What Makes ‘Digital Sense’?

Have you ever looked at an online marketing success story, and come away with no idea how they did that? What’s the difference? Then it’s time to think seriously about what really makes digital sense. Here’s a good place to start.

Have you ever looked at an online marketing success story, and come away with no idea how they did that? Then it’s time to think seriously about what really makes digital sense.

Maybe it’s a company doing all of its marketing on social media. (And you can’t figure out how to make a single sale on social.)

Maybe it’s a company that’s whipped their fan base into a free marketing army, “evangelists,” zealots! (And you have to bribe your best customers to talk you up on Yelp.)

Maybe it’s a company that’s released one product that redfined its industry and made the Uber of its own niche. (And you can’t even get people to read the improvement specs on your latest upgrade.)

A Tale of Two Marketings

Covering marketing sometimes feels like covering two worlds. I see very successful, established companies where it’s all they can do to avoid a social media scandal each month. Then there are companies that seem to effortlessly move masses to both buy and evangelize them — their tactics look so easy, you’d be a fool not to be doing them.

But when the former try the latter’s tactics, it doesn’t work the same way at all. It’s doesn’t just look clumsy, it looks unfair, like the Internet decided it doesn’t like your face.

It’s like watching a sumo figure skate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGjIW6XQnKo

What’s the difference? Layers of fat? Probably, in a metaphorical way, yes. But there’s more to it than that.

Travis Wright and Chris J. Snook have set out to give you an answer in their new book “Digital Sense.”

The heart of a great customer experience is that it feels human and reminds us that there are still other humans on the other side of our transactions, regardless of the interface by which we executed the transaction or query.

I wouldn’t call this a marketing book, although everything it deals with is essential to marketing today.

It’s more a way of looking at your company, your product, and your customers that aligns your organization around what they call “The Experience Marketing Framework” and makes digital marketing figure skating possible.

How big of a change is that? At times it sounds like the aphorisms of an AA meeting:

As we introduce the EMF (Experience Marketing Framework), please repeat the following three agreements to yourself daily for context and consider posting this prominently in full view in your workspace.

3 Agreements to Customer-Centric Accountability Cultures
1. I admit that I am powerless over the demands of always-on marketing.
2. The power (our customer) that is greater than our organization gives me the singular focus necessary to restore my sanity and find focus.
3. I will take a fearless inventory of our insights, vision, and execution annually and score them with brutal honesty against the customer needs, competitors’ strength, and external forces that threaten our existence.

But if transformation is what you need, then that’s where you need to begin.

In fact, Digital Sense cuts even deeper, aiming at personnel within your organization and how to treat “Influencers,” “Amplifiers,” “Motivators” and “Zombies.” (Spoiler alert: You shoot the zombies.)

The Experience Marketing Framework

The Experience Marketing Framework laid our by Travis Wright and Chris J. Snook in "Digital Sense."
The Experience Marketing Framework laid our by Travis Wright and Chris J. Snook in “Digital Sense.”

The core idea of the experience marketing framework is to focus the company on optimizing and smoothing the customer experience.

By doing that, internally you create a culture that understands and is responsive to the customer. When everyone understands your customers and products well enough that they instinctively do the right things for them, that enables innovation from product development all the way to social media.

This impacts everything, and is the core of what allows socially savvy companies skate rings around non-savvy competitors like we discussed in the opening.

Externally, this alignment delivers reliably excellent customer experiences. That doesn’t just mean they got their stuff from you, but that the stuff they got was exactly what they needed, and the process of getting it and interacting with you afterward was a pleasure.

This is what Denny hatch would have called Customer Relationship Magic, reimagined and applied at a scale and speed never possible before.

Does ‘Digital Sense’ Make Sense for You?

This book is a plan for change, from the C-suite on down. If you’re looking for a few new tools to add to your marketing toolbox, look elsewhere.

On the other hand, if you see the world changing around you and wonder why these other companies are landing triple lutzes while your team is doing the Flying Dutchman in a diaper — slowly — “Digital Sense” is definitely worth checking out.

Will Millennials Fully Experience the Analog Revival?

Analog is back. It’s hip, it’s retro and it’s hot in film photography, print books and paper notebooks. But will the embrace of tactile, non-digital media among Millennials extend to music? That remains to be seen.

Analog is making a comeback
Analog is making a comeback

Analog is back. It’s hip, it’s retro and it’s hot in film photography, print books and paper notebooks. But will the embrace of tactile, non-digital media among Millennials extend to music? That remains to be seen.

