A homecoming post…

Yes, it’s been a  while….

I realized a few things during these month:
1. We talk too much and don’t listen enough
2. We think we know everything about everything
3. We sometimes forget SMS’s, emails and IM are NOT the only way to communicate.
4. A good product or service should make us (users) feel something, physically otherwise it’s
     not worth it.
5. We don’t smile enough and we work too hard.
6. We  need to find meaning.

We need to CONNECT the DOTS in everything we do.

 

 

 


Coming back soon….so you better hold your breath!

After a few month of writers block, I will be coming back soon with new insights on new endeavors….


Wax online, wax offline, just like Karate-kid!

Drums….ta ta ta ta…..I noticed a trend lately, which as a marketing know-how and as a normal human, amuses me to death! Seriously!

I was really planning on getting back to channel marketing , but I found myself thinking about this latest trend named ONLINE.
And I will explain….a few years back when internet was a luxury and not as it is today a commodity – saying online meant you were part of the latest trends, cutting edge technologies, etc.  Since then and when looking today it’s obvious, it’s here and there, it’s just everywhere, we practically live in an online world. It’s just impossible to avoid it.

To elaborate on my point, here is a short story.  A few days ago, a friend of mine which has over 15 years of experience in marketing, business development, has handled large budgets successfully and managed quite a few people, called me up with an urgent request. “Anat, since you have been in the online industry for a while now, can you please explain to me what exactly does it mean, what is it made of? And teach me online marketing strategies”. She needed it as she was asked to consult a friend on how to market online for a new start-up.

Well, she is my friend, so I spared a few minutes.

We spoke about email marketing, SEO, PPC, SMM, viral marketing, search, webinars, podcast and all that comes under “online” – the list is long.  There are new ideas how to market online day in, day out, but all these are “useless” without the basics – without all the strategic work of understanding the product, the target audience, analyzing competition, positioning, messaging….

I have grown in marketing, have spent long hours with vendors, clients, partners channel here and abroad, read, analyzed, listened – and the only thing that comes to my mind is what a trend this is (balloon!) – have you noticed that everything has gone online and I mean everything!

Suddenly offline or anything which is not online sounds like a curse, sounds old – it’s like in fashion, either you’re “in” or “out” – just last year the trend in shoes was flat/no heels and this year it’s all about 10 cm heels. Flat – out, heels in. By the way, there is no need to say offline, on the contrary online is mentioned everywhere. But, isn’t it obvious!

My thought are that unless we are talking about a media company/digital advertising company the deep knowledge of CPA/CPM/CPC/media buying, search, etc. – is not information that any marketer needs beyond knowing what it means. But, surprise surprise, these requirements appear everywhere. Suddenly all marketers need to be experts no less in all the bits and bytes of the online industry.

Here is an example and a test for the readers, I get updates from various marketing networking groups that I am part of. There are usually quite a few employment offerings in those. Have you noticed that “online” has been added to all job openings – online marketing manager, online sales manager, VP of Online Marketing, Online program Management – suddenly everyone needs to be an expert in SEO, PPC, CPC, CPA, CPM, twitter, Facebook, tumblr, LinkedIn and various other abbreviations. Have you ever seen “seeking an offline marketing manager”? – Nope…because it’s obvious!

When marketing online – there are still people on the other side, humans – two eyes, one nose, a mouth etc. and they/I want to understand how the product or service can make their/my life easier – for that “old” marketing – or should I call it offline marketing does a great job.

Just to make my point clear – considering we are all living in this very online world – isn’t it quite obvious that us marketers are aware of the new trends – isn’t it obvious that even when marketing through the online channels – you still need to work the strategy, positioning, messaging of what you are selling? Online and its’ friends are in the tactics!

If you have the right messaging, have a great and short elevator pitch – it would be a piece of cake going online – it would be a piece of cake to write 140 characters in twitter.

