedded in critical and defensive blog posts, roundups, and rants. One way to engage people through social media, it seems, is to give them something to be mad about.
  • Other companies—like Intel, who we’d discussed in the past—opted for much safer, less potentially offensive material. A cute lunchroom robot and a pair of geeky friends made for amusing, appealing spots that highlighted the passion Intel inspires in nerds.
    But what about Pepsi? Did they miss out by shifting their energy to social media?

Instead of spending on Super Bowl ads, Pepsi invested $20 million ($13 million less than they spent on the 2009 Super Bowl) in the Refresh Project, which will donate that money to social causes nominated and voted on by fans. According to Nielsen Co., Pepsi received over 20% of online chatter about Super Bowl advertisers over the last two months—not a bad percentage for a company without an ad spot.

But to gauge the real impact, we’ll need to watch what Pepsi does with the Refresh Project going forward. Will they give away the $20 million to deserving causes and resume TV ads as usual? Or will they use Refresh Project as a way to transform the way they reach consumers? For instance, what if Pepsi were to film the idea owners and the people they help to show how this $20 million dollar investment changed the world? And what if that inspired others to donate money or create new efforts to help people?

Dispatch from the TDWI Meeting: Analytical Score Carding

Business Intelligence, Marketing Musings

Last week I attended a TDWI (Technical Data Warehouse Institute) meeting in Bellevue which featured Tori Tolton from Hitachi Consulting and Karl Haberl, a Principal Engineer for Microsoft Business Intelligence. Both speakers addressed the need for analytical score carding: a technique that lends context to gathered Key Performance Indicators (or KPIs). KPIs, by themselves, don’t provide a lot of value with regard to the overall metrics you are trying to capture, but when you apply analytics to the data you start to see that not all areas of your business are equal. By applying weighting and prioritization, you create a scorecard which better represents a realistic view of your business. This allows you to focus your resources and attention on the areas that will provide the greatest return on your assets, energy, and corporate resources.

Look at your business as you would investing in a 401k: where are you going to invest your resources today in order to get the greatest return over a specific time horizon? The only negative is that most of us are measured on a much shorter time period, like 1-2 years. This sometimes requires us to make decisions that may be more beneficial in the short term and sacrifice some longer term growth potential. It can be a challenge to balance the short term growth vs. long term growth. But beware…“What have you done for me lately?” does not always translate into the best decisions for sustainable growth.

A solid BI strategy can help guide you to better balance these potentially competing goals.

By building some of those long term priorities into the weighting that makes up your scorecards, they become valuable checkpoints and help to avoid losing sight of the larger business goals. With the use of carefully set-up analytic scorecards, your KPIs become more meaningful and you’re able to adjust more quickly to changes in your business and make the most of the limited resources you have at your disposal.

Questions about BI? Feel free to contact me at brianh@projectlineinc.com.

Why Projectline? An interview with a new consultant

Careers

Earlier this week, Melissa Tindall (@melissatindall) started as a new Marketing Consultant on our Customer Engagement team. I snagged her for a few minutes to chat about where she’s come from and what she’s looking forward to tackling at Projectline.

Welcome, Melissa! What’s your background?

Most recently I worked with a mobile marketing company, Hipcricket. Basically any marketing tactics that can take place on your phone—that’s what Hipcricket does. They work with major brands and media companies to implement their mobile marketing campaigns. I worked with them in several roles, but most recently as a marketing specialist on their internal team. One of the big things that I oversaw was our customer evidence—to know which clients stories we could share, whose successes we could share via our website, social media, PR etc.

What brings you to Projectline?

I knew of Projectline from when I was working in product training, which had a lot in common with Projectline Technology Adoption programs. To me it was really appealing to focus my career on Customer Evidence. The culture of community citizenship and volunteering also really drew me in. I also look forward to getting back to working closely with clients after a stint working more internally.

What are you most excited to contribute now that you’re here?

I know a lot about mobile marketing and social media tactics, as well as understanding how to word things toward a certain target audience. The biggest thing that I bring is my experience working at a startup, where there’s an “all hands on deck” attitude. Having to build out infrastructure, and not always being able to assume an answer is there—and exploring how to meet clients’ needs from end-to-end. But it’s also great to come here and see the structure built out, with so many processes and workflows in place—it’s refreshing! And yet Projectline still has that great startup environment.

Thanks Melissa – we’re glad to have you, and good luck learning the ropes!

Projectline Establishes Operations in the UK

News

Projectline Services has established operations in the UK to better serve existing global clients and offer its services to new clients based in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Led by owners Mike Kichline, David Jones, and Anika Lehde, Projectline’s strategic move into Europe will enable the firm to bring its integrated marketing processes and customer engagement expertise to technology companies with offices in the fast-growing region.

“We’re extremely excited about the opportunity to be closer to our existing GMT client base, and to bolster our team with local talent as we continue to take on new global programs and customers,” says Projectline President Mike Kichline. “The London area is an ideal fit for us as we endeavor to serve a broader clientele around the world.”

Vice President Anika Lehde adds, “It’s really important to us that our mission—which centers around a commitment to positive impact—carries over and is upheld by our UK team. Making sure we have a positive impact on our clients, each other, and the local community has been a fundamental part of our success, so we’ll continue to maintain that undertaking as we expand.”

Damian Hoffman, a senior member of the Projectline team for the past three years, will be the UK team lead.