Automation Nation

As we dig deeper into 2013, I predict even more companies will get on the marketing automation bandwagon and the marketing industry as we know it will become an ‘Automation Nation‘.

Automation Nation

By definition (and according to Wikipedia), marketing automation is the name given to software platforms designed for marketing departments and organizations to automate repetitive tasks. Marketing departments, consultants and part-time marketing employees benefit by specifying criteria and outcomes for tasks and processes. These tasks and processes are then interpreted, stored and executed by software, which increases efficiency and reduces human error. (Originally this was called email marketing automation.)

The benefits of implementing a marketing automation solution are tremendous especially for those firms’ marketing departments that are operating on the ‘lean and mean’ side. It gives organizations and marketers the ability to do more with less! Using a marketing automation platform allows marketers to streamline their sales and marketing activities by replacing high-touch, repetitive manual processes with automated solutions.

Marketing automation consequently provides a more consistent, less manual way for tracking items such as lead source, conversion rate and MARKETING ROI (aka the holy grail: being able to attribute sales revenue to the Marketing department!!! Yes Sales Team we do contribute to ‘your sales’ :))

Okay now where was I…yes marketing automation solutions. As I was saying, there are many different solutions out there –some more basic than others. A fully developed marketing automation system will provide information across all phases of the marketing process, including:

• Demand Generation
• Lead Management
• Lead Scoring
• Lead Nurturing
• Lead Generation
• Campaign Analysis
• Lead Qualification
• Sales Effectiveness

Whereas, a more basic platform may only provide lead nurturing and automated functionality, for example.

The first question most people will ask is, “Okay, so which is the best marketing automation provider out there?” TBH (to be honest), the answer really depends. It depends upon your organization’s need, established business practices as well as its level of commitment to making your sales and marketing processes automated.

If you know there are certain processes that your organization will never change, that will prevent you from, for example doing lead scoring and nurturing, then a fully developed system might not be the best choice. Conversely, if your organization is open for change and you have buy-in from key decision makers and leadership, a fully-developed system might just be the perfect solution.

Here’s a great chart that helps defines the steps you should take if you are looking at selecting a marketing automation vendor:

10steps

Courtesy of: http://www.marketingautomationsoftware.com

So, if your organization isn’t already on the bandwagon, I encourage you to get on and not be left behind! The benefits of automation are just too great to ignore. Let automation take over all those manual tasks you are doing so that you can be freed up to take your marketing programs to the next level. I promise you, it’ll be a life changer (in a positive way) and fun too!

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Olympics + Social = Happy Combination

With social media becoming front and center in the digital realm, it is no surprise that the Olympics have become the ultimate social event. Dedicated hashtags, numerous athletes tweeting daily, and results being posted instantly online, various areas of social media have boomed as a direct result of the Olympics.

The opportunity to watch Olympic coverage live on various outlets (TV, YouTube, and the main NBC Olympic website) and the time lapse between event completion and normal television viewing encouraged the trend of online viewing. Once on the sites, individuals were able to share with friends via Google Plus or Facebook, tweet, or comment directly on the video. With this constant information stream, event results have been broadcast to the public faster than ever.

This instant access and social interaction can easily create a nightmare for members of teams and the Olympic Committee. However, as with most individuals that are savvy in the social world, the Olympic Committee provided all athletes with a guideline document for social media. Take a look at what the athletes have to abide by when participating in social media. Everything from appropriate words to use in tweets and comments to branding for the Olympics is included. Below are a few of my favorites:

  • ‘Blogs or tweets must be in a first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist – i.e. they must not report on competition or comment on the activities of other participants or accredited persons, or disclose any information which is confidential or private in relation to any other person or organization.’
  • ‘Video and/or audio must only be for personal use and must not be uploaded and/or shared to a posting, blog or tweet on any social media platforms, or to a website.’
  • ‘Participants and other accredited persons must not use the Olympic Symbol – i.e. the five interlaced rings, which is the property of the IOC – on their postings, blogs or tweets on any social media platforms or on any websites.’

