Thursday, February 17, 2011

Good News from Egypt: “Less than 1,000 People Died”

“Eighty-five million people live in Egypt and less than 1,000 people died in this revolution,” said Wael Ghonim, according to Monday’s New York Times. Ghonim, a 31 year old Google executive, is credited with a key role in the on-line social media campaign that helped topple Hosni Mubarak last week.

Gauging the grief of 1000 families as good news is a legitimate political-economic calculation. But it underscores the seriousness of the business Ghonim and his colleagues have undertaken. More broadly the calculation underscores the seriousness of the business of belief which is at the heart of media in all forms.

The wave of change in North Africa and the Mideast is a story about media as well as about politics. As the story of mass protest in Tunisia broke in the U.S (a month after it Al Jazeera started covering it nightly), it was played as another Facebook story.  Your humble blogger has opined before about the value of viewing today’s shifts in media through political-economic lenses rather than peering at the phenomenon, one-eyed, through an economic monocle.

Our trade, in media, is moving minds. Political-economic exchange rates render all costs and benefits “fungible” or inter-changeable. Political-economics fundamentally concerns the interaction of destructive forces, productive forces and the motivating factor of belief. Thus media is central to political-economics.

In Egypt, a full spectrum of communications, from “eye catching posters” to Facebook groups, deployed by anti Mubarak forces and major news outlets, mobilized masses of Egyptians to create the experience and spectacle of protest events. This sudden recognition of the possibility of change was achieved with limited expenditures of productive or destructive force, and was critical in precipitating Mubarak’s ouster.

The works of Gene Sharp reportedly influenced the communication strategies of the leading anti-Mubarak groups according to the New York Times. Sharp, an advocate of non-violent strategies and tactics to promote freedom and democracy writes that “the means do exist for populations to free themselves” but that members of an oppressed population must first recognize of their own real power to contribute to collective action.

At our best, in media, we are empowering people with good information. Officially, “you can make money without doing evil” is proclaimed by Mr. Ghonim’s employer, Google, as one of Ten Things We Know. The unofficial “Do no evil” is more direct but still seems timid. "Do good" seems more to the point. That's why your humble blogger has always seriously endeavored to turn good information into good business.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gaining Leverage on Life-Time Value

You know engagement sells.  That’s why you should take a look at a new analysis of customer engagement.  It is consumer-oriented but your humble blogger found lessons for B-to-B marketers about engagement elements, channels, and measurement in the report.

Buyers aren’t seeking engagement for its own sake.  They are looking to fulfill a need.  But they consistently judge the key elements of engagement across channels according a study offered by Razorfish.  Buyers want to feel valued.  They want efficiency and they want to be able to trust the seller. 

Your B-to B segment may not match the consumers studied, but online and mobile social media are not currently important engagement channels for consumers according to the Razorfish study.  The survey indicated that the most important engagement channels are “transactional email, company websites, traditional word-of-mouth and face-to-face conversations with a company representative.” 

Engagement Channel Importance by Age Segment
(used with permission,  Liminal: The 2011
Razorfish Customer Engagement Report)
Commonly touted online engagement measures fail to measure important elements of the engagement experience according to the study.  You should question whether seller-centric measures like time spent, site visits, downloads, page views, search keywords and session length tell you how the prospect or customer feels about the engagement. 

You should factor “influence” into Life-Time Value (LTV) of a customer to weigh your engagement investment decisions according to the study.  LTV is a metric long used in subscription, conference attendee and other direct marketing to estimate return on marketing spending.  Your humble blogger has reported on how Paul Gillin at the Inbound Marketing Conference advocated the use of LTV in calculating the ROI of online social media.  The Razorfish study proposes a different acronym but it makes sense to call the influence adjusted LTV “leveraged live-time value (LLTV)

High-influence, high LTV (high LLTV) prospects and customers give you more return on engagement investment according to the study.  Devoting extra resources to influential prospects and customers is hardly a new marketing idea.  The report mentions Oprah Winfrey as an obvious target.  In a business-to-business context, independent “thought leaders” industry luminaries, etc. are routinely cultivated.  But looking at classes of influential prospects and customers is an extremely useful concept.

There are other angles on influence in consumer marketing. The authors of The Influence of Affluence  (originally published as The Middle-Class Millionaire), Russ Alan Prince and Lewis Schiff posit  that the “working wealthy” exert influence “far beyond their tax bracket” among consumers.  In the B-to-B context aren’t the entrepreneurial “middle-class millionaires” also influential within their industries way beyond the scale of their companies?

The influence factor applies across channels.  Inventive B-to-B marketers will want to look beyond online and mobile social media (the focus of the Razorfish analysis) for ways of identifying and quantifying influence; especially since neither the key elements of engagement nor the most important channels currently favor online and mobile social media.

B-to-B events incorporate the key elements of engagement identified in this report.  Events make participants feel valued.  Events are efficient sources of information and solid contacts.  And unquestionably, events establish trust.

B2B events work through channels that people value highly.  The real social interactions of events foster traditional word-of-mouth and provide opportunities for face-to-face conversations with company representatives.

You can use Leveraged Life-Time Value (LLTV) to rationalize what you intuitively know – that certain types of prospects and customers are worth high engagement investment.  LLTV gives you new reason to invest in both new social media and in the original social media - face-to-face events.

Labels: , , , , , , ,