Instagram shows over 3 million posts each for the hashtags #filmphotography, #filmisnotdead and #polaroid. Photo booths are popular at weddings. Young people are increasingly enamored with pictures taken on devices other than their phones, even though Instagram remains the go-to place to view and share them.

My students who have done class research projects on ebook readers have consistently found that college students prefer print books over electronic ones for classes. I’ve observed an increasing number of students using paper notebooks rather than tablet computers and laptops to take notes. Hardcover diary-type notebooks are gaining a hipster cache, and recently, I had a student enter an appointment in a paper calendar, as I remarked, “How quaint!”

A New York Times review says the new David Sax book, “The Revenge of Analog,” is “a powerful counter-narrative to the techno-utopian belief that we would live in an ever-improving, all-digital world.” The review adds that the author contends that the analog revival “is not just a case of nostalgia or hipster street cred, but something more complex.”

But while most things we can have and hold are easily accessible to Millennials, music is different. Fortune magazine reported vinyl record sales hit $416 million last year, the highest since 1988, according to the RIAA. But there are several barriers to the mass adoption of analog music, most significant of which is the need for a turntable and vinyl platters. Millennials own digital music and listen to it on portable devices through headphones, occasionally through a Bluetooth speaker. I’ve written before about the Millennial music experience being more individual than social, more like filling your ears with sound than filling a room with sound.

It’s easier for Baby Boomers to embrace analog music, because many still have their vinyl collections stored away. Marketing consultant Lonny Strum recently wrote in his blog Strumings about re-experiencing the joy of a turntable needle drop, saying “What the process of using a turntable has reminded me of is the joy of interaction/engagement with music that vinyl provided. The ‘needle drop’ (and alas the subsequent vinyl scratches) were all part of the process of listening to music. The selection of the song, the cut of the album took time and consideration, not a millisecond fast-forward that digital allows. I rediscovered the snap, crackle and pop from excessive play in past years. In fact, I instantly recall the places in songs of my 45s and LPs where the crackle, or pop existed, as if it were a key part of the song.”

EmotionsThese are the types of experiences that the Times notes in reviewing “The Revenge of Analog,”

“ … the hectic scratch of a fountain pen on the smooth, lined pages of a notebook; the slow magic of a Polaroid photo developing before our eyes; the snap of a newspaper page being turned and folded back … ”

A recent study published in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society concluded that “MP3 compression strengthened neutral and negative emotional characteristics such as Mysterious, Shy, Scary and Sad, and weakened positive emotional characteristics such as Happy, Heroic, Romantic, Comic and Calm” making the case that analog music might actually be a more positive and pleasant experience.

Will Millennials and the generations who follow get to experience it?

I Dare You: Create a Brand Challenge!

Challenging something we do quite naturally and easily is indeed the perfect challenge. We all get into ruts—some even good and well-intentioned! Challenging ourselves to reflect, relook and rethink why we do what we do (or don’t do) can be just the process we need to achieve something different, something unexpected, and quite possibly, even something more.

When I popped into my local independent bookstore this week, I saw a slip of paper promoting The 2015 Reading Challenge. Intrigued, I read through a list of eclectic reading prompts, wondering if they’d be of any interest to me because I already am a highly self-motivated bookworm, and always have been. The only prompt I need is to not read 24/7! But I kept an open mind and read through prompts like the following:

  • Read a book from your childhood
  • Read a book in a genre you don’t typically read
  • Read a book you’ve been meaning to read
  • Read a book published this year
  • Read a book you should have read in high school

I changed my mind after reading the list and realized that challenging something we do quite naturally and easily is indeed the perfect challenge. We all get into ruts—some even good and well-intentioned! Challenging ourselves to reflect, relook and rethink why we do what we do (or don’t do) can be just the process we need to achieve something different, something unexpected, and quite possibly, even something more.

These reading prompts made me think of how I gently provoke my clients when I am in the midst of leading brand tune-ups. “Look up! Look around! Look sideways!” I encourage. “What has changed in your marketplace? With your customers? With your product line? Your promotional offers? Your marketing communications? With your competitors? With YOU?” I ask. We grapple with these challenges together, always wanting to examine and understand status quo before dreaming big.

In that creative and open spirit, why not, as a brand leader, create your own Brand Challenge? Make a list of all sorts of prompts that may both ignite new brand behavior and reexamine old behavior. Review with your team and then just jump into it! Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Call a customer and have a meaningful conversation about their brand experience and insights.
  • Clean out your brand closet … what do you need to let go of?
  • Take a BrandAbout field trip and visit five brands not at all related to yours. See what you learn.
  • Take a BrandAbout field trip and visit five brands very much related to yours. See what you learn.
  • Make a branding TO DON’T LIST.
  • Figure out your brand verb.
  • Take a customer service person out to lunch and LISTEN to their experiences.
  • Simplify one process.
  • Spend a day in another department.
  • Find something interesting that your brand did 5 years ago, 10 years ago.
  • Eliminate one thing that does not enhance your brand.
  • Get a reverse mentor in some area.
  • Send a thank you to someone internally.
  • Send a thank you to a customer.