(Olympic Guidelines – Social Media, 2012)

With such strict guidelines, one would question how well the Olympic committee could enforce it with thousands of athletes and individuals of the press.  Enforcement didn’t seem to be a problem as many individuals were turning in each other to ensure no one received the leg up on material. For example, NBC requested that a British Newspaper’s correspondent be suspended from Twitter until after the games due to his action online. Their request was granted and the individual was banned until the games closed (Read more here). Although the games had a few other issues, the guidelines put forth early in the process really limited the overall possibilities for content.

Another popular trend during the Olympics this year was the use of hashtags in post. The most popular hashtags included #London2012, #Olympics2012, and #Olympics. Each hashtag had its own success but the most popular one was #London2012. Below is a chart showing the last 24 hours of use for the hashtag.

(#London2012, HashTracking.com)

As you can see, it generated over 6,225,000 impressions and reached an audience of over 5,979,000 in the past 24 hours. With such a large impact, it is no wonder that social media has been so popular during the Olympics.

As the games came to a close Sunday night, twitter was aflutter with athletes and viewers tweeting their thoughts and sadness that the games were ending. A few example tweets below from a US equestrian team member and the US Olympic Team account:

(#London2012, Twitter.com)

Many others discussed the variety of musicians that were featured and the overall impact of the performance in our lives. With such a high bar set, I look forward to seeing the Rio Olympics in 2016 but, until then, I leave you with a video from the closing ceremonies and the words of John Lennon, “…I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one; I hope someday you’ll join us; And the world will be as one”.

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Small Companies Get A Big Boost with Google’s New App

Kudos to Google for rolling out the new Google Maps Coordinate. This application could give small businesses off-the-shelf technology to compete with larger, more sophisticated competitors. The app works in conjunction with Google Maps to locate representatives in the field in real time. Dispatchers or home office personnel can track an employee’s location and be able to provide the customer with an exact time that their representative will arrive at the location. This technology was implemented long ago in logistic behemoths such as UPS, CSX and the like but for the first time a small to medium-sized business can access the technology without having to reinvent the wheel – pardon the pun.

It’s feasible that this technology could also allow customers to track the company’s representative directly in much the same way we track a UPS package out for delivery. For a customer whose stuck waiting around the house for the furniture delivery, the pizza guy or the repair technician, this service could save hours of frustration and enhance the entire customer experience.
This app could also save companies some serious money in other ways as well. Here in Atlanta, we know a thing or two about traffic delays – and those delays cost time and money and I really haven’t seen a traffic delay “enhance customer service.” But with this app, representatives in the field can instantly know that a traffic delay will prevent them from meeting their time commitment and perhaps another representative who might be closer to the location might be a better resource.

But beyond the customer experience, I’m most excited about the implications for the family experience.  We’ve got three kids moving in four directions and I rely on a very strong network of friends and family to keep us all going in the right direction.  I’d love to be able to locate a friend or family member through a simple app and be able to know that they are on their way to a pre-arranged pick up or drop off.  In an ideal world, I could locate my husband on his way home and ask him to pick up our favorite take-out as he approaches the restaurant.

I also really like the “invisible” feature on this app. I’m a stickler for privacy concerns and this app allows employees to turn the tracking off after their shift is completed or during a lunch break. Another round of Kudos to Google for getting out front on privacy rather than the usual afterthought.

Some small firms may balk at the $15 per user per month that Google is charging, but for organizations that strive to exceed customer expectations while eliminating wasted time and money, Google’s price may be a bargain.  And for a busy mom with family members on the go – that’s money well spent.
There’s just one catch for this dedicated iPhone User – it’s only available on the  Android platform.

Watch your back, Apple – Google’s tracking you.

