All posts by whunt

Current Marketing Threats & Opportunities

I have been asked by a number of people about the current state of the market and the key competitive threats and opportunities.   There have been many different context put on that question but I wanted to share some of my answers and see if there are any differing thought.  While many of these may seem like big vs. small agency that is not the case.  The opportunities are real for either agency to win this this current economy.

Threat – Fear

CMO’s and other senior marketers are paralyzed with fear and most likely won’t be trying anything new, deploying “big ideas” or switching to new agencies or unproven marketing tactics.  This is normal – they want to save their jobs and the precious resources they have.  However, doing nothing will lead to stagnation and the more aggressive marketer to gain market and mindshare.

Opportunity – Offering smaller success/results driven activities will allow agencies to be active in these companies.  While these projects won’t drive the revenue levels that “big idea” projects does they do allow you to have a favorable view from the clients and as the economy turns they will remember and reward your loyalty and desire to help them in times of need.
Threat – Consumer entrenchment
Times are tough and the purse strings are knotted shut.  Consumers are only buying things they must have and are making harder decisions on what to buy and which to choose.  They are asking “trusted strangers” their opinions and doing more detailed searches for reviews and experiences and not just buying on brand loyalty.

Opportunity – this is the perfect opportunity to leverage tactics that actually sell and connect with people during the buy cycle.  Integrating search and social media and searcher interest modeling we can find them during various phases of the buy cycle.  This helps us catch “anyone” who wants the products but more focused on those actually ready to buy.

Threat – Demand for Performance Improvement & Instant Wins
Every client and prospect I have met with tells me that they must sell things now.   It is scary how many agencies hear this and try to offer a big idea instead of helping them sell product now.   We see a lot of inefficiency in work that is being done by large agencies and there must be a refocus to sales while running the parallel big idea and branding programs.

Opportunity – If we can do an assessment and find the “low hanging fruit” for companies we can identify these quick wins where we can move the needle.  Similar to the “fear” opportunity we can get in do something quick and then show how smart and nimble we are to gain more access.

Threat – Google
Google is aggressively working to disintermediate the agency and key relationships.   With the recent layoff of 200 sales and marketing staff this will only increase.  They are showing the inefficiencies of agencies and doing it at higher levels of the organization where the greatest loyalty lives.  Google is leveraging Avinash and interesting presentations to get access to senior managers who can still green light projects or shift ad budgets.   I have seen the power of these very persuasive presentations that has opened doors and opportunities at many companies.

Opportunity – Work more closely with Google as a partner rather then pushing them away.  Leverage the summits that you can do with them to gain more interest and the value of integrating search with other forms of marketing.  Take advantage of the new thinking that comes from executives curiosity about “bounce rates” and the “missed opportunities” you can capture by increasing search and analytics programs.

Threat – Social Media Evangelists  & Popularity

Most of these people are hacks but they are getting attention.  They are getting access now that Digital Strategist’s should be getting.  They wield a powerful message of change and “voice of the consumer” in a time of desperation that is getting the attention of senior marketers.  Like every red hot tactic that came before; marketers will run amok and spend a lot of wasted dollars without really understanding the true business value of these tactics.

I would caution any marketer that hears a presentation o social media with only examples of “How Obama did it” or “How Zappos” is doing it.  Unless they are the owner of those programs ask them what they have done.  Both of these are very powerful success stories but the reality of both cases is they are backed by a solid foundation of service and value.  Would Zappo’s social media be as successful if they did not have a killer product and even better customer service?

Money is shifting from other forms of marketing into social media activities.  The fractured nature of the social media offering of most agencies is a problem. They are hiring the evangelists who really don’t understand corporate dynamics of marketing integration for the business applications of social media.

The other key issues is because of the access and attention they are getting with senior marketers they are starting to gain some power over marketing budgets – while the big agency still has the big relationship they need to be wary of the nimble “insurgents” who are getting time with the CMO and making a case for more integration and tactical services which runs counter to the ideas of most agencies.

Opportunity – All agencies need to be out there evangelizing on the whole ecosystem.  Agencies need bloggers talking about these prates and examples within the agencies.    This will get more attention and really help push us into the evangelist phases.   By getting more discussion time via blogs, conferences and whitepapers we can drive the changes and showcase how smart we really are in integrated digital marketing.
The biggest advantage the large agency has is access.  They have the CMO and marketing team on speed dial and if they can get in with a credible offer they can debunk the ideals of the average Social Media guru.   With social media, like with search, we can get into the organization.  Deploying both of these requires access to both people and teams where we can understand other needs.  We have positioned search as a wedge play where it opens the door for more opportunity.

