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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hold Up There, Marketers: Before You Leap into 2010, Take A Look Back at 2009.

VoiceIn It’s that time of year when we marketers are knee-deep, up to our eyeballs and heads-down focused in planning for the next year. We're mired in forecasts, predictions, statistics and studies that are a promise of what's to come... not a portrayal of what has been.

Being it's the last month of the last quarter, we’re focused on leaping forward, instead of looking back. After all, the relationships, revenues and ROI that will be generated in 2009 have now past and we need to set our sights on the robust potential and profits of 2010.

But I’m going to ask my fellow marketers to hold up a second. Take a deep breath and a big step back. I’m asking you to reflect on the year that was, not to project on the year that will be.

Why? Because while we marketers are focused on the new vs. the now, we also need to be relentlessly focused on RESULTS. We may be setting forecasts for 2010 but we're now in a position where we have facts from 2009. And while it was one helluva year for the economy (and thus, marketing!), if viewed in this light, 2009 need not only be a year that served us with challenges but one that can serve us going forward.

So here’s what I’m asking from YOU: What TOP *marketing* lesson, discipline, idea, strategy or best practice did you learn, confirm, debunk, realize or revisit in 2009 that not only served you in this year but will serve your marketing for many years to come? In sum, what did your marketing GAIN from all that you learned, or even lost, this year?

Folks, your answer need not be long, and every answer is 100% correct--because it's YOUR experience. Once I get all your answers I’m going to create something from it for us all to have, perhaps even something from which we can learn. Last time I asked for voice-in from the marketing community I created THIS piece (though what I'm going to create this time won't likely be as elaborate due to the holiday rush!).

I think you'll find it very interesting to see the myriad answers and ideas from your colleagues. And yes, I’ll be adding my own answer to this very question, too.

VoiceIn So please, before you take a leap forward, take a look back... isn't all your marketing time, trouble and the tremendous effort you put forth in 2009 worth at least that much?

And I'd sure appreciate it if you would kindly refer others to this post so they can voice-in, as well. All that said, here's wishing YOU--here's wishing ALL of US--a productive and prosperous 2010!


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One lesson is actually from my colleagues, via 360i's Social Marketing Playbook. I don't mean to plug it, but it's a lesson I go back to all the time. The lesson is when developing a strategy for social media marketing, make sure it answers these four questions:
1) Does it meet the brand's objectives?
2) Does it use the brand's arsenal?
3) Does it adhere to best practices for any platform, publisher, or channel where it runs?
4) How does it provide value for the target audience?

All of these matter, but if you have to answer just one question, make sure you know what the value proposition is for the target customer or consumer. If the audience can easily answer "what's in it for me?" it's probably going to be on target, it probably won't die on impact, and it might even be a smash hit.

There's a million and one social medias and new marketing tools--with new ones sprouting up all the time! A good marketing 2.0 strategy doesn't mean you need to use every social media under the sun. You just need the ones that most effectively reach your target and then genuinely engage them.

The interruption and push strategy of traditional media isn't only ineffective, it's annoying! Some of the "old ways" just don't apply anymore.

2009 reaffirmed a lesson I learned a long time ago. Bandwagons are not always for jumping.

I saw many companies jump on bandwagons again this year, and many looked like "me-too" followers rather than leaders or innovators.

This year's bandwagons included Twitter as the SM flavor of the month. I'm learning the value of Twitter, after a rocky start personally, but it's not for everyone or for every company.

Before jumping, marketers need to step back, take a close look, evaluate honestly and ask... is this right for me and my personality?

In 2009 I learned that social media can and should do more than just exist. Marketers should connect their social efforts to the bottom line either directly like Sephora's Facebook page where you can by products, or indirectly such as pulsing the social universe to add direction to display ad buys. The potential is there and the cost minuscule compared to other channels, a clear connection to revenue will get social efforts the time and budget they deserve.

The biggest lesson I've relearned and tried to relate to others this year is: Don't just do it, do it right.

I get tired of businesses that jump into social media but don't know what they are doing. A Facebook page or Twitter account or blog is NOT social media. If you are going to do it, do it right. Educate yourself and learn what you should be doing.

Social Media is built on relationships, community, and engagement. If all you are doing is moving web content to social media properties, without any listening, then you will fail. Trying to get my clients to properly engage can be difficult, but the dividends are worth it when they get over their fears of "losing control."

The other lesson I'm continually learning is the power of blogging. If done well, it can pay serious dividends across the board. Driving traffic to a website; beefing up SEO; establishing you as a thought leader. All of these are important and can help increase your conversions, regardless of your business. Just have clear goals and a vision for your blog, and create relevant content.

Thanks for the opportunity, CK!

2009 proved once and for all that digital is not an additive medium that peacefully co-exists with traditional media. Nor is it a replacement medium. (e.g. physical newspapers die, but the fundamental business of news carries on more or less as usual in digital)

Rather, digital is a genuinely disruptive force. We have entered a powerful period of creative destruction in which many old media forms will shrink radically and many would-be replacement mediums will fail because they cannot create paying customers.

