Business Experiments: A better way to manage your business?

Business Experiments: A better way to manage your business?

In our last post we looked at various management approaches to reduce risks. One of them pertained to business experiments. In this post, we’ll dig a bit deeper to better understand this approach.

You have most likely heard of business experiments. The Harvard Business Review, as well as many other business management publications, published multiple articles on the topic in the last few years.   They were mostly in the context of innovation.

What is a business experiment?

Lean Startup - Baker Marketing If you have not, a business experiment is simply testing a concept (idea, program, process, design, product, strategy, etc.) with stakeholders (customers, suppliers, distributors, employees, etc.). The experiment’s goal is to provide pertinent data to assist with decision making (usually with go/no go decisions or sometimes fine-tuning).

So yes, you do know what a business experiment is. It’s been around for, well, pretty much ever. Now you’re asking yourself; Why this article is drawing my attention to it?

The reason is that business experiments are no longer used as an occasional management tool, they are transforming into the way businesses are managed.

Why are companies experimenting at an increasing rate?

Business experiment - Baker Marketing As we mentioned, business experiments are used to collect data that assists management with decision-making.

Decision-making in the business world is becoming a more demanding task (to say the least).

  • Companies are significantly leaner (i.e. less resources and more work for everyone, including managers).
  • The amount of information available, from secondary sources, is enough to make any manager’s head spin.
  • There is a higher supply than demand for managers hence making bad decisions is a riskier proposition for your longevity in a given company than ever.
  • In many sectors, markets are moving at a faster pace than ever before with competitors coming in from everywhere and customers’ choices exploding.

Hence managers are turning to ways to reduce the time and the risk involved to make the best possible decisions.

Running a business experiment to gather pertinent and timely data quickly answers the needs of over-burdened managers to reduce the risks of the decisions they make.

This explains, in part, why organisations are experimenting. What explains the increasing rate at which they are doing it, and transforming it into a management approach, has more to do with the following reasons:

  • It’s cheaper and faster than ever to run business experiments (many can be done in minutes with free tools)
  • An increasing number of employees or outside consultants have the skills to run experiments, analyse and interpret the collected data
  • The costs to store, process and communicate the data/result are very low (compared to a decade ago) and falling constantly.

Business experiments and the Lean Startup framework

So how does an organisation go about implementing business experiments as a managerial approach? There is no one way to do so. There are however experimentation frameworks out there that can structure your approach.

One of these is the Lean Startup framework.

The base of Lean Startup is the experiment. The Lean Startup experiment is based on the scientific experiment model. It follows a build, measure, learn process.

Build Measure Learn - Baker Marketing

 

Build (designing your experiment)

Building your experiment is a 3 step process

 1. Identify the critical assumption associated with the concept to be tested

When you stop to think about it, there are thousands of assumptions we could test to assist with decision making when managing a business. If we tested all of our assumptions there would be no time or other resources left to run the business. Hence, you only want to test the critical assumptions. The ones that, if not validated, pose a business risk that you (or your organisation) are not willing to take.

2. Transform your critical assumption into a hypothesis statement

Your critical assumption was a thought you put into words. Your hypothesis statement is one sentence that can be validated (or invalidated).

3. Design the experiment that will validate (or invalidate) your hypothesis

Designing your experiment is only limited by your (and/or your team’s) imagination. The way you choose to render the concept of your hypothesis (how you present it or illustrate it) is called your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)[1].

An important part of the MVP is the minimum part of it. In the design of your experiment, you will be aiming at spending the least amount of resources in order to obtain the maximum amount of learnings from your experiment.

This doesn’t necessarily mean bootstrapping your experiment. It simply means that you will make sure that whatever learnings you need to get from your experiment, you get by using the least amount of resources possible.

This can mean it will cost you nothing but a few minutes of the time of one person or tens of thousands of dollars, if that’s the only way to go about getting the information you need. Of course, the cost of your experiment must be proportionate to the financial risk associated with it.

Measure

The reason you are making the experiment is to get data that will help you with your decision making. Hence, you want that data to be reliable.

This is where you need a bit of knowledge about primary data gathering. You need to make sure the data you collect is not biased. You won’t be looking to get statistical quality data. That would take too long, cost too much and be an over kill for your purpose.

You’ll simply need the clear direction that your data in headed for.

In business experimentation instead of gathering a lot of data once, you gather a small amount of data repetitively. Although not as precise as statistical data it does provide you with a sufficient amount of information to de-risk, to a great extent, your decision. It is also a more suited approach to an environment that changes rapidly.