Unless we plan on having machines delivering the marketing basics, brain storming and so on – marketing is still needed, brainstorming in a room full of people and a plate with stale pastries cannot be replaced.

Just think of all of the examples below and get my point:

  1. In – good; out – not so good
  2. Turn On – hmmm – sounds good; turn-off L
  3. In-line – great; out of line – hmmm not so much!!
  4. Off-guard, on-guard!

Offline – online!!!

It’s not all black or white but let’s not forget the basics! lets not forget it always has to be a combination, one that complements the other!

We are all online, all day, we are all customers, users of products and services! Online has become second nature!

Wax on works only with wax off (Karate Kid!), same goes for offline and online marketing! Well, at least this is how I see it!

And just for the fun, go to 1.42 minutes on this video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PycZtfns_U


Engagement is the new innovative – part 2

This is the second part of the post I published last week – so if you have not read it yet, here is the link – Engagement is the new innovative – part 1.

So after this long and hopefully “engaging” introduction, let’s take a deep breath and dwell for a few minutes on what exactly is engagement and why everyone around us is trying so hard to engage us with their brand/company/activity. And has anyone been able to pop open this black box of how to reach high engagement? How to measure engagement?

As part of this industry and as a potential “user” I am amazed by the complexity and wealth of information that can be extrapolated from a simple ad that I might click on.

One definition for engagement? Just browsing through the internet brings with it many definitions for customer engagement.

“Engagement is an estimate of the degree and depth of visitor interaction against a clearly defined set of goals.”  Eric Peterson

“Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context.” ARF

“Customer engagement can also refer to the stages consumers travel through as they interact with a particular brand.”

“User engagement is how we nurture and build a community.”  – Business Week

As we can see engagement can be tackled from many directions and comparing between one to another is almost impossible. So, can something that means so many things be measured successfully?

After being in this industry for a while, reading and listening, and hearing that the  “CLICK” is dead. If I had to describe in my own words what and how to measure engagement, I would say it is a compilation of all user/customer interactions with a brand in all types of media – offline & online according to pre-defined goals.  The calculation would be different from one brand to another and even more from one campaign to another of the same brand.

It requires infrastructure supporting measurements that are more complex than counting clicks and conversions; it would require features that enable a brand marketer access to customer behavior/my behavior on an ad unit. Have I increased the volume? Did I replay? How much time did I spend on the unit? Did I download a coupon? Did I read the reviews or share on face book? Did I dwell? Or hover? All in all, did I engage with the brand? Will I purchase the product?

As said before…so many questions about these “sometimes” annoying ad units that pop up right in the middle of the article. From my personal experience, I would say that I am not part of the game, but after digging in to the bits and bytes – I know, I have no control – I too, am affected and driven to brands.

In my limited knowledge: The ability to build a user timeline for an ad engagement enables brands to realize what it is exactly that drives their customers to like their brand.

It will probably take some more time for the massive number of companies tackling these enigmas to figure out the “quantum mechanics” of user engagement and we as users should hope that there is still something in our lives that no one has control of.
Maybe by the time it’s figured out, there will be a new definition to live by 🙂

Being a user myself, my best suggestion would be for brands to always remember that the basic is still between people!

Show me your engagement by liking, sharing this post…

This was a one-time glitch from my usual post topics – I hope you enjoyed the change – I did!


“Engagement” is now officially the new “innovative” – Part 1

A post about something else…about something that we are all being exposed to, something that places us all as laboratory mice in the hands of the large brands. This post is a result of my latest endeavors in the online industry…an industry that is constantly trying to become more sophisticated, in times where changes are quicker than can be digested. Alongside the fact that unlike other industries, the “products” of this industry are things that we “engage”  with on an hourly basis!
I hope you enjoy this one-time change of wind!

Everyone around is talking about engagement. If I would ask you to describe the first image/thought that comes to mind when someone mentions this word……what would it be?

