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CMOs: Data and Martech Key To Driving Revenue and Increasing Margin

According to a recent reportThe CMO Shift to Gaining Business Lift from the CMO Council and Deloitte, "the CMO of today has denounced the traditional role of mere brand ambassador, instead opting to actively assert their role as business driver, change agent and customer experience champion."

Before I get to the top two methods CMOs identified for driving revenue and increasing margin, here's some other key findings from the research, which consisted of a global survey of CMOs and senior marketing leaders.

  • Now, more than ever, CMOs believe they are the business-drivers of the organization and that senior leadership has high expectations for them to own growth strategies and revenue generation.
  • The best of intentions to advance the growth agenda are often being sidetracked by a legacy of brand-centric strategies and campaign-focused actions, calling into question the realities of the CMO truly becoming the primary growth driver.
  • The CMO has the opportunity, if not the requirement, to become the primary driver and orchestrator of the customer experience. However, CMOs are bogged down in operational and functional tasks, like budget meetings and approval cycles, leaving less time to collaborate with the C-suite and advance the digital transformation needed to meet the expectations of tomorrow’s customer.
  • Tremendous opportunities await CMOs in 2017 as they more fully embrace the roles, actions and strategies that drive substantive growth for the entire organization. From influencing strategic planning and business development to advancing customer-centric shifts across the enterprise, CMOs are ready to become corporate change agents, driving the development of next-generation products, services and business models that fundamentally shift the business and lift the bottom line.

Data and Martech

The chart below clearly shows you where CMOs priorities are when it comes to driving revenue and improving margin. CMOs realize that to be successful it's all about data- the right data and using it the right way via the right marketing technology. 

Not sure about the use of "intrusive ads" checking in 3rd in the priority list but that's another story for another time. 

As I have written before (and will do so again) marketing leaders must create a data-driven marketing culture and organize the required people, processes and systems. They need to eliminate data silos and create a single source of truth – a 360-degree view of customers to reliably and efficiently target the right message, to the right person at the right time.

According to research from Deloitte Digital 76% of consumers say they interact online with brands or products before arriving at the store, and are therefore making digitally-influenced decisions much earlier in the shopping process. So it is vitally important for CMOs and marketing leaders to use a marketing technology platform that provides the ability to link online digital marketing efforts to offline purchases to give them the true ROI on dollars spent.

The Truth About Martech Stacks

Did you know since 2011 the number of martech solutions available has increased 2500%? No, that's not a typo. That's twenty-five hundred percent. Download The Truth About the Martech Stack: What You Don't Know May Cost You and learn about the value of choosing an open platform that offers pre-integrated apps, offering an open infrastructure for future innovations.


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Stanford students are using lean startup principles to help fight ISIS

Thousands of foreign fighters went to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS.


The ISIS beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. The radicalization of San Bernardino shooters Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik. The Orlando nightclub massacre. Social media, encrypted messages, or online propaganda from ISIS played a role in these horrific events and countless others like them.

Yet Silicon Valley’s approach to combatting ISIS might be compared to a game of whack-a-mole at best, largely a top-down affair. Terrorists use services like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to publish extremist propaganda and recruit followers. The tech companies, in turn, shut down the terrorists’ accounts only to have them spring up again.

But this fall, a group of five Stanford graduate students devised a promising, bottom-up approach to prevent the radicalization of Americans to ISIS. They developed their solution — called FAVE (for Friends and Families Against Violent Extremism) — using lean startup principles to identify those individuals at risk of radicalization and prevent them from joining ISIS.

The number of Americans who joined or tried to join ISIS more than doubled to about 250 in 2015, from 100 people a year earlier, according to Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Carlin. And as many as 31,500 people from across the globe have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS since 2011, although perhaps only 15,000 remain, according to recent figures. Even as ISIS continues to lose ground in Syria and Iraq, there’s the threat of bombings by so-called lone wolves or by small cells of people like last week’s Christmas Market attack in Berlin.

Hacking for diplomacy

The students behind FAVE — Anusha Balakrishnan (MS Computer Science), Hyeryung Chloe Chung (MA International Policy Studies), Gloria Chua (MS Computer Science), Jian Yang Lum (MS Statistics), and Vinaya Polamreddi (MS Computer Science) — formed a team called HackingCT, for hacking counterterrorism. It was part of a 10-week course, Hacking for Diplomacy. Led by Steve Blank of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and father of the Lean LaunchPad methodology, students in the course partnered with the U.S. State Department to apply lean-startup principles to global challenges.

The HackingCT team.

Above: The HackingCT team.

Image Credit: HackingCT

Some students addressed human trafficking, others the refugee crisis in Europe, and still others several vexing problems. The HackingCT team was drawn to ISIS because of the large number of people it has killed. According to Chua, “In 2015 alone, there have been 11,744 attacks in 92 different countries. ISIS has also been adept in recruiting individuals to their cause. The urgency and severity of the issue is what drove us to work on this.”

