December 4, 2009

Blogs and Marketing Effectiveness

According to a recent McKinsey survey, businesses are finding blogs among the most helpful Web 2.0 technologies. Mckinsey went further in their Web 2.0 analysis by looking at measurable gains (graphic below). 

It's fun to follow the hype on Twitter and other social medias, but it's almost refreshing (I never get tired to see some good stats!) to see a company like McKinsey participating to the Web 2.0 debate and bringing good data to the table (they've been doing it for 3 years). 

HubSpot, an Internet marketing company with evidently not the same pedigree as McKinsey, has also released some proprietary data on the effectiveness of blogging for small and medium businesses. HubSpot's data point suggests that blogging (vs. not blogging) offers 3 clear advantages for SMBs:
  1. More visitors (+55%)
  2. More inbound links (+97%)
  3. More indexed pages (+434%)
HubSpot links each one of these measures to more leads, higher search rankings, and more indexed pages.

Ultimately, the stats presented by both companies point in the same direction: It's about marketing effectiveness and conversion and no one can ignore the undeniable power of blog. 

    October 6, 2009

    Most Important Web 2.0 Technologies and Tools

    McKinsey&Company has recently published the results of a very interesting survey on Web 2.0 technologies. The article published in McKinsey Quarterly highlights tools business find the most helpful. Equally interesting is the way McKinsey has made the results available. An interactive exhibit lets you explore the results and compare year-over-year results and trends.

    My top 3 highlights:
    1. The acceptance of blogs and social networking in the business world is just remarkable at level approaching the 50% threshold. Just behind them, a trio of tools - podcasts, wikis, and video sharing (not shown in the graphic) are also making headway in the business world.

    2. Marketing folks are the group using Web 2.o tools the most at 73%. It's not so surprising when you look at the measured gains. Web 2.0 technologies increase marketing effectiveness and customer satisfaction while reducing marketing costs.

    3. The majority of organizations surveyed continue having faith in Web 2.0 technologies. 3 companies out of 4 (79%) will maintain or increase their web 2.o investment in the coming year.


    September 18, 2009

    Predictive Analytics, Cloud Computing, and IBM

    Recently I've mused at the planned acquisition of SPSS by IBM and the possibility of bringing predictive analytics in a completely new and radical way to the business audience similar to what Microsoft did with Farecast in Bing. In a recent article in, Erich Clementi, IBM GM for cloud computing revealed that
    "In the next six months, IBM plans to extend its cloud computing offerings to include a range of business analytics tools"
    Business analytics tools on top of cloud computing is certainly interesting, but not totally new. A few small and big BI software providers are already hard at work developing their SaaS offerings. Note: See an example of Cloud BI with Good Data - a Marc Andreessen's funded company.

    The fact that IBM is serious about cloud-computing and already publicly mentioning business analytics as one of the cloud services is worth taking notice. The interesting part is what could happen in 18-24 months from now, when SPSS integration is essentially completed and new development projects well under way. Could we see Cloud Predictive?

    It is certainly a far more creative possibility than just selling SPSS enterprise software licenses using a direct or indirect channel. No doubt IBM has made a number of interesting moves and announcements in the last few months.


    September 3, 2009

    Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s

    If you like to explore music, discover new bands, or simply read an opinionated album review of your favorite artist, go to Pitchfork. I recommend their Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s. Check out what you have missed in the past 9 years and let me know if you find something worth sharing. Happy listening.


    August 27, 2009

    The Little Launcher that Could

    Launchy is a launcher application for Windows and Linux. It hides in the background and allows you to launch an application, a document or go directly to a web site by just typing a few keystrokes. Its interface cannot be any simpler and works like Google Desktop Search.

    I have been using it for a couple of weeks and I am truly impressed. I have indexed my web links, folders, pdf files and Office documents. That covers the large majority of documents and files I access on any given day. I am also using Google Desktop Search, but found that as the number of indexed documents increased, it is not as effective and it takes me more time to find my files. Launchy does not replace Google Desktop Search, but it has cut down on the amount of time I was spending looking for files and other information. Great add-on and it's an open-source project! You can download Launchy from by clicking here.


    August 21, 2009

    Can IBM Hit a Home Run with SPSS?

    Bing, Microsoft's new search engine offers a very interesting travel search capability. At first sight, Bing travel search engine is not so different of what you would find on Sidestep, Kayak or Mobissimo. You type your from-to flight information and get a selection of flights to choose from. What sets Bing travel search engine apart is his predictive capability. Bing predicts if the price will go down, up or hold steady. It even provides a confidence interval (expressed as a %).

    Microsoft has acquired this capability from Farecast about a year ago for a cool 115 millions. Beside the steep price and the debate around its valuation (read the The Value of Statistics by Ian Ayres and Expected Value of Information), travel is nevertheless a clever application for predictive. It will be interesting to see what's next for the Farecast folks at Microsoft.

    It makes me wonder if IBM could do a similar trick and bring SPSS technology to the business audience the same way Microsoft did with Farecast for the consumers / travelers. SPSS has been the big gorilla in the predictive space and it's not too difficult imagining Big Blue being reasonably successful with this acquisition.

