Archive for the ‘Social media’ Category

Percassity Perspectives

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Latest edition of my company newsletter.

Issue 6, January 2011 In the news this issue, we highlight fines levied in the UK for data privacy breaches and examine trends in social media marketing. Our guest contribution looks at some key considerations regarding vertical specific CRM solutions, plus our usual round-up of Percassity updates, events and round-up from the web.

Percassity Perspectives

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Latest edition of my company newsletter.

Issue 5, October 2010 This edition’s news round up takes a look at the potential of transactional emails, the BBC’s take on social media monitoring and court action against the UK by the EU data protection authorities. We also write on how old-style email campaigns waste marketing resources, and look at some low cost CRM technology solutions for SME’s.

Email horror stories

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Recent personal experience and a story relayed by a client have prompted reflection on how to deal with marketing email activity that goes wrong. (Some readers of this blog may even have been unwitting participants in the former incident themselves!)

Launching a new online data capture solution, my own company planned a series of emails outlining the benefits of the service, each email highlighting a different aspect. Unfortunately, in preparing the second in the email series, the first email was accidentally resent to the same recipients that had already received it originally. Not once, but twice!

Now, had it been resent just once (this was ten days after the first email), we might have quietly delayed the second execution and pretended it was a deliberate “follow-up”. Those recipients that opened it would probably this was the case (which was the plan, it was just supposed to be a different message). But having sent two emails, ten minutes apart, we didn’t think that would wash. The question we asked ourselves was should send an apology (adding a third email to our beleaguered and much valued recipients’ in-boxes)? Doing so might be appreciated by those wondering why they were receiving so many emails from us, but equally might exacerbate the issue with others. Still more people, who might not even have noticed the resends, would have their attention drawn to it.

In the end, we decided to send the apology. It’s obviously exceedingly embarrassing when situations like this arise, reflecting badly on our competence in an area which is meant to be a core skill. However, we thought that honesty was the best approach and indeed in our email we referred to the debate we’d had before taking action. We also invited feedback on whether we’d done the right thing, and of the responses we received, the overwhelming majority agreed with our approach, with only one or two saying we’d made the situation worse!

Separately, a client was recently forced to take action after a member of his sales force sent an email blast, utilising Word and Outlook to undertake a “mail merge”, rather than using the company’s approved email broadcast facilities. This DIY approach, breaking just about every rule in the email marketing book from poor targeting to contravening anti-spam legislation, resulted in a complaint from a recipient to various executives, copying the the US Federal Trade Commission (not a career enhancing outcome for the sales guy!). The original email was also criticised for not making clear the nature of its commercial content (as required by relevant legislation). All in, the transgressions could have attracted $11,000 in fines, and the complainant also demanded that no further email be sent, not just to him, but his entire company, and that there would be no prospect of doing business with them.

My client’s (rapid) response was to write back, apologising for the incident, making various assurances about some specifics of what had happened but above all assuring him that lessons would be learned. The response? An appreciative reply, stating that, after all, their services would be considered in the future.

The outcome of all of this is that honesty is certainly the best approach to dealing with issues when they arise. Whilst the complaint made by the recipient of my client’s email that the subject line was misleading was arguably unfounded, it highlights the importance of not trying to obfuscate the intent of a piece of communications. And although we garnered some criticism for our apology, most people who replied appreciated the gesture. True, the naysayers in some cases aired suspicion over a publicity seeking conspiracy on our part, but it’s worth bearing in mind the old adage of never attributing to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity!

Adherence to process though is equally crucial to avoiding issues in the first place. In our case, a more rigorous approach to separating the subsequent executions of our campaign would have avoided the problem. Had my client’s sales rep used the email system supplied for him, there would be proper provision for issues such as unsubscribe handling, opt-out suppressions and sender identification.

Learning from our mistakes is of course another important lesson – but learning from other people’s is even better, so I hope this post has been useful!

Can we learn permission marketing from Generation Y?

Monday, March 30th, 2009

This week saw the annual IDM Lunch taking place once again, an opportunity for members to meet, catch up and discuss current issues over lunch, followed by a keynote address. The calibre of the speakers is always high and this year was no exception, with “worldwide business and technology strategist and best-selling author” (according to the IDM) Don Tapscott occupying the slot this time.

