Category: Digital Marketing


Look to the future please!

Of the many (hundreds?) meetings we have had with various potential clients over the past few months there’s a common theme that continues to stifle nearly all of them: The future.

At times it’s almost like we’re fighting a crisis of courage where the decision gatekeepers are seduced more by the comfort zone of mediocrity than the safety zone of leadership.

We are in the privileged position to be able to make a sizeable difference to the current performance of our customers’ digital adventures, but when you sit at certain tables, you can’t help thinking that there are very few companies that really plan beyond what can realistically be called a “quick fix”.

Sure, I enjoy nothing more than sorting out the digital maps and creating relationships between all departments – PR, marketing, web, sales, SEO – in the strategic planning of communications decisions, but as the magnificent Katie Paine put it on her return from the third European Digital Leadership Conference:

Marketers are still looking for those big numbers, and when confronted with much more meaningful metrics like the percent of all those “likes” that are actually engaged in sharing and commenting on your content, the numbers are just too small to register in the marketers’ minds.”

I would go a little further. While it obviously affects marketing, the reality is that this mindset affects all corporate silos with the result that very few companies invest further than the next quarter, which makes introducing a more accurate, scientific approach based on big data that would allow them to understand and leverage their customers’ and prospects’ real-world relationships to substantially improve customer acquisition, cross-sell and retention, all the more difficult.

As curious (and at times overly-assertive!) observers of the online world, our view of the web shares much with this brilliant piece from ZDNet:

The world wide web remains one of the greatest disruptive forces in human history. On an average day it can give you access to a vast wealth of human knowledge from a simple search box, show you snapshots from the lives of friends and family spread across the planet, provide a world-class education for freecrowdfund solar power in ways that governments can’t affordredistribute food that would have been wasted, and sweep corrupt rulers into the dustbin of history.

There is a huge structural change in the systems of communication we are used to underway and it affects everything from politics to e-commerce. And yet when we sit at certain tables, the sad truth is that these nascent systems of new standards and behaviour pale behind “right-now” media planning and “safe” forecasts that blindly consider the web as just another channel for an extra sale – an idea I fully support when that same sale generates value for both my clients and their customers.

It’s not all bleak, though. Some smart agencies (no names) and customers are starting to look beyond the “either/or” marketing proposals and are adopting interesting marketing strategies, even older ideas like this one which have instantly-recognisable value and are still being discussed but have yet to gain the traction they deserve.

What’s your view on the marketing landscape? Are you planning to survive, or building a leadership?


No more empty chairs

Recently I met Katie Paine while here with my dear friend Richard Binhammer, I read her latest book, and had the good sense to change my business model.

This may sound like a pseudo-spiritual business promise but in today’s market it makes far more sense to focus on ROI before planning (and proposing) digital solutions rather than generating a slew of one-shot wonder widgets for customers that perhaps generate short-term gains, but ultimately bring long-term confusion.

Numbers, measurement, sentiment…  The old business model of just producing great ideas never really got anyone close enough to actually make a change because, frankly, we never had the opportunity to tackle financial efficiency head on. Even our biggest clients never shared P&L, meaning we were left in the dark over the most fundamental of questions: Is this latest widget positively affecting our bottom line?

By looking into the dynamics and metrics of measurement, and by razor-focusing on key issues, projects are born with purpose. And when they have purpose, they make a tangible difference for all stakeholders, be they financial controllers, marketing directors, or, heaven forbid, customers.

Our latest project, for which we collaborated with BeWe, required us to look deeply into the dynamics of the financials around a burgeoning Italian e-commerce site, identify and correct areas of concern, and kick-start a progressive decline in cost per transaction. In four days… I’m happy to report that just one week after launch, this new approach is already beginning to pay off.


Stonex chooses Social Starter

We are extremely proud to announce that Smartphone Innovations srl, the Italian company behind the rather brilliant Stonex smartphones has chosen Social Starter as its digital partner for the Christmas 2013 digital campaign.

Our goal, apart from spreading the word about this pretty amazing product, is to combine best practices across multiple disciplines (from server integration to digital PR) with real time ADV split testing to optimize and then stabilize the various revenue streams so that 2014 can be even greater that 2013.

All this of course wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the tireless commitment of the Stonex management to this Italian startup and the cast-iron belief that they really do have an interesting product to offer. Kudos above all to them.

