Tag Archives: eMarketing

Know what you want before embarking on BI projects

Businesses are facing more sophisticated competition in the market every day and the race is on to constantly deliver higher levels of customer service. Delivering better customer service first requires a greater insight into customers’ preferences and behaviours. Social media is a good source of additional behavioural data. This is a sound basis to develop a strategy for retaining those customers who are best suited to the organisation, while “incentivising” those customers not suited to the business, to switch to the competition.

While many organisations do not know where to start gathering information about their customers, others know exactly where this information resides- hidden in the company’s data and call centre stores and locked in sales and marketing databases, on social media sites and in back-end financial systems.

The irony is that while many organisations possess this information, it is often not usable. Companies that attempt to use this information in its ‘tangled’ format soon give up, pleading ‘data-overload’. Business intelligence (BI) gives organisations the ability to unravel the hidden knowledge in this knotted data and deliver actionable insights to the decision makers.

But implementing a strategy is not a simple task of acquiring some software, pointing it at the relevant stores of data and expecting answers to begin rolling out. In order to achieve success with a BI project a company needs to consider its key business goals and the actions that it needs to take to deliver on these objectives efficiently and effectively. BI provides the bridge between the goals and the performance. For example it delivers the insights required to enhance customer relationships through effective interactions with customers in terms of both content and medium, it streamlines the distribution of goods and services through demand forecasting, or it can reduce risk by predicting fraud or identifying consumer attacks on your brand.

With a clear understanding of how BI will underpin the business’ delivery goals over the long-term, an organisation must ensure that the supporting data has a high level of relevance and integrity and that it is intimately understood. This will ensure that it will be effectively and efficiently interrogated so as to deliver meaningful insights that can be actioned across the organisation, with the resultant outcomes being tracked and measured over time.

Best practise dictates that the company’s customer data is centralized into a single, accessible and useable repository and then analyse it. Sales data should be linked to marketing data and combined with all other data related to customer interaction, including data from back-end financial systems so that a customer centric-view of the customer can be created. This in itself is a huge advantage for the organisation, since it will identify the same customer in all his guises across the organisation’s data stores and present a consolidated view of the company’s transactions and interactions with each unique customer. To further enhance this data as a platform for analysis, it should also be enriched with relevant external market data, including key demographic variables and the like.

Having built the necessary data repository and ascertained the required insights from the analysis function to support the strategy of the business, the analysis should commence with five simple objectives in mind: who; what; why; when and where.

The ‘question’ or ‘end-goal’ could be, for example, to identify: who the ideal customers are after incorporating any hidden costs associated with servicing them. Then one can plan on incentivising or engaging with customers with these same characteristics to begin doing business with the company and encourage the non-ideal customers to move to competitors.

A good first step to this process is to analyse the company’s revenue streams and build an ideal client portfolio around each of those revenue streams, taking into consideration the fixed, variable and hidden costs associated with these revenue streams. It is imperative that the entire organisation is involved in this process.

Sales, social media behavioural data, marketing, manufacturing, procurement, delivery and management input is key to the successful implementation of a BI project and ensures that the results gained from a BI initiative are actionable across the organisation.

It is imperative that the company has the appetite to act on findings. It is pointless embarking on a fact finding mission, like that involved in a BI process, if the business is not prepared to respond to those findings by investing in or re-engineering business processes.

When it comes down to it, BI only presents real value to an organisation if the integrity of the underlying data is sound, the data is intimately understood and the organisation is prepared to action the findings. It is only after “actioning” these findings that the organisation will begin maximising the benefit from attracting and retaining ideal customers, reducing costs and ultimately becoming more profitable.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Facebook, Google, Internet, Web 2.0

Social Media Optimisation

A few weeks ago, in an article called Man verses the Machine, I wrote about the search algorithm (as used by search engines, for example Google) verses digital curatorship (whereby the people using social media like Facebook drive the information and content delivery, through posting, sharing and liking). Here are some more thoughts on the subject

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a critical strategy for driving people to your website, but it is only one aspect of the modern digital strategy. With social media there are more meaningful and effective ways of bringing in audiences. The term for this is social media optimisation (SMO.)