I bet you would say one of the following: soon to be married, holding hands, two rings….did I hit the bulls’ eye? Ok, maybe some of you “internet freaks” would say social media in all its means and colors. But, without knowing any of the readers, I bet I am on at least an 80/20 success/fail rate.

Engagement is one of the most used words in the last year covering a wide variety of industries; almost every website of every company uses “engagement” in some way. Just to make a point search the word engagement and innovative in Google and see the numeric results…

We have been officially invaded!!! “Keep users engaged”, “stop waiting for clicks and start engaging your consumers”, “engaging experiences”, “engagement quality ratings”, “’serving the world’s largest engaged online community” etc.
Everyone, everywhere is trying to keep us engaged in some way.

I am willing to take the risk and say it has officially replaced the word innovative, which somewhere in the last year has lost its’ seniority, after too many years of over use and usually  in the wrong context, we all had innovative solutions, innovative products and innovative thoughts!

At present, it is not enough to be innovative; you also have to be engaging….but hey, engagement is between people, have we forgotten that?
Apparently, we have, as engagement in the context of brands relates to me as a user engaging with the brand….hmmm….how exactly is that possible.

As we all know, in large and safe steps, our lives are practically migrating to the online arena, we have not all been invaded yet, but we are well on the way there. Companies are spending millions of dollars and a lot of efforts in getting us all ENGAGED with their brand. But, what does it mean to be engaged? Does anybody know? Can engagement occur between more than 2 people? Or are we just re-defining this word as we move along to fit our needs.

I hope I got you engaged enough to wait for the 2nd part of this post.
Until then, share, share share!


What, what, what and what?

Yes, it’s been a while since I blabbed something on my blog and yes I know that once you go social, you can’t go back,  but…well…anyway, I am here now!

I have found myself in numerous situations in my life both personal and professional asking exactly that question: WTF, what what what…the hell happened here?

Developing a product is difficult enough, it entails long hours of planning, research and development, testing, Q&A. It can sometimes take months and sometimes years until you can finally say the product is ready to be launched. But even then, there is still work on next generation, on fixing bugs and adding features. This product will continue to yield work for quite a few people until the day it reaches its EOL – end of life (if at all).

One would think that for a product that for example takes a whole year to be developed, there would actually be a proportional amount of time spent on researching the market needs, size, target audience, features and characteristics, maybe even talk to a potential customer or two (let’s not overdo it off course). Thereafter, spend significant time on positioning, analyzing competition, messaging and branding etc.

There are quite a few companies that I have heard of from colleagues and friends that have in some way either missed some steps on the way or haven’t missed but cruised quickly through the steps and found themselves at the point where the product is ready and hmmm…..don’t really know what to do with it? or  how to sell it. Or…even better …tried selling and realized no one really gets what the real differentiator is from the rest of the market. Or even worse, are not sure who exactly is the target audience….Dahhh…

Here are a few things to think about:

  1. Talk, talk and talk with your customers/channel/partners any relevant entity that can give and share information about the market needs, missing features/service, what other companies are planning. Develop something that not only you think is missing, but that you get feedback from the market that is actually missing.
  2. Read, read and read! articles, relevant blogs, competing company sites, PR’s – try and gather information about trends, planned new products.
  3. Share, share and share your plans and future products and service with people and partners you trust, that would give you relevant information and give you true and honest feedback during the development process and through the marketing process.
  4. Work both the strategy – long term (at the minimum 12-18 month ahead) and tactics (3-6 month). One without the other will not hold water!
  5. Remember that marketing can’t be good and effective if it is not part of the process from the beginning (at first more as a listener) through working on the GTM (go-to market) and market analysis to the end (as an executioner).

Just like R&D is a long process, so is marketing. Without marketing in its wide definition (product marketing, strategic marketing, marcom etc.), you could have a great product but have no ability to sell. Marketing is the link between R&D and Sales.

In our hectic reality, while one takes a breath, multiple things change, volcanoes erupt, earthquakes happen, babies are born and people die.