When deciding on the data you will be capturing in your experiment, remember these three important rules.

Your data should be:

Actionable

If it doesn’t go in the direction you thought it would then you can change something in your business strategy or product or program that will make the data go in the direction you want.

Accountable

You need to be able to re-produce the exact same experiment, in similar conditions and get similar results. For example, if you are testing the design of a snow shovel and are doing it during the storm of the century, the data you collect won’t be accountable.

Accessible

The more people who interpret the data you collect, the deeper and richer your learnings will be. So make sure that the data captured during your business experiments is shared throughout your organisation. Ensure that everyone knows they are welcome to share their interpretations on the data. Making your experiments, the data collected and the results accessible throughout your organisation will also accelerate business experiments process as some parts/resources of one experiment can be used for others.

The more experience one has at conducting experiments, the faster and more accurately they are done.

Learn

This part of business experiments, although it may seem like the easiest, is the hardest.  Learning means you are either

  • absorbing completely new information (rarely the case) or
  • you are changing in some way (sometimes drastically) already stored information in your brain

The second type of learning is the hardest. The more contradictory the data you have is to the one you previously had, the more difficult it is to learn from it.

This stored information in your brain will create a filter that will impact how you interpret new data.

Also, the more resources that has already been invested in a project, the more difficult it is to pivot on a previous course of action.

The benefits of using business experiments to manage

Business Experiment - Baker Marketing The main benefit, as mentioned previously, is to reduce the risk of your business decisions. This in turn will minimise your losses on various projects.

Another benefit, that is not obvious, is the improvement in work relationships.  This happens for multiple reasons.

First, employees get a sense of empowerment. If they submit ideas to upper management with supporting empirical data, they know their idea will be considered.

Also, managers don’t need to spend as much time justifying their decisions. They let the data speak for itself. They do however need to include questioning the quality of the data into their process.

Finally, as mentioned, organisations that use business experiments on a daily basis to manage usually encourage employees to share the results of their experiments. This not only improves internal communication and efficiency it also creates an environment where mistakes, that bring new learnings, are valued.

This type of environment is essential to not only foster innovation but pro-activity.

Getting started with business experiments

Business experiment - Baker MarketingIf you think that using business experiments may be a profitable management approach for your business, start with one project (which will be a meta experiment) during which all higher risk decisions will be taken with supporting data. The project you select should be one that has high inherent risk within it (like launching a product in a new and different market). It should also be a type of project that is somewhat recurrent in your organisation. This will help you have a baseline scenario in order to compare the results of the meta experiment.  Make sure to identify the metrics you’ll be evaluating before starting your meta experiment.

Some metrics (there are many others) you may want to look at would be:

  • How long the project took from start to finish
  • Overall budget
  • What % of the initial planed output was achieved
  • Variables pertaining to team cohesion
  • Variables pertaining to employee (the ones who worked on the project directly and indirectly) satisfaction
  • ROI projected vs achieved on a timeline (3, 6, 12, 24 months)

Implementing any new management approach takes a while. There is no one-size-fits-all recipe. You need to…yes you got it…experiment and find the approach best suited for your organisation.

If you need coaching or help getting started with your first experiment Baker Marketing can definitely help.

[1] Although MVP most often refers to a prototype of a product, it also means the representation of your hypothesis you will present to participants of your experience.

My 2016 Best Reads on Marketing, Innovation and Lean Startup

My 2016 Best Reads on Marketing, Innovation and Lean Startup

It’s the end of the year already. It went by incredibly fast. This is the time to look back and identify what needs to be fixed. It’s also the time to be grateful for all that we were able to achieve.

One of the things I am always very grateful for is the knowledge I gain during the year. Important sources for the knowledge I pick up are the books and articles I read.

I have to admit that I didn’t have as much time to read this year as I got involved in many (maybe too many) projects. I did however manage to read some very good books on marketing, innovation and Lean Startup.

As I did last year, I am sharing with you some of the ones I especially liked.

Best Reads on Marketing

I didn’t keep up with all that is new in marketing this year. It’s nearly impossible to do so. I tuned in to a few webinars that helped me focus my readings.

I read mostly on mobile marketing (various aspects), influencer as well as community marketing. Community marketing is a strategy that isn’t as easy to implement as one might think. Here is a post I wrote on how to find a profitable community marketing partner.