SEO uses algorithms to rank top search results. SMO uses audience behaviour to determine what’s important. SMO differentiates and distinguishes individuals, making sense of their specific content wants and needs. Real people articulating real interests eliminates the algorithm as middleman.

The social network is starting to replace the search engine as the average web user spends more time on Facebook than Google. We need to reengineer our approach driving traffic to our content and building our digital brands. Here are some elements of an effective SMO programme.

Find out and evaluate what the audience wants

SEO is based on pandering to search engines to bring you more audiences, by using key words and metatags. But with social media, the new formula is to grab people’s attention in such a way that they will bring you more audiences.

The first step is winning the attention of the audience and knowing what it wants. The key question is, who are they, what do they want from you and when and how do they want it? Fortunately, this data is abundant. You can find it in your social media sites, analytics system, in customer research, in your competitors’ wins. The trick is to make use of that data and experiment to find these insights.

Knowing what the audience wants means asking and observing them and then delivering value that they want to be associated with. Then track what gets consumed when and by whom.

By asking the audience you also get people immediately engaged in the conversation.

Build your community

The tactics of SMO will change over time, in much the same way that social media will change. Today, Facebook and Twitter are the two significant social media platforms.

An effective SMO strategy is about getting the community started. Set up a marketing drive to bring your fans to your community page. Use Facebook’s advertising platform to help make potential friends aware of you. Use viral networking to get people to invite their friends. Build a base of influencers to a size that approaches critical mass, so that you are fully connected within the social network from the beginning, rather than sitting outside just looking in.

Create content worth spreading

Once you know what your audience wants, and you have a community to appeal to, now comes the part that great marketers are good at. Designing for sharing is much more than just designing for consumption. In some instances the practices that help marketers succeed in SEO are deadly in SMO. If you stuff a page full of keywords, match the URL to the keywords and keep the content readable by algorithms, you will that find a boring website which falls flat on your users and they will not distribute.

Instead, publish content that is worthy of being shared and wrap it in experiences that your users can’t wait to share with their friends — with pride — which is the emotional fuel that powers the “Like” button.

Package to get attention

These days you’re competing for attention in a Facebook feed or Twitter stream.

Facebook and Twitter are networks and so their value is to be found in quantity (the more there is the more value to each user) but for successful marketers it’s about quality. Standing out in the crowd puts the focus not just on what you say, but on how it’s said. What are the iconic images and headlines that appear in a Facebook feed?

Design for virality

Viral distribution is about much more than the content itself — it’s also about an experience that promotes sharing. Your site, your experience, and your Facebook page all need to be designed for virality. Turn content into interactive features with sharing. It starts by making sharing easy:

  • Include the familiar “like” and “share” icons;
  • Place them in obvious places next to the article you want them to share; and
  • Pull social conversations relevant to your content in as a live feed on your website. Let people see what other people are saying on your Facebook page and Twitter and let them participate in the conversations right from your site.

Previously I have written about The Porous Web where your audiences seamlessly osmosises from areas of low value to high value. Doing all of these things provides a tightly integrated social experience.

Engage and reward your audience

Get involved in the conversation to stimulate dialogue, talk alongside your users and ask them what they want. Engage your audience like a community member not a marketing executive.

Validation is all about appealing to people’s emotional desire to look and feel good. Rewards for these people are intrinsic to the sharing itself.

Measure and experiment

On every page measure how many people viewed it and shared it, and how many more people that brings. You can test and vary every element, from the tools that promote sharing, to the content itself. Test rigorously and learn what works for your website, community and your audience.

