Tag Archives: marketing online

Ensuring that employees have the web tools they need to manage an interactive website

The modern website is a critical tool for engaging with and serving customers and other stakeholders. We need to ensure that we equip our employees with the right tools to continue their day to day actions to manage the organisation’s relationships and support the brand.

A website essentially serves three functions:

  • Provide information
  • Automate processes; and
  • Deliver services.

In order to ensure that the right tools are available, we start by looking to the organisational and divisional strategies asking questions like

  • What is the vision and mission?
  • What does the organisation do?
  • How does it do it?/What are the key process?
  • Which competencies and skills do we have?
  • What products and services do we offer?
  • Where are our markets?

Having examined these key areas, we then start to translate the answers into a Digital Strategy, by asking questions like:

  • Where can we enhance these products and services using the web?
  • What processes can be automated?
  • What digital products could we provide?
  • What are customers looking for?
  • Are there any additional markets and geographies that we could serve through the web?
  • How does our brand translate digitally?
  • Which other technologies (Geographical Information Systems, Enterprise Resource Planning Systems etc.) do we have which can enhance our digital offerings?

The we look at what web tools could be created to assist the employees to enhance their work through the web and what do they need to be able to do? For example:

  • If they need to be able to post events to a calendar, should there be various views, by event type, by date, month, day etc.
  • If events must be created, they need to give the date, an expiry date (after which the event won’t be visible in the current view) a title, a description, a date, a venue, key words/tags so that the event can be searched, RSVP, share on social media sites, the ability to synch into the viewers’ Outlook calendar etc.
  • Press releases need headings, introductions, the body of the text, release date, meta-data for searches, downloadable pictures etc.
  • Blogs need a heading, the body, meta data, tag clouds, share on social media sites, defined audiences using key words such as type of audience, geography, interests, profile etc, who can comment. Wiki’s could be similarly designed.

There are many universal tools that can be made available to employees who should be allowed to use them using permission based access.

When enabling employees to interact directly with customers, the same care must be taken as in the real world to make sure that they act in the best interests of the organisation. With the web we suggest that policies and procedures, content architectures and on line brand iconography guidelines be developed.

The core processes need to be mapped or redefined for the web. Examine who requires the automated process (could we use Geographical Information Systems or Profiling to customise his view?), where they will find it (what meta data will help in the search?), where other technologies will be integrated (Where do we get data about an account e.g. SAP?), how do we route queries? Should we use SMS’s or eMails to let the user know how far we are in the process? etc.

The next phase is to review our services. Could we create additional value for our audience by providing digitised products such as templates, calculation tools etc.

The modern website provides endless opportunities to surprise and delight our stakeholders, by giving it some careful thought we can also enable self service and reduce our costs of delivery.

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

Digital Conversations – Science or Art?

One of the things that I find so fascinating about social media, is that it transcends the traditional artificial barriers that we have erected in business, letting us do things we never thought possible, or that in the past were more trouble than they were worth.

For example, an Interactive (web 2.0 enabled) Intranet means that now a marketing project can span the boundaries between HR, Marketing, Finance, Project Management and Operations, because they can all collaborate with each other on the success of the project, not just report to each other on their progress.

Social media also negates the barriers between organisations and employees. Employees are becoming an integral part of the corporate brand and customers are interacting more directly with the individuals in an organisation. I have direct relationships with many of my business partners and clients on Linked-In and we IM each other on Facebook, rather than going through the company switchboard.

Social media transcends the barriers between the public and private self; your private behaviour on-line is now part of your professional brand. When you Google someone you can find out a lot more about that person than his professional profile on the company website.

We can micro analyse niche groups and still have to contend with the “law of big numbers”, which means that mass community behaviour is not an aggregation of small communities of interest.

When communicating with our customers on-line, we can participate in their conversations. Their behaviour and personal networks are much more explicit than in the past. We can experiment with certain triggers to see what influence they have on consumer activity and we can analyse and detect quantifiable patterns and improve our product design based on what our customers are doing and saying on-line to whom etc.

