Monday, October 31, 2005

RSS Marketing Therapy: Word Associations

Here’s an interesting (and statistically invalid) market research experiment for you to try. In ‘Jaywalking’ fashion, go to a busy crosswalk and start asking anyone who passes by to tell you how they use RSS.

According to the Yahoo! / Ipsos Insight white paper entitled RSS—Crossing into the Mainstream, for people who are ‘RSS aware (From the white paper: “Only 12% of users stated that they had heard the term RSS.”), the types of subscription content the consumers are accessing (ranked in order of popularity) are:

- World news
- National news
- Entertainment
- Science and tech news
- Weather
- Local news
- Blogs
- Sports scores/stats/news
- Regional news
- Games
- Local information
- Health issues/news
- Music or video
- Investment/financial info/banking
- Podcasting
- Job/career sites/links
- Travel sites/info
- Shopping/online commerce
- Bookmarks
- Maps
- Photos

The white paper also makes the following interesting observation:

The real story, however, is the much larger population of “Unaware RSS users” who consume RSS syndicated content on personalized start pages (e.g., My Yahoo!, My MSN).

Whether consumers know what RSS is or not, they’re making use of it, and that use is on the rise. So, if you’re wondering about ways to put subscription technology to work for yourself or your company, this list offers several ideas for you to brainstorm about. There are enough good ideas here that I suggest we stop talking about using feeds for the rest of the day, and spend the rest of our time today actually doing it.

Now, let's get to work!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Corporate Blogs

Yesterday’s post elicited the following comment from YDKJ Boy:

Kip- A corporate blog is a challenging proposition.
I see the viral nature but I don't see much of an upside
unless you consider any marketing good marketing.



It’s a good post with lots to agree with. Yes, a corporate blog is a challenging proposition--challenging for several reasons (some of which are discussed below). Now, if I understand the main point of YDKJ Boy’s comment, the subliminal message of my post was that a corporate blog is a must-have/must-do for all organizations. Not so! A corporate blog is not for everyone.

If your organization can’t make the following two commitments:

- an ongoing corporate commitment to worthwhile content (delivering quality for short)
- a set of rules governing blog methodology (deciding how it will be done)

then you should stop before you start, because these are requisite for any corporate blog to succeed.

However, if your organization is experiencing decreasing effectiveness in its ‘customer conversation’ marketing activities (e-mail campaigns, newsletters not getting through to the prospect or customer for example), then a corporate blog can be a tool (one among others) to overcome this communication challenge.

Will it be hard to do it? Yes, and harder to do it well.

But when the degree of difficulty becomes the lone decision criteria for opting out of a marketing initiative like corporate blogging (or any business decision for that matter), then the state-of-the-marketing-art will stagnate in short order. Corporate marketers would never do anything above the ambient noise level because ‘well, it’s just too hard to figure out.’

If you’re unsure your corporate blogging aspirations are (to paraphrase) marketing for marketing’s sake, may I suggest an almost year-old report by Charlene Li, Josh Bernoff, and Tenley McHarg at Forrester Research entitled Blogging: Bubble or Big Deal? This provides a great roadmap for a corporate blogging framework. It discusses the key elements of a blog, provides data on the rise of blog user influence, offers a sample corporate blogging policy, and provides a blogger’s 'code of ethics.' (I cite Forrester because they’re an established market research organization, and not easily pigeon-holed as not credible.)

Another great, practical ‘to-do’ list that can help companies get started is Microsoft employee and blogging icon Robert Scoble’s Corporate Weblog Manifesto. This is a blogging classic, and a great treatment on corporate blogging tactics.

Hey, if it were easy, then everybody would be doing it. Fortunately, if your organization already has standard communications and privacy policies in place, then the hardest part of starting corporate blogging is already done.

Great comment, YDKJ Boy! Now, it’s “time for the attack!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Give Them a Safe Next Step

For corporate communicators looking for a way to get subscription technology in the door of your organization, I suggest taking a line from Guy Kawasaki’s Selling the Dream (one of my favorite marketing books):

[Provide] a safe, rational, and reasonable next step.