These are just some of ways that SMO can be effectively deployed. The most important thing right now is recognising that SEO is important but that social media is changing the rules.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

 

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Filed under Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Facebook, Google, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Blogging for Business

As we start to see business blogging becoming more main stream, it is time that we turn our attention to how we can best use it in business. Here are six reasons to blog for business;

  • To promote your business brand;
  • To educate your audience;
  • To increase findability;
  • To demonstrate Thought Leadership;
  • To engage with your audience; and
  • Drive website traffic.

The reason that we blog determines the way we blog, the length, style and content.

Promoting your business brand

When promoting your business brand, you need to know what your business stands for as well as the qualitative and quantitative brand attributes. Is your business funky or serious, does it stand for having fun, security or making money? These attributes will determine whether you use words like “phat” or “optimise.”

Your messages behind your blogs will also be determined by the brand attributes. What would a funky brand customer like to hear about – the latest dance party, fashion in shoes? What would a serious brand client find interesting, trends in your field, conferences you attended, interviews with speaker?

Educating your audience

Often, when you have an intangible product or service, it is difficult to get your concept over in 30 seconds or a print advert. You need to spend time contextualising your offering and explaining why it is important to your audience. Very often educational blogs follow themes that build upon each other and reinforce central concepts.

Increasing Findability

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is not the only way you can ensure that your audience is exposed to your brand. SEO might help when your audience is using search terms to research the service that you offer, but what happens when they don’t know that they need you?

Your blogs should appear in places that people who need your offerings hang out on line, for example on Industry websites. They may not be looking for you, but if the blog is located in a place where they are interested in the category, they will become aware of your offering and may read on.

Generic blogging sites or websites are best for this. For example a general marketing website could be a great place to talk about the latest trends in CRM. Of course to get onto the general sites, your blogs must be interesting and informative, rather than biased and self promoting. Unless your blog offers value to the site’s reader, the site owner won’t publish you.

Demonstrating Thought Leadership

Thought Leadership is a powerful form of competitive advantage. It sets you apart from your more prosaic competitors, and if your customers learn from you, they are more likely to engage and eventually do business with you.

Generally, thought leadership articles have an authoritative tone and tend to be longer, sometimes even representing white papers. Are you in an industry where you sell IP? The thought leadership may also be part of your employees’ personal branding as thought leaders. Organisations that trade in IP tend to be an aggregation of individuals with high levels of IP and your audience will be interested not only in the content of the blogs, but also in the combined gestalt of all the thought leadership in your organisation.

To engage with your audience

Seth Godin is the master of engaging. His blogs are pithy and provocative. Audiences are encouraged to comment and share his copious wisdom.

Blogs aimed at engaging need to stimulate conversations not only between you and your audience, but also between the audience members themselves.

Driving website traffic

Driving traffic to your website is usually only the objective if you are

  • gaining new audiences;
  • your website is dynamic and constantly changing;
  • you are soliciting new members of a network or online community; or
  • you have an eBusiness where you can transact on line.

If your website is a bog standard brochure site, think carefully about whether this business objective is likely to result in bottom line benefits to your organisation. A high hit rate with a high bounce rate may be an indicator that you need to rethink your digital strategy because your audience doesn’t find any value in your site. Blogging is time consuming and resource intensive, don’t waste it chasing the wrong objective.

Getting the most out of your blog

In order to gauge whether your blog is working for your business you need to quantify the success indicators. Do you measure your blog on:

  • Findability – Number of hits?
  • Sharing – Number of times the blog is shared, pinged, retweeted, quoted etc. If sharing is your objective, make sure that your audience is equipped to do so with “share this” buttons, “follow me”, retweet or link with me etc.
  • Conversion into sales – if you have an eBusiness, you should be able to quantify your conversion of hits into sales. Increasing conversion ratios can indicate that your blogs are working for you
  • Commenting and engaging – sometimes the number of comments and quality are an indication of the value that your audience derives from your blog. Of course different types of blogs will solicit different types of comments. Provocative blogs may stimulate a conversation while thought leadership blogs may merely solicit a terse “nice post”.