Tapscott’s presentation set out to highlight some of the reasons to embrace rather than disdain “Generation Y”, to whom the Internet is second nature. Rupert Murdoch described them as “digital natives”, against those of a slightly older disposition for whom the Internet arrived at a later stage in life and therefore making them “digital immigrants”. This generation are “bathed in bits” and have a completely different approach to media consumption and social interaction. This of course is characterised by Facebook, Twitter and My Space, but also, critics assert, lack of attention span, insularity and general dumbing down.

Tapscott rejects this description though, and as a Professor of Management at the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, among other roles, and having recently completed a $4m research programme in this area, I guess he should know what he’s talking about. The general thrust of Tapscott’s counter-argument was that far from leading to the atrophy of the skills needed in modern business, online technologies foster them. The collaboration, team work and leadership engendered and developed online create individuals far more likely to be effective knowledge workers in the future.

Tapscott also highlighted the attitude of Gen Y to email and a memorable way of characterising it. Email is regarded as a more formal means of communication than instant messaging or social media sites; in other words, something for the oldies to use! Though not a new observation, Tapscott’s research turned up the following gem: when asked when email would be used by today’s teenagers, the response was “when writing a thank you letter to my friend’s parents for having me to dinner.” The art of letter writing may well be on borrowed time…

You can enjoy the rest of Tapscott’s observations in more detail by reading his latest book, Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World, so I won’t dwell further here. The other element of his presentation which interested me though was actually his opening gambit. Demonstrating that great minds think alike, as I had suggested this only moments earlier to my neighbour at the table, he asked for a show of hands as to how many Twitter users were in the audience. Of perhaps the couple of hundred delegates, about a third professed to using Twitter, which was a little higher than I might have expected from a relatively senior audience. (Although given the IDM’s strap-line “Digital, Direct, Data”, perhaps this was just the digital contingent.)

Now, I confess I’m not on Twitter, though it’s on my list of things to do. This result however, somewhat supports my assertion that few of the people I’d like to speak do use the service, making my presence a little futile. However, I’m not closed off to it, and I was only recently enthusiastically assured of it’s great utility by an industry colleague (you know who you are!). In view of the upcoming generation ensconced in this technology though, marketers surely need to take these channels seriously, and start learning how to use them to the mutual benefit of organisations and those they wish to influence. This is a similar situation to the early web, when companies built websites with a limited understanding of what they hoped to achieve. This has the danger of being self-fulfilling, but the web didn’t turn out too badly!

What interests me, to bring this back on topic, is the operational implications of these technologies. How can they be effectively integrated into marketing processes, measured and justified? Or is this counter to the ethos of Web 2.0, where such mercenary and quantitative thinking is counter culture? It would seem a shame if so, as Twitter’s “follow my Tweets” approach strikes me as the ultimate in permission marketing. Where’s Seth Godin when you need him? (Well, try here, here or here!)

Institute of Direct Marketing Business-to-Business Marketing Conference 2008

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

A few observations on the recent Institute of Direct Marketing Business-to-Business Marketing Conference. The theme of the day very much revolved around the merits of social media and Web 2.0 in a business marketing context. Don Peppers, of Peppers and Rogers Group, suggested three trends for business marketing, including the growth of social media, involving customers and staff; the key opportunity being to leverage advocacy, providing tools, such as presentations or white papers, to make it easier for supporters of your product or brand to spread the word. Other trends, he said, include the increasing prevalence of products as services, making them harder for competitors to copy and the growing importance of content, and its development and management, in marketing messages.

His comments on lead nurturing also struck home with me, suggesting that prospects be treated like customers and highlighting the importance of creating a relationship building engine with a long term vision. Resist the boardroom call for short term results and build for the long term, we were implored! I very much agree that ongoing, regular communications with customers and prospects alike is crucial to attaining and maintaining “share of mind”, building awareness and building a profile of your recipients through data collection.

Although the story of the JCB diesel land speed record attempt was a little heavy on corporate self-congratulation (and didn’t contain much on social media), I did take away one key message: play to your strengths. JCB wanted to highligh their core competency of engineering prowess, which they demonstrated by smashing the previous record for the fastest diesel powered vehicle. What are your organisation’s unique strengths and how can you demonstrate them to your target market?

