Bits & Pieces?
Today’s post is a follow up to my post from a couple of weeks ago on agile development.
Last time I focused on a few definitive characteristics of an agile environment – many of which Sue Spaight highlighted on originally in her SxSW session recap. There are a couple of things that I’ve run into since then that have me thinking, so I thought I would share them. Primarily my muse for the past week has been a presentation on Slide Share by digital agency Made by Many, Agile Planning, Learning to Iterate.
First off, let’s be clear – the type of evolution I’m talking about is digital integration beyond what many are just addressing now. “Marketing, Advertising; please meet Technology – I think you guys should get to know each other.” Yes, beyond that. And beyond a campaign support cast of minisite, banner ads and a Facebook page. Tim Malbon, founding partner at Made by Many, in a comment to his own Oct 7, 2009 post said, “I’m certainly not arguing that everything should be digital. Rather that digital platforms are increasingly ‘the glue’ that makes the sum of the parts greater.” This means fundamentally innovating the way a brand is available for and useful to a consumer. Innovation is change, change is new, new requires development. Smart and fast development.
So I’m thinking about two basic, but big, concepts of such smart and fast development and how they would require some fairly profound changes in the way we think and act.
Basic Concept #1: At the heart of the agile methodology is the MVP – the “Minimally Viable Product,” defined as such by Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup. It’s not that the product is not well planned – or just half-baked. It’s fully planned to be the product that will be the least burdened, that will meet the critical needs of a specific target market and that will be viable enough to test and learn from.
Corresponding Agency Paradigm Shift: Planning is guessing. This statement in the book Getting Real, by software development firm 37 Signals, seems to be either interesting or insulting – or BOTH, depending on your perspective. For the planners of the world – the strategists, the researchers, those of us that just value logic – this is harsh! The word “guessing” connotes carelessness. Guessing is irresponsible. Guessing is what we do when we have no idea. On the contrary, we have a lot of great ideas. Our plans are based on really legitimate fact and well-studied trends, but still we are guessing/predicting what will happen. In agile, the quicker we can develop an MVP that is based on our top 5 (or so) “guesses,” the quicker we’ll be able to PROVE IT. If we don’t KNOW, we should make our best guess and move forward so we can test.
Basic Concept #2: Iteration. So after we have the MVP, then comes iteration. Where the cycle of traditional project management/product development would go learn>make>test, an agile environment needs to embrace make>test>learn. This process MUST include iteration because an agile (or “lean”) agency would have planned (guessed, if you will) that they might learn a thing or two once the product got out in front of the early adapters (or perhaps the brand fans/followers).
Corresponding Agency Paradigm Shift: Not only do we need to embrace iteration, but our clients do as well. I think it’s not completely random that we look to start-ups when we seek the best agile performers. It’s because they started from scratch! Agile developers seek agile-friendly client? Done! But for agencies contemplating this metamorphosis while at the same time crafting campaign work with existing and beloved, I might add, clients – it is more complicated. Committing to iteration means committing to something longer term. It’s taking a bigger step. The Made by Many deck hits on the distinction between iterative and incremental. Incremental means to build “it” in parts – Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3, etc. – smaller steps to reach a whole. Each phase has a launch date and a subsequent phase rarely has anything to do with learning about or altering the prefacing phase. Iterative means to build “it” completely the first time, then build it AGAIN.
There is some fear on the part of agencies of even going there (Do we have the right people/processes? How will this change our relationship with our clients? How much does it cost? ) And there is no doubt some legitimate questions on the part of the client as well (Is the risk too big? How will we sell this to the CEO? How much does it cost?) Iterative is making a commitment together (agency and client) to the product and to the product’s responsibility to the (ever-changing) end users.
This is not a journey all agencies will choose to navigate. And it may not be the right path for all clients. Certainly there has already been a share of agency splits and start-ups over this leap within our industry.
The way we see it here though, it’s lose-lose if we worry too much about rocking the boat (both our own as well as our clients’). To stay relevant in what Malbon described as our current “rapidly mutating media convergence culture,” we’re having some tough heart-to-hearts about our digital future. If our clients aren’t demanding this, don’t we owe it to them to get them there?
It was a day like any other when one of my colleagues said, “I can lead a horse to water… but if there’s no water there… well… I don’t know how to help you.”