There is no one right answer to how to blog, each blog must be designed to deliver on your specific blog and brand objectives. The one rule however, is to keep adding value, keep experimenting with what drives your objectives and results in you achieving material rewards for your efforts.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Blogging, Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

The power of viral expansion loops when building robust social networks

When we build social networks we are gathering groups of like-minded people together for a reason. That reason may be that we want to monetise that social network by advertising to them, or to sell them widgets, applets or products on line. Another reason that we build social networks is to manage relationships with people around a common interest, this may be brand building for a motor vehicle brand, or employee relationship management for a large bank. Whatever the purpose, a social network will be most successful when we have the highest penetration of suitable members possible, active within the social network.

The concept of the “network effect” relates to the fact that the more members there are in a network, the more value that network has for the individual member. The quintessential example is the phone. If only two people have a phone, the phone has less value to you than if thousands of people have phones, because you can contact so many more people.

Online social networks are subject to the network effect, if there are too few people in the network it will not have any value to the individual member and they will abandon the network pretty quickly. Therefore when we build social networks, we want to populate them as rapidly as possible, so that people can derive value by networking, sharing, communicating, collaborating or conducting business.

Viral expansion is when the members of a community actively recruit new members and is an extremely effective and cost efficient way to build powerful social networks.

A “viral expansion loop” occurs when virality is incorporated into the function of the product, in other words a company grows because each user begets new users, just by using a product they spread it. This concept is explored in detail in a fantastic book by Adam Penenberg (2009), called “Viral Loop The power of pass it on”. In the book Penenberg says “What’s the sense of being on Facebook if nobody uses it?”. The value of the community is inherently incorporated in its size.

Tupperware was one of the first viral businesses. When one housewife hosted a Tupperware party for six of her friends, they were each given the opportunity to host a Tupperware party for another six friends and so on. This viral distribution network proved more effective and created more sales for Tupperware than any organised retail chain.

One of the ways to build robust social networks is to focus on the “viral coefficient”. The viral coefficient is the ratio with which community members attract new community members. In other words, on average, how many additional members does each network member recruit?

If the social network’s viral coefficient is less than one, it will be self contained and very soon will stop growing. For example if the viral coefficient is 0.5 and there are 20 people in the network, then they will invite an additional 10 people who themselves will invite another 5 people who themselves will invite 2 people who invite 1 person. We can see with a vital coefficient of less than one that the network plateaus very rapidly at 38 people.

If the viral coefficient equals one the, 20 people invite 20 people who invite 20 people and we see a linear growth pattern from 20 to 40 to 60 to 80 in total in round four.

The real secret to growing social networks is to cultivate a viral coefficient of greater than one. Let’s assume that the viral coefficient is two then 20 people invite 40 people who themselves invite 80 people who invite 160 and so forth. By the fourth round, we have 300 people on board. We see exponential growth in viral networks with viral coefficients higher than one, and the higher the coefficient the exponentially higher the growth. Just by doubling the viral coefficient from 2 to 4 we see that the social network grows by 80 to 320 to 1280 and in the fourth iteration we have 1700 members. In other words having a the viral coefficient is the equivalent of compound interest in the world of social networking.

So how do we increase our viral coefficient? Well there are basically three ways;

  • Make is useful for members to spread the message;
  • Make it easy for them to spread the message; and
  • Make them look good for spreading the message.

Making it useful for members to bring more members on board

Offline examples of this include multi-level marketing such as Amway, online you could create products where members actively encourage their friends to come on board in order for them to sell more. An example could be a charity whose members actively recruit more people to donate money to a good cause, or a political party raising funding for a campaign.

Making it easy for members to bring more members on board

There are a number of ways to do this, clearly an “invite friends” button which automatically eMails friends the link to the social network is easier than expecting the person to type in the URL.

At Digital Bridges we have a saying “The more virtual you are, the more real you need to be”. The same holds true for social networking. People still network socially in the real world, you could use a real world networking tool, such as a business card, to bring people into digital communities.