Whilst not making explicit reference to social media, London Business School’s Brett Cunningham did in essence highlight the importance of creating an environment for the exchange of ideas and co-operation. LBS have coined the term hotspot (in the non wi-fi sense) to describe the buzz of energy and innovation that is created when the right people come together to solve a problem. How better than a Web 2.0 approach to making this possible?

The panel debate was all about social media, and its relative merits when compared with pay per click advertising. The motion that social media will become as important as PPC was carried, although I think the overall concensus of the delegates was that PPC would still be important, but simply another string in the bow of marketers. Arising from the debate were suggestions that social media may have wider scope for lead generation than PPC, but it’s difficult to target and measure; PPC is good at traffic generation, but is not very discriminating and offers little brand experience. “Consumers will continue to search,” Don Peppers had earlier told us, but don’t overlook the importance of social to the up-and-coming ranks of business buyers and marketers. It’s going to be second nature to them.

Beamed in from the West Coast USA, Laura Ramos of Forrester Research shared her thoughts on social media and experimentation in business to business marketing. Her key takeaway was that knowing your buyer’s social media behaviour profile helps set a successful social media strategy. Whilst many traditional tactics underperform against expectations and are failing to engage decision makers, the importance of one to one contact in generating demand is being recognised. Forrester have developed a Social Technographics methodology for use before setting strategy, based on understanding the buyer’s behaviour and that impact of Web 2.0 on their purchasing process. Take a look at

The day was closed out by the ever entertaining Rory Sutherland, archetypal chief creative at OgilvyOne, who controversially put forward the idea that an obsession with measurement might be holding back innovation. Even I can agree with the sentiment, but at the end of the day, Marketing has to be able to demonstrate return on investment if it’s to be taken seriously. The “medium is the message” he said and the delivery mechanism determines success. Make sure you’re talking to people in the right way, appears to be his point, otherwise it doesn’t matter what you say.

As always with events like this, a few nuggets of thinking and ideas were thrown up during the day to take back to our offices and put into practise, making it a day well spent. Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention, you can catch my own contribution (and the rest of the day) during another panel discussion. Enjoy!

Institute of Direct Marketing Members’ Convention

Sunday, November 19th, 2006

Some observations on the recent IDM Members’ Convention. The first time it’s been run, and part of the IDM’s 20th anniversary programme, this “by the members for the members” event consisted of a day of talks and sessions on the latest issues in direct, digital and interactive marketing.

Opening up was Richard Madden of ad agency Tequila, with the flamboyant and off-beat look at the state of the industry that you would expect from an agency guy! “Customised” Relationship Management is the way forward according to Madden, delivering a customer experience tailored for individuals. Also on stage was Stephen Groom from Osborne Clarke, the only man to make a data protection presentation interesting! (His firm maintains quite a useful marketing law site at The venerable Peter Simpson, now chairman of Data Lateral and previously one of the guiding minds behind the launch of First Direct, closed out the day with some thoughts for the future.

The day though also consisted of some break-out sessions, one of which focussed on Web 2.0 and the increasing use marketers are making of the various emerging online communities, such as MySpace and YouTube. The definition of Web 2.0, we were by the way informed, is anything “participatory” or that involves interaction and feedback from website visitors and so on. This includes blogs of course, and although it’s rather fashionable to write about blogs in blogs, I’d thought I’d chip in.

Perhaps one of the most well known business blogs at the moment is Charles Dunstone’s, CEO of Carphone Warehouse. He of course had to defend Talk Talk, CPW’s fixed telecoms and broadband operation, when its “free” broadband offer proved a little too popular. This highlights the dangers of blogging, and Web 2.0 in general, in a business context, as it can be difficult to control the message, especially when things aren’t going so well. The lesson seems to be that if you’re going to do it, be honest and don’t go to ground if problems arise: address them and respond to feedback and criticism. The relationship between the original free-wheeling ethos of the Internet and the desire for commercial exploitation can be a tense one, but eschewing this philosophy when the chips are down is a sure route to ignominy and derision.

Hopefully not a problem I’ll face here!