Digital Analytics – The Highway to Digital Intelligence

The success of any digital analytics hinges on the marketer’s understanding of his or her customers. Sounds familiar, right? But as marketers, we need to be aware of the fact that technology landscape has significantly altered in the last 5 years.

The way brands interact with their customers has changed and the ability to understand customers across digital channels requires a new approaches within digital analytics.

Digital Analytics

Traditional web tracking techniques were not designed for the breadth of channels, devices and speed that fuel today’s digital interactions.

Take Google Analytics for example, most of you would choose to believe Google Analytics is the ultimate platform for all your analytics needs, but actually that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Though it may be providing you huge amount of data related to the visitors on your website & mobile site, that’ll help you optimise your content & UI effectively, but it still offers a very limited approach if you want to scale your business operations in a growing market.

The basic DNA of the Digital medium is its state of constant change, and marketers need to look beyond the traditional analytics platforms and move towards more sophisticated Digital Intelligence systems which can provide you a much wider view including the competition, customer segments, social analytics, future trends, data across multiple devices including smartphones, tablets, wearables etc.

According to IMRI :

 Digital marketing intelligence is a process to identify prospects online, building reach and retain customers by leveraging the largest sample of online consumer behaviour with timely and actionable insights to drive ROI
The only point to which I disagree is that Digital Intelligence can’t be restricted to online data, we are living in a globalised environment where every 5th mobile purchased is a smart phone or a smart device and soon this number will outpace the growth of online. Online data sources like Comscore or Nielsen would have little impact to our marketing metrics and forecasts.
Incidentally, Compete is one of the very few companies who has already started working & providing such intelligence to brands globally. I understand that this research is not possible with pure digital analytics, which means at some point of time, we have to look out of the digital domain and merge data from offline sources as well.

Google Digital Intelligence

Larry Page, Chief Executive Officer of Google Inc, the biggest custodian of internet data on the planet, believes that the next few years would belong to Artificial Intelligence & related tech. In one of the ted talks (watch below video) he also talked about his core purpose behind acquiring Deepmind ( Founded by Demis Hassabis, Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman, deepmind was one of the AI Startups in the UK until it was acquired by Google.

Facebook Digital Intelligence

Today, almost all the Internet & technology enterprise companies have an AI research lab or have acquired some startup in the space. Facebook has a complete division called Facebook AI Research that covers the full spectrum of topics related to AI, and to deriving knowledge from data: theory, algorithms, applications, software infrastructure and hardware infrastructure.

Microsoft Digital Intelligence

Microsoft Academic Research has got an illustrious research panel on Artificial Intelligence from top global universities including Oxford, Standford & MIT.

Cisco Digital Intelligence

In 2013, Cisco took their first steps into the future security solutions by acquiring COSE (Cognitive Security) in order to offer advanced security services to their customers that can detect complex network threats in advance and take preventive action of its own.

2015 could well be the beginning of the new age of Big Data & AI  that would change our perception as marketers forever. The question is, is your brand ready for it?

How to foolproof your digital startup hiring strategy?

I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.

~ Lawrence Bossidy (Former COO of GE and author)

I wish I could’ve mailed the above quote in 70 font size, Arial Bold Face to all the Digital Marketing companies ( especially Agencies & Publishers ). Needless to say that building your startup hiring strategy is a never ending Everest climb for all organisations ( digital or non digital ).

Though bigger digital brands find it slightly easy to attract the right talent, retaining the talent becomes a bigger pain for them as well.

Ask any HR specialist or recruiter, they would say the trend is nothing different from other industries. People are looking to match the pace of their career growth with the rising costs. An average salary increase of 12% is completely disconnected with rising inflationary conditions. This will build a spiral effect, people who are not satisfied with their financial conditions will always be the first ones to look out for better jobs & opportunities.

In an interview (watch the video) given by Mark Zuckerberg, he made a profound statement, I quote:

The best people I’ve hired in my life were those who didn’t have much of engineering experience ~ Mark Zuckerberg

Startup Hiring Strategy isn’t just about hiring the best people with skills or for that matter who are stable in their careers, it is also about getting those who have a strong & relevant point of view about what you believe in, even if they do not have the experience or qualification from reputed engineering colleges.

I also believe, that in every industry, people have their own set of challenges due to which they show unstable tendency at work places. Of course, there will always be few individuals who do not fall in line despite a lot of effort by the management, but in general, people hate updating their resumes every year.

Also Read : Why Job Hopping is no longer a stigma globally?

As a business owner ( especially a start up owner ), attrition is something I should always keep at the back of my mind as one of the challenges which could hamper my growth story. Often start ups do not factor attrition while giving projections to their investors, which I believe is a massive error. The sooner they’ll accept the lack of permanence in the employee-employer relationship, the better it will be for their future enterprise. Once the degree of attrition is understood & acknowledged in any industry, you can then plan your resources a lot better.