There is tool called a poken which does exactly that. It is a sort of electronic business card which looks like a memory stick with a receiver and transmitter built into it. When two pokens are touched together they exchange information which has been pre-populated onto the poken. This information includes the standard name address and contact details, but it also contains data pertaining to the social or business networks that people participate in. When the poken is plugged into a computer it automatically populates all contact details and links people within the various networks that they are members of.

Making the member look good for spreading the message

This should be the easiest part if you have bespoke special interest social networks. You need to create content and encourage your users to create content which appeals to like-minded people within the network and let them share it with their friends, peers and colleagues. So for a scientist social network you might post some provocative comments about the Hadron Collider which they can respond to and share with their friends. On a joke website they could forward the latest joke to potential members.

A word of caution

It is important to remember that particularly in South Africa, we don’t have sufficiently large, digitally literate communities to become self sustaining and that although we need to focus on maximising the digital coefficient in order to approximate saturation, we also need to have dedicated resources managing these social media networks to reduce churn at the same time as raising the viral coefficient.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za.

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Filed under Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Interactive Intranets, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Forget Social Media for Social Media’s Sake – Your website is a strategic asset

There is much talk of how websites are moving away from being brochure sites, designed to communicate at the target audience, towards them being web applications for engaging with the audience. This is the natural logic which follows on from the interactive power of web 2.0, but perhaps the pendulum has swung too far.

Throughout the years companies have needed marketing collateral to position their brand to their best advantage, this includes brochureware, presentation folders, inserts, boilerplates on press releases, the website etc. and there is no reason why this should no longer be the case. Organisations need a strategically defined brand which acts as the fundamental backbone for all marketing and communication.

The website might be a manifestation of the brand because it contains the corporate messaging and the logos, but it is also a tool which the organisation can use to tell the audience where it thinks it is and what is important to the company. While the brand is a collection of experiences, we cannot expect our audiences to divine our purpose simply from their exposure to our employees, and as such, carefully written brochureware is a critical tool in the brand management arsenal. We also need to tell people what it is we think we are and why we think we are better and what better opportunity than through our marketing collateral?

At the same time, with the power of the modern interactive web and the advent of the knowledge worker, businesses are no longer about the buildings, logos and balance sheets etc. They are being perceived as a collection of individuals who provide services and ensure that operational requirements are met, whether they are legal financial, technical etc. As such, we expect to speak to people and feel justifiably aggrieved when we are forced to talk to a call centre operator or run up against obstinate individuals who hide behind company policies. It is at the touch points of an organisation that we experience the brand, whether through the sales process, service in fixing a problem, collection on payment or delivery on service.

Unfortunately with the world becoming obsessed with web 2.0 and using social media  to engage with audiences, we see a proliferation of unnecessary social media tools on so many websites. It’s as though people are adding Facebook and Twitter links for social media’s sake, without thinking about their strategic objectives; blogs stand sparsely populated, links are broken and wikis left unattended. Why do I want to become a “Fan” of some arbitrary photography shop on Facebook? What is the point of being a “Fan”, all I get is some self-serving drivel, or worse still a price list, from someone who is married to his business. There are no interesting conversations or people to meet, the owner merely has access to Facebook and thinks that web advertising is free.

The choice of the social media format that you select for your website is dependent of your organisational strategy, the types of employees, what your brand stands for, the depths of relationships that you need to form, and the investment that you are prepared to make, both financially and in terms of time and your business environment. There are a multitude of permutations, here are three examples.