Working with the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism and with the Special Representative to the Muslim Communities in the Office of Religions and Global Affairs, the HackingCT team followed the three key lean startup principles: 1) sketch out a hypothesis, not a business plan; 2) talk to customers, iterate based in feedback, pivot as necessary; 3) use agile development for rapid and responsive product creation.

While the students ultimately conducted more than 100 interviews to develop FAVE, they spoke with about 20 people during the first two weeks as they attempted to understand the characteristics of those at risk for radicalization. They quickly realized that this would not help them. “It wasn’t long before we found out that there are already many in-depth and long-term research and analysis in this area,” Chua said in an email interview. “Radicalization pathways are complex and multi-causal, and there is no one single defining characteristic. It is not about poverty levels, about education levels, mental health, etc. There is just no one general trend.”

Help ecosystem ISIS terrorism HackingCT

The team also looked at the usually unsuccessful efforts by various well-meaning institutions to reach at-risk individuals. Too often the messages are regarded with suspicion and lack credibility because of their overt agendas. For instance, the team examined the Global Engagement Center’s efforts of using Twitter to send messages against violent extremist groups, which received negative reactions online.

However, the group saw that “grassroots efforts like YouTube videos posted by youth that use humor to ridicule ISIS, or a local respected religious leader sharing their thoughts” could be effective, Chua said. “We identified that a message needed to be credible in the following: the message itself, the messenger, the channel, and the form.”

After several weeks, the HackingCT team had a breakthrough and, in Silicon Valley parlance, decided to pivot. “We realized our learning plateaued because we were unable to reach these at-risk individuals themselves to learn more. As in design thinking, we decided to look for analogous situations to research off of,” Chua said. “We explored gang violence, drunk driving, and suicide.”

Countering violent extremism

The team saw many similarities between suicidal ideation and online radicalization. “In both cases, the individual is in a vulnerable state, is highly susceptible to outside influence, and talking about the problem is often taboo. Also, suicide intervention and prevention is relatively new — while 20 years ago one might be hard-pressed to find any resources to intervene, today there is a wealth of resources like hotlines and more. This gave us hope that a similar transformation can happen for the CVE [for Countering Violent Extremism] space as well,” Chua said.

But for a person contemplating suicide, they can call 911 and get help. A person contemplating joining ISIS who calls the police is likely to be arrested. The HackingCT team determined that only family and friends can help “rescue” a person from becoming radicalized online. Trusted people could form an effective bridge between at-risk individuals and the organizations that could help them. The team also saw that 1-800 helplines could be effective, but not in the way they expected. They also looked at efforts by Google to use online ads to reach at-risk individuals.

“When we talked to NGOs, the State Department, and more, we learned that at-risk individuals were not likely to reach out and actively engage in these resources. They also pushed us to think about the people around the individual,” Chua said.

Chua explained how one of their sponsors at the State Department suggested they consider a 16-year-old who sees their friend acting differently, but then who has no idea where to go from there. She also described how an expert at one of the NGOs they spoke to showed them a presentation slide that read, “Most friends and family have an idea their family member is radicalized” but have “nowhere to turn to but the police.” The team also learned about helpline initiatives for friends and family in Austria and Canada.

MVP for fighting ISIS terrorism

Armed with this information, in the final weeks of the course the students created a minimal viable product consisting of a helpline and textline, which resonated with the NGOs. FAVE can act as short-term, lightweight, and scalable solution that serves as a bridge to long-term, personal intervention by an NGO. It’s a solution using decades-old technology — 1-800 helplines staffed by experts — borne of a new approach — startup principles.HAckingCT ISIS

According to Chua, the team is discussing next steps with the State Department and seeking sponsors. They are planning FAVE pilots in one domestic and one international English-speaking city by mid-2017. Candidate cities are Minneapolis and Luton, England, two areas where individuals joined ISIS and went to Syria.

“We hope that as a team of 5 providing a fresh perspective to a growing and emerging field, we might be able to move the needle in a meaningful way,” Chua said.

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A Seemingly Minor Fact-Checking Tip that Yields Top-Notch Customer Service

people watch woman writing on whiteboard - copyblogger

When I was a cub copy editor, I learned a simple fact-checking technique that is still one of my favorites today.

It may seem unimportant, but if you don’t use this technique and fail to catch a certain type of mistake, you could set yourself up for extra work later.

This is one of my favorites because it demonstrates that reviewing your copy and content for accuracy goes beyond checking for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Check for day/date discrepancies

I told you it’s simple.

Whenever you see a day of the week and a date in your text, check that the day of the week matches the date mentioned.

You might write a day and date when you announce and/or discuss in-person events, webinars, or live Q&As.

