Digital Marketing Manifesto (circa 2013)

This was started at the outset of 2013 and never published. It was a late night therapy session for myself.) I decided what the hell. Let me just put it out there. So I dusted it off and am posting it in its raw, unedited, ranty self.)

It started with an image on my Facebook newsfeed. A friend and colleague of mine that I have known for years took a photo wearing Google Glass. It suddenly became very real for me. Yes, I have been reading about Google Glasses for over a year. I have seen all the demos. But suddenly seeing them in the wild kinda freaked me out. Why? Well, it is how companies are collecting data and how that data is then available to advertisers which freak me out.

You see I am constantly defending marketers on Facebook as well as calling out the crappy ones. There is some incredible data you can use to target behavior. If you know how to. With every Like or every song you listen to that pipes into Facebooks Open Graph, that is gold for us marketers. For us sociologically driven marketers, this social data gives us an insight into many sub-groups or cultural networks of behavior. For others, it gives advertisers with a credit card the ability to target randomly, literally and NASCAR up the Facebook experience with bad ads and link bait. That is my fear with Google Glass. Now data collection is in the eyes of those walking down the street and eating up tons of data for Googles advertisers. This scares me to death. Not so much the tin-foil-hat in me (but there are privacy concerns there too.) But what this collection of data will lead to in the marketplace for advertisers. Are marketers as a whole mature enough (and responsible enough) to harness this data in a way that is meaningful and noninvasive?

I am having a Jerry Maguire mission statement moment for us digital marketers. Forgive me. But if you continue, just know you have been warned. Rant started.

For the folks here is the gist:

There are good marketers and there are bad marketers. The good are the ones that respect data, platforms, conversations, and influence and support one another. The bad are the link bait, spammy, fill-up-my-internet-with-junk, flash in a pan marketer. Those ruin platform data and opportunity for the good ones. We in the marketing world must begin calling out that crap and policing bad marketers protecting the web for the consumers or more intrusive data collection will be done.
We love our data, but we don’t like big brother data being the cooperation giving all that data away to the biggest ad budgets.
Further, taking leads off of saturated platforms and nurturing them into a controlled environment where marketers can solve problems, provide pain relief, and help more will reshape and redefine marketing toward the better.

Good vs. Evil.

Let me just state this passionate belief that I have, all marketers are not evil. That said, many are attached to leads and quotas which by default make them suspect to bad behavior. But that is more of a business management design failure than talent or ethics of the marketer themselves. Good marketers are sociological, anthropological and rewarding. If you can respect the culture, and respect the fact that others might have a worldview different than what your-your product/service caters too, then you are a good marketer. Marketing is about understanding and respecting the culture and adapting strategy as such. In a Buddhist worldview, it is the philosophy of detachment. The ability to see a person point fo view void from your own ego and open to the idea that others have a vastly different view. The ability to understand and have empathy and develop communications and campaigns around this world view. This is the art of good marketing. Spamming and blasting and over exaggerating value propositions is desperate. These are the marketers who give marketers a bad name.

Interestingly enough, the main motivation behind this post was the fact that the person who was in this photo wearing the Google Glasses struck a nerve with me some time ago. Not a bad nerve mind you, but in a juxtaposition of this rant, an interesting one. A few years back, she was heading up the social media strategy for one of the largest consumer electronic brands in the world. She was kind enough to give me a tour of their campus and during this tour, we were catching up on social media trends. One of the topics of discussion was engagement and outreach. Specifically, a brand or an individuals follower counts on social Twitter. I made the comment that if a person is following more than they are followed that then they are grabbing more than they are returning in regards to engagement and content. She took offense to this. I was actually shocked. This person is someone who rarely gets offended and she is smart. Very. She had more followers than who she followed, so I was confused. She is not someone who friend-jacks or just following random people to not engage with. So I wanted to understand her perspective as to why this was so offensive.

This conversation is not about a popularity contest mind you. It is about the observation about how brands and individuals engage. She told me that if she is wanting to sit back and experience the social web and more or less soak up information, she had the right to and should not be judged based on that follower count ratio as someone who might not be effective in this space. I asked her if this was a more research minded approach to understanding tribes or social culture?

She responded, Does it matter? I pondered to myself a bit wondering why, to me, it does. We moved on to another topic of discussion but I often reflect back to that conversation throughout the years. I still conclude that it should. The social web is transparent for the most part. You know the creepers, you know the broadcasters, you know the brands that service their customers well within this space and those that fall painfully short. The cocktail party approach to social marketing is an approach that has been inherent for nearly a decade now. That said, the technology of collecting social data has evolved. Companies like Google and Facebook are collecting actions, semantic data, intent etc., in more ways that direct engagement and/or social voice. Putting on those goggles and collecting behavior for marketers to learn and target campaigns too is much like following without engaging. It is now the machine soaking up culture and feeding it to the cracked out marketers (of which I am painfully aware of I am.)