Threat – Global Sales & Execution

Many companies are looking for sales outside of the US.  A recent interview with HP CMO in B2B Magazine indicated that 69% of their growth is coming from outside the US.  This has been the case for many companies from Amazon to Zurich Financial – much of the revenue is coming from outside the US and significantly more now from emerging markets.
One big problem with traditional and digital agencies is they have significant global footprints they just don’t leverage it well.  Many of the local offices come from acquisitions which have their owner agendas and P&L’s to content with and view integration is a potential drain on their individual performance.  Most agencies don’t have a “central advocate” for global business within their multinational clients.  This really needs to change.  Clients are starting to ask for a more coordinated global approach to strategy but local coordination.  I have seen a number of recent cases where local assignments were lost due to the perceived dysfunction of the parent agency or a simple lack of communication about the opportunity.

Opportunity – If agencies can harness their networks globally and have a seamless hand off I believe they can generate a lot of money not only in the US but also around the world.  Companies want market assessments and want to test opportunities in these markets which the local markets typically don’t have budget to fund this discovery.  We are seeing these projects go to smaller agencies to conduct which opens fore opportunity for the nimble shop to take business from the bigger agencies.
With search marketing we can estimate market opportunity via search demand.  We have done this for various multinational and it has helped them understand the the untapped opportunities.  If the agency can do this simple activity for them it could open the door for other local assignments in various forum of digital services that could be passed on to the local offices increasing the overall agency revenue.

Threat – Digital Migration
This is the elephant in the room. That most large corporations and agencies don’t want to admit.   There are a significant the number of people moving to digital and the companies are not moving as quickly.  According to a recent study 63% of CMO’s are moving significant shares of their budgets to digital marketing.
Corporate marketing programs and their antiquated Websites are not mirroring how people consume information in the digital age.  Yes, TV commercials are still very important especially for new products but they must be complimented by search and social/word of mouth activities.

Opportunity -  The opportunity for large agencies is to understand this migration and start aligning a significant digital collaboration to each of these programs.  If it is integrated at the beginning using agency digital resources you have effectively blocked new players from entering the company.  The “insurgent” agencies are using thee as tactics to enter the company pointing out that the big agencies don’t understand the synergies.
It is critical that the big agency must mandate a coordinated paid search program to align with the TV commercial fighting.  To not capture that uplift in searcher volume is negligence on both the agency and corporate marketer and will guarantee a loss of that additional revenue to a smaller shop or the engine directly.

Other threats?

Disintermediation Increases in Hard Times

One trend I am noticing more and more as the advertising market sours and budgets decrease are vendors and publishers doing end-runs around agencies and key internal evangelists.
CMO’s and senior marketing managers are grasping for improvements in performance and tactics that can help them ink out any additional value from their current marketing budgets.  This desperation has opened the door for more nimble agencies (recently referred to as “insurgents”) and publishers to offer direct deals and tools that can deliver increases in performance and bottom line revenue.

One of the most aggressive user of disintermediation tactics right now is Google.  While they have claimed to be the partner to agencies, which has traditionally, driven the bulk of their business they are starting to be more aggressive in their direct dealings with companies.
Google is heavily promoting their tools for efficiency, performance and increased value and increasingly becoming a more trusted partner for brands.  Here are some of the ways Google is getting into the boardroom.

Avinash Kaushik Road Show – Avinash is a friend and a brilliant, engaging speaker and writes a valuable blog Occam’s Razor.  I think one of the best investments Google has made was to bring in Avinash and send him around to large companies to tout the value of analytics and digital marketing.  He talks about how to get the most out of your campaign by looking at the data and making changes where they have the most impact – powerful stuff in bad times.  Between his reputation and Google’s aggressiveness, he is getting in front of the most senior executives and making them aware of the opportunities in search and digital marketing.   At the same time they understand the power of digital.

More Free Stuff – in a time of decreasing budgets Google is rolling out more and more free stuff.  This free stuff is getting the attention of executives at all levels of the organization.  Some of our clients have resisted changing analytics vendors but as they see the power of Google Analytics and its wonderful price tag of “free” they are moving mountains to try and get it in place.   This has actually helped many agencies and marketers advance agendas for better analytics, multi-variant testing and increased budgets for search marketing.

Recession Marketing & Missed Opportunity – This is brilliant.  Come and in and show the “Missed Opportunity” they are leaving on the table in multiple forms of marketing.  My firm, Global Strategies pioneered the “Missed Opportunity Matrix” detailed usage is described in Search Engine Marketing Inc.

