Thursday, September 3, 2015

Lead Gen Improvement - Which Comes First, Strategy or Technology?

Each day our inboxes include announcements of new lead gen marketing technologies and strategies. Software vendors show off their latest lead gen tools. We get offers for white papers, webinars and case studies,  all highlighting lead gen strategies. And many of them sound really promising. 

But at some point you begin to wonder if its better to focus on strategy first, then the technology or visa versa. Does strategy drive your choice of technology or does technology influence your strategy? Which comes first, strategy or technology?

The answer is neither. This isn't really a chicken or egg scenario. In fact, focusing on which of these to start with can actually stall the implementation and even hinder the success of lead gen efforts.  So what should you focus on?  Fish.

About 10 years ago I bought an ocean fishing boat (pictured above). 

Living in San Diego, it seemed like a great way to enjoy the ocean with family and friends, see nature in action and have a continuous source of fresh fish on hand. At the time I knew absolutely nothing about ocean fishing or boating.

Since I would never get to any fish without a boat, that's where I started, with the technology. I read up on what features an offshore fishing boat should have, which brands made sense in my price range, which navigation system to get, what radio to buy, etc. Then I focused on which combination of fishing rods and reels I should get, what kind of bait and tackle to use, the list goes on and on.

Next I studied the strategies specific to all the equipment I bought. How to launch the boat, drive the boat, dock the boat, use the radio and the nav, how to use trolling rods, how to keep live bait, which lures to buy, boating rules and regulations, what to do in case of emergencies, etc.

Soon I had mastered the strategies that made the best use of the technologies I invested in. I ended up feeling very confident about my technology choices and the strategies I learned for deploying them. Turns out I was forgetting about one little thing. The fish. I wasn’t actually catching any. Ever.

Had I focused on the fish first, I would have made completely different choices. I would have started by knowing where they live, what patterns of behaviors they exhibit, where they eat, what they eat, when they eat and how much they eat. I wouldn’t have had to purchase equipment for every fishing scenario, just those that supported the actual fish I was trying to catch. And I would have focused on strategies that supported the technology investments related only to my target fish. In the end, I could have cut my investment in technologies by at least one-third. And cut my time researching strategies by half.

So to answer the question, “Should I start with Technology or Strategy?" The answer is neither. Start with the fish (the customer).

When you focus on the customer first, lead gen strategies and technologies become more aligned, more focused and more effective. In fact the good news is that your best customers have already defined your company’s lead gen road map for you! Your first step is to simply discover where they live, where they go, what they consume, how much they consume and how often they consume it (content).

I know, easier said than done. But, now that I’ve started down this ‘fish' hole, lets continue with the "focus on the fish, first" analogy.

Inbound Lead Generation
You've just been promoted to captain of the U.S.S. Inbound Lead Gen, and you're anxious to catch LOTS of fish. Here's your recommended support crew:

Marine (Lead) Biologist: Conducts the scientific study of target species (leads) and how they interact within their preferred natural environments.  Analyze patterns of behavior and consumption, preferences and habits. This provides both the framework and focus for lead gen strategy, technology and continuous improvements.

Bait-Master (Content Manager): Works with the Lead Biologist to formulate the best types of bait to offer a given species, depending on buyer stage, environment, demonstrated interest and behaviors.

Fish School Behavioral Expert (Social Media): Discovers areas where the largest target fish schools congregate, their patterns of activity and who their influencers are. Works with the Bait-Master in serving up effective invitations to the fish hatchery.

Fish Hatchery Manager (Website Manager): Manages the care and feeding of both new and existing leads as they grow and mature through the buyer journey. Works with the crew members above to deliver the most effective nourishment at any given time.

Radar/Sonar Operator (PPC, SEM, SEO, Retargeting, Predictive Look-alike Modeling): Leverages technologies that explore larger areas of ocean in search of lead outliers. Works with the Bait-Master in providing incentives to join the hatchery.

So whether you are evaluating potential inbound technologies, reevaluating the effectiveness of your existing technologies or reviewing your inbound marketing strategies to better align with current business objectives, the moral of my fish story is to start with an in-depth understanding of your favorite fish, then leverage your support crew to overlay the strategies and technologies that are the most effective in finding, capturing, nurturing and growing as many of the same species as possible.

BTW: I sold the fishing boat about 4 years ago to a guy in Australia. I hope he focused on the fish first. Otherwise his shipping costs alone may not have been worth it!