Here’s how it works

Let’s say you’re inviting your email subscribers to a webinar that will be held on Wednesday, December 29, 2016. You’ve edited and proofread the content already. It looks great … except, this year Wednesday is December 28.

If you send your content with “Wednesday, December 29, 2016” in the announcement, you could leave interested webinar attendees wondering if the webinar is Wednesday, December 28 or Thursday, December 29.

Since “Wednesday, December 29, 2016” doesn’t exist, your content is unclear without this type of fact-checking and could lead to inquiries from your audience.

When you get it right before you publish, you stop questions from confused prospects before they happen.

If your copy and content is accurate, there is no room for confusion. Readers won’t have any trouble understanding your message, and you won’t have to clarify later.

You’ll avoid having to notify your audience again with the correct information.

Tools you need

Keep a calendar handy whenever you edit and proofread.

I like using a paper calendar, and I have one on my desk where I can easily see days of the week and dates for each month.

A digital calendar on your computer or phone works just as well.

The trick is to stop reading your content and check the calendar every time you get to a mention of a day of the week and a date.

Also, when you pause to verify the day/date, make sure you don’t skip the text around it. Carefully proofread the rest of the sentence too.

Bonus tip

Starting January 1, 2017, remember to write “2017” instead of “2016.”

Copy editors are like kids in a candy store during the first month of the year when they spot and correct a lot of erroneous mentions of the previous year.

Don’t give them that satisfaction. 😉

The post A Seemingly Minor Fact-Checking Tip that Yields Top-Notch Customer Service appeared first on Copyblogger.


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For publishers, Facebook is the devil

(left to right) Gregory Gittrich of Mashable, Tom Dotan of The Information and Blaise Zerega of VentureBeat onstage at Web Summit 2016 in Lisbon.


One might argue that Facebook behaved with imperious disdain, or callous indifference at best, in its treatment of publishers in the final month of 2016. The social media giant admitted misreporting publishers’ Instant Articles, as well as multiple errors regarding the estimated reach of posts, measurement of reactions to streamed videos, its Graph API, and more. This series of revelations came just weeks after the company had made similar disclosures about problems with other video and ad measurement metrics, which had affected both publishers and advertisers.

Facebook’s troubling announcements also came on the heels of its fake news fiasco, which erupted after the U.S. presidential election. CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially downplayed his company’s role in the election results, saying, “Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook — of which it’s a small amount of content — influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea.” However, the absurdity of his position was brought home by President Barack Obama’s pointed rejoinder. “If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems,” Obama said in a news conference in Germany in November.

Following the U.S presidential election, Facebook says it is undertaking measures to root out fake news and de-prioritize such posts in users’ newsfeeds. However, for publishers who watched fake news overtake their carefully reported news stories, these steps may feel like too little too late. And the measures may prove too blunt an instrument, as this tweet from Rebecca Schoenkopf of Wonkette suggests:

Meanwhile — before Facebook’s December problems were revealed — I had the honor of debating Mashable chief content officer Gregory Gittrich at Web Summit 2016. The motion was Social media dilutes your brand — Publishing direct content on social media, over time, negatively impacts your brand integrity. Our moderator was Tom Dotan, a reporter at The Information. Gittrich’s smart argument about embracing social media carried the day. After the debate, the audience voted against the motion by a show of hands.

Below is a transcript of my argument delivered on November 10, 2016, edited slightly for clarity and brevity. Caveat: Given the forum, some of my remarks were intentionally hyperbolic in order to make a point.

Social media dilutes your brand

Publishing direct content on social media, over time, negatively impacts your brand integrity.

TODAY, if you’re a publisher, Facebook is the devil. And the devil is offering you a deal:

 

Take your core product, your journalism, and give it to us. The snake beckons…I’ve got this wonderful temptation, only it’s not an apple, it’s Instant Articles. If you give us all your content, you’ll need fewer engineers — we’ve got a WordPress plugin. And you’ll need fewer salespeople, we’ve got ad sales covered for you. Just give us your content, and we’ll do the rest.

It’s a seductive message, particularly tempting for traditional media companies searching for profits and needing to cut costs. It’s tempting for new media companies seeking eyeballs, growth, scale — whatever buzzwords their VC investors demand of them.

But instant articles are a deal with the devil. And you will get burned.

I will provide you with three reasons why publishing directly to social media will harm your brand over time. And by social media, I’m going to be talking about Facebook, although my argument applies to all platforms.

First, Mark Zuckerberg’s interests are Facebook’s interests, not yours. By publishing directly to Facebook, you will surrender your commercial and editorial destiny.

Second, Facebook is a social network, not a media platform. It can be useful for marketing, but it’s not suited for the direct publication, consumption, and distribution of your journalism.

