Thursday, March 22, 2007

ATG & Kelly Mooney - they get IT

While my very near future employer might not appreciate this... I have to say that when I was evaluating platforms for the integration of the customer experience in retail and B2B, one company kept coming back to the fore; ATG. They truly are at the "thought leadership" position in terms of how the digital technology of today can change the success of your organization. Their platform gets to the DNA of many specific areas in a retail or B2B operation, and it plays extremely well with others ;-)

It is time for their annual conference, and this time they've got an impressive lineup of speakers, from Chris Anderson to one of my favorites; Kelly Mooney. If you're lucky enough to have some time and a few extra $$$'s, you might want to check this event out.

Why doesn't my Agency Get the digital space?

Little different than online retail but I think related none the less.

My last stint was at a "traditional agency." They did an excellent job at DM, B2B and essential print marketing. But... their idea of a truly integrated digital, video, and DM campaign failed miserably. The concept was presented to one group and supposedly approved. The development of the digital component was never "headed" so much as it was batted about like a shuttlecock in a world championship Badminton match. The people who were supposed to "lead" the project... hadn't built a website in their lives... let alone an integrated campaign. The digital portion of the project was a PORTAL, which never had a single requirements document written for it. From the description, you would figure that this agency was a 20-person shop, with smaller clients. It wasn't. It is in fact a "network agency" with one of the biggest agency groups out there. The client was... um... really big.

The results... the root concept presented by the creative team, was axed by the client... only after 6 figures had been spent on a "digital experience" to match that "vision." The campaign and site however rolled out with that root concept in tact because... well... it was too late to change it. The results were... um... underwhelming. The level of integration was... well... not integrated. I left the agency shortly after the project rolled out, but this agency and network group have since participated in another high profile... hiccup... in the digital space.

So... why the dysfunction? Well... I read this MediaPost article today... and I think that the warnings to "traditional agencies" part of it pretty much summed up the experience. The article talks about the silos that exist in agencies... and the barriers these become to the truly integrated campaign. It also says that it is imperative that the "traditional agencies" figure this out now... or risk not surviving, because today's consumer... younger for sure but even boomers at this point... EXPECT INTEGRATION. They expected in the message, in their customer experience... they believe one brand, one vision. Most agencies are not setup to handle this.

The agency I was with, had creative groups lined up around verticals... and clients. DM group didn't consort with the TV, etc. They "worked together" on projects but... did not have an integrated approach... and for the most part while well intentioned... the creative group had little or no large scale experience with digital experiences. Meanwhile, the Account Service layer had been very used to controlling all aspects of the project; planning, production, execution. Very much like running a DM project. They had NO experience with running a project the level of variables involved in a digital project, but had all the authority and responsibility for it. Then you had the technical group, which was very talented, but also did not have the analysis layer to produce and effective large scale digital experience. And finally... getting this large, disjointed team on the same page... on ANYTHING... was nearly impossible.

So... what's the lesson... the solution here? The lesson could be best learned by looking the mistakes of their clients... especially when it comes to how THEY'VE mishandled integrated experiences. For example; no longer does retail operations work in a vacuum with regards to what the marketing team is doing for a campaign, or the digital team is doing on their "biggest store" the website. These teams are together... working as one on singularly focused campaigns and improving the customer experience. I think the reason you're seeing the upper tier digital agencies start to become the 'agency of record' in more situations... is that the RG/A's of the world GET the integration needed organizationally to achieve integrated marketing. It has been my experience that the "network approach" or even the siloed-mid-agency approach has some challenges focusing like this.

My advice to agencies that aren't yet integrated... is you can't do an effective integrated campaign until you yourself are integrated. If you don't change now... the clients are going to pass you by.

Love to hear your comments... either via meebome or below.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Are you experienced?

Retailers and really anyone that needs to sell you SOMETHING are more focused on the customer experience than ever today. They're starting to realize that in a market where something can become a commodity so fast it can make your head spin, your survival might rely on it. There are all kinds of thought leaders in this area. I tend to keep track of Kelly Mooney and the gang over at Resource Interactive as folks that have some great insights, but there are countless examples out there. So... when my daily NRF SmartBrief came to my inbox yesterday with an article from the NYT about the Samsung Experience store in Manhattan and I thought it was a great time to chime in for a minute about what it means to have an "excellent customer experience."

Now, I'm sure that someone could write a long case study on this stuff, in fact I'm sure many have. But, really it boils down to this; If your customer's demands are met, then you've provided a good customer experience. If they begin to choose you over your competitors on a regular basis, you're providing a great customer experience. If they choose you so often that your competitor either starts to copy you, or loses market share, you are providing a superior customer experience. What happens... the "customer" begins to "trust" you. So... I think of a superior customer experience as one of "trust" of you, your service, your product(s) and your ability to meet their "need."

In the NYT article, they talk about the Samsung Experience store and how you can't buy anything in it (gasp!). You just get to try out cool Samsung stuff. They also talk about the new ATT Experience stores that are coming, which will highlight the new capabilities of "the new ATT" with wireless, voice, web, and TV coming together on one platform. Both of these brands realize that the more interaction people have with your products... the opportunity to investigate on your own... the more they learn about you... and develop a trustworthy relationship with your brand. Once you have that... you have a brand affinity that will follow them.

When I was at Famous Footwear, we learned this lesson to some degree with some store redesign concepts based around ease of shopping and also simple things like the ability to easily sit down and try shoes on. Instead of the "pile it high and it'll fly" approach that was ESPECIALLY prevalent in Shoe Retailing (remember walking into the store and seeing boxes of shoes stacked to the ceiling???) we made more room for benches, better lighting, etc. We differentiated ourselves on this as well as better product. We TALKED about it with the beginnings of the "more shoes more ways" marketing campaign. And guess what? It worked! More sales, happier-more loyal customers... and a record year in 2006 for Famous Footwear.

In short, the "experience" is the WHOLE THING. It is a concerted effort on behalf of your WHOLE TEAM to meet the customer's needs... and building trust in them so that they pick YOU rather than YOUR COMPETITOR.

So... with that discussion in mind... I pose the question (borrowing from the late great Jimi Hendrix); Are you experienced?

Would love to hear your thoughts... either meebome at the right or comment.