11月 092010
I’m excited to publish a new segment of our “Nuts & Bolts of Social Media” video series. In this interview, SAS’ Deb Orton, host of this series, talks with Bernie Brennan and Lori Schafer, co-authors of the recently released book Branded! How Retailers Engage Consumers with Social Media and Mobility.

While the amount of material made for a more detailed interview than we normally show, it’s so engaging and informative that shortening it would have been short-changing you. I hope you’ll agree.

The interview begins with Lori telling us that this book was written because “…our society is undergoing a change in communication that none of us have ever seen before,” and that they, Lori and Bernie, each saw an opportunity to educate the industry by telling a number of great strategic stories. The title, says Bernie, came about because “…retailers today are becoming brands,” and that’s the whole focus—because a well-branded retailer will bring in customers instead of consumers. What’s the difference? A customer is someone who returns regularly and has a relationship with a retailer. While a consumer does not. There is no mistaking which type of person buys more.

The interview moves to the topics of engagement and how the co-authors secured so many executive interviews. While talking about how our current digital/online era is different than the older dot-com era, Bernie summed it up by saying we’ve progressed “…from a one-way communication to an interactive communication that everyone is involved in.” And this is not something to be feared, the companies interviewed for Branded! each saw this interactive, the-customer-is-in-charge evolution as a positive progression.

Before wrapping up, the three talked about data and Analytics, a discussion I find particularly interesting. Bernie and Lori explained that retailers started with technology decades ago to streamline and standardize their processes – but the real value comes when you add analytics to bring insight to the data this technology captures and produces. Social media and mobility will be no different. We now see social media analytics solutions showing up to help us monitor online conversations and understand customer sentiment, allowing us to react to customer needs and desires faster than we’ve ever been able too. “We’re still at the beginning of this,” says Lori. “This is clearly going to be very big in the next couple of years.”

We hope you enjoy the video!

11月 012010
Coming off a week of U.S. West Coast conferences, I have finally caught my breath and readjusted to my home time zone here in North Carolina.

The week started in San Diego at the Teradata Partners conference, where the mood was upbeat and the sessions abuzz with the success that companies are experiencing with In-database Analytics. The conference theme was "Innovate to Differentiate" and they did not disappoint. Presenters delivered session after session of company case studies; nineteen of which SAS and Teradata hosted.

Of course, as a SAS Marketer, I was pleased with the number of mentions of SAS as the ideal Analytics engine for these remarkable feats, utilizing huge quantities of data for business insights.

Tuesday brought another flight and another conference. This time to Las Vegas, and the Premier Business Leadership Series, sponsored by SAS. This conference is several years running and never disappoints. The 2010 theme was Innovate, Optimize, Transform.

The conference kicked off with a discussion of the global economy with two renowned economists, Linda Yueh and Dr. Sung Won Sohn. While they did not agree on everything, both were cautiously optimistic about the US economy noting that we are experiencing growth, albeit slow. Vijay Govindarajan then provided a successful model for innovation and the execution of transformative ideas. Video of these presentations are available at the PBLS website, along with blogs and tweets from the conference.

I have participated as a host, speaker and moderator with this conference for the last three years. This year was different.
Business Analytics was not simply an academic discussion, but one of substance. Companies were sharing their success and asking questions of each other, and SAS, that demonstrated a deep understanding and interest in "what's next" in Analytics, rarely, "how do I get started".

Empowerment, in the form of distributed Analytics tools, was a common discussion among speakers. I picked this up from case study speakers when asked how they are able to accomplish so much with limited staffing. Analytics Centers of Excellence have formed, sometimes within departments and other times across departments. These centers are empowering departments with tools to answer many of their own analytical and reporting needs, while taking on the heavy-lifting of more complex insights within the Center of Excellence.

Innovation and empowerment, often driven by In-Database Analytics. Something to build on as our economy recovers and grows.

10月 062010
The issues marketers face are daunting. Let’s talk about three.

Response and opt out rates are awful. So we struggle to push thru the noise and stand out. We work to develop a strong list, message, and call-to-action. But we can’t know for certain if our offer will resonate with the recipient. We do our best.

Online ads.
These used to be about volume - interrupt as many as you can, and a few will inevitably click-through. Now, ads need to bring value to the viewer. And that makes sense. We work to segment and target our offers; aligning them to the right publications and the right readers at the right time. But we can’t know for certain if an ad will be accepted as well-timed information or loathed as a disruption. We do our best.

Almost every new sale begins with a Google search. But being on the first results page does not mean you’ve won; it only means you get to play in round two. We work to get people to our site and make it easy for them to find the information they need once they arrive. But we don’t know for certain if the content we have or the way we present it is hitting the mark. We do our best.

Or do we?

A new report from the CMO Council and Accenture reveals that nearly “one-third of marketers and IT executives alike” report that they are “either having difficulty integrating critical analytics capabilities or believe they are not integrated at all.” Does that sound like “our best” to you?

Doing our best means realizing that our gut isn’t going to help much in the digital marketing era. Our best demands we employ every tool we have to better serve our customers. Customer data. Math. Analytics. Optimization. Segmentation models. This is where the new-best begins.

Success with Email? The best way forward is to be ruthless in the application of analytics and optimize lists of contacts who are actually interested in your current message.

Success with online ads? Segmentation models that match ads and offers to the best possible readers are what’s needed here, so that we deliver assistance, not interruption.

Success with your Website? Advanced forms of social media and web analytics that track mentions and website visitors and analyze behaviors, allowing us to improve customer experience and serve up the right offer of content at the right time.

Marketing is quickly becoming an analytically driven discipline. Do you welcome the explosion of data as a gold mine of information? Or do you drown in details you’re unable to harness? Do you have a deep understanding of your customers and the confidence to act? Or do you struggle to deliver campaigns with little benefit of insight or promise of improvement?