  • Let’s say you are a night club and audience interaction will lead to more clubbers on a Friday night, then you do want your audience using the website as an interactive application for networking with each other and you. Your website could be developed as the point of engagement and the audience equipped with a range of social media tools such as blogs, posts, wiki’s along with the usual eMail addresses and telephone numbers with which to communicate or engage with you. They should be able to be a fan and post interesting comments about what happened last week from your site to Facebook.
  • On the other hand,  if you are a conservative bank which trades on its proud legacy of serving clients for one hundred and fifty years, you probably want to manage your engagement with the public in a more measured way, so your website would be a collateral site with certain mechanisms in place such as avatars and IM to manage communication and your online reputation. In this instance, you do not want every employee to have their own social profile as a representative of the organisation, although you most certainly want your executive to have a pretty robust digital footprint. Your website should be a piece of organisational collateral which everyone recognises as such, enhanced by some direct communication tools and the necessary individuals who make up the executive should build up their individual profiles using other social media tools such as Linked In, Facebook, industry forums etc.
  • If you are a Management Consultancy, an Executive Head-Hunter or a company that trades on the IP of the individuals who work there  then the website could be a hybrid where it becomes a repository for both the organisational collateral and the collective intellect and thought leadership within the organisation. Depending on what the user is looking for, he can choose to “find about us” XYZ Corporation, or he can “find out about me” Bryan Mole, Head of Performance Management Solutions at XYZ Corporation. The potential employee or client has the choice of how he manages the relationship by, for example, taking the conversations into cyberspace on Linked In, becoming part of the Bryan Mole’s network, or following him on Twitter.

Social media may well have changed our ability to communicate with our environment and the way we do business, but fundamentally, the rules of engagement and marketing have stayed the same; relationship management and brand building are still all about delivering on the organisational objectives and contributing to the bottom line and as such, the planning of our web presence requires an investment in strategic thought.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za.

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Filed under Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Web 2.0 and the Brand

Marketing is evolving toward a new thought-framework where the intangible experiences, transactional processes and relationships are becoming central to the brand and the customer has become a ‘co-creator’ of the brand rather than simply just a ‘user’.

The logic of branding is shifting from the conceptualisation of brand as the collection of attributes determined by the organisation, to the brand as collaborative, value creation between all stakeholders including organisations, employees and customers. This shift in logic is important when considering the Internet as a brand-building medium because its modern interactivity or web 2.0 places the user as a co-creator of the content and therefore the brand.

A strong brand provides a series of benefits to both buyers and sellers, simplifying the buyers’ search process and simplifying some of the sellers’ tasks, and enabling competitive advantage through preferential pricing.

Branding is defined as the process of creating value through the provision of a compelling and consistent offer and customer experience that will satisfy customers and keep them coming back1 . Companies are beginning to realise that brands are among their most valuable assets.

The Internet has had a transformational impact on business shifting the balance of power from companies towards customers  adding further complexity and dynamism to branding strategy. These days brands are socially constructed by consumers who are actively involved in brand creation.

Consumers respond to brands within communities, where the members of the community have a sense of shared consciousness, personal stories, morals and traditions that are all associated with a branded good or service. A great example of this is the new mums community on the Pamper’s community platform. Their brand conversations are not limited to nappies and creams, they are part of building the Medical Aid brands as they share experiences and provide advice on which Medical Aid to choose.

Brand communities have the ability to influence members’ perceptions and actions and can lead to a socially embedded and entrenched loyalty. Although negative implications involving brand communities exist, such as the ability for negative rumours to pervade the community, competitors gaining information through the community’s internal communication and normative community pressure, brand communities offer an effective method for building brands. Companies are able to advance customer engagement with the brand, foster the creation of stronger brand relationships and in so doing mitigate customer exit barriers resulting in increased competitive advantage.

The development of a strong brand community significantly influences brand loyalty and as a result positively impacts on a company’s financial performance and competitive advantage. Online community members potentially have stronger commitment to the brand and are more likely to buy the brand repeatedly, spread more positive word-of-mouth information and provide useful information to the company.

Web 2.0 simplifies the development of an online brand because it facilitates the creation of user-generated content by the community and the interactions of its members around this content.

1 Aaker, D. (1991) Managing Brand Equity: Capitalizing on the Value of a Brand Name. New York: Free Press

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za.