But our ability to do things we have not done in the past brings about a requirement for a new type of skill, we have to become generalists, rather than specialists, both right and left brain thinkers. Although our ability to measure initiatives and behaviour on-line has greatly improved, because of the breaking down of barriers and the fact that our customers are dynamic and participating in the market on their own terms, we are going to have to find ways to skill ourselves up on understanding the intangibles, like behavioural drivers and the psychosomatics of our audience too.

Social media requires us to become both artists and scientists, an interesting challenge which I look forward to.

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, HR Intranet, Interactive Intranets, 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

Digital Marketing Budgets

Internet marketing is concerned with creating a Digital Footprint which serves the organisation’s marketing needs. It consists four distinct elements

  • Providing information and education to the various stakeholders, whether they are potential customers, journalists, future employees etc. on the website;
  • Brand building through developing on-line communities, creating digital profiles etc;
  • Other on-line collateral to enhance “findability”; and
  • Direct response advertising.

Budgets need to be divided along the same lines for the best results.

Budgeting for a website

The budget for a website is normally informed by the website strategy as it translates from the organisational strategy. Most of us have built brochure websites in the past, and budgeting is relatively straight forward. The following components should be found in a website budget.

  • Scoping and specification in order to ensure that the site is fit for purpose and easy to use;
  • Design and development;
  • Hosting;
  • Software – there is some question of whether the software budget belongs with Marketing or IT. My suggestion is that if it is a discreet web based software that only relates to marketing, for example a bulk mailing app, then keep it in the marketing budget. However if it is an enterprise software like Microsoft’s’ SharePoint, budget for it in IT and reallocate the relevant portion to marketing, in that way marketing can quantify its returns more effectively;
  • Technical maintenance;
  • Content development and management – this is usually where most website’s fail, because this part of the budget is included in technical maintenance and allocated to the web company who it maintaining the site. Content generation and management is a marketing function, not a technical function and should be allocated to an internal marketing resource or an outsourced content management partner;
  • SEO – budget for the time for developing and tweaking the meta-data which is associated with the web page so that search engines can identify what your website is about and whether it is useful; and
  • Constant and never ending improvement, the modern website is in a constant state of flux and the organisation reacts or pro-actively engages with its environment. The website must be budgeted for in such a way that it can be dynamic and serve the organisation’s best interests.

Budgeting for Brand Building

On-line brand building is the use of social media to create communities, whether they are fans on Facebook, followers on Twitter or registered members of specialist communities such as the Pampers’ mums who blog and message each-other about all things baby.

These communities are used by marketers to create positive associations with the brand, to make the organisation more accessible to its target market as well as to educate them as to the brand attributes etc.

Brand building, while quantifiable is difficult to relate directly into sales generation and so we see fixed marketing budgets in this area. The budget can be determined as a percentage of sales or at the discretion of a pro-active marketer. Marketers do, however, need to understand that the investment is not only a Rand investment into design and development, but there is a far higher investment in terms of human resources. Maintaining healthy brand communities is a labour intensive activity and requires dedicated time to be allocated to the community. It is important to remember that on-line brand building creates a launch platform for enhancing the effectiveness of direct response marketing and increasing conversion rates, as such it is an essential part of the on-line marketing strategy.

Budgeting for “Findability”

A large part of creating a digital footprint is concerned with “Findability”, in other words, making sure that the brand is served up to the potential consumer on-line, at the point when they require the brand’s products or services.

The additional on-line marketing collateral that enhances findability includes blogs and thought leadership articles on specialist forums, the personal profiles of prominent employees on social media such as Linked-in, on-line press releases etc.

The budget for these activities is mainly concerned with the time that people spend on creating the content on the web which ensures that your organisation is found by the right people at the right time. There will be a direct financial implication if you outsource the management of any of these aspects to a professional content generation firm, in the same way as you can outsource your PR.

So far, the on-line budget has been very straight forward, it has included the financial aspects agreed to with the executive and the cost in terms of human resources who are allocated to these highly labour intensive marketing activities. But when it comes to budgeting for direct response advertising, we see an entirely new budgeting pattern starting to emerge.