Steve Kellogg is a Digital Marketing Leader, Strategist and Technologist. He is currently Sr. Director of Global Marketing Strategies, Technologies and Partnerships at Astadia, Inc.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Digital Marketing Transformation Road Map

When you think about Digital Marketing Transformation, you probably reside in one of 3 camps:
  • You’ve jumped in with both feet and actually lived to tell the tale.
  • You’ve selected and installed some digital tools, but are not using them to their full potential.
  • You’re overwhelmed by the many shiny tools and technology options, new resource and staffing skill requirements and internal change management challenges, to make much progress.
Here are 5 key strategies I've learned from helping many enterprise companies embark on their own digital transformation road trips.

Digital Marketing Transformation Strategy #1: Get One. Why are you doing this? What is it you actually want to ‘transform'? Are you just looking to reduce marketing costs by switching to digital? Ugh. Hopefully this was accomplished back in 2005.

Are you trying to get ahead of your competition? Are you trying to catch up to your competition? Why? Why? Why? My guess is you are doing it because you have to.

The cold reality is there really is no choice. Your customers have already embraced digital and moved into the neighborhood. They've become locals. You either transform and move in, or live the dream that one day, peel-apart film will once again become available for your Polaroid camera.

Where you get your strategy is just as important.  I’ve seen too many road map failures because the stakeholder(s) got caught up in ’technology tornadoes', allowing these twisters to drive strategy instead of the other way around.

It can be very seductive, discovering that what was impossible yesterday is now possible today and then inserting that into the ever expanding road map. Define your strategy around solid business objectives and let the storm chasers track the tornadoes. Stay the course.

Digital Marketing Transformation Strategy #2: If you focus on what your customers expect, then delivering what your CEO expects (revenue) should take care of itself.
The truth is that all your leads and customers fully expect you to have a continuous, cohesive conversation with them throughout their entire relationship with you. From first realizing you exist to the last call with your customer service, the expectation is that you recognize them, and know their entire history, no matter what channel they choose or which device they use.

Throughout every interaction they are and have been the same person. Why would they tolerate you engaging them otherwise? Succeed at this and you have a ‘loving family member' for life. Fail and eventually no one shows up at your company's funeral. Some analysts predict that, as early as next year, CX will start to become your company's  key competitive differentiator, not your actual product or service itself. Now that's a scary thought!

Digital Marketing Transformation Strategy #3: Lewis and Clark had Sacagawea. So should you.
Acting as interpreter and guide, Sacagawea played a significant role in the overall success of Lewis and Clark’s famed 1804 expedition. According to some reports, one of her biggest strengths was that she could read the landscape, she could read the rivers and valleys. She had a sense of what the landscapes said about direction, where they were, and where they were going.

Imagine how much faster and how much more successful your digital transformation journey would be if you had a similar guide to show you the way? Align with a partner, or hire a Marketing Technologist to help lead the way. The journey is wrought with danger and risk. Hire someone who knows the landscape.

Fun Fact: My great, great, great uncle was actually William Clark (of Lewis and Clark).

Digital Marketing Transformation Strategy #4: You Don’t Need to Live Everywhere – Just Where Your Best Customers Are.
  • Q: Do I need to be on X? (X= Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest, FlipaGram, Vine, Google+, SlideShare, Bebo, StumbleUpon,Tumblr, etc)
  • A: Only if your best customers live there.
‘Nuff said.

Digital Marketing Transformation Strategy #5: Connect the Identity Dots You Can – Don’t Worry About Those You Can’t
Realizing you need to have a consistent conversation with everyone is one thing. Solving the identify gaps is another. Even Best-in-Class companies struggle with making the identity connections across all possible touch points, channels and devices. There are probably some channels your best customers use that you don’t own and may never have access to.
  • Step 1: Make a list of those channels you either own or control and can get data from. This would include your own social channels, your website, events, internal email lists, CRM and eCommerce data, your mobile apps, your own customer service center, in short, any 1st party data source.
  • Step 2: Make a list of channels you know your best customers are using, but that you don’t own or control, nor can you get data from.
  • Step 3: Abandon Step 2 and put all your focus on Step 1. Save your Step 2 list for a future discussion with your Technology Tornado Chasers, once Step 1 is fully completed and enabled (which btw is no small feat).
So, once you've addressed these 5 strategies and the ship is sailing towards long term success, the next step is to fill in all the marketing transformation road map details.