While the benefits of applied subscription technology—blogging for instance—are clear to you, there are those in your organization who are thinking otherwise. “If we screw up in a corporate blog, everyone will see our warts,” they say. Most of the objections boil down to fear of failure.

So, how do you give your organization a safe next step into the world of subscription technology?

The safest subscription next step a tentative organization can take is adding a ‘feed’ to changing company content already intended for public consumption. Say your company press releases and news coverage, for instance. In your web site’s news room or press room or whatever you may call it, simply add a subscribe option to the top of the web page, and see what comes of it.

A good example of how this is done is the public relations firm Edelman’s ‘Latest News’ web page. They accommodate people who aren’t subscription technologists (those who don’t know what the little orange RSS subscribe ‘chicklet’ is for) by wisely offering a simple English language hyperlink: ‘subscribe.’ Subscription purists can just choose the chicklet. With these links, every time there is news about Edelman, subscribers immediately hear about it.

By offering this safe next step to your organization, you’ll accomplish many things including:

- Getting your webmaster’s subscription feet wet
- Accelerating company news delivery to anyone interested in watching your company or space
- Delivering a highly-visible, positive subscription technology experience that prepares the corporate culture for more

Oh, and there’s one more item:

- You’ll have beaten your competitors to the punch by doing something on your website they likely haven’t done yet

Once this is done, and you make your organization aware of the results, the subscription comfort level will increase, and vocal opposition will decrease. You’ll have an easier time of advancing other feeds initiatives.

Sounds like ‘win-win’ to me.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Lies, D^^^n Lies, and Statistics

Following my last post on the corporate blog adoption survey executive summary shared last week at the BlogOn 2005 Social Media Summit in New York, I continued reading the comments on the Guidewire Group’s work. One of the more acerbic posts came from Constantin Basturea’s weblog PR Meets the WWW.

Basturea takes Guidewire to task raising questions about the statistical validity of the sample size and survey methodology, and Guidewire’s choice to put forth the data as relevant to corporations in spite of these validity questions. He sums up his comments by raising similar concerns with the 6 October 2005 Edelman/Technorati study entitled Engaging the Blogosphere.

Let me say that Mr. Basturea appears to be a pretty bright chap. His criticisms merited a response from Guidewire co-founder and CEO Mike Sigal.

For a moment, I actually felt stupid about my comment posted on the BlogOn site. But thinking about it for a few minutes, I concluded I stand by my post.

Here’s why.

While I agree Basturea’s criticism of quantitative reliability is well-founded, I believe the greater significance of both of these (arguably pseudo-) surveys are the qualitative significance in the findings. Let’s not forget the thesis of Clayton Christensen’s classic work The Innovator’s Dilemma: the disruptive innovation advantage goes to first-movers who act when the least is known about the market. Sizing disruptive markets is fraught with faulty (and mostly understated) data. Eight plus years after his book, I’d hope we’re getting better at sniffing out innovation and not being blind-sided by it.

If the blogging disruption to messaging and communications hasn’t already occurred, I believe it is clearly a market work-in-process.

What do you think?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

Of the more notable occurrences at the BlogOn 2005 Social Media Summit in New York this week were details of a survey conducted by The Guidewire Group. The results shared in an executive summary bearing the title Blogging in the Enterprise--A Guidewire Group Market Cycle Survey are insightful. Any marketing or communications professional worth a grain of salt who reviews the data should realize that if their organization isn’t making its voice heard in the blogosphere, it is time for a corporate blogging action plan immediately.

The survey was seeded by a random e-mailing nudge to 5,000 readers of CMO Magazine. It was conducted online over a two week period in September 2005. 140 people from all corporate walks of life (C-level execs, presidents, directors, managers, students, consultants, professors and systems analysts) participated in the survey. On the money side, over half of the participant companies were ‘smaller’ ones, with revenues ranging from $10M - $100M per year.