    As one of the dominant infrastructure players on the planet, IBM has likely heard the call for help coming from customers with tons of corporate data having difficulties figuring how to leverage it for their decision making. IBM can and probably will attach SPSS to its BI portfolio, but whether or not they can integrate predictive analytics to other technology assets remains to be seen.

    As Timo Elliot, one of my colleagues has pointed it out in his blog, it would probably make more sense to embed predictive capabilities into business applications. Trouble is IBM is not really a provider of business applications. Unless there's a major strategic shift, the elusive predictive 'home run' will have to come from somewhere else...


    August 8, 2009

    Thinking Outside the Box

    I recently came across a very inspirational story, one that got me thinking that even when facing complex problems - such as access to clean, drinkable water, human ingenuity seems to prevail.

    Not only Michael Pritchard has invented a remarkable water filtering solution, he is also challenging the way humanitarian organizations approach the distribution of water after natural or man-made disasters. Imagine the resources currently wasted just for transporting and distributing tons and tons of bottled water in disaster zones where in many cases, all people need is a basic filtering system. The cost seems expensive at first, but if you think about all the logistical costs associated with bringing water (1 liter = 1 kg), his solution seems to make more sense. Kudos to him for his thinking outside the box.

    August 1, 2009

    eBooks and Design

    The author Seth Godin has recently written a short post about raising the pdf document bar. I feel the same way with regard to traditional Word document simply exported as PDF format. I've been reading Web Ink Now for a few months and David Meerman Scott ebooks have certainly impressed me.

    His design has striken a good balance between bling and good'ol Word doc rendered as pdf. I recommend having a look at his free eBooks. That said, he (or his designer!) uses Adobe Illustrator, not necessarily the easiest tool available to all of us. I would be interested to know what people are using to design and create visually interesting eBooks.

    July 20, 2009

    Marketing, Blogs, and Conversations

    I read blogs and have always been generally surprised by the quality of information people are publishing. The first time I saw real value (at least in a situation where the information provided gave me a real insight) was when I've interviewed for a position a Microsoft in early 2006. I was researching Microsoft CRM product for this interview and felt pretty frustrated about the information provided through the official mktg channels (i.e. web site, collateral, press releases, etc).

    Not that the information found through the official mktg channels was bad or inaccurate, but I wanted more. I wanted to go beyond the usual corporate marketing airbrushing and get a better look at the product, and possibly learn more about the challenges and opportunities my potential boss and his team were facing. I then discovered Channel 9.

    It was an epiphany moment for me because:
    1- the posts were written by Microsoft employees themselves. I didn't know any of the bloggers personally, but the fact that regular Microsofties were posting their thoughts and ideas was a big boost in the credibility department.
    2- the posts were free of mktg spin and seemed genuine. Hey, it felt like I could read and trust this information without a marketing cipher to make the encrypted information readable again.
    3- the content posted was providing value (at least to me, the reader interested in knowing more about Microsoft CRM).

    I was also blown away by the fact that Microsoft, the big and mean software company (as often depicted in the media) was letting employees do something very simple and very fundamental to any organization: having conversations with people showing an interest in what they are doing.

    Like many companies, Microsoft has a blog policy in place (Channel 9 doctrine). If you remove any mention of Microsoft or Channel 9, you end up with a pretty interesting reading:
    1. It is all about the conversation. It should inspire our company and our customers to talk in an honest and human voice. It is not a marketing tool, not a PR tool, not a lead generation tool.
    2. Be a human being. It is a place for us to be ourselves, to share who we are, and for us to learn who our customers are.
    3. Learn by listening. When our customers speak, learn from them. Don't get defensive, don't argue for the sake of argument. Listen and take what benefits you to heart.
    4. Be smart. Think before you speak, there are some conversations which have no benefit other than to reinforce stereotypes or create negative situations.
    5. Marketing has no place on it. When we spend money on it the goal is to surprise and delight, not to promote or preach.
    6. Don't shock the system. Lasting change only happens in baby steps.
    7. Know when to turn the mic off. There are some topics which will only result in problems when you discuss them. This has nothing to do with censorship, but with working within the reality of the system that exists in our world today. You will not change anything by taking on legal or financial issues, you will only shock the system, spook the passengers, and create a negative situation.
    8. Don't be a jerk. Nobody likes mean people.
    9. Commit to the conversation. Don't stop listening just because you are busy. Don't stop participating because you don't agree with someone. Relationships are not built in a day, be in it for the long haul and we will all reap the benefits as an industry.
    I have to say that if someone was asking me about a blog charter for his organization, I would have no problem highlighting that one except for one rule:

    Rule #5 - Marketing has no place on it. When we spend money on it the goal is to surprise and delight, not to promote or preach.

    As an organization, you would not want just to 'copy and paste' content that can be found on your corporate web site and you wouldn't want blogs a to be just a one-way communication tool. That said I disagree with the fact that 'Marketing has no place on it'.

    I think blogs can be used as a valid and effective marketing tool to recapture the art of having a conversation with customers. I see it as way of re-establishing 1:1 relationships with willing customers and prospects. Sure, you cannot ignore the fact that one of the purposes of marketing is to influence positively customers, prospects and other peripheral audiences, but I think that if you revisit rules 1-4 and 6-9, it can work.

    I certainly think blogs are as important as web site and collateral for an organization and if used within the etiquette boundaries highlighted above it can work for marketing too.