Third, Facebook takes over and effectively rebrands your brand — your unique look, feel, and reader experience becomes common. You will surrender and abandon that which sets your brand apart, what makes it special.

All right, now let me offer some points to back up each of my reasons.

One: Facebook has time and again revealed itself be self-interested.

Anybody remember what happened to Zynga? The game maker was kicked to the curb when Zuckerberg decided that games were getting in the way. Simply put, publishers are the new Zynga and can be kicked to the curb whenever Facebook feels like it. In fact, in many ways, they already have.

Consider the preferential treatment given videos directly uploaded to Facebook, as opposed to YouTube videos being shared. All of sudden, Facebook has amassed a library of videos and detailed information about people’s viewing habits, all of which is used — not to show me the video I want, but one that best serves Facebook’s business interests and drives ad revenue.

The same is happening with Instant Articles. Publishers are giving ­Facebook a trove of content, a very valuable asset that is often produced at great cost. Yet Facebook can choose to display it — or not.

Which, of course, brings me to the notorious Facebook algorithm, which, as we all know, has time and again de-prioritized journalism in favor of pictures of your cousin, recipes from my Aunt, and so on.

In 2015, after some initial changes to the algorithm, sites like Huffington Post reported a traffic drop of 60 percent over a 10-month period; BuzzFeed witnessed a 40 percent reduction in referrals.

And earlier this year, according to a report in Digiday, traffic for publishers declined about 20 percent from January to March: “The data showed the biggest drops came from publishers that have been heavily invested in Instant Articles.”

More recently, the number of people seeing the average post published on a publisher’s Facebook Page has been cut in half. From January 2016 through mid-July 2016, publishers’ Facebook Pages have experienced a 52 percent decline in organic reach, according to social publishing tool SocialFlow. That statistic is based on the company’s analysis of roughly 300 media companies that use its tool to manage their Facebook Pages, which include the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast, and Time Inc.

And just in June, after another tweak, at VentureBeat we saw an instant drop of 10 percent, and then another drop of 10 percent through September.

And if this doesn’t convince you of Facebook’s self-interest, let me mention the massive over-reporting of video views — by 60 to 80 percent — that Facebook admitted to this September.

Meanwhile, Facebook reported $ 7 billion in revenue in Q3 and 1.79 billion users. 

Two: Facebook is a social network, not a digital media platform, like a website.

Instant articles are designed for a news feed, accessed via a mobile device. They offer none of the richness of information, like a searchable archive of a website or app.

Further, while obvious, the fact that Facebook controls all the data concerning your readers will hamper your ability to serve them and make money.

Facebook’s goal is to keep its users — they’re called users, not readers — on its platform, and not to drive them to your site, where you can better monetize them. In this way, Instant Articles are the trap keeping people inside the walled garden.

Even as Facebook seems to offer publishers more ways to make a little bit of money, very few publishers will get good deals and make any meaningful revenue, as Bloomberg CEO Justin Smith said yesterday.

In fact, at VentureBeat we often see — and anecdotally, it seems to be increasing — stories blow up on Facebook in terms of interaction, reach, and so on, but result in scant traffic back to our site.

It’s wonderful that people comment and share, but there’s little tangible benefit for us. 

Three: Facebook sets the rules for your brand’s look, feel, and reader experience. You will surrender and abandon that which sets your brand apart, what makes it special.

Publishers live in a multi-platform world and understand the need to tailor content to specific devices and platforms, and it’s here that Instant Articles really hurts your brand.

Consider what would happen to your experience of The National Geographic — a magazine famous for its glorious photography, like the young Afghan girl with piercing green eyes or a majestic lion roaming a South African nature preserve.

As an instant article, a Nat Geo story gets reduced to the lowest common denominator, in terms of format. There’s no longer anything special. A couple of images and some words — no different than, dare I say, a Mashable or VentureBeat story.

And why should this surprise anyone? Facebook was built for social sharing, not for media publishing.

Conclusion

One: Facebook’s interests are not your interests. They are competing with you for ad dollars and readers.

Second: Facebook is a social network, not a media platform.

Third: Facebook’s Instant articles will reduce your brand to the lowest common denominator.

Finally: Don’t be tempted. Don’t do a deal with the devil. Don’t bite the apple.

After the debate ended, I received very positive feedback from several Web Summit attendees and was also taken to task by an audience member who misunderstood some of my purposefully exaggerated sentiment. There was so much more to talk about regarding Facebook’s relationship with publishers: censorship and the “Napalm Girl” photo, perceived bias of human editors, and many other relevant topics.

Greg Gittrich was an able foe, and it was fun debating him. Here is my favorite comment from a listener:

 

Web Summit 2016 comment blaise zerega facebook

 

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Google Ai Experiments: Quick Draw!