Many thanks to the team that changed the rules of engagement. Now back to work!


Marketing shift

Right now I’m doing what most single-task males would consider a foolish task at best. Attempting to read two books at once.

It wasn’t an intentional move – I’m not that stupid, but as the various US-based social networks and people I follow started to come alive with pre-release reviews of The Age of Context by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, I gave in and had it delivered to my Kindle in under thirty seconds.

Dilemma: resist, finish the admittedly brilliant but decidedly paper-based Ctrl Alt Delete by Mitch Joel or sneak a peak at AoC to see what all the buzz was about?

Digital won so I’ve started a book I’m going to have to read a couple of times in succession.

The argument of context has always been something I’ve treated with the utmost respect and rigidity ever since I landed my first copywriting job at Acer. The idea that a marketing activity (product naming, event, social media strategy) can be created without context removes all trace of coherence from the message the brand wishes to convey. It’s so obvious that I’m still astounded when I see SMB’s (and some large companies) launch activities with clearly no idea of the context that activity will have to do battle in.

That’s advertising. Things get worse when you start trying to encapsulate a social media strategy into a process that doesn’t consider the context of the activity. Big mistakes are made when companies lose sight of the context but at least here they get to react to critical feedback almost in real time.

But what about the whole system of commerce and communication? As The Age of Context itself states on the very first page: “The five forces of context are everywhere. [They] are changing your experience as a shopper, a customer, a patient, a viewer or an online traveler…  They know where you are and in what direction you are headed when you carry a smartphone. They are in your car to warn you when you are too close to something else. They are in traffic lights, stores and even pills… … All five of these forces – mobile, social media, data, sensors and location – are in the hands of more people every day, and it means that every business will have to adjust course to include context in their strategies.

Mobile, social media, data, sensors and location. Now that’s a marketing shift.


Haven’t done that yet.

In answer to the question “What is your favorite Ferrari?” Enzo Ferrari once said “”The one that has not been built yet.”

We have just got back from one seriously long day in Montecarlo which is currently hosting the Monaco Yacht Show so I wouldn’t recommend going unless you want to spend a couple of hours looking for a free parking spot…

We are currently trying to close an important repositioning project with a client there that will require everything from a new logo to regular corporate events with selected clients plus all the digital goodies (front and back-end) you can imagine thrown in.

The project itself – all 100 slides of it – has been a monumental feat to produce and we are particularly proud of how it acts on both brand AND business at the same time. It’s not every day (or client) that allows you to cross the line from the sometimes commercially blind marketing departments and propose ideas with P&L implications so this is a particularly demanding concept.

Yet despite this, the thing about Enzo Ferrari’s quote that resonates so much with me personally is that all of our projects, no matter how big or small, somehow become the next big thing as we take them on and we quite literally fall in love with them, fight over them and build them one by one by hand.

So what’s next? Does it really matter? After all, we haven’t made our best project yet.


Social ABC

A few weeks ago we were contacted by my friend Sergio Clerici from Creatormail Italia who were putting together a series of webinars aimed at covering all the bases of online marketing.

The webinars (in Italian) cover, Il telemarketing è una parolaccia? Non quando si tratta di strategie di lead generation business to business., Siti Web, CMS, SEO e SEM, E-learning, Mobile computing, Email Marketing, Privacy e Sicurezza dei dati and of course, Social Media.

We were invited to participate with two webinars, Social ABC and Social Media.

It still amazes me that so many companies are still short of strategic ideas when it comes to social media and I was surprised that so many decided to participate in this first round of what is, ostensibly, a “How to do Social Media” presentation.

The one thing that struck me was the kind of questions we received at the end of the webinar. We had an audience that spread from non-profit organizations (ONLUS) to fashion houses and each of them wanted to know how efficient “X” strategy or “Y” social network was to their own personal goals.

The techniques change and have, if you are following Richard Binhammer’s latest round of posts con Content Marketing, become far more sophisticated yet the principles at the lower end of the corporate scale (SME’s) remains the same:

1. Set your objectives (branding, lead generation, engagement, sales)
2. Find out where your target audience is
3. Set up camp, one social network at a time
4. Listen to them
5. Participate with relevant content (meaning change tact if you’re not getting through)
6. Keep at it
7. Measure everything
8. Program everything on a monthly/weekly scale and modify daily

Anyway, below is a copy of the presentation we used in our webinar. It’s in italian but it’s relevant in any language.