HubSpot - Best reads 2016 -Baker MarketingAgain this year, I found that my most interesting marketing reads came from blog posts on mainly two sites; eMarketer and HubSpot

 

Growth Engines - Best reads 2016 -Baker MarketingSpeaking of HubSpot it is one of the case study in Sean Ellis’s book; Growth Engines: Case Studies of How today’s Most Successful Startups Unlock Extraordinary Growth.

Through ten case studies, including Yelp, Uber, LinkedIn and HubSpot, Ellis explains the different types of growth engines and the contexts in which they worked best for those companies.

Although I read Growth Engines to better understand a concept that is integral to Lean Startup, this book offers some very valuable marketing lessons. It also touches on growth hacking, a term coined by Ellis. It inspired me to write a post on what growth hacking is and isn’t.

UX Strategy - Best reads 2016 - Baker MarketingAnother book that I thoroughly enjoyed was UX Strategy by Jamie Levy. Having been a Product Manager at a time where UX was but one part of the job description, it was great to delve into the depths of UX strategy.

Whether you are starting a new venture to create the killer app, or trying to innovate in an existing small, medium or large business, this book is a must read before you start. It can help you define a winning value proposition. It also guides yourr competitive analysis and helps you see which features you need to focus on.

The book is an easy read and doesn’t require any prior knowledge on UX design or app development.

Best Reads on Innovation

I was invited to a university workshop on blockchain earlier this year. Given I knew nothing on the topic I figured that it would be a great opportunity to learn. Montreal, where Baker Marketing is located, is a hotbed for blockchain research and development. The workshop did teach me the basics of blockchain but left me wanting to know more (a lot more, this is exciting stuff and definitely a game changer) about how this new technology could be used.

Blockchain Revolution - Best reads 2016 - Baker MarketingOne of the researcher at the workshop suggested Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology behind Bitcoin is Changing Money, Business and the World, by Don and Alex Tapscott. It was exactly what this non scientific reader needed. The Tapscotts explain the concept in very simple terms. They also explore a large number of applications for blockchain. They clearly show how significant a game changer this technology could be.

 

In Spring I also contributed to the organisation of the Montreal edition of the Intrapreneurship Conference.
During the conference one of the keynote speakers was Guillaume Hervé. Hervé is a veteran practitioner of intrapreneurship. He contributed to several corporate spinoffs in the aeronautics and health sectors. In case you are not familiar with the term, intrapreneurship is entrepreneurship adapted to large enterprise.

Winning at Intrapreneurship - Best reads 2016 - Baker MarketingIntrapreneurship is however not the same as entrepreneurship. These differences are the focus of Hervé’s book Winning at Intrapreneurship: 12 Labors to Overcome Corporate Culture and Achieve Startup Success.

Based on the 12 labors of Hercules, Winning at Intrapreneurship looks at the traps, pitfalls and myths of innovating in large businesses. Hervé saw them all in his career as an intrapreneur. He shares with us some tricks of the trade on how to avoid and debunk them. You can read more on this topic on the post I wrote titled Entrepreneurs as Corporate Innovators.

Best reads on Lean Startup

Leader's Guide - Best reads 2016 - Baker MarketingContinuing on the innovation in large business topic, Eric Ries published a second book this year. It’s titled the Leader’s Guide to Adopting Lean Startup at Scale.

First, Eric innovated in the way he published the book. He financed the book with a Kickstarter campaign. The backers were invited to join the Leader’s Guide community (managed by Mightybell). He used the community to test hypotheses about the content and cover of his book. Yep, he did it the Lean Startup way.

Unfortunately however, Eric only printed as many books as there were backers who pledged the sufficient amount. It isn’t available anywhere for purchase now that the Kickstarter campaign is over. You can however get a free digital copy if you know someone who invested in the campaign.

The Leader’s Guide is based on Eric’s experience (as well as that of some backers) on implementing Lean Startup in large corporations, like GE, and government organisations (like the White House).

I especially like the format of the book. Symbols are used in the margins throughout the chapters in order to quickly understand what the text pertains to. The coach’s Guide sections, for example, are about tips and subtleties in implementing the concepts.

It’s truly a guide that you will go to when implementing a Lean Startup approach to a large organisation.

Eric also announced that he will be publishing a third book next year. It’s tentative title is The Startup Way.