With machine learning becoming central to most business plans, Google is out there showcasing just how good they can be at Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning, even on this simple, fun scale, to ensure everyone knows they are in the box seat. This week I’ll showcase the range of experiments they have going on, with […]


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Getting into the Flow: How and Why All Profit-Minded Marketers Should Document User Flows

In the zone. Feeling it. In the groove. Zeroed in. A state of flow.

We’ve all been there (hopefully) at some point in our lives. It’s almost magical. When it all comes together, and everything slides effortlessly from point A to point B. Athletes, writers, speakers, artists, chefs, doctors, musicians, teachers.

And users…if you’ve done your job properly.

The “flow” in this case is the free and easy path a user (i.e. your customer) takes on your website to do something: make a purchase, sign up, download, subscribe, or whatever. They also want it to be effortless.

Also known as the user journey, the flow must reflect their needs and their preferred route. Not yours. You have to put yourself in their shoes.

Flow Interrupted

Think about a time when a website felt clunky, confusing, or downright unfriendly. There you were trying to do something – get information, buy a product, download a case study – and you couldn’t get it done.

The link wasn’t where you expected it. They asked for details you felt were unnecessary. There was no form or button. It all felt counterintuitive.

That’s flow interrupted. It’s like slamming into a brick wall.

That business designed that page with themselves – not you – in mind. Big mistake. Why? Because you most likely bounced. Left. Bolted for greener pastures on a more user-friendly site.

Had they given any thought to user flow, they would have identified and removed those obstacles for you. Blown up that brick wall.

Instead, they’re left wondering why their conversion rate is so damn low.

The Modern Marketer

Your job is to get the right product in front of the right people at the right time. That product may be a physical object, or a service, or a lead magnet like an infographic, ebook, white paper, or email newsletter. Doesn’t matter.

We live in a multi-channel marketing ecosphere. There’s analog (the real world: billboards, flyers, radio and television spots, direct mail) and digital (everything online: organic search, PPC, social media, email). Much of your analog and all of your digital efforts are probably aimed at getting them to your virtual porch.

When they do arrive at your site, how often are they ready to commit (buy or sign up)? If you answered “rarely”, ten points for Gryffindor.

You need to get them through the door and guide them down the corridor to the sale. But here’s the catch: there’s more than one door.

User flows allow you to give them everything they need to make it down their corridor without hitting any walls or dead ends.

To get started, you need to identify their entry point.

Step 1 – The Many Doors of Arrival

Think about a house. If you were giving directions to someone entering a huge mansion on how to find your study (you live in a palatial estate in this example, just because), a lot would hinge on where they come in, right?

Front door. Back door. Sliding door in the media room. Cellar window. Through the vents. It makes a difference.

The same is true for visitors to your website. Users can arrive via a number of different avenues:

  1. Organic search
  2. PPC
  3. Social Media
  4. Email
  5. Direct Link
  6. Referral Link

Depending on their point of entry, they’ll have different wants, needs, and goals. Once you determine the door, you next need to consider the objective.

Step 2 – The Point of it All

You have goals. And so do your visitors. Sometimes they align perfectly, and sometimes you need to find the common ground between them. The trick is to not let your objective take precedence over theirs.

magic-happens-shared-goals

Typically, a business goal is to get the sale, or get the contact details, or get someone to sign up for something.

Think about what you want them to do, of course, but also consider what they want. The user goals are an equal member in this partnership. You want the sale. They want a solution to a problem or to fill a need or desire they have.

That is, eventually they want a solution or to fill a need. Depending on how they arrive, their immediate needs may be very different. Each channel gives you hints as to their intentions, their familiarity with your brand, and what they’re after on this visit.

The Direct Route

A user arriving via a direct link – either entering your URL into their browser, or clicking on a bookmark – is usually after whatever it is you’re selling. They know you already, they probably purchased in the past, and they’re looking for more. Perfect.

Your goal – make a sale – and their goal – make a purchase – are in total agreement. Your user flow here might be a simple homepage > product page > cart > confirm > thank you.

To knock down walls for them, you need to ensure your homepage has clear and visible links to your product and/or category pages, that each product page has an obvious “Add to Cart” button, and that your checkout procedure is fast, easy, and frictionless.

But what about someone coming in the organic door?

The Organic Route

They don’t know you. They may be on a fact finding mission. They may (and probably do) have tons of questions, concerns, and reservations. You’re just one SERP link of many.

Using the direct user flow here would be disastrous. They’re not ready for that.

Their door from the SERP may have them arrive on your homepage, or a special landing page. But then what? What do they want and need most at this stage?

Your ultimate goal stays the same: make the sale. But their goal is quite different in this flow. They want info. Answers. Evidence.

In order to get the conversion down the line, your goal and their goal must intersect, so your objective at this point should be to wipe out any hesitation they may have about you and your brand.