There is no time to do all the work at the end, there is no time to work in an aquarium and hope that things will be fine. BTW, let’s be optimistic, sometimes they are….LUCK!

Many companies have yet to acknowledge that fact! Like in life, it is always better to think before you talk or act. Unless you are signed in for the always lucky-path!  Then you can just talk all you want….!


Alfajores as a strategy

Quite a few people have asked me about the banner with alfajores in my blog. I hope this post will answer that question.

Here is a puzzle, what is it between marketing and Alfajores? well, it is a one word answer: STRATEGY.

Have you ever thought about how they are made? unlike cooking where in many cases you can change the weights of the ingredients as you wish, in baking it’s all about exact amounts, the quantities matter, too much flour, your cake will come out dry, try to make protein foam and a bit of egg yolk drops in and nothing will work.

It’s the same with Alfajores, to get the exact dough texture you have to be very precise with the ingredient amounts. It’s the difference between having a melted cookie in your mouth or biting a hard block cookie and breaking a tooth.

Once you got the dough right, it’s all about setting a strategy – quick, precise, alike – a specific plan of action with a set goal at the end – tasty and appealing so within 5 minutes they will all be gone! Then a great feeling of happiness!

  Step 1 : Set the infrastructure – remove all barriers from the dining table (in strategy words: get all the relevant people in one room and talk – brain storm.)

  Step 2: Work your way in a clear set manner (in strategy words: set clear guideline& borders that will keep you in the focused in the right direction, but keep your
ears open.)

  Step 3: Match the pieces to fit perfectly (adapt your strategy
according to the different target audiences you have, collect data from all the relevant groups and then mix & match.)

Step 4: Roll in Coconut! (well, now is the time to go a bit wild, think out of the box, rise above the noise.)

Step 5: Bon Apetite!

It’s quite simple, as a vendor you should set a clear strategy that can materialize into specific goals which from them you can cut action items. Otherwise you can find your self half way through stuck or even worse, in the wrong direction. It is the same with Alfajores, they have to be done in an orderly manner or else you will have too many cookies with Dulce de leche and no cookies to close on top, it will still be tasteful but not the real thing itself. (….or it can result in a whole new feature/product, which you did not intend to have….)

A few key points:

1. where you are going? what the future sets? short term & long term.
2. Other players? if so, what are they doing?
3. What is it that you want the market to know and feel about your company.
4. Don’t forget your own people and their thoughts and knowledge
but also remember that it is someone else that is your target audience and you need to capture them.

Once you set the strategy – it’s time for creativity!  now here is a suggestion – one room, a bunch of people,  a pack of beers and a box of
homemade Alfajores  – 30 minutes and you will get great ideas….and don’t forget to be-BOLD!

Good Luck!

For those asking, what does this post have to do with channel marketing? well…..go get yourself a cup of hot chocolate and homemade alfajores and you will have the answer. Bon Appetite!…OHH… and don’t forget to let your partners know…:-)…about the strategy..not the alfajores!

p.s. all the images are from my alfajores line of business 🙂


Do you know me?

So, now that you have become addicted to my blog. Do you know me?
Let’s see. If you take a few minutes, you might get to the about me page, you might Google my name and get my Facebook page, you can go to LinkedIn and see who I am? Where I have worked? Maybe even see that I am looking for new challenges and employment opportunities (bring them on..:-)!

Looking at my blog might have taught you that I might have a craving for Alphajores. Some of you might have actually figured out that I love baking, otherwise who would in his healthy mind think to place such an image as the top banner, in a blog talking about marketing. You might even conclude that I know a thing or two about channel marketing.

So, do you feel you know me? Yes, No, Partially?

Now, sit back and ask yourself: “Do I know my customers? Do I know my channel partners?”
And I am not about to cut you any slack!  Knowing their name, location and that they sell your product is not really knowing them.