I predict marketing will become significantly tougher and more complex in the next 10 years.

As marketers, we are trained to focus with laser-like passion on our customers. However, with the true miracle of the social web, you never know who will be led to your voice, and your product. So while you're busy focusing, don't forget to look up once in a while to discover those new customers who have focused back and found YOU!

Great idea, CK - thanks for creating this space!

2009 was a great year to see how well the modular Web holds up under the strain of a full-blown economic dung heap. Social Media experimentation took off because there are very few fixed costs other than the people who's time you've already bought. This is crucial because it allowed Web technology in these areas to thrive under VC money. In the past bursts, a large driver in the tech downturn was how much companies had to dump into original programming and, most of all, their own hardware infrastructure.

Luckily, modular web platforms, social and otherwise were more than happy to trade free access in exchange for your company's database, social graph, and all the rest of the intelligence that should hopefully help those sites only accelerate growth once the economy starts to rebound, and our beloved Free turns into Basic, Premium, and Pro.

But this has also lulled many decision makers into a significant problem area: that the social web as a societal shift is about the populous demanding a balance between computing efficiency and human interaction. Successful businesses in the service economy need to realize now that desk workers (myself included) are the product, the truck, the driver, and the local store. People, as represented through computers, conveying content that pleases us, are the operations and logistics of tomorrow.

Short-cutting this inevitability as we hurtle towards ubiquitous computing has led to chasing down any popular platform's superusers, and calling that influence, and then creating a nutty causal relationship with purchasing.

I've heard the soundtrack to Cafe World, and it sounds exactly like a casino.

The companies that win are the companies facilitating relationships and controlling the context to mediate the perception of time and space.

Every company needs to start learning that spending on original programming that talks to these popular platforms instead of relying on them is the best investment they can make: in their own database, and their own brand equity.

Okay, I'll stop now. :)

No matter how you talk to them, be it Twitter, or the next big or not so big thing, it's still and always will be, about the customer.

2009 showed me the importance of real discovery, strategies, goals and policies with social media. I, much like some other people here, saw so much wasted time and opportunity by businesses jumping on bandwagons before plotting their course on the Oregon Trail. Every tweet, blog, or message on behalf of your company should be treated with the weight of a mini marketing/customer service/PR message - not random clutter. Companies should establish policies and goals for what they are willing to participate in and what they hope to achieve with these efforts.

My favorite part about the yearly transition, is the implied difference between yesterday and tomorrow.

2010 is nothing new. It's a new day, a new week, just like another other new day or new week. The arbitrary division of time doesn't change anything.

If you are someone who is forward looking, 2010 is tomorrow, a day that holds boundless possibilities, much as today was to yesterday.

There will be nothing new in 2010. It will be a continued transition. The new year holds all the promise that this year did. Looking back, we shouldn't see failure. We should see opportunities used and opportunities lost. This is what we can learn from.

2010 is just a number.

I learned and gained an appreciation for the amazing *velocity* of social media. Understanding something in theory and experiencing it in reality are completely different things.

I also learned about the deep and unselfish resource social media is, through the forging of new relationships established via this same medium.

It's exciting and I can't wait to see how it evolves, moving forward. Thanks for the forum! Best, M.

help people identify and understand what they are trying to accomplish. The tools we use will change but the philosophies of giving value, being authentic and sincere, and "them" focused will apply even as the hows change.

Thinking back not just on the past year, but the past decade, it's easy to get swept up in how much has changed since 1999.

Certainly how we engage with an audience has changed (from online to social) and the speed of this change can be terrifying at times.

But this past year we circled around a basic tenet, one that can be often overshadowed by the technostorm of new media: the importance of creating an emotional connection between consumers and your brand with a compelling, relevant story.

I believe OnMessage had a successful 2009 because we focused on "the story" as our foundation.

Thanks, CK, for the opportunity to share!


While this may not have been a first-time revelation, his past year drove home to me the self-correcting nature of social media. A world in which everyone has a microphone is very different from one in which only a few voices have the opportunity to speak. Basically, it forces all of us to be on our best behavior. If we lie, deceive, mislead or otherwise abuse our right to the audience’s attention, the community administers swift and harsh justice. While this creates some potential for abuse, democratized media ultimately holds people to a high standard of honesty if they expect to be regarded seriously.

It will take some time for this new reality to ripple through our institutions, but I believe we will be better off for it. Transparency is one of the great gifts of ubiquitous access.

Social media isn't the point. Effective communication and adding value - over the long haul - is the point.

I realized I'm not crazy for being so interested in being the best B2B marketing professional I can be. There are others I have discovered through social media, especially twitter. I am not alone and although I thought I knew it all, I don't know nearly enough. I almost feel sorry for those so far behind and I'm thankful for all I've learned this year and for those I've learned from.