Include clear details about yourself, links to your About and Contact page, FAQs, social proof in the sidebar, and more. Put yourself in their shoes. What do they need to feel better about doing business with you?

The organic user flow might be SERP link > special welcome page > email subscription, or SERP > homepage > about > blog > contact form.

Knock down walls. Keep them moving forward.

PPC door? They want more information of that particular product or service, and a quick way to purchase it. Referral link door? They likely want at least a bit more background on you and your company.

Each arrival channel has its own set of unique wants, needs, and typical objectives. How do you find them?

Step 3 – Ask and Ye Shall Receive

You ask questions. Lots of them.

Think about visitors arriving from each avenue and ask yourself:

  • What needs, wants, desires, or pain points do they have? Why?
  • What are they most looking for in a solution? What features matter most to them?
  • What questions might they have about the product or service? What hesitation or concern might they have? What separates you from the competition?
  • What do they need to propel them to action?
  • What is the emotion driving them?

To find the concrete details, look to your existing customers. Ask them, interview them, survey them. Get the information, then craft user flows that deliver what they need at the right moment. That’s the only way to successfully nudge visitors down each hallway.

The trick is to close the gaps, the missing information, at exactly the moment when they need it, and to avoid throwing anything else at them. Too much is as bad as too little.

Be clear, highlight benefits over features, offer evidence to support your claims and value props, and make it easy. Ridiculously easy. Each step should naturally guide them to the next one.

Step 4 – Put it All Together

You’ve got the entry point, their immediate objective, and answers to their most pressing questions and needs. Time to get creative.

Document each user flow so you can see it from start to finish.

A user flow consists of individual pages where something takes place (they click a link, or submit a form, or download, or add to cart, or whatever).

On every page, at every stage, they see and do something. It’s your job to determine what they need to see in order to get them to take the necessary action. A page may have more than one “next step”, and each one should be mapped out. Focus on the user, their needs, and how they may react to every step.

State Diagrams

You could sketch each step using state diagrams. These represent each page with two simple details: what the user sees (above the line), and what the user does (below the line).

flow-journey

State diagrams boil it down to its essence, and make a streamlined flow for any user arriving via any door. As a marketer, your task is to make the “sees” as dynamic, engaging, and convincing as possible to get the user to “do”.

Ask the questions. Find the answers. Guide them.

Stacked Flows

Basic user flows don’t automatically get you to the end goal: the sale. To do that, you may have to start stacking flows on top of each other.

A user arriving via an infographic you shared on Facebook may have a social media > landing page > email subscription flow. Nothing wrong with that…but the number of people on your email list doesn’t pay the bills.

So stack that flow. Once you have someone’s details and (more importantly) permission to contact by email, they enter a second flow beneath that one:

Receives email > visits promotion landing page > purchase.

The stacked flow here includes the social media acquisition flow, and the nurture flow. Together, they keep the user goal in mind at all times, but eventually leads them to your main goals…the sale, business growth, and more revenue.

User flows are tiered. The first layer may get them to sign up or share their contact details, which brings them to the second layer, where you hope to make a sale. That’s stacked flows at work, and it allows for your goal and their goal to intersect as needed.

Monitor and Manage

Once you’ve created and implemented a user flow, you can work to optimize it with A/B testing (using a tool like Optimizely) and/or real user feedback (get people to try your website while you literally watch over their shoulder…does it work for them? Does it seem intuitive? A service like UserTesting can connect you with testers if you don’t have anyone you can ask).

Google Analytics provides a visual Users Flow report under Audience on the Reporting tab. It provides visitor data – by source, country, language, behavior, advertising, social, and more – and how they navigated through your site.

users-flow-report

The green boxes are pages on your site, the curved grey lines are the movement between them, and the red lines shows how many users left from that page. The first column will change depending on your selected option (this screenshot is using Source).

Discover exactly how visitors are interacting with your site, and whether they’re hitting dead ends or unnecessary roadblocks. Blow up those walls.

Identify bottlenecks, pages with high exits rates, and pages that should be directly linked based on user behavior. What do the flows tell you? What do users want that you’re not currently providing?

Compare the actual flows that exist with your documented user flows. Do they correspond? Let your users guide you on this.

Documenting user flows can help you build a website that works for all visitors, regardless on which door they come in. It puts you in the mind of your customers, blowing up walls and creating the clear pathways they want to follow. Get them from Point A – arrival – to Point B – conversion – by proactively giving them what they need when they need it.

Use flows for onboarding, navigation, design, and virtually every other decision about your onsite marketing. They’re the ones walking down the corridor.

What do they want/need at each stage? What do you need them to do? How can you gently nudge them that way? Answer those questions, and you’re primed for success. A straightforward, frictionless user flow means satisfied users, more conversions, and a bigger bottom line.