Our next appointment is on 27/06/2013. At this event we’ll be exploring how E-Commerce fits in with Social Media strategies.


What Women Want

We have a fascinating client in the cosmetics business.

They are seriously oriented towards e-commerce but have teamed up with us to create a more “immersive” digital experience for their customers.

This particular project is a product launch and rather than just firing a banner, product family page and single item purchase page at it, they wanted us to come up with something a little more interactive that also included their social media presence. They also sent us a bunch of links of stuff they wanted us to use as benchmarks.

All pretty straightforward right?

Erm as it turns out, no.

Just like any agency worth its salt, we take our projects seriously and started off by mapping the current customer path from digital media to product page and studying the competition links they sent us to see how they tackled the same problem (FWIW, most simply hurl large sums of money at 3D videos and graphics while spending vastly inferior sums on navigation and experience).

We investigated how to use our client’s proprietary assets (social and website) and created a multi-channel presence that focused primarily on owned and earned media, delivered a “sensory” experience to enhance the brand reputation while streamlining the sales funnel.

We fine-tuned the interface design to make sure the navigation experience was both intuitive and informative, and blueprinted a multi-layer embedded page to fit into their current e-commerce platform with a 3D navigational experience able to deliver any number of pages (content) over a fixed space (to avoid unnecessary scrolling). We also created a similar version to place onto a FB tab and proposed several intelligent rich media AD support in social and “regular” digital media.

In short, we created a product launch “system” that could also be re-used over the coming months for other projects.

We were very proud of ourselves… 😉

Until the client asked us why we hadn’t mentioned the product.

The moral of this story is that even if you have access to the most powerful strategic minds able to transform your brief into something much more, don’t get too high on your own supply because more likely than not, the client isn’t listening at this point.

So before you present what is without question your digital masterpiece, go back and look at the brief. Unless you’re 200% sure you got the request spot on, go and ask a dozen colleagues if you’ve answered all the questions.

Our mistake?

The client sent us the competitor links to look at the content, not at the navigational models…


Social Broadcasting

The most persuasive medium on earth

One of the great things about social media is that there are so many ways to use it.

You can use it to engage your customers and build your brand’s reputation for new visitors, or you can use it to create customer loyalty and as a result, increase your chances of getting repeat business from them.

These are just some of the more obvious reasons but there are also several interesting side effects of a well-organized social media campaign that can be just as strategic to your brand if you know how to use them correctly.

If you’ve read the post called The Secret of Google, you’ll have seen how social media can help you to rank high on the search engines.

No surprises so far. But what if you could rank well on all search engines, including YouTube…?

Answer these quick questions:

  • Is Google the #1 search engine in the world?
  • Is YouTube the #2 search engine in the world?
  • Do you see YouTube results on Google?
  • Do you see Google results on YouTube?

Now will the real #1 search engine please stand up.

According to some estimates, there are 100 times more pages indexed in Google than there are videos on YouTube, which means that it’s 100 times easier to rank highly with videos.

Here are some facts about video:

  • Video is the most persuasive medium on earth.
  • It gets more web traffic than anything else.
  • And the more Video Marketing you do, the more opportunities you create to satisfy your customers online.

So why not set out a strategy to rank videos of your products or services higher than your competitors’ web page for the same keyword?



When you open the gate, they will come. That’s good.

It’s not all roses in the world of Social Media. Just because contacts in some of the most important social media sites are called “friends” doesn’t mean building an effective social media presence is easy.

The first thing to expect when you open a social media site is customers with issues.

The fact that you want customers to participate means it’s easy for them to make comments, both good and bad.

Good comments prove a point you’ve already made and help other visitors “believe”. Bad comments on the other hand increase the website’s credibility. How?

Because bad comments make your company more “human” and give you an opportunity to show your customers count.

The trick to transforming a negative comment into a positive dialogue is to acknowledge and address the real problems and disprove the false ones immediately and publicly.

This is where “outreach” happens.

Outreach is where you monitor the web and major social networks (Twitter and blogs primarily) for conversations about your brand that aren’t under your control and then activate measures to resolve the issues back at your home site.

By participating in external dialogues you show you’re listening, then by bringing the issue “home”, you address it publicly for a wider audience, gaining more authority and even greater trust.

Outreach then, by its very nature, is the fastest way to get your customer service division involved in your social media activities.

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