That’s it. I dare you!

6 Great Blogs for B-to-B Marketers

In our fast-changing marketing world, a smart B-to-B practitioner keeps up to date by learning from thought leaders. While this used to mean reading business books and magazines, today it means blogs. We’ve all heard the stats about blog proliferation. A new blog launched every six seconds—or whatever. And there is no dearth of blogs on B-to-B marketing. So I would like to share my favorites, the blogs where I find inspiration, new ideas, and provocative stories, to keep the gray matter humming.

In our fast-changing marketing world, a smart B-to-B practitioner keeps up to date by learning from thought leaders. While this used to mean reading business books and magazines, today it means blogs. We’ve all heard the stats about blog proliferation. A new blog launched every six seconds—or whatever. And there is no dearth of blogs on B-to-B marketing. So I would like to share my favorites, the blogs where I find inspiration, new ideas, and provocative stories, to keep the gray matter humming.

Here’s my list of six current faves.

The Point, by Howard J. Sewell. Howard is a seasoned lead generation pro, and a terrific writer. His blog is probably my most retweeted, as every post contains some useful nugget. Highly scanable, too, which is welcome. My recent favorite article is the amusingly titled “Sorry, But ‘How Many Touches Does it Take to Make a Sale?’ is No Longer a Valid Question.”

The Business Marketing Institute, by Eric Gagnon. Available as “Tuesday Marketing Notes,” these posts are meaty—more like book chapters than blog posts. Eric’s writing is always practical, action oriented, and a joy to read. No wonder—he’s the author of the single best book on B-to-B marketing, The Marketing Manager’s Handbook, now apparently out of print.

B2B Lead Roundtable Blog, by Brian Carroll, with additional contributors. Brian made an important point in his recent post Stop Cold Calling and Start Lead Nurturing. It seems so obvious that a robust lead nurturing effort reduces the need for constant lead acquisition, but is often overlooked. His organization also manages a thoughtful and wide-ranging discussion on the B2B Lead Roundtable group on LinkedIn.

Viewpoint: The Truth About Lead Generation, by Dan McDade. So refreshing, isn’t it, to cut through the hype and get to the truth? Dan’s interests are far-ranging, and he’s a master of content marketing (a blog, video chat interviews, white papers, book reviews, training videos), with no fluff. I was honored to contribute a guest post for PointClear last year.

B2BMarketingSmarts, by Susan Fantle. Susan being a first-rate B-to-B copywriter, it’s no surprise that her blog is both well written and full of insightful observations, examples, and success stories. Have a look especially at her six-step tutorial on writing great lead generation copy, beginning with her first step, which is about focusing in on the prospect’s pain point.

Matt on Marketing, by Matt Heinz, who runs a B-to-B agency in Seattle. Matt is a prolific writer, and assembles lots of helpful ideas from others, to boot. This blog is a treasure trove. What I especially like is his positioning as “sales acceleration,” which is, to my mind, where B-to-B marketing needs to be.

And what are your favorites? Do tell!

A version of this article appeared in Biznology.

Your Company Does What, Exactly?

“We provide robust, enterprise-wide solutions to decision-makers at multi-location facilities across a broad set of vertical industries that are facing an overarching set of business challenges.” I couldn’t help myself—I broke out laughing before he finished the sentence

“We provide robust, enterprise-wide solutions to decision-makers at multi-location facilities across a broad set of vertical industries that are facing an overarching set of business challenges.”

I couldn’t help myself—I broke out laughing before he finished the sentence.

I was at a business function, glass of wine in hand, looking to meet a few potential business connections that might be a good fit for an upcoming client project. I had read his name tag and politely asked what his company did, since I didn’t recognize the name.

He frowned at me, clearly displeased at my reaction.

“You’ve just described a million organizations,” I explained. “Why don’t you just cut to the chase and tell me, in laymen’s terms, what you do.”

He looked puzzled.

“Pretend I’m a 5th Grader,” I explained, “and your child has brought you to class on Career Day. Now, tell me what you do.”

He looked relieved. “Oh … Our company helps other company’s blast emails to their customers or prospects.”

Yup. I suspected as much.