Scaling Lean - 2016 Best Reads - Baker MarketingWe were lucky to have another great Lean Startup practitioner write his second book this year.  Ash Maurya penned Scaling Lean: Mastering the Key Metrics for Startup Growth.

As a follow up to his first book, Running Lean, Ash is now looking at how to use metrics to scale your business once you have found the elusive product/market fit.

His rigorous approach to using key metrics to track your progress and focus your efforts has shown great results in many successful startups.

Grasshopper Herder - 2016 Best Reads - Baker MarketingFinally, I want to mention a website whose author consistently publishes great Lean Startup material. Tristan Kromer’s Grasshopper Herder is chalk full of Lean Startup ideas, tools and resources. Tristan was until recently one of the organisers of the San Francisco Lean Startup Circle.

If you are starting a new project and interested in putting Lean Startup into practice take a look at the series of posts on implementing Lean Startup. It is meant to guide you along your journey when you first start your project.

This concludes this year’s crop of my best reads on marketing, innovation and Lean Startup. Maybe some of them will become your favorites.

Thank you for taking the time to read Techno Marketing this year. I hope you take some time off during the holidays to rest and replenish, as we will.

Baker Marketing offers you its best wishes for the holidays. May 2017 be filled with health, serenity and lots of successful projects.
Happy Holidays from Baker Marketing

Lean Startup Tools – Discovery Phase

Lean Startup Tools – Discovery Phase

This post follows Lean Startup Experiment – Discovery Phase. It will help you find Lean Startup tools that will accelerate your experiments significantly. Many of these Lean Startup tools increase productivity and can also be used on a daily basis in your business.

None of these tools, aside from the Javelin board and the experiment log template were developped specifically to be used within the Lean Startup approach. They are simply productivity tools that enable fast and efficient Lean Startup experiments.

Lean Startup experiment - Baker MarketingLean Startup Tools

Lean Startup tools make continuous experimentation throughout your startup feasible. Many of those tools are free or cost very little. None of the tools presented in this post were developed specifically for Lean Startup.  They are simply productivity tools that are used by the Lean Startup community to increase their productivity.

The following are some of the tools I find most useful and often recommend when entrepreneurs are in the discovery phase. Keep in mind there are hundreds if not thousands more of these tools out there. A bit of googling and asking around will yield you many options to accomplish the same task.

 

Lean Startup tools - Baker MarketingLean Startup tools to organise

These applications are great as they often work as a checklist as well as organisers. The following Lean Startup tools are all free or have free parts to them. Click on the titles for links.

LeanStack

Ash Maurya has graciously made his Lean Canvas application, which is very well made, free for your first project. It will help you keep a record of the various iterations, enable you to share with other team members and print your canvas.

Business Model Fiddle

Free business model canvas application developed by Johan Steenkamp. It has some really great features such as various colours for your post-its, picture and sketching capabilities as well as communication features for your team.

Budgeto

This is a great tool to start figuring out your cost and revenue model. It will act as a check list of all the items you need to take into consideration in your revenue statement.  As you progress in your startup, Budgeto will also take care of most of your accounting needs.

 

Lean Startup tools - Baker MarketingLean Startup Tools to communicate/collaborate

Slack

If you don’t yet know about Slack, you must. It’s an instant messaging app, on stereoids, that allows you to connect just about any other popular productivity tool such as Dropbox, Google docs or Hangouts, Skype, Trello and hundreds more. It’s mobile friendly so it will enable you to keep in touch with your team wherever you are.

Trello

Trello is one of the many simple and intuitive project management tools out there. Trello is the only full application that still offers free access. It is very powerfull and still simple to use. Other project management platforms such as Asana and Basecamp are even more complete but don’t offer any free versions.

Dropbox

Definitely one of the best ways to share large files and documents. It’s as simple to use as can be and is entirely free unless you are a power user.

Lean Startup experiment - Baker MarketingLean Startup tools to run my first experiments

Javelin Experiment Board

Javalin first developed the Experiment Board for the Lean Startup Machine a couple of years ago. They are now developing it in an app and are still in the testing phase. Until the app is out, you can get a Google docs version of it and print it out.  Watch this great video tutorial, from Grace Ng, of how to use the Experiment board.

 This is Service Design Thinking

This book contains over a dozen techniques to help you conduct offline experiments. Each technique is well explained and illustrated with an example.  If you’re not familiar with data gathering techniques, it’s the best place to start.