I said a day like any other, because the tone was sarcastic and he was being facetious—and the comment ended in the room bursting out in laughter. A day like any other, because most conversations here have a dry sense of humor and a lot of “inside our walls” meaning—which would explain why all of us were rolling on the floor laughing, and you’re probably not. So let me explain.
In the past, one might refer to that old cliché and say, “Advertising can lead a horse to water, a great concept could make him take a drink.” And in the past, I believe that was true—even in the world where there were no clear product differentiators. We did campaigns for parity products quite often, and most times the best campaign and the best media buy won. Providing the product was at least on par with the competitors. In those days (not many years ago), we’d be thrilled if we got a key differentiator or two. That made our job cake.
The humor, irony, sadness, and truth about the observation my colleague made is in the definition of “water.” A little context is in order: the comment was made in a conversation about how the marketing funnel has changed. How, the “water” that we referred to in the past as meaning “the product,” now means so much more. It is also ironic that we had this conversation before Sue’s trip to SXSWi and her post on Joseph Jaffe’s book, Flip the Funnel. The point of all of this is that it is no longer just about you as an advertiser spreading the word about your product or service.
It is no longer about drawing consumers into the marketing funnel and into the vortex of advertising, until they get dizzy and start to believe you and then buy your product. It’s now all about ensuring that there’s really good “water” at the destination. Think exceptional customer experience. Truly differentiated product features. And just as importantly, a way for loyal customers to become evangelists. In other words, these days, if we lead a horse to water and there’s an abundance of clean, clear, refreshing water, that horse will tell three friends and those friends will tell three friends—all by tomorrow morning. Hence, the marketing funnel has been flipped into a megaphone and the message is carried by customers.
There are still plenty of brands who believe that advertising should do all the work. Or that success is achieved in the marketing mix. Or conversely, that the answer is digital, or social media, or that their website is the be-all and end-all. Those are all important, but the best brands have realized that it starts at home—great product, exceptional service and a medium by which to share. But that doesn’t mean a brand is alone to create the ultimate “watering hole.” The last part of my colleague’s comment was, “…I don’t know how to help you.” Well, that too, was purposefully overstated and he was again being facetious. Because if there is not substance there for a consumer to quench their thirst, all of our hard work goes for naught.
Today, the lines have blurred between clients and agencies. That’s if we are doing it right. Today, much of our work is as brand consultants, customer experience representatives, and deacons for the evangelists. We can even be product developers if we need to be. We are realists when we have to be. A good agency is a great Litmus Test, because if the water is tainted, the word spreads faster than if it is pure.
As a SxSWi virgin going into this year’s conference, many had forewarned me about its immense size, its logistical challenges and its sometimes-inconsistent content quality. It’s a monster thing to get your head around (especially for someone like me who the Jigsaw OrangeAid interns think of as a slow-loading web page to begin with). So, six days after the fact of SxSWi, I am now getting my head around what just happened. Well, sort of…
With literally hundreds of sessions a day from which to choose, parties galore (or so I hear), and tons of great people, SxSWi is not something that anyone can really ever get their heads completely around. If they say they have, they are lying, or making it up. Now in its 15th year, the conference reportedly saw an attendance spike of about 40% again this year for oh, some 19,000-ish people. I’ve no doubt whatsoever that if we convinced each of those 19,000 people to write 800 words summing up the experience, we would have 19,000 wildly divergent stories. John McGrath of Austin agency GSD&M calls SxSW a “huge cultural conversation”, which sums up well why more big brands like Chevy, Samsung, Microsoft and many others are jumping at the chance to be a part of it, and why we think as an agency, Jigsaw needs to be a part of it. It really is digital culture at its climax.
Regarding the sessions, I covered a few of them on this blog during SxSWi, including Agencies need to think and act more like software companies, Joseph Jaffe: Flip the marketing funnel, and Healthcare and social media: Boundaries without barriers. The best sessions I attended also included The death of the brand website, Real-time marketing in a connected world, Behind the curtain: Secrets of mobile application wizardry, and Augmented reality for marketers: The future of consumer interactions. Thoughts on those topics to come later.
For now, though, as I try to sum up the experience in just 800 words, many come to mind: laid back, hyperactive, thought-provoking, stimulating, exhilarating, overwhelming, funny, weird, disappointing, frustrating, maddening, crazy. All at the same time. You know, like a microcosm of life. It is definitely true what one often hears South By veterans saying: it’s not the sessions, it’s the people that make the experience – a great mix of old friends with brilliant minds and terrific senses of humor and new friends with brilliant minds and terrific senses of humor. At the end of the day, it’s pretty hard to beat that.