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Filed under Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Semantics, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Marketing and Innovation in Managing Skills

Many companies like to boast that employees are their greatest source of competitive advantage, yet the reality is somewhat different. it has become imperative for us to focus not only on how we attract and retain talented people, but also on how we engage them to deliver to our bottom line, to the best of their abilities.

Gone are the days of company loyalty. Talented employees see themselves as mobile and in control of the future of their careers. As the workforce becomes more mobile, gains control of negotiations with employers, the costs of managing and retaining talent intensify because we need to take a strategic approach to attracting talent and managing our competitive advantage.

So where do marketing and innovation fit into the picture?

In their book Marketing Management, Kotler and Keller (2006) say that “Marketing deals with identifying and meeting human and social needs”. The American Marketing Association (2004) defines marketing as “an organisational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organisation and its stakeholders”. The social definition of the role of marketing in society is “a societal process by which individuals and groups obtain what they need and want through creating, offering and freely exchanging (products and) services of value with others.”

Substitute the word “customer” with “employee” and we see a remarkable similarity in the processes for attracting and retaining talent.

To escape the economically challenged business models that have their roots in a time when talent was plentiful, companies will need to adopt a strategic approach to the HR processes for attracting, retaining and engaging talent through innovation (Hamel 2007). Elements of this approach can be adopted from marketing best practice.

So how could we use innovation and marketing to mitigate the skills shortages?

There are several steps in creating, communicating and delivering value to employees and for managing relationships in ways that benefit the organisation and its stakeholders

Creating value through innovating employee processes

Many organisations have removed themselves from their employees and adopted processes to automate their management and standardise their delivery. This was entirely relevant in a manufacturing world such as we saw in the last century, where the unit we applied to make money was labour. Today, it is intellectual capital that provides competitive advantage. The rules have changed, we are no longer standardising delivery, but amplifying it.

Take a good look at your business. Are you creating sustainable competitive advantage through your most important assets? Have you evaluated and innovated the principles, processes and practices that are based on outdated economic and business environments? Wealth creation will come from ensuring that you get a superior return on your employee investment. This is the product of attracting, retaining and engaging superior skills that are committed to acting in the best interests of your organisation.

Delivering value to your employees

We find ourselves in a very interesting time; just as we see the rise of the power of the knowledge worker as a revenue generating resource, along comes a new technology in the form of web 2.0 which enables us to change the way we manage to get the best return from employees.

The Gartner Group describes web 2.0 as “a transformative force that’s propelling companies across all industries towards a new way of doing business characterised by harnessing collective intelligence, openness and network effects.” We derive value from our employees by engaging with them, delivering the value to them as knowledge workers and motivating them to act in the best interests of the organisation.

The future of how an organisation will derive value from its employees is gathering pace on the web. The Internet is the most adaptable, innovative and engaging thing that human beings have ever created (Hamel, 2007).

The modern role of employee management is to magnify human effort, this is now possible using web 2.0 to get more out of individuals by harnessing their initiative, creativity and passion and then equip them with the tools, incentives and working conditions to compound those efforts in ways that allow human beings to achieve together what they could not do individually.

Grow your employer brand

Critically evaluate your brand from the point of view of potential and existing employees. You may know that you work for a first-rate organisation, but does prospective talent know this and how much credibility does your employer brand have in the market? How can they recognise you as a superior employer above other companies?

In marketing there are three primary ways to communicate your value; advertise it, use compelling public relations and rely on word of mouth. When communicating to your employees and future employees, the best way, is to let them experience it and tell others about it. What better way than to harness the power of 2.0 as a strategic business tool in your organisation?

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication.

Digital Bridges is technology agnostic and partners with great technology companies in order to ensure that our solutions are fit for purpose and deliver on organisational strategy.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia. Her skills include innovation and growth through marketing, communication, collaboration, knowledge management, human capital, performance management, process engineering and BI.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za.

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Filed under Enterprise 2.0, HR Intranet, Interactive Intranets, Semantics, Web 2.0