The summary contains a lot of useful information, and Chris Shipley’s DEMOletter does a great job of summarizing key facts and figures. He concludes the findings suggest that “corporate communicators will drive future growth of the social media market.”

As I said in a previous post (Keep Your Hand in the Wave), there’s a metaphor for the wise here…

Real surfers (of oceans, not the Internet) 'connect' with the water they're riding by keeping a hand in wave they surf. This connection helps them to ride the wave. Without a hand in the wave, they’re left behind or altogether wiped out by it. This surfing metaphor speaks for the data Guidewire Group shares.

I’ll say it again. Companies that fail to get their hand in the water and ride the 'corporate subscription wave' will be left behind and irrelevant.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Can Any Good Marketing Come Out of Utah?

Having spent more than half of my professional career in Utah, I am familiar with the stigma attached to anything resembling technology or marketing prowess hailing from 'The Crossroads of the West.' Truth be told, a plethora of innovation has made its way to the market from the former Deseret Territory.

That's a topic and a post for another day. Anyway...

In April of this year, Utah's connect magazine picked up a press release from the Utah Information Technology Association (UITA for short) about the organization’s new goals for their coming fiscal year. One of these included the expansion of UITA's 'Peer-to-Peer' (P2P) forums with the addition of the Emerging CEO Forum and Marketing Executive Forum. These joined the existing stable serving Utah's technology professionals including the existing CEO, CTO and CIO P2P Forums.

I was thrilled to hear today from Marketing Executive Forum co-founder Cydni Tetro the next meeting of the Marketing Exec Forum is tentatively slated for November 10, 2005 at 12:00pm.

Like Mark Twain is alleged to have written in an editorial to the newspaper publishing quite prematurely his obituary: "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

I am pleased the Marketing Exec Forum is not only alive and kicking, but will be addressing the "topic of Social Media (blogs, RSS, podcasting, etc)." This is a timely topic for marketing professionals working in a state that has been too long positioned as a high-tech has-been.

I hope the marketing brain trust of the state will come out in force, grab hold of the Social Media buzz, and show the planet how things are really done in the Silicon Desert.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Notebooks and Feeds and The Age of Aquarius

Call me a throwback, but lyrics from the 5th Dimension’s 1969 signature tune, Aquarius / Let the Sun Shine In are ringing in my ears today:

“When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

Attending the 451 Industry Summit on the Mobile Enterprise in Palo Alto today, industry analyst and technology veteran Tony Rizzo confirmed my thinking that customer behaviors are steering the subscription technology and mobile technology ‘stars’ into alignment.

According to their website, The 451 Group is an independent technology industry analyst company focused on the business of enterprise IT innovation.

The thesis of Tony’s discussion is that in the enterprise space, the notebook/laptop/tablet PC is replacing the desktop PC as the computing tool of choice for all workers—not just the sales force or the C-level officer. If you think about it for even a fraction of a second, this makes complete sense. The enterprise work force will become intrinsically distributed and mobile. The enterprise customer is already distributed and mobile.

To paraphrase in piratespeak: “Here there be customers…

So, organizations that act quickly on the "need for feed" in their customer communication and conversation mix will have an advantage over their less-nimble competitors.

Marketeers had best get out their Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In DVD collections and put their tie-dye t-shirts on, because even an astrologist can see that customers are increasingly mobile.

Watch the stars and feel the love because mobile customer-aware feeds must not be ignored.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

You Are There: "" Is Born

From 1953 to 1957 "the most trusted man in America", Walter Cronkite hosted a historical recreation television show called You Are There. Using the CBS stable of news correspondents, events from the past were covered as though they were today's news. Watching interviews of historical characters like Abraham Lincoln was interesting period television, to be sure.

You may well ask: "What the heck does this have to do with subscription technology?"

Well, I'll tell you, because I was there.