The point being, it should matter.

Data is good. A collection of data that is noninvasive of the community is good as well. But the accountability of this data at the hands of all marketers (both good and bad) is what we as a community of internet marketers lack. The fact that Facebook ads have become noise to so many consumers is proof of this. The fact that users are clicking less on ads and platforms are trying to become more and more clever to hide the fact that it is indeed sponsored content means abuse is happening too frequently. The platforms are adjusting to fool the user that paid content is actual organic content. This is not healthy for us as marketers.

Gimmie Links!This is the wild west of marketing. There are black hatters, gray hatters, and white hatters that try to play within community-defined rules and regulations and platform terms of service. Is it our responsibility to police how this data is being used? No, the platforms themselves do that. But I feel the responsibility is ours to call a spade a spade and enhance the creative delivery within these systems. We build our careers around such opportunity and should call out bad marketing when we see it. We should strive to keep honest engagement alive and truly connect the dots between behavior and content. We must not abuse the data but learn from one another to build meaningful marketing opportunities.

If we abuse this data and start exploiting these passive collection points with bait and switch marketing tactics, then users will revolt, data will be tarnished, and more technology collecting new data will be pushed deeper into our lives as consumers. Right now marketers have access to your credit card purchase habits, your grocery shopping habits, the TV shows you watch, the songs you listen to, the magazines you subscribe to, and your gift card transactions. Let’s put goggles on walking down the street and collect that data too to feed the beast. I know I am hungry for it. What’s next?

Responsible data and the crack.

My name is Kevin Spidel and I am an addict. I am addicted to data. No seriously, I sometimes drool at the idea of what I could do with this data. Some background

I first got into marketing data (at that point I didn’t even know what I was doing was marketing) when I ran passionate campaigns around social justice. Yes, I was a lefty liberal progressive who didn’t believe that unjust wars and unjust killing were good for us. Call me naive, call me young whatever, that is not really the point of this article, just giving you perceptive. I put 10 hard years of my life professionally fighting for the cause. I was a lobbyist on the Hill, a campaign manager hated on my the Democratic Party and even a National Field Director for a Presidential candidate. I am not divulging this to be righteous or arrogant, but laying down perspective of spending that time trying to find the passionate folks in society who are with us based on their lifestyle, subscriptions, behavior, etc. I wanted to authentically find people who are passionate about our subjects/issues and I had little money to find, motivate, and invoke a response. Ultimately that is what digital marketing is about. find, motivate, invoke.

Let me be clear you can’t fake this.

When you scout out and hunt down a person who is passionately aware of your campaign issues and you can’t fake the sell. You need to convince, empower, and then mobilize the potential voter. Voters are harder to sell than anything I have every had to market in my life, let me tell you. Remember, I worked with passionate campaigns trying to prove a point and make an impact on the nation. We can’t bullshit the facts and we don’t have the money to mass saturate the market with branded content. We had to be smart, nimble, and not only close the sell but then invoke and empower them to remarket and evangelize the message. With little resources and a lot of passion, data was the edge I had on other campaigns. I would try to infuse as much knowledge as I could into my targeted lists and build campaigns that returned the biggest bang for the buck. This was the birth of me as a marketer who really values the data, the audience and the right message.

Add to this fact, I have always been a geek. Like a bleeding-edge-adopter-of-all-tech-and-gadgets like a geek. I always respected new gadgets, new systems, new tech to understand its relevance in the marketplace. In 2006 2010 I worked with a lot of social media startup companies. Had my own agency, and had a few wins and losses. I got to know many of the giants today during this time when we were all bootstrapping for a dream. There were parallels to this startup era of my campaign days. Limited resources but lots of data. So bridging data to understand what is working and what is not working with many of these startups was a natural transition.

Data gave us the ability to know what the users want and how to communicate to them. It wasn’t until recently when I had access to some major resources to really see the scale of rich marketing data. In 2010 I launched a new social marketing arm of Gannett. The goal was to listen to semantic/social intent behavior and engage with social media adopters and lead them through a discovery funnel that eventually would drive commerce for our clients. We were successful to a point. But demand was strong. We, as every company must do with success, had to scale. The scaling led me to the point of becoming more of a frontman in explaining/marketing/selling what we do within the markets we launched the product in rather than stay in the shop and perfect the actual product and adapt the team for evolution. Not respecting the pulse of the digital climate and adjust the fulfillment of the product accordingly is how marketing ultimately failed in that experiment. Data is attractive to clients. Access to these behaviors, these actions and putting Gannett’s clients in front of these moments was not only addictive to the client but us as marketers. Lesson learned: Don’t abuse the data. Evolve the product with the data. Data is more than an opportunity. When paired with a marketing strategy, it must breathe with the community and the offering.