Of course we are only scratching the surface in this post. Predictive modeling, and scoring, smart automated retargeting, data science, machine learning, API connections to unconnected databases and systems, data standardization management across all channels, the list goes on. (You see why you need Sacagawea).

Bonus Strategy #6: Become BFF with your VP of IT. You will need each other.  I mean you will REALLY need each other. Learn to play tennis if they play tennis. Buy them lavish gifts (a car, a boat, a Las Vegas vacation, you get the idea).

Why? Since data is the key that unlocks massive digital marketing transformation success, make sure you've established enough trust and friendship so that IT is willing to share the car keys with you (and hopefully some of the driving) as you plan for and embark on your own marketing technology road trip.

Digital Marketing Thought Leader, Strategist and Technologist

P.S. Want to know a bit more about Sacagawea? A few fun facts:
  • Sacagawea was the daughter of a Shoshone chief, and was born in Idaho around 1788.
  • She was captured in her early teens by an enemy tribe and sold to a French-Canadian trapper who was later hired as an interpreter by Lewis and Clark.
  • Sacagawea accompanied her husband on the expedition despite having a newborn son in tow. She soon became recognized as a valuable member of the party.
  • She was the only woman on the Expedition and took care for her newborn son, the entire journey.
  • After the expedition was over, while still in her mid twenties, she gave birth to a daughter, but Sacagawea died shortly afterwards in South Dakota, from what was probably Typhoid fever*.
  • William Clark, who had grown fond of her son during the expedition, took legal custody and paid for his education. He later went on to become an explorer in his own right and lived to about 61.
  • Sacagawea never got paid for her role in the expedition.
  • Clark did pay tribute to her in a letter to her Husband,  referring to her as, "Your woman who accompanied you on that long dangerous and fatiguing route to the Pacific Ocean and back, deserved a greater reward for her attention and services than we had in our power to offer her."
  • In 2000, a special "Sacagawea dollar" was minted in her honor.
  • *Accounts of her death vary and at what age. Some rumors say she died of old age in the company of her Shoshone tribe. 

Image Credit:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Connecting the Customer Experience

Customer Experience (CX) is all the buzz right now. I recently had the pleasure of being a Guest Speaker at the Customer Experience Executive Conference in Chicago. Other guest speakers and attendees included Customer Experience Execs from Victoria Secret, Nordstrom, MGM, Walgreens, CNN, Teleflora, Vonage, Macys and other high profile companies.

As we all discussed CX processes, challenges and opportunities, some very interesting similarities and patterns began to emerge. It became clear where in the customer lifecycle CX management first appears and who actually owns the Customer Experience within these companies.

Not surprising, IT owns CX for the vast majority of these companies. And in general CX focuses on post sale experiences, typically call center customer service/support processes.

What was definitely surprising was that, for almost every company in attendance, neither marketing nor sales has any visibility into or involvement with CX. CX remains siloed deep within the IT org. As such all pre-sale funnel stage activities and experiences are not usually considered as part of a CX ecosystem.

Yet all customers experience a number of marketing and sales interactions during their buyer journey, which collectively form the overall CX. I doubt I’d get much argument that the customer experience needs to include everything. From brand, to purchase, to product, to support. And don’t forget employee CX.

But IT does not own content and marketing does not own IVR systems, so finding an owner in either camp to manage this can be difficult. Even if you found one, they would likely focus on their ‘siloed vision of CX’. Not a holistic viewpoint. 

Yes there are CXO and CCO roles. Some CEOs are also great CXOs. (Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, to name a few). But this role requires a strategic as well as a technical leader. It’s one thing to talk and quite another to execute. Even if you have found the perfect CXO, it still requires connecting a single holistic view of the truth.

Is this even possible? According to eMarketer, less than 20% of businesses have even successfully obtained this single view and only 3% have actually integrated online and offline experiences.Yikes.

Most customers really do want you to know where they are in your company’s lifecycle, no matter what channel they choose to experience you on. They don’t want to have to repeat themselves with every interaction, and they don’t want to marry you on the first date either. All the while expecting their information to be locked up, completely secure. Unfortunately 25% of all companies have experienced some kind of security breach in the last 12 months, according to Forrester.

Until a single, fully secure customer interaction platform is fully realized and integrated, CX will likely continue to be managed like a railroad track, built in 2 unconnected sections, (pre-sale and post sale) instead of one completed line.