Budgeting for Direct Response Advertising

The modern web offers numerous ways to create demonstrable and predictable ROI from direct response advertising activities. Well thought-out Internet advertising campaigns produce highly quantifiable results. The big opportunity for business is to recognise that a positive ROI from an advertising campaign means that profits should be maximised by investing more into the campaign.

Progressive marketers should not be constrained by limited budgets, rather, they should be accountable for revenues and net profits and any budget should be informed by the desired outcome. This is set to change the static, set-piece budget battles that marketers have had to fight with their financial counterparts in the boardroom.

In the past 5 years, advertising has been turned on its head by the rise of social media. This new media enables us to contextualise on-line brand messages and calls to action within our audience’s digital environment. According to Forrester Research, interactive marketing will represent 21 percent of all marketing spend by 2014. Those who understand and exploit the new marketing opportunities should not be constrained by a “percentage of sales” budget and be empowered to drive increased profits through marketing programmes that deliver predictable and demonstrable returns on marketing investments.

Advertising is becoming more complex and harder to execute. Audience fragmentation has accelerated making mass market targeting irrelevant to all but the largest brands. The democratisation of content in social media has replaced print, radio and TV as authoritative contexts where product advertising and endorsements drive sales and market share.

Direct response advertising is targeted and measurable. We can determine, with accuracy and predictability, the marketing ROI by campaign. It is the marketer’s job to quantify financial expectations and monitor the results very carefully. If you know you are going to make a profit from your campaign then the constraint is not a budget but the supply of profit drivers. On-line advertising enables CMOs to figuratively buy R100 notes for R50 each, by investing in on-line campaigns that create demonstrable profits at a predictable and repeatable rate.

Building marketing programmes with predictable and reliable profits is the original promise of Internet marketing. High performance marketers start with the premise that advertisers will reach the right customers (i.e., those who are in market with a demonstrable interest in the product or service). This enables advertisers to pay only for the action (click through, register, fill in the form etc.) that is positive proof that the potential customer is in the market and considering their particular offering.

In direct response marketing, the potential customer is interested in a product or service, the advertiser only pays for the click, proof that he is interested in the product or service. With the click, the conversation between advertiser and consumer begins. As long as an advertiser understands the profitability of each sale and the conversion rate from click to sale, he knows the value of each search click (Value of a click = profitability of sale X conversion rate of click to sale). As long as the advertiser is buying clicks from the likes of Google for less than the value of each click, he is guaranteeing a profit on his direct advertising spend. The new limits on marketing spend is no longer the budget, but rather how much can be spent while maintaining the conversion and sale values, or the capacity of the advertiser to deliver products and services.

While the principle is simple, execution is hard because online programmes have many key success factors. These include:

  • Managing a portfolio of multiple, evolving social media types with different conversion characteristics.
  • Purchasing the media so as to limit advertiser risk (e.g., CPA, CPC, CPL);
  • Targeting to ensure conversion rates and sale values stay satisfactory;
  • Developing creative for all consumer touch points (both advertising and user experience) that drive conversion;
  • Capturing, qualifying, and converting customer data. Advertisers need the right tools to transform customer information they gather into sales;
  • Responding rapidly to initial interest. According to an MIT study, responding to consumer interest within 5 minutes versus the following day increases conversion 100-fold!; and
  • Continuously optimising – Direct response advertising takes place in a dynamic marketplace, successful marketers will continuously optimise their media, creative, target segments and sales process to maximise profits.

For advertisers that understand well the value of a sale and how their advertising converts into sales, the marketing budget has been replaced with innovative, integrated marketing programmes that invest every Rand that drives a positive ROI possible.

The Internet has made marketing much more complex. But at the same time, it’s also much more measurable and accountable. Because CMOs can determine which parts of the marketing portfolio provide the greatest ROI, they can demand more from their marketing spend. Successful marketing is becoming less about bigger budgets and more about delivering ROI. Marketing requires being ruthlessly focused on delivering measurable profits.

Future winners in the on-line marketing space will understand that success means investing in continuous improvement that provide increasing and demonstrable profits.

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 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