I almost feel sorry for my competition too. I am really looking forward to 2010.

This post is not really me speaking. It is the side of me that often gets way too confident. I will balance everything said here with a healthy dose of the reality that I am only a step ahead of obsolecence and always in the shadow of the wave.

My top lesson from 2009 is that social media marketing is not all it's hyped up to be and is largely unproven as a primary marketing discipline. Consequently, I believe businesses are spending too much time on social media marketing programs and not spending enough time basic marketing strategies and tactics.

By far the most important lesson that I have learned as a marketer in 2009 is that you must constantly be learning and adapting to how your customers behave both on and offline.

If your customers are into the social web, get there. If they still read print magazines, don't cut that budget because everyone else is. Sometimes we can get swept up in the "mainstream" and not pay close enough attention to what our customers are doing in our market.

Learn your customers behavior and adapt your marketing accordingly.

Hello CK,

What I learned is that when you have a small budget but big ideas, you can't go it alone. With that in mind, I'm revisiting the power affiliate marketing, opening my mind to what success really IS for ME, and partnering with successful Internet marketers in 2010 to reach my goals.

Warm wishes for happy holidays to all,

Tracy Austin

2009 was a good reminder (and proof in the pudding) that marketing is not a sprint.

Those who have been just keeping at it and practicing good marketing basics (consistency, straight talk, focus on the customer, etc) are not only surviving this downturn, but doing well.

Those who weren't connected to their customers/prospects but went into panic attack as the economy tanked -- haven't been so fortunate.

Slow and steady wins the marketing race!


This year I've transitioned from thinking about social media as a way of reaching "the world" to realizing how effective it can be when used at the local level. As more people in a particular community come on board, nonprofits, government agencies and businesses can use social media tools in a very targeted way both to monitor what locals are talking about (e.g., Twitter Search), and to engage their customers/constituents (e.g., FourSquare). Lots of successes seen this year, and with new tools popping up all the time that take advantage of geolocation, I think next year will see this trend explode.

I quotes Jason Falls because I could not have said it any better!
"2009 was about learning social media. 2010 will be about figuring out how to use it well."

CK - What I learn in 2009, in addition to reconfirming that you continue to find creative ways to heart us, your community ...

Social media is growing more complex and sophisticated by the nano second. For social media to succeed the enterprise must accept that social media does not reside in a cocoon; it impacts each and every customer touch point, as well as, the functional areas that are responsible for the stewardship of the brand promise e.g., marketing, PR, customer service, consumer insights, sales, etc. It becomes necessary, not a nice to have, for the creation of an enterprise social media direction.

While the benefits & challenges of new media tools/tactics/channels, call them what you like, are critical to understand before diving into developing a strategy what is of most importance is the respect the people in the organization have for their customers. At the end of the day the power of social media is about building and nurturing relationships with people.

Hi CK,

I think the biggest marketing lesson that's been reinforced for me is that traditional marketing (i.e. segmentation, strategy, research, communications, etc.) is NOT dead, nor will it ever be. Yes, social media has placed a spotlight on better communications and the need for marketers to understand it as a channel, but it doesn't replace sound, smart marketing.

What social media "rules" have highlighted is that most people out there don't understand marketing. The notion that you shouldn't promote, you shouldn't "slice & dice" (i.e. demographics/psychographics), you shouldn't strategize who you follow or friend is preposterous. By not doing so a lot of time and effort can and will be wasted and it makes planning, measurement and ROI all that more difficult.

Here's to a more prosperous 2010!
Beth Harte


Here's what I've learned this year.

If a company isn't passionate about its customers, no amount of marketing or social media marketing can compensate.

If a company does have that passion, then social media can help nurture customer relationships, create value for customers and build digital visibility. That assumes, though, that there's a strategy to guide social programs and integrate them into traditional marketing which, as Beth states, isn't dead!

Interestingly, my involvement in social media has reinforced:
+ how critical it is to focus in on what's really important to your audience [i.e., simplify];
+ how important it is to create really engaging content [i.e., story telling];
+ how valuable it is to integrate social with traditional to reach your audience effectively [i.e., be practical];
+ and don't ever lose the passion...

Thanks for the opportunity to be retrospective. These comments are fantastic. As Toby notes, you are amazing with your community.

Here's to an amazing 2010!

CK- The big lesson for me (as a provider of dental care to the public) was the importance of a continuous dialogue with our patients, not a monologue. Our patient's wants and desires verbalized and acted on will keep us in business for the next 12 months. Social media has given our practice another tool to communicate with those that entrust their care to our office. We have become more transparent, which has given us an “edge” in attracting friends and relatives of our current patients and even those patients “on the fence” trying to decide who to go to for their health care.

With more and more people using the internet for getting information, those health professionals engaged in social media will win the hearts of their targeted market.

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