It seems this guy has sat in the company’s strategic planning meetings and been told that the 5th Grader description was too “low brow” and they needed to enhance their marketplace positioning, if they want to be taken seriously, or play in the pool with the big boys.

Unfortunately, with so many small businesses popping up every other day, it seems this problem is multiplying. I’ve visited too many websites that position their services, on their home page, in such a complicated way that I’ve no clue what they really do. And why? What is everybody so afraid of?

Afraid that a site visitor thinks they’re too small? Not capable of handling the needs of a large, complex organization? Unable to think and work in vertical industries?

Here’s a little insight from a buyer of business goods and services: Your website is your storefront.

  • Step 1 is to make sure your windows are properly dressed to appeal to the traffic that’s strolling by.
  • Step 2 is to make sure that if they open the door and enter, it’s crystal clear that they’ve come to the right place.
  • Step 3 is to provide a logically organized set of links to other places on your site where the visitor might go to find more information. Back to the storefront analogy—if I walk over to the shelf with books on it, chances are I’m looking for a book. If you’re lucky and I ask if you have a particular book, you shouldn’t be leading me over to the clothing section. It’s more likely that I won’t ask … and it will certainly never occur to me that I might need to look for a book in the clothing section. It might make sense to put your book in BOTH sections of your store, if that book was about fashion.

Take a critical eye to your own website. Better still, ask someone who is NOT familiar with your company to take a peek and tell you, in their words, what your organization does just by looking at your home page. You may be surprised by their interpretation.

The Best Brand Gift Ever!

I know you are a YES person. A DIY person. A BRING IT person. A CAN DO person … excellent at all you do—conscientious, responsible, dependable, overachieving. No doubt, it’s how you got where you are. All wonderful qualities. So this Christmas, perhaps the last thing you need or want is something from “The 12 Days of Christmas.” What you just might need this month is 12 days and ways to say NO.

I know you are a YES person. A DIY person. A BRING IT person. A CAN DO person … excellent at all you do—conscientious, responsible, dependable, overachieving. No doubt, it’s how you got where you are. All wonderful qualities. So this Christmas, perhaps the last thing you need or want is, as the song says, some version of “12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 lords-a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids-a-milking, seven swans-a-swimming, six geese-a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves or even a partridge in a pear tree.” You don’t need or want more stuff. You want a meaningful, long-lasting, brand-enhancing and life-affirming gift. Something useful and practical.

What you just might need this month is 12 days and ways to say NO.

The deal is that no one can give this gift to you. It’s a selfie. There’s no outsourcing this skill to a personal shopper, no concierge service that can do this for you. It’s a true DIYer.

As YES people, the word NO is an infrequent part of our vocabulary—in our brand lives and in our personal lives. But I have found that the happiest and most productive people have given themselves the gift of NO. They have learned to make NO a natural part of their DNA … both in and out of the office.

So, before you head out of the office to start holiday celebrations, why not raise a toast to that little two-letter word NO and see if these bits of inspiration may encourage you to treat yourself (and the brand you lead) to this very important present:

1. The gift of a new discipline … making no an art form. Missy Park, founder of Title Nine, echoes the power of no. “In my book, saying yes is over-rated. Fact is, it’s easy to say yes. No difficult choices, no disappointments. Ahh, but saying no. That is the real art form. There’s choosing to say no which can be wrenching. There is choosing when to say no, which is often. And then there’s saying it graciously, which is very hard indeed.”

2. The gift of throwing in the towel … the towel that really doesn’t matter. I greatly admire Bob Goff. He’s an author, an attorney and founder of Restore International, a nonprofit human rights organization. He wisely shares: “I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” With that in mind, Goff makes it a habit to quit something every Thursday. It liberates him for new things. What can you be simply done with?

3. The gift of margin … build in white space … everywhere! Dr. Richard Swensen, a physician-futurist, educator and author, advocates for purposefully creating mental, emotional, physical and spiritual breathing room in our full-to-brimming professional and personal lives. He calls it margin—like the white space around pages of books. He counsels that we need it more than ever. Appropriately saying NO gives us more white space.

4. The gift of focus … just say no … perhaps three times or more! Steve Jobs, Apple’s brilliant and passionate founder, shared this: “Focusing is about saying no. You’ve got say no, no, no. The result of that focus is going to be some really great products where the total is much greater than the sum of the parts.”

5. The gift of eliminating even more non-urgent and unimportant time fritters. Stephen Covey, author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” cautions us to be careful of defaulting too often into what he calls Quadrant 4 of his time management matrix … the place we naturally drift after spending lots of time in urgent and crisis modes: trivia, busywork, mindless surfing. Just say goodbye to all the nonessentials.

