Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The confusing Microsoft messenger

The World's largest software company has me confused (again). But not this time over the naming of their software development tools or their licensing agreements for SME's, but over a seemingly small piece of technology, the enterprise messenger tool set.

It's pretty obvious that Microsoft's general consumer instant messenger product is no longer used by half as many people as a few years ago. In fact a quick sign in to MS Messenger (something I've not knowingly done in years) shows very few of my old contacts do the same. I guess the complete take-over of the social space by Facebook, which has its own messaging service, and Twitter has taken its toll. So many people now use Twitter as a peer-to-peer messaging service, as well as a way to broadcast their's taken over (within my sphere of friends anyway) as the primary online tool for 1-2-1 dialogue..... with mobile chat & text still the major platform with the younger generation.

I've also recently started using Lync, the computer-telephone integrated software that is described by Microsoft as their 'Enterprise-ready unified communications playform'. If you've never used it before, it is: part Messenger, part Skype, with Outlook integration. Note: it even has a mobile app, that I've not yet got to work.

So why then did MS this May just pay $8.5billion for Skype (making it their biggest every acquisition) and then only a couple of weeks ago agree to purchase Yammer, a leading provider of enterprise social networking services for $1.2 billion in cash?

Although Skype will create its own division (department not rift) within the software giant, Yammer will join the Microsoft Office Division. Potentially meaning that it will be integrated somehow with Lync and possibly Skype & Messenger?

This sounds like too many packages all doing the same thing to me. Each has it's own unique productive functionality, but they all also have significant functionality overlap, that will have to be integrated, standardised and quite possibly rationalised.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The challenges of the modern digital marketer

Having recently asked the question of several job applicants "what are the biggest challenges currently faced by the digital marketer?" I thought I'd give my own answer (coming perhaps a little too late if, dear reader, you were looking for any pre-interview insight).

1. The speed of change
The rate things change in the online marketing industry is amazing. What was accepted practice only a month or so, e.g. in a field such as search engine optimisation, is quickly outdated or even counter productive.

2. The complexity of technology
It is no longer enough these days to say "oh, that's technical, I don't need to understand that". Technology is now an intrinsic part of digital marketing and it is only getting more intertwined with other strands (such as content & customer data) and complex.

3. The increasing demands of the user
Although I state that user needs are increasing, I should point out that a lot of their requirements (e.g. An intuitive interface, the ability to do what they want on any device, etc) are not new.... They have just not been possible to deliver, due to technology, budget or other constraints). That said, there's no doubt in my mind that the target of your marketing efforts now expects: timely, relevant and engaging contact via any channel and in a more personalised manner. Gone are the days of 'spray & pray' email campaigns and woe betide any company that doesn't produce a suite of different creative options targeted at specie groups of users.

4. The social feedback loop
There can be no excuse these days for tuning into the social back-channel for your brand or service. Tools are now freely (or paid for if you want a better service or experience) available for listening to what your intended audience is saying. Sure, it comes with its own unique challenges and difficulties, but surely part of the 'fun' is finding these out and solving them?
If you're not listening, you're not marketing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The 5 steps to creating a successful Digital Strategy

Here’s my 5 steps to creating a successful Digital Strategy

1. Understand …
…. not only the commercial goals, but the stakeholders & team involved. Take time to then walk through the current digital requirements (priorities & dependencies) and all the relevant internal processes that you have to work within  (there will be some, even on a ‘green field’ project – or as I recently said to one senior marketer, who said there were no restrictions: “every green field has borders eventually”. 

2. Review …..
all existing projects, including any project interdependencies with the work done by other departments (e.g. IT),  current suppliers of online services (e.g. Digital Agencies) and make sure you know what KPI's (Key Performance Indicators) are reported against across the business. 
Note: You should also take the time to identify the immediate wins (e.g. is there something so obvious and easy that is can be done now?)

3. Document…
Key Deliverables. This means writing up what has to be done and when it is expected. Focus both on commercial optimisation (operational efficiency) and innovation to gain competitive advantage. Consider all digital touch-points, where possible adopting a user-centred approach and cover all lines of business, such as: B2C, B2B, Back office (e.g. purchasing).

