Saturday, September 06, 2008

Social Media and Social Engagement Top of Mind for CMOs

I recently attended the Aberdeen CMO conference to get a feel for where CMOs are at with regards social media at large and social engagement advertising in particular.

The event keynote was "Paul DePodesta, the former General Manager of the L.A. Dodgers and now Special Assistant for Baseball Operations for the San Diego Padres." He was profiled in the bestselling book "Moneyball" and celebrated as "a baseball operations wunderkind." My key takeaway from DePodesta was that bad process can get you good results -- and this is the worst case scenario because it misleads the future of the organization. Constant and never-ending evaluation improvement to process by asking the question "If we didn't have to do it the way we are doing it, if we could do it right, how would we be doing it?"

I was fortunate, the 600$ event came to me free compliments of Taproot (see: Taproot Foundation.org). Taproot is a volunteer-based organization many local techies like myself contribute time to in order to support local non-profits.

The speakers I listened to were:
* Cathy Halligan, CMO, Walmart.com
* Patrice Varni, VP of Marketing, Levi’s
* Sylvia Reynolds, CMO, Wells Fargo
* Scott Ballantyne, Vice President of Consumer Direct at Hewlett Packard
* Pablo Azar, VP Marketing Strategy and Consumer Insights ALLSTATE
* Stephan Chase, VP Customer Knowledge, Marriott
* Denise Shiffman, Marketing Strategist, Speaker and Author Engage Daily Blog

There were many memorable moments. There was Cathy Halligan's call out of The Share This with Friends button--she implied the smallest part of her site might be one of the most important. There was Patrice Varni's slide illustrating how the Project Runway integrated media marketing campaign in conjunction with Projekt 501 created a new marketplace for women and Levis--women went from buying 50$ jeans in low volume to buying stylized Levis jeans in high volume at 70$ a pair. This was an unanticipated result their Project 501--perhaps the most elaborate user generated content / social media play in all of the Fortune 5000.

There was Sylvia Reynold's assertion: "If you aren't in social media you are fooling yourself because your customers have already taken you there." The implication is that if you aren't interfacing your integrated marketing into the social marketing space your customers are already there talking about you, your products and your services--with you. So you might as well be part of the conversation.

There was Chase asserting that Aristotle not Web 2.0 invented CRM. Aristotle places the value of relationships in three strata. 1. I like you because I have use of you (lowest level) 2. I like you because it is a pleasure to be with you. 3. I like you because we have mutual regard for each other: I want what is best for you and you want what is best for me. An interesting frame within which to operate a customer experience management analytics group!

Then there was Azar who had boiled down the entire marketing department to a page actuarial function. Azar's modeling group had figured out how to frame every marketing effort into an actuarial summary that gave the Marketing Program's value to the organization in real dollars. In fact even non-metric and non-operationalized efforts such as social media can have their % budget allocation factored into the marketing mix.

Perhaps the highlight of the show was Ballantyne's Irish brogue rippling through the auditorium explaining how Buzz Works took the HP Dragon from a floundering flagship laptop to screaming success in the marketplace and in the CFO's office. Using a social media campaign focused on a series of conversation between bloggers in the PC blogging community Buzz Works helped Ballantyne double the sales of the flailing product line.

Denise Shiffman provide a ho hum but validating discussion of her book: "The Age of Engage." Her thesis is that the social marketing space is moving toward models of engagement. Every piece of the marketing mix has to engage with the customer in a conversation that feels like an authentic conversation about what the customer is interested in. The conversation needs to not be between you and your customer--the conversation needs to be between a customer and their friends or trusted advisors in the market place.

Surveys at the show and elsewhere have shown that we make our decisions: where to go, what to buy, who to connect with in well over 60% of the time based on what our friends, family, and social relationships say to us.

The highest level takeaway of social marketing from this CMO event is this:

If marketers want to be successful they have to find a way to remain authentic and become the topic of conversation in and amongst their customer's social graph without forcing their way in. Be trusted, be present but don't interrupt, be automatic but personal, be the topic of conversation but leave the conversation to others.

All of this adds up to opportunity for start-ups. Who can provide an organization a way to make use of their customers visits by accessing their social graph and then becoming a key conversation in and amongst that social graph. Who can then spiral from that one customer's social graph outward into the conversation of all the social graphs of all that customer's friends? Who can help marketers engage and re-engage with customers in an authentic way while at the same time exponentially expanding the marketplaces encounter with their customer's conversation? Who can convert word of mouth to word of net?

Start-ups are emerging in the engagement space--this space of engagement widgets, and engagement ads, semantic web and location sensitive conversations will bring the holy grail to the castle of the marketer. Start-ups will afford marketers to offer the right product, at the right time, to the right people, at the right place, in the right psychological, financial and behavioral context. This will be a space to watch this next year and half.
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