 

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Chapter Two: BrightWave

I am beyond excited to begin the second chapter of my working life in Atlanta at BrightWave Marketing. The two questions being asked of me is, “What will you be doing at BrightWave?” and “Why BrightWave?”

Great questions. Let me try and provide answers while sharing some insight about the milestones and events of Chapter One that set the table for Chapter Two.

Chapter One probably actually started when I married my better half in 2001.  From the day we said ‘I do,’ she was telling me how great it could be to live in Atlanta (she grew up in Columbus, GA and went to Emory). As it turns out, she wasn’t wrong. 8 years of experience in a small family travel business and 3 more in the non-profit world taught me how to solve problems, against all odds.  Making something out of nothing was more than a motif – it’s just part of my DNA. It turns out that this was great preparation for what awaited me in Atlanta.

When we arrived in Atlanta in 2006, I had the great fortune of being recruited by an 8-year old digital agency called Spunlogic (now Engauge). I still remember an early conversation with the recruiter at the time where I was told that with my experience, I could be slotted as a designer, a developer or a project manager — take your pick.

Project management was where I wanted to be because I felt like I could play the proverbial ‘quarterback’ — leading a team in executing the ‘plays’ that spanned websites and email projects. Account management responsibilities soon followed with opportunities to work with brand names bigger than I’d ever imagined possible, adding even more experience with analytics, mobile websites and social media.

In 2010, I was given the opportunity to take what I’d learned about email marketing and drive excellence around the discipline within Engauge. I had the distinct privilege of assembling a team of rockstars who could help carry the email flag to all of our clients.

[Insert Fred Savage interruption of Peter Falk from ‘Princess Bride’]  “If you had such a great team at Engauge, why did you move on?”

In the two years that I had connected with other email marketing industry experts and met other marketers responsible for their email programs at conference after conference, one nagging truth was impressed upon me that makes chapter two make so much sense:

More marketers need help with email marketing than I had ever imagined.

Now, substitute the word ‘email’ with ‘mobile’, ‘social’, ‘location-based’, and you get a glimpse of the enormity of what’s possible for marketers and, at the same time, what seems like a monolithic learning curve. I see an outsized opportunity to help more marketers strategically navigate the digital currents (as intimidating and as fast as they may seem) to benefit their customers and their companies.

A big part of my formula for helping more marketers involves partnerships with technology trailblazers (especially Email Service Providers) who provide the tools that can empower marketers to efficiently and effectively execute campaigns across multiple channels that include email.

Now about the ‘Why BrightWave?’ question, I can share the two biggest reasons.

Authority:  If I remember correctly, I used Simms’ book as a training manual for one of my first campaign manager hires. (Yes, I read it, too.) The opportunity to collaborate and combine forces with Simms and the BrightWave team was something I honestly hadn’t thought of but not unlike peanut butter and chocolate, I knew it would be a win-win situation to be here.

Opportunity:  I believe that marketers who understand email marketing are well-poised to tackle every other emerging 1-to-1 communications channel. Relevancy, value and the ability to measure impact to the bottom line are critical ingredients in marketing, regardless of channel.

I know that the team at BrightWave gets that and I’m prepared to help our clients win in the always-exciting and ever-evolving digital marketing arena.

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Culture, Language and Relevancy

Please excuse the chain thought, but it’s how my brain works…

I’ve seen a few articles and blog posts this past week on Intel’s “StudyBook tablet PC for emerging markets“. It’s the next step in getting technology in the hands of under developed regions, a follow up to their Classmate PC that’s been around since 2007 and has found it’s way to millions of classrooms. This and other programs like One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) reminds me of a question I received a few years ago that really caught me off guard.