4. Plan….
for success by creating a rolling 30 day plan that keeps delivering wins and fixes over the short and medium term. From this build up a longer-term roadmap that integrates functionality with marketing activity (content, campaigns, etc.). Where necessary develop robust justifications (business cases) for large pieces of work.

5. Future-proofing…
means considering all changes likely to occur over the roadmap timescales. I use the “STEP” acronym as a handy way to classify the different innovation drivers:
a.       Social (what will individuals and groups do differently?)
b.      Technological (what new software or devices are expected?)
c.       Economic (how will and increase/decrease in household income affect you plans?)
d.      Political (why legislation is due that could cause an impact to the organisation?)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Aggregator Maturity

Recently I've been posting my thoughts on the online aggregation services, including the more mathematical Herfindahl Index.Last month I was attempting to explain to someone how aggregation got more technically complex as the product or service became more complex and I quickly drew out a table that explained it. So now I have put it up online to shame and to get feedback.Aggregator Maturity
View more PowerPoint from Hayden Sutherland

As always, I see this as 'work in progress' and never a definitive completed concept.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Aggregation and the Herfindahl index

The Herfindahl Index (AKA the Hirschman-Herfindahl Index or HHI) is a measurement of the competitiveness of a particular industry. The index gives a figure between 0 and 1, with those markets closest to zero being more competitive and those closest to 1 being an (almost) monopoly.

An increase in the index typically means that there’s been a decrease in competition and therefore greater market power to those still operating. Whereas a decrease towards zero indicates more companies fighting over the same customer base and therefore the existence of a more ‘perfect’ and competitive market.
So why is the Herfindahl Index important in the online aggregators markets? Well, over the last decade, the appearance of aggregators in different online markets has created a more level playing field for customers; by collating the rates and fees for different suppliers and presenting them to the online user in an easy-to-compare format. Therefore in those markets where price is so-often the defining decision factor, such as utilities, financial services and travel, the use of aggregators increases competition and pushes the Herfindahl Index figure closer to zero.

Take the UK motor insurance market right now. As you will see from the diagram below (sourced from Towers Watson’s report ‘why aren’t we making money’

In the last 10 years (really since the appearance of which was the first UK motor insurance aggregator) the HHI has moved closer to zero.

So what are the implications of this? Well, if anything is predictable, it is that the UK motor insurance market is going to get more (not less) price sensitive over the next few years, becoming more like the oil and airline industry in its competitiveness, unless something happens to interrupt this trend……

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

eCommerce Directors for Dummies

I think there needs to be a new book added to the 'Dummies' range. One that explains the basics for some people on the subject of leading an ecommerce department. Why? Well, it seems that not everyone who reaches this role necessarily knows all the key points needed to stay in it.

Ask yourself:

  • Have you told everyone that you know all about pay-per-click strategies, but secretly wonder what all this chat about "AdWords" is?
  • Have you got an understanding of conversion rates, but aren't too sure if it is orders divided by visitors or orders divided by visits?
  • Do you think data-driven marketing is looking at your Google Analytics to see how your email campaigns are going?

If so, then perhaps you need a copy! (if it is ever published).

Note: Apologies to the 'Dummies' books for such a blatant copyright infringement

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

the corporate layers - an idea developed

In a recent post I started to work through my thoughts around the development of McKinsey's company software layer concept. I mentioned that I thought there was at least one obvious omission (e.g. web services) and that a single layer to explain it all was too simple.

So now I find myself putting forward an evolved version of this idea, unashamedly taking McKinsey's model as the basis of it.
Corporate layers
View more PowerPoint from Hayden Sutherland

As you can see from my embedded presentation there are now five proposed layers rather than just two.

  1. Core business processes
  2. Web services & API’s
  3. Owned media such as website(s), Apps, Kiosks, etc.
  4. Paid media such as online advertising (PPC, etc.)
  5. Earned media such as Social, Word-of-mouth, etc.
Although I believe the lines between owned, paid and earned are now becoming increasingly blurred, there is a place for each of the different communication media in my new model.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The digital age – a new world?

