Category Archives: Marketing Technology

Digital Project Planning: Beware The “Magic Wand” Syndrome

The “Technology Challenged” Often Think The Technology Itself Can Make Up For Poor Project PlanningDigital Magic Wand - you still need proper project planning

There is a fairly prevalent situation that occurs in which technology savvy team members are asked to transform a half-baked idea/concept into some digital solution.  Unfortunately the non-technology folks are under the false impression that the technology itself (like a magic wand) will correct poor planning, faulty assumptions/bad logic etc.  This can cause strife and lead to friction among team members.

How do you combat this problem?   There are a few simple things you can do that help minimize (not prevent) this from occurring:

  • Require that a “project sponsor” be assigned to the business side of the project.

It is key that the project has one main sponsor who is the lead and has overall responsibility for project success.  If one is not evident, ask that one be appointed before moving forward.  The sponsor is vital because you will need a “go to” person for various circumstances and without one lead you are subjected to group decision-making which is ill-advised.

  • Start the project planning process with a “concepts discussion” meeting with project sponsor.

Prior to the formal requirements gathering, it is beneficial to get an “elevator pitch” from the sponsor that basically answers the question “what are we trying to do here?”. It is surprising how often the sponsor cannot clearly put into words the concepts of what they are looking to accomplish.  If the sponsor can’t do this – the project is doomed from the start.  Send them back to think it through and schedule another meeting when their thoughts have matured.

  • Ask the project sponsor many questions up front (in writing if possible).

This may sound quite obvious, but it is surprising how often this does not happen.  It is a crucial error to “get started” on a project without complete understanding of the requirements/framework.  Make sure the sponsor understands that pre-planning is necessary and the project will not start until sufficient background information is obtained.What you are seeking is a commitment on the part of the project sponsor to provide adequate background prior to starting the project.  Just like you wouldn’t ask a builder to start work on your dream house without plans – same applies here.

Here are a few starter questions:

Who is going to be using this digital tool?  How will they access/find it? What do you expect them to accomplish by using it?  (If dynamic, who is going to be responsible for maintaining the data that feeds it?

  • Don’t fall into the trap of estimating timelines too early.

Eager project sponsors will try to solicit a time commitment for the project, well before the requirements gathering is in full swing.  If asked for a completion date before the requirements are complete, there is a very simple answer to the inevitable question “When will it be done?” The proper response “I cannot tell you when until we know “what” it is and “how” we will build it.

While you cannot immunize your team from getting involved in misdirected projects, proper due-diligence on the font end can help minimize the number of times you have to re-group and restart the project.

Proper project planning prevents poor performance!


The Importance of Data Curation

A curator at a museum is responsible for the acquisition, care, and in some cases the removal of items from the museum’s collection.  Data curation is a similar concept, but instead of museum pieces the data curator is responsible for the data used for marketing efforts.  With good data curation, amazing things can be accomplished.  Sometimes so good it is a little scary.  With bad data curation, let’s just say that can be scary also.

A classic example of good data curation (combined with excellent execution) is the Target case in which the data archived and utilized was incredibly good.  So good, in fact, that the Target data people had figured out that a teenage girl was pregnant.  Even before her father knew.  Based on the types of products purchased by the girl, Target was able to determine that the girl was pregnant.  From the Forbes article:

. . . .So Target started sending coupons for baby items to customers according to their pregnancy scores. Duhigg shares an anecdote — so good that it sounds made up — that conveys how eerily accurate the targeting is. An angry man went into a Target outside of Minneapolis, demanding to talk to a manager:

The manager didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again.

On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

It happens the other way also.  Bad data curation can alienate a customer in a heartbeat.  In case you have not figured it out yet, my name is Michael.  You can imagine my surprise when I saw this e-mail the other dat with the salutation “Dear Larry”.   Dear Larry!!

Bad Data Curation

!!  Sorry Teradata – but you lost me.  The irony here is this e-mail has the sub head “How to understand and use data to drive customer engagement”.  WOW!  The first question that came to my mind was “whether this just one off in some list.  I got Larry’s e-mail, Larry got Amy’s, Amy got Justin’s, etc.  Maybe everyone in their list had a bad “to” field.

Bad Data Curation Can Undermine Your Best Direct Marketing Efforts.

You can’t make mistakes like this folks!  There is no recovering from it.  Do yourself a GIANT favor and hire good data people, (or a skilled, reliable agency).  Either way, TEST and RETEST your e-mail blasts and other customized communications BEFORE you send them out.  Especially if you are soliciting business in the area of data management.

You can’t do good things with bad data!

Say It Visually – Use Infographics

Did you get all the way through your to do list today?  Spend as much time as you wanted with your family?  Got a good workout in?  Caught up on your reading?  OF COURSE NOT!  But don’t feel bad – none of the rest of us did either.  We all have too much to do and not enough time to do it.  Even the technology innovations that are supposed to make our lives simpler only seem to add to the problem.  The answer to all of this – unfortunately there is none.  We have to search for small victories.  Little things that help us and our colleagues become more efficient.  Save us a few minutes here and there.  Infographics are one of the tools you can use to help people save a little time.


Infographics Offer A Refreshing Way to Present A Lot of Information In A Short Period Of Time

Infographics are becoming more and more prominent and offer us an exciting way to present a lot of information in a concise, interesting manner.  Instead of the status quo of presenting page after page of routine, look-alike tables and graphs, infographics are the opposite.  Colorful, informative, and refreshing, infograhics allow the reader to absorb a large amount of information in a very short period of time.

To get a feel for variety of infographics that are out there – click here.

If you are in sales, infographics are a great way to stand out (at least for now) versus the competition.  Let’s assume you are putting a proposal together for a customer.  Your typical proposal includes charts, graphs, and other valuable bits of information.  If you take all of this and hand it over to an infographics desgner, the result will separate you from the competition.  Remember, with marketing you can either blend in or stand out.  If you always do your best to stand out, your results will be OUTSTANDING.

I suggest you do turn this over to a professional designer.  While there are packages out there to build your own, my experience is that the result is not as good as if you hand it over to a professional.  You can see the difference readily.  It will cost a little to get it done professionally, but the results are better and doing so will allow you to focus on driving the numbers, not in presenting them!

It All Starts With The Proper Foundation

I was meeting with some collegues today, and we were discussing a particular Web site.  This was a bit of a brainstorming session, so conversations were quick to take a left turn and then quickly (too quickly) evolve into an action plan.  Hosting a brainstorming session can be challenging, because while you want to encourage freeform thinking, you also want to keep the discussion fairly grounded in reality.  It is a delicate balance.

After a few consecutive left turns, I felt compelled to reign it in a bit.  I asked the group “What is the REASON for this Web site.  In other words, why should a consumer choose this over the competition”.  This is central to branding, and unfortunately many business ignore this rudimentary aspect.

If you do not know what the “reason for your existence” is – start thinking about it immediately.  It is the core of your marketing strategy and should be central to your marketing plans.  It is the foundation you build upon.  Think of it like a house – if you have issues with the foundation of your house, everything else is questionable in that house.  The foundation must be solid – and from there you can build fabulous things.