Have you documented your user flows? What tips, tricks, and tools did you use? Leave your comments below.

About the Author: Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online, their Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.


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Human-Centered CX: Uniting Stakeholders Across the Enterprise to Deliver a Relevant and Holistic Customer Experience

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Customer experience is said to be a top business priority for most companies around the world. Many experts agree that investing in CX establishes a competitive advantage against companies that prioritize the bottom line. While customer experience is a noble and important catalyst for business transformation, becoming truly customer-centric requires an introspective approach. This takes stepping back to define what customer experience really means from the customer perspective, what they truly value and also what’s primed, broken or missing to deliver next generation CX.

For example, the organizational infrastructure of many companies is modeled to support the traditional sales funnel. Like the funnel itself, many of the departments designed to support it are compartmentalized. This is why we have silos and why many CX evangelists say that we need to “break down the walls” between them. But, functions such as sales, customer service, marketing, retention, etc., were designed to serve objectives. At the time, those intentions were meant to best serve the customer in those respective stages. The idea and expense of integration was nonsensical in that reach group was funded and measured by how they operated and served customers independently not through integration. To challenge that would often go against the “steady as she moves” or worse, risk averse culture that govern many organizations.

The truth is that traditional business models were designed in an era before the consumerization of technology. Customers (and employees) are empowered by technology and by the connections and access social media, mobile and connected devices, etc., facilitate. As a result, the basic premise of how companies sell, serve and support customers now requires new models and methods that meet the behaviors and expectations of a more discerning generation. This is why I believe that one of the biggest trends in business today, digital transformation, is as much about technology as it is about people, operations, processes and perspectives.

Digital transformation is the realignment of, or new investment in, technology, business models, and processes to deliver new value to customers and employees in an ever- changing digital economy. In fact, in my research, I’ve found that customer experience is often the greatest ally in digital transformation efforts.

So what is customer experience?

Let’s start with what it’s not.

Customer experience is not the investment of new front end and back end technology to fix and modernize touch points. Those are acts of CX.

Customer experience is human and as such, is defined as the sum of all engagements a customer has with your company in every touch point throughout their lifecycle.

Starting with anything other than a customer-first or human-centered perspective is an easy mistake companies often make.

Believe it or not, CX is often a technology-led approach. It’s easy to fall into the technology trap though. After all, that’s how much of it is sold. For example, tools ranging from journey mapping to CRM to content management to data and analytics are aiming to help companies integrate and scale customer experience initiatives. But without understanding people, what’s important to them, and how they, and their preferences and values are evolving, businesses are not actually innovating in CX or basing what’s supposed to be customer-centered efforts on empathy or relevance. Work in customer experience starts with the customer’s point of view and considers their intentions, aspirations, challenges, etc., to fix problems and create new value.

Since customer experience is the aggregate sentiment and resulting reactions of people in each moment of truth, then all work must focus on delivering consistent, efficient, relevant and meaningful experiences. They must be connected, complementary and seamless. This means that previously separated business units must now cross silos to collaborate, connect back-end processes and systems and design a new kind of customer journey that’s intuitive and efficient for a new generation of connected customers. It’s not easy. This is why digital transformation is often led by CX. Great CX reverberates across the enterprise.

Innovation in CX Often Starts with an Opposite Approach

Some of the most advanced companies I’ve studied invest in CX with a human-centered point of view to give technology and operational investments purpose.

The direction each business takes in pursuing change is complex, and there is no one way to excel. Nor is there one tell-all anecdote, framework or app to map the journey of your next steps toward programmatic transformation. Rather, companies that succeed do so by taking an empathetic approach. They also seek executive sponsorship to support the formation of a cross-functional steering committee to 1) find critical missed opportunities, 2) fix what’s broken or causing friction and 3) identify areas for immediate and long-term innovation, 4) develop a roadmap for CX and 5) guide the company’s digital transformation.

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To help, I assembled a series of best practices as informed by those leading CX initiatives and transformation in companies such as Discover, GM, Harvard, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nestlé, Sephora, Starbucks, among many others. This resulted in what I hope is a useful framework and report, “Eight Success Factors of Digital Transformation: How businesses are taking an O.P.P.O.S.I.T.E. approach to business as usual.

The framework offers insights and new understanding of technology, data and the connected customer. By learning from these companies and following the OPPOSITE approach, digital transformation and all the work, resources, and plans around it becomes identifiable, approachable and attainable for organizations.