The following is a guest posting by entrepreneur Ben Blomerley

I read Hayden’s last blog post about innovation with interest. I was fascinated by the line ‘adaptation and change are just business-as-usual’. It is absolutely true – okay, maybe the pace of change is faster than it used to be, but there are more tools and skills out there than there used to be that help you deal with that pace. But businesses have always had to adapt and innovate to survive – I’m sure Thomas Edison wouldn’t recognise GE now, and what Charles Flint would make of IBM is anyone’s guess!

It’s interesting to take a few examples. Pinterest is fascinating for me, given the way that it seemed to explode from nowhere (it didn’t – it’s over two years old). But what did it do? Revolutionise a business model? Create something completely unexpected? No – what it did was look at the market and realised that social networks massively underserved bored Midwestern housewives. They wanted a way to share, in an incredibly easy way, the things that interested them. And that’s Pinterest – social media for an under-served category. 

And let’s look at that, too – the idea of successful social media (or social media campaigns). Every day I read a story about how people can’t get their social media campaigns moving. Corporations big and small throwing money at it because they have to be ‘in’ social media – or even worse, not throwing enough money at it, leaving it to the interns who, being young, must ‘get’ it. But the principles of social media are easy –something that someone wants to share, someone who wants to share, someone who wants to listen, a call to action, and monitor what’s happening.

A final thing I find very interesting is that I see people who are worried about barriers to entry in this new digital age. If any kid with a laptop can knock up a website, how can established players protect their markets? Whilst it’s true – and fantastic – that you have punchy upstarts shaking up the established order, looking at competition is not a new thing. And there’s plenty than can still be done – punchy upstarts can’t build quality content, for example. And people still want to see something on a website, they need a reason to be there. I found this post by Mark Schaefer fascinating on what the new careers in social media will be (and no reason to think it stops with social media!) 

So – what do these three examples say? Is Pinterest a revolution? Is social media an alien concept? Can nobody defend themselves against an engineer with an idea? No. These are three age old concepts of business. You need to look at your customers. You need to execute well. And you need to look at what your competitors are doing, how you can entrench your position. 

Is innovation new? No. 

Are the fundamentals of doing business in this new world different? Well, what do you think?

Ben Blomerley is the founder of AskHerFriends (, which aims to apply some digital age solutions to an age old problem – how a guy can get better gifts for the women in his life!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Are you employing the right digital staff?

As I speak to various companies in my consulting travels around the UK, I meet a lot of boards who are looking to hire senior digital staff.

They look internally and then externally, but don't find the people they think they need.
In my opinion this can be for a number of reasons including:

1. There is nobody else in the organisation to benchmark senior digital people against. The digital 'all rounder' often needs to be a combination of creative marketer, technical geek and strategic thought leader. But often they might also call themselves a planner, architect or programme manager (and a lot more besides).

2. Internal staff and HR interviewing them might not be up to speed on all the latest tools, techniques and technologies. So therefore the selection and interview process is flawed.

3. The small number of truly good people in the market means that candidates are thin on the ground and snapped up quickly.

Therefore my advice for those organisations looking to hire someone like this is:

- focus on what candidates have done, rather than what their titles have been

- consider bringing in an independent specialist just to help you define, search, filter resumes and interview candidates

- move quickly when you think you've found the right person

Monday, June 4, 2012


Infographics, they're everywhere you go online these days.

Follow someone on Twitter?
Then watch them link off to an image full of bar graphs, circles and calibrated scales.

Reading an online news site?
Then expect a convoluted embedded image showing growth / decline in this commodity or that financial product, when all you really want is a green tick or a red cross (or just the words "Buy" or "sell")
Note: Some are now animated or allow you to see progress over time.

Attending an industry presentation?
Expect the occasional slide pulled together in Adobe Illustrator that baffles more than it explains.

Infographication, the practice of using too many complex infographics.

Sure, a picture does paint a thousand words, but what if you only need to say a few?