The question is, as a business owner, how can you deal with this kind of situation?

Team Composition

First, make hiring a continuous process and not just restricted till the desired roles are filled. Managers should always be on a lookout for quality resources with value added skills for the team. For instance, do not hire resources of same nature & type, hire people with differentiated skill sets which will add value in long term. People love to be in a team where they can learn from each other. Collaborative learning is possible when you have people with different skill-sets.

Long term hiring

Second, do not hire people for solving your short term problems. For instance, if your key Account Manager decides to leave, it is bound to hit your operations & would also create uncertainty at client’s end, but your new hiring should not be to fill the immediate gap, instead it should attract people who are looking for a challenge in their careers to put their skill to test. Employees who join start ups from big companies usually carry a lot of baggage of their esteemed employer. At times it can be fatal for team dynamics.

Performance linked remuneration

Third, hiring people on performance linked remuneration, incentives & contracts could be another option. If you build your digital company’s team dynamics this way, employees would be exactly aware of what they are chasing, what team is chasing & how they can work towards it in a logical yet innovative way, Managers KRA would be to maximise potential of each individual who is working as a part of this contract.The best part, build substantial amount of incentives ( both monetary & non monetary ) which would drive morale among the senior & junior level employees.

The last point needs an Industry buy-in, but we are witnessing this trend already in few small to mid size digital-IT & digital-Infra companies where other than the sales force, revenue support functions like account management/ client servicing & customer support have been connected to measurable performance linked metrics.

The contracts are time bound but readily renewable subject to agreement by both parties (employee & employer). It offers a very flexible working relationship to individuals where everything remains constant except that employees are free to move out after the contract period is over.

One of the main challenges any digital startup company will face is poaching from upcoming start ups. Actually the poor demand-supply ratio of quality resources has made it absolutely imperative for any company  to desperately hold on to their trained resources.

Today recruiters are under severe pressures to find quality talent for their clients. No start up has any time to waste on training semi skilled employees. They have a running train of profitability & projections to catch up without which they would not get their next round of funding from the investor.

So think of it, time bound, performance linked contracts isn’t a bad option in digital business, it may also prove to be a win-win for the individual & start up clients & agencies in the long term.

How to write client proposals in a digital agency?

If you are new to digital sales, its an uphill task for you to come into the groove straight away and start getting revenue for the company from day 1.

However, you can certainly build an intent to make a difference to your pipeline by calibrating your digital agency proposals or RFPs by keeping into consideration the below points:

Product Relevance

First, and the foremost question you must try and answer for the client is why your product relevant for the brand in achieving their most critical brand marketing objectives (both strategic & tactical). So whether it is expanding the brand reach in an exclusive territory like a particular ethnic group/ community or it is driving a strong engagement amongst a niche audience across different geographies. Remember, in any case, how you will target the brand’s core audience will remains a key focus.

Innovation

Second, explain how your product/offering brings any strategic leverage for the brand. In simple terms, does it allow the brand to venture out and experiment or play with their current brand messaging in a more innovative way? If your proposal is also offering run of the mill solution to the brand, chances are that your sales person would end up standing in the long queue outside with other vendors.

Domain Experience

Third, what’s your relevant experience in the domain? Not all clients but certainly the high spenders like to work with selected vendors whom they believe have the technical prowess & proven expertise to deal with any future troubleshooting situation, especially when there is serious money at stake. If you position yourself as somebody who can just do the job well by offering competitive pricing, the person on the other side of the table ain’t gonna take you seriously. Agency planners need to see the WOW factor in your proposals every time and nothing better than offering them relevant case studies examples of their client’s competition. So next time, make sure you beef up your proposals with certain strong case study examples.

Understanding of Brand Objectives

Fourth,  have you understood the long term objectives of the brand? For instance, if the brand is launching itself in different geographies, it would expect its partners to bring key market insights on the table to allow him to take future decisions about the brand positioning vis-a-vis the competition.

Vision for Scalability

Fifth, is your approach scalable in future? Interestingly, very rarely I’ve seen this approach in vendor proposals where they talk about how they will span out a strategy which will evolve in the long run and would benefit the brand by offering scalable solution. More often than not most of the people offer a short sighted approach which may or may not give long term returns to the brand. For instance, a lead generation strategy should also come with future customer engagement plan for better customer acquisition.

Ad Viewability – a boon or bane for advertisers?