OPPOSITE is an acronym that offers companies a step-by-step approach to digital transformation…

  1. Orientation:Establish a new perspective to drive meaningful change.
  1. People:Understand customer values, expectations and behaviors.
  1. Processes:Assess operational infrastructure and update (or revamp) technologies, processes and policies to support change.
  1. Objectives:Define the purpose of digital transformation, aligning stakeholders (and shareholders) around the new vision and roadmap.
  1. Structure:Form a dedicated digital experience team with roles/responsibilities/objectives/accountability clearly defined.
  1. Insights & Intent:Gather data and apply insights toward strategy to guide digital evolution.
  1. Technology:Re-evaluate front and back-end systems for a seamless, integrated and native customer (and ultimately employee) experience.
  1. Execution:Implement, learn and adapt to steer ongoing digital transformation and customer experience work

The OPPOSITE framework was designed to visualize your work building toward digital transformation and reshaping the customer experience. It’s also meant to help create alignment among different stakeholder groups to drive a larger, more unified movement in the modernization and, in some cases complete innovation, in business dynamics and models.

For companies looking to align their CX efforts with customer preferences, behaviors and values, look beyond your existing infrastructure and processes to unite stakeholders across the organization, create a shared vision, develop an innovative experience architecture and roadmap and take more meaningful steps towards thriving in the new digital reality.

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Please read X, The Experience When Business Meets Design or visit my previous publications

Connect with Brian!

Twitter: @briansolis
Facebook: TheBrianSolis
LinkedIn: BrianSolis
Youtube: BrianSolisTV
Snapchat: BrianSolis

Invite him to speak at your next event or meeting. 

The post Human-Centered CX: Uniting Stakeholders Across the Enterprise to Deliver a Relevant and Holistic Customer Experience appeared first on Brian Solis.


Brian Solis

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Copyblogger’s Holiday Buffet Edition

Copyblogger's Holiday Buffet Edition

You know how holiday buffets are … you take a little bit of cheese, and then another kind of cheese, and then four more kinds of cheese, then squeeze six desserts onto the plate, and finally you take a tiny square of Jell-O because it’s basically a vegetable?

No? Just me?

ANYWAY. This week we have a little buffet assortment for you … without the Jell-O vegetables.

On Monday, Sean Jackson and Jessica Frick were nice enough to host me on the Members Only podcast, where we talked about the days when I launched my first membership community. We laughed a lot and had a great conversation about the value of just plain moving forward, even if you’re not 100 percent sure where the path will take you.

Over on The Showrunner, Jerod Morris and Jonny Nastor dug deep into creating systems for your podcast (or any other aspect of your content or business, actually). Even if you’re not a podcaster, I think you’ll find this one useful.

Monday, I also had fun sharing some of my favorite bits of bad writing advice, sourced from the community (hey, that’s you!) and our editorial team — with some suggestions for what you might try instead.

On Tuesday, we saw a classic Brian Clark post about why education works so well when we’re trying to persuade … and how to structure your content to make it easy for your reader to say “Yes.”

And don’t miss Brian’s new conversation with Darren Rowse of ProBlogger on Unemployable. You’ll hear how the entire content marketing movement truly began, where blogging is going, and why we all need to first return to the foundational element of human connection before we focus on fancy automation, strategic funnels, and conversion optimization.

Stefanie Flaxman wrapped up the week with a small but mighty fact-checking tip that, if you’re in this game long enough, is just about guaranteed to save you an annoying customer support headache at some point in your professional life.

If you’re celebrating a holiday this weekend, I wish you a very happy one, and I’ll catch you next week!

— Sonia Simone
Chief Content Officer, Rainmaker Digital

Catch up on this week’s content


bad advice you can tune outConventional Writing Wisdom You Can Ignore, Effective Immediately

by Sonia Simone


Educate to Dominate Your CompetitionEducate to Dominate Your Competition

by Brian Clark


A Seemingly Minor Fact-Checking Tip that Yields Top-Notch Customer ServiceA Seemingly Minor Fact-Checking Tip that Yields Top-Notch Customer Service

by Stefanie Flaxman


Why Starting a Membership Site Is a Terrible Idea … Until You Just Do ItWhy Starting a Membership Site Is a Terrible Idea … Until You Just Do It

by Sean Jackson


Quick! What Can You Systematize Before 2017?Quick! What Can You Systematize Before 2017?

by Jerod Morris & Jon Nastor


Laura Roeder on Building a Business that Supports the Lifestyle You LoveLaura Roeder on Building a Business that Supports the Lifestyle You Love

by Brian Clark & Jerod Morris


Bad Writing Advice: The ‘Post Truth’ EpisodeBad Writing Advice: The ‘Post Truth’ Episode

by Sonia Simone


How Journalist and Bestselling Author of ‘The Revenge of Analog’ David Sax Writes: Part TwoHow Journalist and Bestselling Author of ‘The Revenge of Analog’ David Sax Writes: Part Two

by Kelton Reid


Blogging is Back, with Darren RowseBlogging is Back, with Darren Rowse

by Brian Clark


The post Copyblogger’s Holiday Buffet Edition appeared first on Copyblogger.


Copyblogger

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