One of the biggest forms of sales pressure now is the “fear” that they are under spending the competition or leaving vast sums of opportunity on the table.  This is the one that is the most frustrating.  Many companies have cut budgets and us in the inside are trying to get more out of what we spend now but publishers are beating up the clients with how much more they should spend and we are caught in the middle of the frenzy.  We want them to spend more to increase brand, market share and actual sales but they are not willing so having Google, Yahoo and other publishers pressure them

Trend and Opportunity Tools – A recent deployment of Google Trends & Ad Planner has gotten the attention of many marketers.  While this data has been available to agencies for a while they are now aggressively shopping it to Marketing Intelligence and Marketing departments for them to use without having to go to the agency.  The trend tools are great for insights into what people are doing.  I personally thank Google for making this data public and exposing it to the MI teams since they are, in many cases, the key drivers of the Marketing mix and the associates spends.

Executive Stalking, GooglePlex Tours and Resort Conferences – Probably the biggest change I am finding is the stalking and precision interaction with key influencers.  Almost daily I am getting emails from mid –level and senior executives who have been approached directly by sales people offering them a better solution if they work directly with them or drop the current agency.  Again, this is not new but the people doing are often subcontractors, vendors and partners of the current AOR agency.

For my next company I want a GooglePlex and the press that goes with it.  Just an invite to the “Plex” makes even the most seasoned marketer giddy like a child on Christmas morning.  There are a number of vertical events where Google brings a host of MI and Marketing Executives to Google, put them up at the Four Seasons in Palo Alto and introduces to all the power of Google at the “Plex” with great speakers and presentations of tools and the raw power of the Google machine.
I am also getting calls from many of my clients that they have been asked to attend various “summits” and events that are fully funded.  These have been around awhile but with most companies having significant bans on travel this is becoming more and more popular.  Once you get them there you are able to “power sell” them and have direct dialogue without the interruption of agency partners.  The additional quality time on the slopes or links in invaluable.  I foresee these types of events growing.

This post was not to bash Google or complain about the tactics since in most cases their aggressiveness is advancing my agendas with large companies.  I do thank them for allowing me to stay neutral and ride the coat tails.  I do however get upset and may start closing some doors the more they try to bypass my AOR or label me as a barrier to the client’s success.

To be more successful I suggest these sales teams work closer with some of their most loyal evangelists and help them move the greater agenda rather than just trying to badger the client to buy more of something that might not be the best activity for them at this time.   By helping clients and agencies maximize the current spend they will ensure the tactic is successful and generates leads/revenue for the client.  Playing a s team rather than burning bridges in a down economy will result in even stronger bridges when the economy improves.

Tweet Hall – creating our own session

Here at SXSW in Austin the Twitter for Marketing session was full nearly 30 minutes before the session so we were not able to get into the room.  A bunch of those blocked from entering were frustrated and noticed a nice open area just down the hall and move there to have our own sessions. Not being deterred the 50+ rejects commenced to have our own session that turned out to be better than the actual session.
The hour went from 101, 201 to 501 as people shot out questions that interested and perplexed them:

Q: What is the best tool to use?
A: Most seemed to like Tweetdeck for their laptop and Twitterphone for their mobile device

Q: How do businesses make money using this?
A: There were examples of monitoring conversations to software downloads to connecting with prospects who had not found them via search.

Q: How do I separate my personal and business Twitter accounts?
A: Everyone agreed it was a must for many reasons such as liability, job security, mistake preventing etc.� Most use different tools to manage the accounts so they would never cross post.� For example, since the personal account was the most fluid they used Tweetdeck and used the Twitter site for the company activities.

Q: What are the best tools for my phone?
A:� Most people liked Twitterphone and others like Tweetie, and Twitterlater
We used the Twitter has tag #tweethall to represent the content and allow people to comment long after the event.

There is an excellent video of the questions and the value of this action at
http://www.lalunablanca.com/2009/03/tweethall-an-episodic-community-of-rejects/

Other coverage of #tweethall
http://www.globalstrategies.com/index.php/what-we-know/twitter-tips

Photos of the event

Pubcon Austin – Hear me speak!

pubcon-speak For those of you in the Austin area or that are flying in for PubCon South or SXSW  stop in and catch my session on the SEO Landscape where I will cover the following:

  • Is SEO still relevant?
  • What is the outlook for SEO – data from the new eMarketer report & SEMPO
  • What should people be thinking about?
  • 5 things that are frustrating me about the industry
  • 5 Recommendations for success

SEO is increasing in popularity due to the high cost of PPC as well as a new understaning by companies to integrate these best practices into their current workflow.  I will talk abotu what I think is changing and how companies can leverage and prepare for the new world of Search Engine Optimization.

SES London 2009 Observations & Comments

I have a particular affinity to the SES London conference.  It was at this event about 7 years ago the GSI partners and I were referred to as the “dream team” of search and we have had our heads high with pride and delivered killer work since.  Attending the event also means I get to go on a long weekend with my wife to some great European city – this year we went to Paris.