Image from: amazingpics4you.blogspot.com

I was at a conference giving a keynote presentation on mobile marketing, but this was almost two years ago so it wasn’t as played out. Besides, two years is like forever ago in mobile marketing right? Anyway, I don’t remember the exact wording of the question – just my answer. The question was something like, “With the push to get inexpensive devices such as netbooks into emerging markets how will this effect mobile marketing efforts?” The guy asking the question also used, “introducing low cost netbooks into India” as an example. The question was out of place with all the other questions I was getting like, “Wait, explain iAds again?”, “Why did you show a video of someone driving a car with an iPad?” or “What was your name again?” My super clever response was just as out of place. I didn’t know how to respond so took the math high road and said something like “caveat, caveat.. blah.. blah.. well, if you introduce a billion* new devices into any market it’s going to change the dynamics.”

What?

I’m still not sure what the person was asking, mainly because I don’t remember the question, but I could have gone in several directions with my answer. What I should have done is thought about how introducing more users from a different culture would impact marketing efforts.
[Past Ryan] Oh, man. My bad.

We do a lot of email marketing here at BrightWave and one of the first rules in email marketing is to stay relevant. So, in introducing new cultures (or existing cultures in greater quantities) into our user mix we need to consider how to maintain relevancy. This is nothing new, there are many agencies out there that specialize in marketing to various cultures and even a few agencies that claim to be multicultural marketers. Just Google anything on Hispanic marketing trends in the U.S. and you’ll find that this group is increasing, spending a ton more, and there are several agencies that will “help” you figure out how to market to this group.

I’ll tell you one way to market to this group, or any other… make sure your messaging is just as relevant to them as to the rest of your customers/subscribers/followers. Relevancy will come in many forms. In the case of completely different cultures and languages by empowering emerging markets with StudyBooks and Classmate PC, relevancy will be a very unique value proposition for those users. In the case of the growing Hispanic market within the U.S. relevancy may be more subtle. In this case it may just be a shift in the language used (e.g., Spanish instead of English) and less in the value proposition (e.g., All U.S. kids want to run faster in new Nike shoes).

We as marketers need to start thinking of what we will do to increase relevancy to the new cultures that will start subscribing to our lists. For me, I think I [and by "I" I mean the team at BrightWave] am going to develop a way to send email that auto-detects the default language on your device and delivers** the appropriate content (language). I don’t know if it can be done, but if it can we’ll figure it out.

What are you going to do?

*You know, because obviously everyone in India was going to get a netbook
** I really do think it can be done. We can deliver content in real-time by auto-detecting your device, so why not do the same with your default language?

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Siri Makes Beautiful Music (With a Little Help)

As a fan of the Flaming Lips, I try keep up with all the innovative/odd things they release.  The Flaming Lips have a long history of experimenting with their sound, beginning with their album Zaireeka (published as 4 CDs meant to be played simultaneously), and again most recently with their track, “Now I Understand.” The track is available for one week only on SoundCloud and features Apple’s Siri, Erykah Badu, and Biz Markie.

The Flaming Lips – Now I Understand

Siri, Apple’s iPhone 4S virtual assistant, provides the intro and outro for the song, while Erykah Badu provides the main vocal track.  The Flaming Lips themselves provide the instrumental track.  Wayne Coyne, lead singer of the Flaming Lips, notes that it includes “Biz Markie backwards,” but I haven’t been able to find it.

Siri is the key innovation in Apple’s latest iPhone, the iPhone 4S, and is in itself a rather impressive piece of technology.  Siri accepts the iPhone users voice input, allowing them to schedule meetings, send messages, place calls, and even integrates with WolframAlpha to answer almost any question you can ask.

Siri isn’t quite perfect, however, as it requires an active network connection to function.  Each command is processed then sent across the network to be processed by Apple servers.  Many users have reported problems in areas where there connection to the Apple server is hindered by slow data service.

Despite Siri’s flaws, it remains an impressive piece of technology, allowing most iPhone users to control nearly any function of their phone using simple, conversational English. People are finding new ways to use Siri every day and “Now I Understand” is a fun example of this new technology being used in an exciting and creative way. I can’t wait to see what this progressive-thinking band will do next.

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