SXSW as you may know is taking some heat for “selling out”, to the point that entire sessions were dedicated to Saving SXSW from Marketer Douchebaggery . Yet, as a strategist (and a newbie) the experiential marketing was just part of the fun. Is it really douchebaggery if it’s useful? No. And I was happy to see most marketers being useful instead of just blatantly pimping their wares. Chevy giving free rides around town. Intuit, Uber and others giving free pedicab rides between venues in exchange for follows and tweets. The Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge offering plentiful power for geeks with gadgets. Just a few examples. None of it douchebaggery, and though there certainly there was some present, it seemed the exception rather than the rule.
Of course, there were lots of shiny tech objects. GroupMe. Beluga. Hashable. Etcetera. May the spoils go to the most useful, I say. Utility still rules. Fun is good too…and IMHO the “most fun” award at the conference itself went to the Alcatel Lucent Developer Lounge, which created a life-size Angry Birds game – aka geek heaven – in which if you donned a bird (or pig) suit and knocked a structure down, you walked away with a stuffed Angry Bird. (Alas, I came home empty handed, much to my son’s chagrin.)
People have asked me what we will do differently next year: 1. Book early…get rooms downtown!!! 2. More advance research on sessions and speakers. Picking them via the SxSW Go app on the plane on the way to Austin was efficient, but more dependent on the quality of the copy than the quality of the speakers. That said, with a few exceptions most of the sessions I attended were great. 3. Take a longer lens. I realized about halfway to the Milwaukee airport that I had only a wide-angle 24MM camera lens in my bag. While I usually like to get in people’s faces, it’s just not realistic much of the time with 18,999 other people around you. And to be honest, as a first-timer I perhaps wasn’t 100% ready to get fully in the face of South By. Next year can’t come soon enough.
And in the ever-growing category of people-way-smarter-and-way-faster-than-me, this is an important post-SxSWi blog post from Geoff Livingston – Mobile Now Necessary for Brand Relevancy. Please read it.
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- #agileagency, #SxSW, #SxSWi, #SxSWi sessions, Alcatel Lucent Developer Lounge, Angry Birds, Austin, brand utility, Chevy, Chevy Volt, Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge, digital marketing, Flip the Funnel, Hashable, Intuit, John McGrath, Joseph Jaffe, Marketer Douchebaggery, marketing, marketing douchebaggery, Microsoft, mobile strategy, mobile trends, OrangeAid, Samsung, SXSW Go App, Uber
Yesterday I went to an excellent panel discussion on social media in healthcare, including Dana Lewis from Swedish Health Services, Daniel Goldman from Mayo Clinic, Ed Bennett from University of Maryland Medical System, Jennifer Shine Dyer from Ohio State University and Dr. Keely Kolmes, a private psychotherapy practitioner. These are all individuals who are very committed to integrating social media into their organizations and practices, and they shared some very useful tips on how to do so without violating patient privacy or personal ethics.
Note: these are my takeaways from the session on what I found most relevant to us and our Jigsaw clients, not an attempt to summarize the entire session.
Dana Lewis shared a great suggestion for approaching physicians to encourage them to participate in social media. Don’t just go to them and say “We want you to do social media.” Show them why first by having the physician Google himself or herself, and explain how social media can change search engine results. Of course, there are other reasons to participate in social media, but this may help the proverbial light bulb go on.
Daniel Goldman, corporate attorney at Mayo Clinic, talked about the initial challenges of dealing with negative comments on social sites. While at first this caused create quite a bit of organizational anxiety, Mayo found that “the place didn’t fall down”, the brand can tolerate the negative comments, and they even make the organization stronger. He also stated that, contrary to general perceptions, “(Social media) is not a particularly risky sphere to give good healthcare information.” The challenge, though, is the “outlier”, the axe grinder. Some people just won’t like you, and that comes with the territory. A smart strategy that was discussed to minimize the axe-grinding is to give patients another outlet for reviews so they don’t necessarily have to talk about you only online if they have a problem, by systematizing patient feedback within your organization or practice, for each patient. The key, he said, is to provide healthcare information and education, not treatment. Of course, patients still need to sign a HIPPA authorization that allows the healthcare organization to respond to them in online forums.