According to a recent comScore study, 54% of online display ads weren’t seen by anyone, owing to various factors including technical glitches, user habits, and even fraud. For advertisers, that’s a lot of money down the drain. And rightly so, I mean after all we are talking about hard marketing dollars. Some conventional media people might argue that 100% ad viewability is a myth, and honestly, they are not wrong but the advertiser also has a strong point when they ask for maximising the viewable impressions in any campaign.
Let’s open this discussion a bit further. 
Terms like ad viewability brings a set of common problems along with it, most common is what we call in digital as Measurability (or “obsessive measurability”). It is true that digital has given the power & tools to measure each & every nano second of any marketing campaign but at the expense of confusing & cluttering the environment around us. More detailed & in-depth the metric goes, more the number of definitions for the same metric that you would see. Each publisher would come up with their own “convenient” definition of same metric in their reporting.
For any advertiser, finding the correct industry benchmark is always a challenge. For instance, something which is as debatable as Video Completion rate would become a hurdle for agencies & publishers in driving stronger revenue volume / advertiser in the coming years.
Even if the overall mobile & display revenues are seeing a major upswing worldwide, It would be hard to imagine that advertiser would surrender their stand on the key reporting metrics when it comes to Mobile Display or Mobile Video. 
Most importantly, in order to make the client ecosystem more responsive towards new age advertising, agencies & vendors have to sit together along with the bodies like IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) & arrive at common marketing friendly reporting metrics without which it would extremely difficult to win the trust of the advertiser.

To understand this further, watch the below video by Integral Ad Science:

A few months back, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Media Rating Council issued the first viewability standards for online ads. A video ad is viewable if half its pixels appear on the viewer’s screen for two continuous seconds, the standard says.

While that standard seems awfully low, the IAB says that 100 percent viewability isn’t possible at this time. The best that ad buyers should hope for is 70 percent. Good news: Only 30 percent of your paid ads won’t be seen—for the time-being, anyway

The IAB has just released a position paper on viewability calling 2015 a year of transition. Full viewability isn’t currently feasible, the paper says, but we’re getting there. Problems such as different ad units, browsers, ad placements, vendors, and measurement systems prevent 100 percent viewability, but the industry can solve those issues by working together, it says.

You can read the complete article on IAB guidelines for ad viewability here

How to hire talent for your digital startup?

So which version of Android do you own?, a question once put up by a hiring manager in the interview to a young aspiring digital fresher.”I use latest Jelly bean 4.2.3″, prompt came the reply by the youngster.

To my surprise, the kid was later hired for his good IQ, but that organisation did not fire the manager for his oblivion & utter ignorance since 4.2.3 was not even released by google. 🙂

But that’s not the point.

The point is, should we judge any fresh digital marketing talent simply by their knowledge (let me rephrase), by their “borrowed knowledge?”

The answer is a BIG NO!

I agree the quest for hiring digital marketing talent is fairly difficult (for any company) but it need not go through the knowledge lane.

At times,as hiring managers, we must try to find out the intent of individuals, as to what has prompted them to pursue digital marketing as a career option. If digital is a way of life for any individual, then regardless of the smart device they own, they would (and should) have a very strong opinion about its different facets from macro viewpoint.

Finding someone’s perspective (unique or borrowed) can actually become a strong way to differentiate the fresh digital talent available in the market. It will help you to identify who amongst all the candidates, can add some value to the table by their logical &/or lateral thinking.

Another problem which most of the hiring managers would face during this quest is something which is similar to arrange marriages in India. Whenever you meet any new candidate for the interview, often they sound fake in order to get the job.

Now you may argue that faking is not something we can control. Humans are bound to fake, and that’s what my point is. Why to assess them on their borrowed knowledge when you know that they can fake it?

But hang on, you cannot fake a perspective, can you? I agree that you would need to have some knowledge of the subject in question before having an opinion but what you need to judge is whether the candidate offering borrowed perspective (mostly from Google) during the interview?

The hiring needs for digital operations is bound to shoot up exponentially in times to come. A recent review done by 32 marketers on the future of Internet Marketing suggests that the pace of growth in digital jobs in years to follow will outpace any other vertical or horizontal globally.

Now these are just statistical conversations which should  be used in right perspective. What is critical for any HR team/ recruitment firm/ hiring manager is forecasting the kind of resources they would need in next 2-3 years.

Ideally, they should carve their quest well in advance & should also decide if they would like to take a detour from knowledge lane.

On that note, I would like to leave you with this wonderful video chat with Itzhak Perlman (leading violinist), who talks about how to identify creative & imaginative talent?

 

Content marketing for B2B companies

There is a never ending talk around using digital content marketing for B2B and how it can drive generate more leads and eventually sales numbers.

Content, as we all know, is a highly misnomered term in our digital marketing world. For some, it is merely few keywords that can boost up your ranking in the search engine, while for others it is journalistic power that can change the fortunes of an individual, an organisation or a nation.