What did I observe this year?

People want results – in all of the sessions and post session Q&A I heard people wanted more than fluff.  They wanted something actionable and how to get “more” out of what they are already doing.  The keyword research session was full with people wanting to know how to expand their keyword lists and better organize them to drive more people to their sites.  Many attendees were interested in any way they could find to optimize their campaigns and there was a significant undercurrent of cutting the clutter and just getting to the facts of how to make paid search work harder

Accountability & Validation – Interesting was how many people wanted accountability in the most accountable form of marketing.  The analytics sessions were full and people were asking hard questions about tracking conversions for both SEO and PPC.

SEO is hot – I was surprised by the number of people asking questions about SEO best practices even in paid search sessions.  The attendees I spoke with are under pressure to get more “free traffic” and ensure they have done all they can to rank well with organic search.  The sessions on optimizing videos were full – one person told me they needed to get in and learn since YouTube was the #2 search engine and they must rank well in YouTube for their important words.

Incorrect Information – I am amazed at the number of speakers who really have no clue how things “really” work.  I am not here to point anyone out but I think all the events may want to have a better speaker vetting process for those they allow to speak internationally.  What works in the US may not work in another country.  Just because someone knows someone or is a power blogger does not mean they are really good at doing what is best for the client. Note to attendees – just because you heard it at a conference or read it on a blog does not mean it is correct.  The team at Global Strategies always try to do a debunking session after each conference to see what clietns and prospects have learned, half-heard or now believe that may have a negative  impact on their business.

New Search Economic Models – I attended this session looking to see if anyone has cracked the code to one of the crazyiest compensation systems in marketing.  Search Marketing vendors have to contend with so many different pricing models it is insane.  The panel made some great recommendations about new models and how you should develop a performance plan for SEO which is great.  I am all for performance models in SEO but most companies can’t tack PPC performance let along traffic from organic search.   My frustration with the panel was that I did not hear ways to overcome the many reasons it is not practical.

Getting Back to Basics – in my session on “Integrating Search with Other Activities” there were 137 attendees in the session and I asked a series of questions tot he audience and their answers quite frankly amazed and scared the hell out of me.
Question 1 – How many know what their bounce rate is for their site, campaigns or specific pages?   4 people indicated they knew.  This is frightening.  These are people who you got to your site and did not go deeper.  We call these “one click wonders” and if you used paid search to get them you need to figure out why you are not connecting very fast.

Question 2 – How many of you have integrated your paid and organic data and analyzed it for opportunities?  3 attendees indicated they had done this.

Search Marketplace Growth – I moderated a panel on the State of Search Marketing.  There was some great data which I will report on shortly.  I asked the question of the audience about what organizations like SEMPO, the conference and evangelists can do for the marketplace and the following are some of the responses:

  1. Educate senior marketers.  Most search marketing engagements enter the company at too low a level.  We need education about search strategy and value to CMO’s and CEO’s in order to get more expansion.
  2. Consistent best practices – there are to many differing ways to optimize content and no real definition of priority.  Can anyone develop standard best practices.
  3. Support for in-house teams – these seems to be growing and as budgets are cut for agencies or agency fees reduced people will need support.  There were a few people who were asking about where they can get more information.

Networking and Catching Up – Maybe it is the abundance of pubs in London that make it one of the better networking events.  Everyone forms into groups and hits a restaurant where the most valuable updates are exchanged.  From the restaurant many regroup in the hotel bar which was packed every night to past 2am and this is where the “real information” is exchanged.  You learn about agency defections, client wins and losses and as the alcohol takes hold what techniques are working and not and how much more demanding clients have become.

I have to hand it to Stuart and Marylin for pullig off a great event.  Looking forward to next year!

Hyperlinking for Intellectually Challenged Businesses

Recently I needed to resolve a problem with my Health Savings Account.  This is a cool program that deducts money from your pre-tax dollars and holds it for you.  You are given a Visa debit card to pay for your medical supplies and doctors payments that are not covered by insurance.  What I did not know is I needed to send in my receipts since the IRS does not want me to use these previous non-taxable dollars on anything but healthcare – unfortunately I did not get that memo so I needed to get the form from their site via my account to submit the invoice to get it approved.

When I clicked on the link to get the needed form I encountered something that I personally can’t comprehend.   The link to the form pops up a PDF and in the PDF is a note telling me the form has been moved to another location.  For the life of me I cannot understand why they would not just change the link to the form or even easier put the pdf form in that location.   My only rational is that someone did not understand how to do it and it was just easier to upload a new PDF with the same name – again I am perplexed why that PDF could not be the form rather than a note the form has been moved.

Maybe someday I will understand how the web teams in large companies think.