SurveyMonkey

Powerful online survey creation and data analysis application. It’s free for basic forms and data crunching. It has more survey question options and data analysis capabilities than AYTM and GCS.  You must provide your own participants list.

Google Forms and Consumer Surveys

Google Forms enables you to create surveys that you can send to your own participants list. Google Consumer Surveys provides the participants and you only pay for completed questionnaires. Pricing starts at $0.10USD per completed survey.

AYTM -Ask your target market

Similar to Consumer Surveys AYTM offers highly targeted participants to answer  your surveys.

Pricing starts at about $1USD per participant. AYTM boasts over 25 million survey or experts panel participants.

Experiment log

As of writing this post, I haven’t seen any experiment log templates or application to facilitate the keeping of a journal of your experiments.

Hence, I created one for my own use that I will share with you. It’s a simple Excel spreadsheet that you can modify as you see fit. The important part is to keep your rows constant over time so you can have a base to compare.

Keeping an experiment log is a pain and requires some time and effort. Hence, if you don’t plan on going to VCs for funding, it’s not a must to keep one.

An added benefit of the log is that of a training tool when you onboard other members. Careful reading of this journal will help your new recruits know about your young corporate history and learn from you previous mistakes and wrong turns.

Note: I will add the experiment log template to this post very soon.

 Lean Startup tools - Baker MarketingTapping into the Lean Startup community

Some of the most important resources found in Lean Startup are its local and international communities.  It is by far the entrepreneurial community that is the most generous with its time and knowledge that I have encountered.

Locally, you have Lean Startup Circles members that meet periodically to learn, practice and exchange on Lean Startup experiments, tools and resources. Circles have experienced coaches that can help you with any part of your experiments.

You can locate the Lean Startup Circle nearest you by consulting the list on the Lean Startup wiki. Most of them, such as the Montreal LSC, have a Meetup page, Facebook page and/or website where you can register to become part of the community.

Once you are part of a Lean Startup Circle community you will gain access to the Lean Startup Slack channels by asking your local organisers. These channels encompass hundreds of members that form a help community.

If you are stuck somewhere in your experiment, are looking for a tool, experiment design ideas, want to know how to go about testing a foreign market, your local and virtual Lean Startup communities will be there to help.

Lean Startup tools - Baker MarketingThe next phase

Once you have acquired sufficient knowledge on your various stakeholders and have attained a certain level of validation with your business model, you will want to put it to the test.

The next phase will be about validating your business model where it counts; in the market. It is the true acid test. This phase is also sometimes referred to as the Valley of Death. It is when most start-ups end up dying in the Lean Startup approach.

This phase will also be when you start developing your product/service. The good news is if you can’t find any way to have your product/service fly in the market, you will not have spent months or years working on it.

The next post will guide you through this phase using Lean Startup. It will show you how Lean Startup can help transform, some (no, not all) ideas that would have died, into lucrative ventures. We will also present tools and tactics that can help you survive these difficult times.

How to identify a good community marketing partner

How to identify a good community marketing partner

In a previous post we looked at community marketing. As a reminder, community marketing is a set of tactics used to involve your customers and/or prospect customers (subsets or all of them) and their network with your organisation.

Community marketing partner- Baker MarketingCommunity Marketing Partnerships

One of the foundations of community marketing is partnering with other organisations. These partnerships are used to leverage all of your marketing and promotional activities to your potential customers. These partnerships can be with your suppliers, clients, customers (either corporate customers or the companies your customers own), or non-profit organisations.

The previous post also showed that, aside from being profitable when done right, community marketing is a great way to:

  • Increase positive brand association
  • Achieve community leadership
  • Obtain great insights in your customers needs
  • Drive innovation
  • Reduce your marketing costs
  • Get free advertising
  • Get you and your team to feel great about your job

So yes, community marketing sounds great, well on paper at least. In reality it requires the right partners in order to achieve a return on your investments.

The question then becomes:

Finding a business partner - Baker marketingHow do I know what the right community marketing partner looks like?

Like any other business partnership, there is no ‘’one-size fits all’’ answer to this question. Furthermore, time can transform an excellent community marketing partner into a negative ROI partner. Hence keeping track of the costs, revenues and benefits associated with a partnership is essential.

In order to identify criteria to help find a good community marketing partner for your company I will use two sources. The first are the studies done by non profit organisations that have applied community marketing strategies for decades to achieve their objectives.  The second will be the various community marketing experiences I have been a part of or observed in the last few years.