Dr. Bryan Vartabedian, a physician in the audience, also made an excellent point regarding not talking to physicians about “engagement.” Rather, frame it for them in terms of sharing general information and creating an opportunity for health education. This is more relatable, relevant and actionable.
Ed Bennett said he encourages physicians to imagine they are on a radio call-in show called “Ask the Expert” when responding to questions in social media channels. This makes it more intuitive and less intimidating. They can speak to what we know about the condition, where to go for more information, and offer a secure e-mail response, not a diagnosis through social media.
Dr. Kolmes shared her social media policy and spoke about how she created it to inform patients regarding how she handles requests for Facebook friendship and the like. She initially drafted it on her blog for feedback. It is posted there now, as well linked to from her Twitter profile so patients know what to expect. She also actively monitors and posts information on Yelp. She also spoke about how she finds the time for social media: it is just part of her life and fits “easily” into her day. She checks it in the morning along with her e-mail, checks it again at night while reading journals, and gets push notifications to her phone.
Clearly, these are practitioners who “get it” and there is much to be learned from them.
How do their insights apply to you?
Here is what I learned yesterday at SXSW: Joseph Jaffe (@jaffejuice on Twitter) is waaaaaaaaaaaaay smarter than I am. Everyone who knows Joseph well surely already knows that, but I am relatively new to his work, so I didn’t fully realize the extent of it until I heard him speak and had the chance to chat with him a bit afterwards (he’s also a really nice guy).
Funny thing is, a couple of years ago when everyone started talking about how the traditional marketing funnel is broken, I spent a little time beating my forehead against figuring out what it is now. A tornado, perhaps? A Google search on the topic of “new marketing funnel” yields humorous results suggesting that it now looks like anything from a centrifuge to…a martini glass. Forrester Research created a new funnel that looks more like intestines. As for me, with brick marks on my forehead, I gave up and went with the intestine model. Until now.
Joseph did not give up; Joseph had an epiphany. A brilliantly simple, mad genius epiphany. Inspired by Seth Godin’s early 2006 e-book about how Web 2.0 tools were flipping the funnel into a megaphone for consumers, Joseph realized that, in actuality, the marketing funnel has been INVERTED. *smacks forehead* (And yes, in case anyone gets hung up on it, Joseph did talk to Seth about continuing to develop the idea, which he did in his 2010 book, Flip the Funnel.)
The first three words in my moleskine notebook from the talk sum it up: WHY CHASE STRANGERS? Most marketers are still spending the vast majority of their time and money throwing advertising at people who don’t know who they are, while not allocating significant resources to 1. provide an exceptional customer experience and 2. empower their most loyal customers to spread the word and grow their business on their behalf.
“We try to steal attention with advertising and PR, instead of just paying attention”, says Jaffe. So true. Advertising plays a role in building a brand. (I need to say that, because, um, Jigsaw sometimes makes advertising, and because it’s truth.) But advertising without exceptional customer experience and loyalist activation is just advertising. It’s not even a funnel, it’s just…part of a funnel. Nothing is going to get through. More and more marketers, in our experience, realize the conceptual importance of these new focal points; but how many marketers are truly investing and executing accordingly?
Coke Zero, as Jaffe points out, gets about 80% of its sales from three percent of its customers. So much for the 80/20 rule, right? As Joseph asked the group: do you know who your three-percenters are (even if they are 20 percent)? How much of your marketing budget are you allocating to communicate with and through them? Probably not enough. Joseph essentially called BS (my word, not his) on marketers who claim they don’t have the manpower to market this way. Marketers need to invest in human budgets increasingly, not just production budgets. (Production budgets are nice too, of course *hat tip to Jigsaw creative team*.)
Recognizing and rewarding these loyalists needs to be a priority; those rewards don’t have to be monetary to be effective. Joseph used Dunkin Donuts’ Fan of the Week program as a great example of a brand involving its best customers, allowing them to participate in ways that they would want to share.
So do you know who your “three-percenters” are? Are you providing an exceptional customer experience? Are you dedicating enough resources to your best customers? What are your strategies for empowering, recognizing, rewarding, activating them? Flip the Funnel by Joseph Jaffe can inspire new thinking, new strategies, new ideas for doing just that. I look forward to digesting it (back to intestines again) and sharing more of its insights here and with our clients.
Do you agree with Joseph? Is the funnel flipped? Or does it really look like…a martini glass?
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