Archive for July, 2011

I already bought. I already bought.

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

A coworker sent me an article about collaboration between Google and SAP that allows SAP customers to overlay Google Earth and Google Maps information to manage “big data.” It’s a really interesting concept and if you are curious you can read about it on TechCrunch. It seems like every day we get a groovy new analytics tool or new social media platform to connect businesses with other businesses or businesses with consumers or Twitter with my cat, but a lot of organizations seem to be missing out on some of the basics when it comes to marketing. In other words, as people get new toys, organizations may appear to overlook the basic tools that helped make them successful in the first place. I have quite a number of examples, but the two below are a great illustration of how applying the most basic in-house information tools can help to reduce waste and better target your customer or donor base before using advanced analytics tools to improve your reach within a specific market.

It’s only taken us three years (a long time in married years) to finally consolidate my car insurance with my wife’s insurance. Yes, we should have done it a long time ago, but in our defense we were really busy with not doing it. Within two weeks of the new plan, I received a mailer offering to lower my rates by switching to the exact same insurance company. Although I brought it in and set it next to the refund check for my new insurance (an additional $20 discount!), it’ll be going straight into the recycling bin. I just got your insurance, I suppose I could up my coverage to protect my amazing sports-themed gnome collection, but I’ve got nothing to switch.

In the same vein, my wife and I have a credit card with an airline rewards program. We’ve had this card for quite a while now and use it fastidiously for frequent flier furlongs (1/8 of a mile if you are scoring at home). The rub however is at least twice a month I get fancy mail pieces offering a free checked bag if I get the credit card that I already have along with a couple of emails with the same offer. And the emails link to the website where I often purchase plane tickets with this same credit card in question. Actually, if I combined the mail pieces with printed copies of the emails I get with the same offer, I’d have enough paper to fill my free checked bag.

I’d assume that a large insurance company and a major credit card company and airline would leverage some of the most powerful tools in the technology world to ensure they wouldn’t make the mistake of sending me offers for products I already have. Turns out they don’t. Instead, they could save a few bucks by doing a duplicate elimination between their customer databases and the prospects they are trying to target. It would cost them a heck of a lot less money to clean their customers from a prospect list than it costs in printing and postage in an attempt to convert people already using their products and services.

It’s often the simple things to eliminate waste and create good interactions with clients and prospects that make the biggest impact. While it is super-cool and really useful to be able to drill down on your business data with Google Maps, it’s probably more valuable to be able to identify those who are already using your service—then ensure you are talking with them in a way they prefer and are more receptive. You need technology to accomplish those things, but it doesn’t have to be bleeding edge. Make sure you are getting the easy stuff right, and then move on to the cool toys.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to my underground lair to invent a cat with laser beam whiskers.


One Circle To Rule Them All?

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

At some point during the last twenty-four hours, I’ve accessed Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Facebook, Salesforce’s Chatter, Groupwise Messenger and Google+. I also talked to my father on the phone and received a text message from my wife—it said “moo.” While the time I spent on each communication platform wasn’t excessive, it adds up quickly to an amount that would allow me to build an addition on my house—or at least get the dishes washed. There are some people that can reach me on as many as nine of these eleven different communication mediums! It’s hard to believe any one person can manage all of those platforms in a twenty-four hour period with less stress than is involved in setting the timer on the coffee pot. Here’s the essential question when I think about this: Is it better to be tied to many different platforms and manage interactions across all mediums, or would it be less challenging to manage fewer platforms but wade through more information?

Most days I just coast along and do communication rather than think about it. I write emails at work, wade through tweets, occasionally smirk at a Facebook status and try to figure what I should be doing with LinkedIn. Some days I do all that, and blog! However, with the release of Google+, I’m starting to evaluate all these different platforms and trying to make sense of my daily communication. I’ll freely admit that I wasn’t interested in Google+ until I got an invite to join (funny how that happens). While I need another social media platform like I need that hole in my head from the ill-advised earring from college, there’s something very compelling about Google+. There is also something very concerning to me.

In a quick overview, Google+ is kind of like a long-form version of Twitter with the ability to comment like Facebook, Tumblr’s ability to integrate images into posts, a whole slew of other nifty features, and the promise of even more integration with other Google applications. It sounds fantastic, but it also sounds like an informational firehose that will be difficult to turn off. Google Circles is the following/follower management system for Google+ and its premise is that it allows you to post to the people you want, when you want, based on the Circle you’ve placed someone in. It breaks down the “Walled Garden” concept of other social media platforms, where the application is separate from the web at large, and transcends the specific one-on-one communication of email. While it sounds great for the broadcasting aspect of Google+, I worry that it won’t actually work for inbound information. In a sense, you always go to the main “Stream” page much like Facebook’s “News Feed” where you are inundated with everything everyone wants to say. It’s like ordering cable, but being forced to watch all the channels at once.

Today, I can ignore Facebook for a few days before the guilt rolls in. Or, I can take a night off from Twitter and if someone wants to reach me they can. My business life won’t end if I don’t check LinkedIn. With Google+, the potential to have all of those different audiences together (even if they are parceled out into different Circles) could make it too compelling to never take a day off. The non-stop flow of information into your stream will be challenging–even moving from Circle to Circle, the idea that “just one more group” could leave us wide awake late into the night. Adding to this is the possibility that having it tied to everything else I do on the web will make it a bit too overwhelming. I’m not predicting this is the Matrix, but if I want to take five minutes to read the latest musings from my favorite unemployed stand-up comic in one circle, but always feel compelled by guilt to comment on what my mother had for lunch (in the same application) we are moving away from something we do, to something we have to do. And for me that’s the biggest concern with breaking out of the siloed approach to social media that Google+ plus offers.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to cross post the link to this blog on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and email it to my friends. Oh yeah, and I have to do it on my personal and work accounts.