The following are some of the most important elements you have to look for when searching for a community marketing partner.

Community Marketing - Baker MarketingShared values

This criterion is by far the most important element to look for when searching for a new community marketing partner.

Your most important corporate values must be shared with your partners. Otherwise something will inevitably go very wrong during the course of your partnership. Usually, issues will occur sooner rather than later.

An example of this was a large food blog that strongly valued leaving the smallest carbon footprint possible. Most of their blog posts transpired this value. Their hosting provider, a community marketing partner of the blog, expanded into a new facility that used significantly more energy than the previous one they were located in. When the hosting company announced on social media it had no intention to undertake any projects to minimize their carbon footprint, it created a strong backlash in the blog readers’ community. Readership dropped more than 25% in the following 3 months. No other events could account for this exodus.

Eventually the blog owners not only lost a community partner but had to find another hosting provider. This project was of course very costly and could have been avoided had the hosting partner shared similar values.

This example brings about another lesson that was learned. Some of your values can generate a significantly higher cost structure for your company. Make certain you are ready to take on those costs before trumpeting your values to your customers.

Community Marketing - Baker marketingA committed partner

Just as any other type of partnership, your partner must be committed to the relationship. In a community marketing partner, this translates into having resources dedicated to managing the partnership and the joint projects.

Partners who also dedicate resources to measuring the outcomes of the partnership will often be easier to work with. The data they accumulated will generally lead to rational discussions with clear demands.

Market segments - Baker MarketingYou are going after the same customer segments

The closer, the match between the customers your business is aiming at to the ones your partners aim at, the better.

The whole idea of community marketing is to gain greater exposure, at a lower cost, to new potential customers. Hence, it would be worthless in that regard to partner with companies that don’t address your target markets.

Also, the closer or more complementary the needs they address to the ones you do in your markets, the better the synergy you will get out of a partnership.

Hence, if your product/service fills a need that is created by a partner’s product/service or creates a need that can be fulfilled by a partner, the partnership has the potential to provide maximum ROI.

An example for our food blog would be to partner with kitchen appliances or dinnerware companies as well as exercise/health related blogs that share similar values.

Reputation - Baker MarketingA reputation that is at least as good as yours

Community marketing is strongly based on social media presence by the partners. Hence, you will be looking for a partner that is not only adept at managing its own social media presence but one that has a reputation that will not tarnish yours.

Before signing with a new community marketing partner you need to do a thorough review of all of its social media presence. You also need to know who its other partners are and what their reputation is.  The stronger the community your future partner is a part of, the more profitable the partnership can be.

There are many other criteria that are important when choosing a community marketing partner. The previous three are, in my experience, some of the most important ones at the outset of a relationship.

In a future post, we’ll take a look at where to find the best community marketing partners. In the meantime, if you have any questions about community marketing strategy or implementation you are welcome to contact us.

Le marketing des objets connectés : Le marketing de demain?

Le marketing des objets connectés : Le marketing de demain?

Ils deviennent omniprésents dans notre quotidien. Les objets connectés se retrouvent sous forme de gadgets telle la bouteille d’eau intelligente. De façon encore plus fréquente sous forme de bracelets ou maillots de sport qui gardent le compte de nos activités physiques et de notre rythme cardiaque.  Leur point commun; ils amassent  une masse grandissante de données  sur différents aspects de notre quotidien et les transmettent à un serveur.

D’ici 2020, on peut s’attendre à ce que plus de 20 milliards d’objets connectés soient en circulation. Ils généreront des pétaoctets de données ayant la capacité de tracer un portrait de chaque minute de notre quotidien.  Dans leur ensemble, l’analyse de ces données révélera des informations qui permettront aux fabricants d’optimiser leurs produits.  Ce qui fait saliver les analystes marketing encore plus abondamment par contre est l’analyse au niveau de l’individu de ces données.

Connected object marketing- Baker MarketingNombreux analystes, dont ceux de McKinsey,  évoquent une 4ième révolution industrielle.  Ils prévoient une société où tous les produits et services vendus seront personnalisés afin de répondre aux besoins de chaque consommateur. Ce qui implique que le marketing de masse se fera au niveau de l’individu et non d’un segment.

Le message sera personnalisé en fonction du profil de l’individu, de son environnement, du contexte voir même du moment. De toute évidence, il ne sera pas créé par un humain puisque nous n’avons pas la capacité d’assimiler et de traiter une telle quantité de données à la vitesse requise. En ce qui a trait aux divers modes de livraison des messages publicitaires, je vous laisse les imaginer.