Unfortunately, everyone is a content creator today, starting from the neighbourhood SEO company to your personal public relations agency and last but not the least, the Social Media experts who truly believes that their tweets will conquer the world, someday 🙂

Incidentally, the idea of content being created (rather carved) strategically for the B2B brand is no less than journalism. The content ideas for any brand should not be driven by SEO keywords only, rather it should be an informed decision made by the marketing teams with the intent of offering something new to their perceived target audience.

The concept of SEO content can surely generate a lot of hits on your website or landing page in the short term but it may not be the actual game changer in the long term.

Creating a strategy in content marketing for B2B is an art, science & philosophy, all put together into one single tiffin box which is then served to the audience (hot and fresh) with the clear intent of winning their hearts forever.

In this case, expert content editors can really work their charm and magic on your current marketing approach. They know exactly what content to be served to whom, who likes what, what should be the desired response from certain audience, how should a brand story be narrated in order to convey the right marketing message in between.

Here are few pointers that can transform your web & social media content into active brand newsroom.

Identify the audience and spend your energy in knowing their content habits

Find out whom you really want to target first on the web, whom would you like to get stumbled upon your brand through search engine or your social page.

Make a serious effort through researching their online content consumption habits.

Find out what they like to read, watch & engage with. Gather this data and keep serving your potential customers with the right content in your own unique style.

Identify the content formats they consume

Try finding what formats they consume easily.

Are they voracious readers, are they one of those who read books and newspaper cover to cover, or are they savage rich media & video gulpers?

Do they like high end 3D gaming environments, or are they all time radio fans who love their iPods & iTunes?

Is your target audience the one who likes every single photograph they see on their Facebook timeline or retweets every single joke or quotation on twitter?

These patterns can tell you exactly what content format you need to use to get the instant connect with your target audience.

Find out where do they go to find their content

It would make your job rather easier if you know the right place & context when you can connect with your audience.

Offering health content to people when they are looking to lose weight on a blog or through an app is the best context you could find for your content, similarly offering content around insurance services when someone is looking to buy a flat could well be the right context.

These contexts can help you win their trust and will position you not as a seller but as trusted advisor.

It doesn’t matter where the content is served, so long as the context is correct. You must know the places your audience visit to find that content.

Be it a website , a WordPress blog, a forum, a Social Network like Facebook, twitter, an app like Instagram, Pinterest or Watsapp. Make your brand’s content stay relevant wherever your audience is going.

Know what is liquid about your content

Higher the liquidity, the better the share-ability of your brand’s content, you must know what is the liquid element in your entire content strategy. What is it that would compel your audience to share it with others. Journalistic content is no good if it is not thought provoking or exciting enough to go viral among the target audience.

In the end, I would leave you with an interesting video talk by CMI:

To summarise this, here’s some food for thought

Content is created for humans, not search engine algorithms.

~ Anonymous Marketeer

How to write digital marketing brief?

Is your client servicing person sounding repetitive & still talking about SEM, SEO & Display in the weekly strategy meetings?

Does your weekly marketing reporting dashboard still looks the same with acronyms like CPM, CPC, CTR etc.?

Are the strategic discussions in your marketing team still hovering around reducing cost per acquisition?

If any of the above is true, then you should definitely fire few people or the agency because the world has moved on from these archaic goals & matrices. With the tsunami of smart devices hitting the shores of our digital world, there is a massive change in the adjacent marketing landscape. Last I heard:

PC sales were at an all time low & following a negative growth trend,

Smartphones & Tablets sales was expected to overshadow PC sales by the end of 2013 (read IDC report on Connected Device Projections by 2017 & Tablets sales forecast)

Google had started doing mass production of its next generation wearable tech Google glass – Read this

And guess what , in the middle of all this phenomenon change, your client servicing & digital marketing teams are still discussing about how to optimise your cost per acquisition.

Frankly speaking, it is not your mistake, most of the digital teams around the world are still obsessed with making your brand a super successful social brand on the Facebook, twitter & pintrest but deep down inside your heart says that all this is nothing but a wild goose chase. Having said that, I am not out-rightly denying the importance of these tried & tested cost effective marketing tools. It is just that the thought process needs to adapt with time.

In my opinion, mobility will soon force the brands to change their brief to the servicing teams so that they can successfully achieve the long term marketing objectives. Ideally, the new marketing brief would surely have below 2 components:

  • Find out ways to catch & engage with the target audience while they are on the move. In short, make the brand adaptive to mobile environment.
  • Optimise the marketing plan across all current & foreseeable devices (PC was yesteryear story, Mobile & Tablets will easily cover next few years. This is very important because off late pace of growth in the digital device industry has just gone exponential. Keeping the integrated Acquisition, Engagement & Retention plan ready which is connected across all devices & platforms would become the next big thing among brands( Read about Cross Screen Marketing )

It is high time that marketing teams should start re-calibrating their marketing briefs for the client servicing teams as otherwise they might miss the mobile bus like the way a lot of them did when online took the world by storm.