And while you may not have the ability to install processes to fill the unconnected sections just yet, as new integrations and identity security solutions evolve, it will happen eventually. Hey, it took over 39 years to complete the railroad track from the Atlantic all the way to the Pacific. 

So what can we do right now? In a nutshell, control what you can control and use the data you have. The good news is that even siloed, you can make great strides in improving the customer experience, both on the front end and on the back end of the lifecycle. They just may not be connected and talking to each other just yet.

Eloqua Certified Marketing Automation Best Practices Consultant, Astadia

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Reminder Emails About Reminders

Tracking a lead’s activity is easy using Marketing Automation. And while tracking inactivity is just as easy, it can be even easier to annoy those that don’t respond by reminding them to respond. And then reminding them to respond to your reminder. And finally reminding them there is still time to respond to your last 3 reminders. Yikes, you see where this is going.

  • You send out an email with a special offer.
  • After 3 days you send the same email with a different Subject Line to those who didn’t respond.
  • 5 days later you send a “Still Time” to those who still haven’t responded.
  • 7 days later you send a “Last Chance” email to those who haven’t yet responded.

At best, you are training your by now catatonic leads to actually ignore the first few emails, knowing they will be receiving reminders as a deadline approaches. Once they are trained to ignore certain emails however, it won’t be long before the rest of your emails start to get ignored.

At worst, you are probably annoying leads that aren’t responding for a reason. Maybe it’s the wrong product or wrong person or wrong time.

Now if you work for a large enterprise, with multiple BUs, imagine what would happen if your leads get bombarded with multiple reminder emails from multiple campaign from multiple business units. How would you feel if you received 6 reminder emails, all related to different offers, from the same company, on the same day! It happened to me. I unsubscribed.

  • If you only send one email campaign every quarter, then reminder emails are completely appropriate. But if you’re like many clients and send campaigns weekly or even monthly, use Reminder Emails strategically.
  • Don’t include them as routine steps in your campaign template, otherwise you will definitely train your leads to ignore the originals over time. Use reminder emails where they really matter. The big stuff.
  • Make sure someone controls the overall volume and timing of emails from all sources within your company. Gating the flow of emails can get complicated with hierarchy rules, but at its simplest, It’s easy to create a little program that checks to see whether someone has received any marketing email within the last X days and if so, the campaign only sends the current email when the answer is no. This mandates a small break between the consistent onslaught (er, I mean flow) of emails.
  • Finally, get proactive about motivating people to update their preferences. This should cut down on having to rely on reminders in the first place. It’s a hard sell to get someone to actually go to the trouble of updating their preferences, but if you make it worth their while, everyone wins. Knowing which content a lead has chosen as relevant is worth double its weight in gold, so make sure the reward for divulging this vital info is of equal value. A new car perhaps? jk.

BTW: Sending an email reminding people to respond to reminder emails requesting they update their preferences usually doesn’t work :)

Steve Kellogg
Eloqua Certified Marketing Automation Best Practices Consultant, Astadia

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Content Positioning: Preventative or Pain Relief?

Did you know the average American spends almost twice as much on pain remedies than on vitamins each year? It's even higher when you factor in prescription pain remedies.

Now remember, I said the "average American". I know you health nuts are cringing right now.

But it makes sense. I know I am more focused on alleviating any current pain than on preventing future pain. And I would consider myself health-conscious.

For example, I am far more likely to reach for an Advil if I have a headache, than to reach for a vitamin if I do not have a headache.

So if this is true for people on a personal level, might they carry this preference with them when making business purchases?

Which is the truer statement at your company?

"Of course we don't look busy. We put the right systems and processes in place the first time". (Preventative)

"Of course we're busy. We have to manage all the incompatible systems that keep breaking". (Pain Relief).

In our experience as consultants, we hear the 2nd statement far more often that the first.

So if your conversions are getting stagnant, try positioning your content more on how your product or service alleviates existing pain and less on how your product or service prevents future pain. See if you don't get a higher conversion. As an added bonus when focusing on alleviating pain, you also get the added advantage of urgency that you don't get otherwise.

BTW: The average American purchases only 1 bottle of vitamins a year. Just sayin...

Eloqua Certified Marketing Automation Best Practices Consultant, Astadia

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Sources: Consumer Health Products Association,,