En poussant cet exercice de prospective à sa limite on peut même en arriver à la conclusion qu’une intelligence artificielle filtrera les messages publicitaires et ne laissera passer que ceux qui correspondent à nos besoins et désirs conscients voir même inconscients.

Revenons du monde de la science fiction et regardons comment nous effectuons le marketing des objets connectés aujourd’hui en examinant les stratégies du bracelet Fitbit et du thermostat intelligent d’Alphabet (Google), le Nest.

Nest marketing - Baker MarketingOn pourrait penser que Google, champion du big data, serait avant-gardiste dans la commercialisation du Nest. En fait, il n’en est rien. Alphabet a embauché en 2013 Doug Sweeny, ancien VP marketing de Levis (les jeans), afin de commercialiser le Nest.  Non seulement Sweeny ne veut-il pas exploiter les données d’utilisation amassées par Nest dans sa stratégie marketing il opte pour une stratégie des plus traditionnelles pour un produit de grande consommation. Nest focalise depuis les dernières années, quasi uniquement,  à croître son réseau de distribution physique (et non en ligne).  Nest fait peu de publicité dans les médias et n’a aucune stratégie de marketing personalisé.

Quant à Fitbit, cotée en bourse depuis 2015, sa stratégie marketing est beaucoup plus évoluée et exploite, bien que de manière limitée, les données amassées par ses utilisateurs.

Fitbit utFitbit Marketing - Baker Marketingilise ses données pour développer sa gamme de produits qui compte près d’une dizaine de bracelets. Fitbit déploie également des campagnes marketing hautement personnalisées en adaptant le contenu de chaque courriel qu’elle envoie à ses  millions de clients.

De plus, Fitbit inclut dans sa stratégie le marketing communautaire. Outre sa communauté Facebook principale, avec près de 1.5 million de j’aime, Fitbit anime également des communautés pour chacun de ses produits sur de multiples plateformes de médias sociaux. Fitbit commandite aussi de nombreux événements sportifs et créé du contenu numérique destiné à être rediffusé par ses utilisateurs.

Il y a plusieurs autres stratégies marketing particulièrement bien adaptées pour le marketing des objets connectés tel  le marketing prédictif, le marketing en temps réel et le co-marketing qui ne sont encore que peu ou pas utilisées dans ce secteur.

Les principaux freins au déploiement de stratégies marketing plus avant-gardistes par les fabricants d’objets connectés sont :

  • La perception des consommateurs de l’utilisation de leurs données à des fins de commercialisation
  • La convergence requise des compétences statistique, informatique, analytique, psychologique, sociologique et marketing
  • L’Absence de formation des analystes marketing dans les stratégies de commercialisation utilisant les données de masse (big data)
  • Le coût élevé des infrastructures et applications nécessaires à l’analyse de la modélisation des données

Les trois derniers freins expliquent également pourquoi les fabricants d’objets connectés utilisent principalement des fournisseurs externes pour analyser les données et développer leurs stratégies marketing.

Il est évident que le marketing des objets connectés en est encore qu’à ses balbutiements. À défaut d’une innovation de rupture dans le domaine, il faudra attendre de nombreuses années encore avant de voir le marketing des objets connectés se différencier substantiellement du marketing courant.

Black hat marketing and other shady tactics

Black hat marketing and other shady tactics

 

Hey, psst Buddy! I can make you rich. I’ll have all the review sites say your product is the best. I’ll increase your web traffic by a gazillion percent. I’ll do this for cheap. Really, really cheap!

Have you ever heard this pitch before from a digital marketing agency? Maybe not said in such creepy words but the essence was the same.  I really hope you ran the other way. Otherwise you don’t need to read this post. You have already shot yourself in the foot and know the pain.

Such agencies or marketers offer black hat or shady marketing tactics.  They most often offer results that are too good to be true.  They will even offer you proof which consist of short term results or big web metrics that will blow your socks off but, in the end, bring no or negative results  for your business.

 

What is black hat marketing?

 

Black hat marketingBlack hat marketing tactics are those that are clearly against the law or search engine rules. They can also be legal marketing tactics that are meant to deceive the buyer in order to increase your sales.

The Competition Bureau of Canada and the US Federal Trade Commissioner (FTC) have regulations regarding deceitful marketing tactics. As a company, if you are caught not respecting these regulations it can cost you…a lot.