Homework time: Take your top 3 customers/partners and write down everything you know about them. Without knowing most of you, I assume you will be surprised, in a negative way of course.

Working for a few vendors and talking with others, I have realized that we spend a lot of precious time preparing marketing collateral, training kits, campaigns and so on successfully, but fail in doing the basic work before. When I say we, I mean sales people, technical force, marketing etc. Most of us, if not all.

For the sake of my argument, I will focus on marketing. You can build an amazing, innovative, bold marketing campaign that if measured would be only 50% successful because it is targeted to the wrong market, segment, delivers a message  that is either too broad or too precise. Just imagine the results, if you had more knowledge about who you are talking to.

Here is a suggestion, it might seem obvious, but as much as it is obvious it is probably not implemented enough.
It is what makes the difference between not knowing and knowing your partners/customers.

There are two stages:
1. Questionnaire to your sales force – an excel for example, that details out all the information that you would like to know about your customer/partner. From the obvious, such as region, country etc… followed by detailed questions: segments, applications, competition, top partners in the region, specific technical standards if relevant, market size and so on.

Without insulting any of my dear friends that are great sales people. Much of this information is not available. This is the exact point that you can decide to keep business as usual. Sales will still sell, marketing will continue with marketing and all is bliss.
The other option would be to take this opportunity and get your sales force to better know their partners/customer, which will result in the following: a. sales force will be better acquainted with the market and their partners needs; b. marketing can have more information that can focus the efforts in a better way. c. An opportunity to have sales and marketing work more holistically as one entity with one goal rather than separately. Marketing as a support system to the sales from a business point of view.

2. Online survey to customers/partners – questions covering all the aspects of the business relationship from technical,
product, sales, operations through marketing and management. You can keep in anonymous or allow the option to be identified.

The questionnaire and the survey can be done separately or in parallel. They both produce excellent raw materiel that should then be analyzed. The analysis can be in different levels, from a company overview, through segmentation by regions, by departments. Relevant information on specific features required, additional marketing support needed and feedback on working relationships with the different departments in your company.

A few tips to get your partners/customers answer:
a. Keep it short but not too much – allow open comments where relevant.
b. Send it from a personal email – either have the sales force send to their relevant contacts, or through any person (i.e: channel manager) that has direct contact with the customers.
c. Offer an incentive – anything that you, would be happy to get for answering a survey.
d. Make sure to update your customers/partners on the results and thank them for their feedback, especially if you plan on having this as an annual activity.

Like in any other relationship, you might think you know someone really well, but you have to work your way to exposing the bits and bytes that get them really working. Once you succeed, you are one step closer to paradise or a better relationship.

So, do you know your partners/customers?

For further information or assistance on how to implement this activity in your company,  contact me.


13 is my lucky number….

I was once asked to prepare a presentation for a partner event of a large vendor. A presentation that would be different, one that would excel above the other “normal” presentations, one that would deliver a clear message to the partners. Not a presentation talking about the new product that is planned to be launched, not  a presentation that screens the markets, applications and solutions, not a presentation about all the great tools the company developed to ease the partners day to day work.

A presentation that would deliver how we see, feel and hope, one that would talk about values but not from 50 feet above earth, but from a a place that each one in the audience would relate to.

Eventually, it consisted of 13 words, 13 values, 13 building blocks that to my view are the heart that pump the blood into a healthy partnership in general and specifically to a relationship with a channel partner.

There is nothing new here, but it is the combination of all together, that eventually lights the light house…
I chose to add my personal interpretation to each word, at moments it will sound like it has nothing to do with marketing but more to do with life. And that is true, but it is how I see and eventually interpret & manage a business relationship with partners.