As I mentioned in my first post to this blog, I was sitting in an industry summit a few weeks ago with Chris Pirillo and Rajesh Setty when I decided to create this blog. It was at this same event that I sat next to Chris while he sat muttering "Gotta be... Yeah. Yeah! It works! Check this out!!!"

Not completely understanding his enthusiasm as he frenetically pounded away at his Sony PSP, Chris explained to me what he was prototyping. Well, that first digital spark of life is what became his just-launched "metasearch service" called is one of the coolest feed-based web applications I have seen.

Here's how it works. Type the following into your browser of choice:

And gives you back the top results about me from Yahoo! News, Google Blogs, MSN, Ice Rocket and other search tools. The content comes back as a single page, and you can view or subscribe to the results in RSS.

Now replace my name with the name of your company, your product, your service, and see what happens... (Note to marketeers: Spend a few minutes and figure out how to leverage this. Tie your company web page's "on-the-go" content, and you can quickly capitalize on some elegantly simple subscription marketing.)

Having watched Chris work on this from his PSP, the time-savings for smartphone/PDA users become immediately self-evident: Thumb a little, point-and-click to a lot. No more Carpal 'Thumbal' Syndrome. My poor, Treo-wearied digits are already offering prayers of gratitude.

Subscription technology history in the making, I believe; and to think I watched its birth! I was there! I guess this makes Raj and me the gadafathers, huh?

Ya gada love it! Nicely done, Chris!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Get Better Reality: Subscription Technology Enables Fresh Customer Conversations

Whether selling a product or a service, any business using (or thinking about using) subscription technologies can take a great lesson from the pages of the service marketing playbook. In his widely acclaimed Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing, branding expert Harry Beckwith says:

“The first principle of service marketing is Guy Kawasaki's first principle of computer marketing: Get better reality.”

Among several ways cited to accomplish this, a key aspect of better reality is letting customers or clients set your standards for the quality of your service. Whether creating a new product or service, or managing an existing one through the product life cycle, The Art of Project Management by author Scott Berkun explains the critical role of customer perspective in the successful completion of a project. Berkun identifies three perspectives, or voices, that must be balanced in order for a product or service to succeed: These three are:

- Technology – how the product or service works
- Business – how the product or service will be delivered
- Customer – what people want or need the product or service to do

The technology and business perspectives come from inside, however; to be effective the customer perspective must come from the customer. Using subscription technologies is a most innovative way to engage customers—internal or external—in conversations that aren’t “filtered” by product planners, engineers, marketeers or accountants.

Smart organizations realize the result of these conversations is truly a better reality.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too

In government procurement circles, there is an unwritten rule that purchasers expect at best to realize two of the following three attributes in buying a product or service:

- Quality
- Cheap
- Timely

Applying this rule is simple.

If you want a quality, inexpensive product or service, you won’t get it in a timely fashion.

If you want a product or service that is cheap and timely, quality will be absent.

If you want a quality product or service in a timely fashion, it won’t be cheap.

Happily, with subscription technology, companies are creating and delivering quality, inexpensive, and timely marketing messages for their target audience that deliver on all three attributes and break this unwritten rule.

In message creation, savvy organizations:

1. Use smart people in the organization as subject matter experts and assure quality content.
2. Use existing employees in the organization (fixed cost) and keep message creation inexpensive.
3. Choose reliable people inside the organization to produce content and ensure timely delivery.

In message delivery, feeds are ideal because:

1. Subscription delivery levels the content cosmetic playing field, focusing subscriber attentions on content quality. Good stuff gets read and shared.
2. The entire subscription audience consumes content by choice, making it a completely efficient delivery system that is inexpensive and free of waste.
3. The subscription delivery / subscription reader mechanisms place timely content in front the audience at web speed.

With ‘E-natural selection,’ consumers vote for quality, inexpensive and timely content by staying subscribed to it. The strong survive and grow.

And as for the weak, the rest is history.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.