6. The gift of stopping … count the ways. Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great,” encourages us to create STOP DOING LISTS. That’s right … enumerate all things you are no longer going to do. Start by simply saying no to his Venn diagram of three crucial things-activities that are you are not deeply passionate about, that you feel you are not genetically encoded for and things that don’t make much economic sense.

7. The gift of holding back … a permission slip for more B+s. Must everything be done to an A+ perfection level? Pick and choose those activities that really warrant this kind of energy. Challenge yourself to not be an honors student in all you do. Award-winning author Anne Lamott had to remind herself in midlife that “a B+ is just fine.”

8. The gift of less … hit that delete key more often. Do we really need (or have time to read) all those subscriptions? Must we? Find satisfaction in architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe “less is more” philosophy. Go ahead—delete, unsubscribe, edit, curate. Whatever you have to call this process, just do it.

9. The gift of simplicity … now. Years ago naturalist and poet, Henry David Thoreau warned us: “Our life is frittered away by detail … Simplify, simplify, simplify!” Alan Seigel updates that sentiment for brand leaders in his book: Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity. Perhaps it’s time to give yourself and your brand the gift of a serious simplification process.

10. The gift of benign neglect … just ignore it! Do we really have to have a multiplatform constantly clean inbox? Who cares? What’s the point? Mani S. Sivasubramanian, author of “How To Focus – Stop Procrastinating, Improve Your Concentration & Get Things Done – Easily!” writes: “Information overload (on all levels) is exactly WHY you need an “ignore list.” It has never been more important to be able to say “No.”

11. The gift of checking back in with yourself … so, what matters now? In her book “Fierce Conversations,” leadership development architect Susan Scott suggests people change and forget to tell one another. That is true. Sometimes we even forget to tell ourselves. What has changed for you or your brand? Your energy level? Your tolerance? Your interests? Your competition? Your customers? What needs revisiting so that your yeses are truly yeses and your nos are truly nos?

12. The gift of a do-over … recycle your mistakes. We’ve all made the mistake of saying yes when we should have said no. Jot down a few of those do-overs on a post it note. What were the learning lessons? Keep that note to yourself handy.

‘Tis the season for gift-giving. Be kind to yourself and to your brand and make the practice of gracious NO saying not only a year end gift, but a long lasting part of your DNA.

Lavishing: A Branding Must Do!

I was already familiar with the radically different publishing company called Twelve, and had used them as a model in some of my client work. One of the publisher’s key points of differentiation is that it purposefully publishes no more than 12 books a year. This is a contrarian approach, as most of the publishing world simply does not work that way. With over 1 million-plus books published just last year (according to Bowker’s figures), most publishers release a plethora of titles.

I was already familiar with the radically different publishing company called Twelve, and had used them as a model in some of my client work. One of the publisher’s key points of differentiation is that it purposefully publishes no more than 12 books a year.

This is a contrarian approach, as most of the publishing world simply does not work that way. With more than 1 million books published just last year (according to Bowker’s figures), most publishers release a plethora of titles. Most have their A list books/authors, B lists and C lists, and plan promotional dollars and energy accordingly. Out of all those millions of titles each year, only a few will trickle to the top of our country’s reading lists and generate worthwhile conversation, information, and entertainment. Most of the rest get lost in the shuffle until they are “remaindered” (like a funeral for a book).

But it was one verb in The New York Times description of Twelve that made me linger: “Twelve is an experimental boutique publisher dedicated to releasing far fewer books than a traditional publisher, with the implicit promise that an unusual degree of editing, publicity and marketing would be lavished on each book.” LAVISH. That really was the publishing company’s brand differentiator. The product developers (in this case publishers/editors and publicists) were lavishers.

Twelve’s mission statement declares: “Talented authors deserve attention not only from publishers, but from readers as well. To sell the book is only the beginning of our mission. To build avid audiences of readers who are enriched by these works-that is our ultimate purpose.” They go on to share 12 Things To Remember about TWELVE … here are just a half dozen:

  • Each book will enliven the national conversation.
  • Each book will be carefully edited, designed, and produced.
  • Each book will have a month-long launch in which it is the imprint’s sole focus.
  • Each book will have the potential to sell at least 50,000 copies in its lifetime.
  • Each book will be promoted well into its paperback life.
  • Each book will matter.

For Twelve, lavishing works. Its books garner rave reviews, bestseller list success, and have won almost every publishing award available.

Lavish. It’s a powerful brand action. How might having a lavishing mindset make your brand more focused? Create more relevant products? Delight more of your customers? Why not spend a few minutes creating a “Lavish List” and just see where this verb leads you!