1. Passion – without it, there is just no point.

2. Commitment – just like running a marathon.

3. Innovation – without it, you are left only with words.

4. Vision – the north pole that guides you in the right direction. I would add that in many cases it depends on healthy instincts…

5. Mission – Joint mission, looking in a similar direction…

6. Dynamic – Become a chameleon! Know how to change and enjoy the change, adjust.

7. Excitement – It’s contagious! Be excited and pass it on to your channel partners, it works! Enjoy the ride!

8. Glocal – see previous post….

9. Leverage – on your strengths. Not only what you think makes your brand strong, but listen to what the market & channel partners see as your
strong points…..but also remember to learn from the weaker points.

10. Partnership –  It’s simple. Learn to complement each other. You will need to trust, to work as a team, to understand, to be a person from a
company working with a person from another company, rather than a company working with a company.

11. Team“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

12. Yin & Yang – like in life, its finding the right balance. The equilibrium between my brand and your brand, my decision and your decision.
Knowing that sometimes you lose and sometimes you win.

13. Communication, Communication, Communication!

So….are you commited to your partners?
Do you have the vision? and are you driven by passion?
Do you leverage on your strengths? on your partnerships?
Do you keep up with the changes?
When was the last time you communicated with your partners? and not be emails and mailers?
And, after all, do you have the right message?

So my lucky number is 13…..what is yours?

p.s. number 14 is always: get a great professional graphic designer to support the above with strong and meaningful images. It’s team work.


KISS….ASS..

KISS – Some of you would think:
1. a gesture of affection between two people, parents, lovers, children, friends.
2. Keep it simple stupid

I have a third suggestion: KEEP IT SHORT SISTER.
So my goal in this post is (and thanks for the feedback), keeping it short, keeping it simple and….well, you are all welcome to kiss whoever is next to you.
And which better topic than JMP’s (Joint Marketing Plans) can describe this point. In general, any set plan, business, marketing, sales is one that we would like to keep as it was set at first.
I would think, it is an easier task to keep a corporate plan on track  –  it is a plan that is set by the company itself according to the it’s strategy and goals.

With joint marketing plans, there are two aspects that need to be considered:

1. It takes two to tango, just like in a relationship. It’s hard enough setting your own plan according to your company goals, now you need to set a
joint one with your partner which might have different goals, some more important than others,
2. Marketing Plan “Polygamy” – setting plans with multiple partners, with different goals, requirements, strategies all at the same time.

This issue naturally adds a certain amount of complexity to the partnership. Just think of the few (or many) people you dated in your twenties, each have different needs, wants, thoughts, the bottom line is that they all want to be happy. I would like to think that most of you did not have them in parallel, at the closest back to back 🙂 – Anyway it’ is a challenge, a vendor can have dozens of channel partners….

A lot can be written on marketing plans, the infrastructure that needs to be set to build a successful plan, budgets and what not – as I see it, it eventually comes down to KISS-AS – Keep It Simple, Short And Smart and you can always add Stupid at the end….or Sister 🙂

The result:
1. Easier to follow-up on the plans that in many cases are executed by the channel partners.
2. All plans can be added to one file and can be then analyzed according to region, country, partner, date or type of activity. Just imagine the
amount of valuable information you have, much of which you can share with your sales team, channel management and corporate marketing.

I have seen plans that look great and appealing but are 10 slides/pages long or hundreds of excel lines. It does not mean they are not good and can’t be executed….but  once you KISS-AS, you will never go back!

So here is a suggestion: One sheet that has the basic information that you need: Marketing activity, time frame, market segment, budget required, expected ROI etc and some basic business information – sales target, main segment and contact person.
The work does not end here, you still need to review, bounce back and forth, make changes to best fit,  but at least there is a clear plan that can be the basis for a discussion and easier follow-up.
A short anecdote to summarize: The last time I KISS-ASS’ed my marketing plans, the president of a large (millions of euros) partner in Europe that had been working for over a decade with the company said the following: “It is the first time, that a vendor made us sit and think what are the relevant activities for the specific markets we are approaching and not just write down all our requirements.”

I Smiled! but maybe that was because he was french 🙂


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