The Competition Bureau handed down a fine of $1.25 million dollars to Bell Canada in October of 2015 for suggesting to their Bell Mobility employees to post glowing reviews of their services on social medias.

Astroturfing

Bell Canada was found guilty of astroturfing; the practice of posting, yourself or via a third party who is not a customer, a fake review of your product or service on the web.

The term comes from the Astroturf product or fake grass. Online reviews are considered grass root marketing, hence the reference to fake grass.

Given current studies show that anywhere from 70-90% of consumers’ purchase decisions are somehow influenced by online reviews, astroturfing can seem like a harmless and a great idea to promote your business. In the long term, it really isn’t.

The reasons are quite simple. First it will incite your competitors to do the same thing. When most of the reviews are faked, customers begin to notice and discard them. The second reason carries a much greater risk. If you get caught either by the competition bureau or FTC you will be fined, which is bad enough, but  your name will also be everywhere in the medias. Your company will be identified as a cheat and the trust relationship, necessary for potential customers to become customers, broken.

Asking your legitimate customers to post online reviews, if they appreciated your product or service, however is not considered astroturfing.

The grey zone begins when a business would somehow remunerate their customers to post favorable online reviews or, as it’s been observed, threaten retribution for unfavorable reviews.

Flogging

Flogging simply means fake blogging.

Fake blogging entails you, or a third party you hired, ask a blog to write and or publish a post on your product or service, against remuneration. In order for it to be flogging, the site’s sole purpose must be to publish such posts.  This is prohibited by the FTC (hopefully the competition bureau will follow suit) if the financial arrangement is not disclosed to the readers.
This same FTC restriction applies to advertorials (advertising disguised as a blog post) on legitimate blogs that do not disclose the commercial relationship between the sponsor and the blogger.

Undisclosed flogging or advertorials is subject to stiff fines in the US or a reprimand in Canada. Both of which are also published on their websites. This not only hurts the product or service but also the reputation of the blog that uses such tactics.

Spamming

You are certainly familiar with this tactic as you have been a victim of it. Spamming is the act of sending unwanted promotional emails in very large quantities to mailing lists you have somehow acquired. Unwanted email means that the recipient did not willfully sign up or accept to receive emails from your business.

Spamming is prohibited under the Canadian anti-spam legislation (C-28 law) and the CAN-SPAM act in the US.

There are numerous other black hat marketing tactics which could fill multiple books, including black hat SEO tactics which are aimed at fooling search engines. Most of them have not yet been categorized as illegal. Using black hat SEO tactics can however get you delisted from a search engine which will kill your web traffic for up to a year.

 

Shady marketing tactics

 

Shady marketing tacticsNot all deceitful marketing tactics are aimed at your customers. Some are designed to fool you.
Rigging SEO metrics (not the same as black hat SEO) and click-through rates are two methods of choice that dishonest marketers will use to fleece their customers.

Bloating metrics

Surfing on the fact that most small business owners do not understand how to interpret their website metrics, SEO consultants will use various tactics to inflate the numbers. These tactics include not removing dark traffic from their numbers, making it appear as though visitors are spending more time than they actually are on your site or showing bloated goal conversion rates.

Cyber-rigging of click-through rates

If you or your agency are using a programmatics company to do web advertising you (or sometimes your agency if it’s not on top of things) can fall prey to tactics which are used to inflate the number of clicks on your ads.

Some of these tactics include pushing your ads on sites that are only visited by bots or by audiences that you did not specify (different age brackets or even different countries). It can also take the form of having bots and/or people click on your ads against remuneration. The lattter will usually be undertaken by website owners who get paid to run ads. If done in moderation, it is undetectable. Programmatics and web agencies do (or should) have standards or industry data however to validate whether the click through rates they are getting are legitimate.

This is why it is a safer option to pay your SEO or advertising agencies based on sales results, despite this being a more expensive option.

Campaigns aimed at other types of goals should, as much as possible, be done internally or with the help of a highly trusted consultant.

If you are undertaking a web campaign yourself and have little experiment, ask other similar businesses what type of results they are getting. Educate yourself on how to recognize anomalies in your metrics.

If you are dealing with a consultants or agency ask them to give you a detailed report of their results and explain them to you.  If they refuse or tell you it would be too expensive then look for another supplier.

As in every other aspect of life and business, if the results you are getting with your marketing and advertising tactics are too good to be true, then they most likely are.