I eventually left Gannett because of this. The problem is in this digital age when you see an angle, you build fast on it and try to corner and scale without respect of the reality that things evolve fast. Gannett had reached in 89 print markets and 29 broadcast markets. We could introduce this new intent-based listening and lead generation model to many local markets for small and medium-sized businesses. I felt like I was doing a positive thing for the nation and creating social change using data by pairing opportunity with intent while driving commerce This plan could help rebuild local small businesses more so than a government stimulus program would do from the government during these times of recession Trust me, I spent time in the government trying. I truly believe that marketing (the right way, will lead to community prosperity more than political or government reform will ever do. That is another rant I will get into in another post.)

I won’t lie when I had access to user data from Gannett on how readership/viewership engages with all newsworthy and lifestyle content in our 86 print markets and 29 broadcast markets I did geek out. I mean the access to such audience is crack to the dude that had little access to these tools and toys for years. However with such access is power and temptation to abuse.

Now that I had this reach with Gannett we promised this good marketing to many and fast. The matching intent with content based on behavior data is crack for many sales reps. In an effort to scale we hired fast and launched faster. Market to market we did not train well. We gave them a taste of this crack. How to find customers for Gannett’s big clients through this semantic data. It was honest and true, but without the adequate training and poor managing of expectations, the crack became too much too soon. The promise to clients combined with the lack of systems tested and continue to evolved based on market feedback lead for many launches of campaigns that were just not ready. False promises to clients with the lack of ability to adequately deliver.

Marketers must manage expectations better. We often fall victim to the sales pitch sounding sexy. Promising and not delivering is the worst for a brand or a solution. Connecting intent with an opportunity based on this semantic targeting must be nurtured. Marketing automation is key to managing expectations. Taking leads off of a saturated platform and managing the funnel in a controlled environment will help us get off the crack.

Nurture. Reward. Redefine good marketing.

GoodMarketing automation leveled the field for marketers, thankfully. Marketing automation is the combination of creative and logic. The left and right brain fueling marketing and lead nurturing. This means you have defined an intent, exploited it, respected it, nurtured it to the point you educate, then qualify and build interest toward a sales-ready lead. I know that is a lot of geek talk but the point is, that if someone turns their head your way, respect it. Nurture it. Empower it. But the most important thing about this process is to not tell them what you think. good marketers listen! Great marketers listen and score their responses in a way that authentically gives them a result of their discomfort.

Yes, we have access to wonderful data that define intent, but that data is often skewed based on the abuse of the platform by marketers gaming the targeting. A lead funnel through marketing automation gives us the ability to control the path and data clearly. We can drive a user through an interesting path by rewarding them. each touch point we collect their data in our environment. No longer dependent on 3rd party data sets, this is our ecosystem. By taking the lead out of the environment of a competitive landscape full of good and bad marketing tactics you can, in essence, police these channels. In order to effectively nurture the lead, you must give more than you take.

Back to my follower ratio mentioned previously. Good marketers give more than they take. They listen, they engage, and they reward. Bad marketers broadcast and ask and probe without giving anything in return. Not to say the colleague I mentioned before was trying to market something, she was just observing. Even in observation mode in a lead funnel, you want to learn. Reward the lead through the funnel along the way with case studies, solutions, answers to questions, etc.

Let’s be honest, no company wants to pay for marketing. But if they want to know why their competition is doing that is effective, you need to listen to the pain points of your core audience/clients. If you honestly listen and respond to pain points, you will get more leads that are honest. Point being, if you ask something from your potential lead, give them a response that gives them more.

A B2B example: A defined concern from a lead expressed that came through a landing page talking about social media concerns. The lead declared in a form I don’t really know how to measure my ROI on social media? The initial response should be to give them examples of measurement that is connect to how your service reports ROI for the client. You want to do this way before you respond with a pitch. This will allow the user to explore more with trust and for us to find their pain points. We then create the opportunity for them to opt-in with questions that are legitimate, and for us to respond with solutions that mitigate their anxiety.

See? Good marketing!

Give pain relief. Help solve problems.

Core point, if you ask a question, then give them something in return that is relevant. Marketers can not just take. Give. Please. More.

This is what I am building and working with over at Voice Media Group. Rewarding consumers, clients, and building partnerships. The good marketing stuff.

seriously-shut-upWhat a rant!

I could go on and on. In fact, I have pages of notes. If you are still reading at this point in the blog, I am impressed. This got really long winded.

You can tell I am passionate and protective of data, how it is used, consumer behavior being protected and treasured, and studied. We need to respect this data, this space and call a spade for a spade. There are bad marketers out there. There are many great ones too. But when we learn, adapt, and reward consumer behavior, I think us marketers will get a better wrap that we deserve.

On that note, here are some great resources for the good marketers out there:

  • 1) WOMMA

    2) aimClear

    3) Site Tuners

    4) Convince and Convert

    6) V Digital Services

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