A Wow & A Why

I recently had the good fortune to attend the first Untether Talks and experienced – yes, ‘experienced’ – @whurley‘s performance.

Probably the point that struck home the most for me was the reminder that every idea needs a “Wow” and a “Why”.

What a beautifully succinct way to ensure that all ideas need to be outcome-driven. There are many ideas that are ‘cool’ (however we wish to define that word), that are ‘neat’, ‘exciting’, ‘innovative’, etc. What makes an idea a good one is a compelling ‘why’ – i.e. does it solve a problem, serve an unmet need?

It’s Pervasive, Not Mobile

Similar to the point I made in the Finding Opportunities, Solving Problems post, framing the discussion around mobile computing misses the real point, the real opportunity. When we approach the issue as mobile computing/marketing/etc, we are essentially thinking once again in terms of channels.

Good ideas and executions can, of course, come from such a narrowly focused and tactical approach to problem solving or opportunity spotting. @whurey reminds us, however, that there are many, many more opportunities when the issue is more broadly considered from the perspective of pervasive or ubiquitous computing, where every surface becomes a potential interface. It’s not just limited to those canonically recognizable devices.

The questions we should be asking ourselves when seeking opportunities or solving problems should not include a tactical channel. Ask not “what can we do with mobile” but “what can we do to capture our consumers’ attention when they are at the park/in the mall/at the coffee shop/at the bus stop/etc.” When we limit our ideas and solutions to a certain channel, we’ve cut ourselves off from so many other possibilities. When we remove those channel limitations, the world, as they say, is our oyster.

Finding Opportunities, Solving Problems

20120627-204808.jpg I attended the first-ever Untether Talks these past two days, and @RetailProphet‘s presentation, Mobile Retail: the Destination is You, was worth reflecting on.

@RetailProphet’s key message was that mobile retail is not really about mobile as a medium. It’s about finding those moments in a customer’s life where there are opportunities for you to solve a problem or meet a need.

Finding opportunities and solving problems is not about channels – web, mobile, in-store, print, broadcast, etc.

It’s about identifying the paths to purchase.

In UX circles, we call it the customer journey. Marketing types call these customer touch points. Whatever we call it, it’s about starting our thinking and imagining the possibilities from the user’s perspective: what do they need in order for us to earn our spot in their minds, hearts, and/or wallets.

It’s about asking the right questions and framing the problem correctly.

It is never about a channel or a device. Asking what we can do in mobile, social, etc. is asking the wrong question.

@RetailProphet offers these access points to start asking those questions:
  • What are those customer moments that are currently not being served?
  • Where are those moments occurring?
  • What are the most relevant and available surfaces?

Put differently, the right questions, the right approach are the same as they’ve always been:

  • What is the user need?
  • What are the barriers to adoption?
  • Can the problem be solved or the opportunity be met using the tools we have on hand?
Channels and devices are tactical, implementational opportunities. They are the circumstantial aspects of an idea. It’s the difference between asking how can we make the horses go faster/further versus how can get from point a to point be faster/further. The former is incidental to horses (tactical), while the latter frames it as a transportation problem (strategic).

Influence versus Trust

Stumbled on an insightful post by @servantofchaos about influence versus trust, pointing out that trust is the fundamental driver in human behaviour.

To take the argument further, it’s trust that drives influence. Trust is the proximate cause that results in influence.

Marketers and communicators who chase the notion of influencer outreach are chasing the rainbow.

Instead of trying to erect smoke and mirrors, why not focus on product, service, and experience design? If you deliver a compelling consumer experience, those consumers will spread the word for you to those they influence.

I realize this is easier said than done: in most organizations, the marketing and communications departments are merely the messengers rather than ambassadors. And there’s the line that separates success from failure.

To paraphrase Shakespeare, a piece of crap by any other name is still a piece of crap.

The long tail of data sales

In doing some client-related research last week, I approached eMarketer to find out if they had relevant data sets for me and about their pricing structure. Predictably, their business model continues to be based on the large enterprise model, not unlike the blockbuster model that drives the movie and book industries. The all-you-can-eat buffet pricing structure at eMarketer serves their mental model, but it serves neither their potential customers' needs nor eMarketer's business needs.

In their undated Harvard Business Review article, Rethinking Marketing, Roland T. Rust, Christine Moorman, and Gaurav Bhalla commented on the fact that many firms are still managed, as if we were still in the 1960s world of mass markets, mass media, and impersonal transactions. The inertia and/or unwillingness of many to stop the cycle of insanity and to accept the new reality is nothing less than stunning. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's witnessed the disastrous results wrought by this affliction.

The authors points out the distinction between a traditional company and what they refer to as a customer-cultivating company: the former is organized to push products and brands, while the other seeks to serve customers and customer segments. For a data company such as eMarketer to so completely miss this point is disappointing, though perhaps predictable.

As a customer needing Canadian data, eMarketer is of limited use to me, but when its data sets are of relevance to me, does it make no financial sense to provide on-demand self-serve access to their online databases? We may have been liberated from the tyranny of buying entire music albums for the pleasure of one song, but clearly, we're still at the frontier of this brave new world.