A new post:

“By partnering with leaders across departments and teaming marketing efforts with technology capable of deriving the greatest available value from data, CMOs can gain the insights they need to create positive brand interactions across every channel and at every stage of the customer lifecycle.”

Read the full article here.

The future of retail does not hinge on any one device or technology. The future of retail demands a commitment to the customer experience above all else; technology is simply an enabler for a brand’s contextual and personalized connection to the customer.

The biggest challenge for CMOs and their agencies is threefold:

  1. To engage: create moments that engage, surprise and delight the customer
  2. To bring context and relevance to the customer experience: harness multichannel data to increase engagement and conversion
  3. To drive actionable insight: through data, to derive an accurate view of the successes, failures, and opportunities that new technologies afford the business

What is hype? It depends on your desired business outcomes. If your goal is to be seen as a progressive organization whose use of Google Glass personalizes the customer experience – such as Virgin Airlines use of Glass – then Glass is not hype. If iBeacon successfully delivers incentives and streamlines checkout, then iBeacon is not hype. Hype is a condition of unsuccessful implementations.

I believe that the future of retail can be found at the intersection of personalization, utility, and stopping power, or engagement; to synch the shopper’s journey with the right technology – tools, data inputs, and measured insights – to enrich the shopper’s experience.

What do we know?

“70% of the buying process in a complex sale is already complete by the time prospects interact with a sales person.” – Sirius Decisions Research

“80 percent of people who own three devices switch between devices to complete tasks or activities.” – GfK Market Research

“60% of Millennials are already willing to provide their details about their personal preferences and habits with marketers.” – Mintel

“For Starbucks, more than 11 percent of transactions per week are now happening with a mobile device in-store.” – Starbucks

“I say that my job here is 10 times harder and 100 times more interesting than it was 3 years ago.” – Carolyn Feinstein, SVP of Global Consumer Marketing for Electronic Arts

Who will clean up the multichannel data mess? Clients are experimenting with new roles such as the Chief Omnichannel Officer, or “COCO” for short. Apparel retailer “Finish Line” installed its first COCO this year. His (in this case) job is not to tie together customer data one API at a time, but to be a strong marketing and digital leader – to be accountable and responsible for the customer experience across the multichannel retail landscape.

Where and when is the transition from experimentation to practical implementation? That time is now. What we’re experiencing is the Big Bang of data, technology, design, and customer experience. The question is whether your organization is ready to create a strategic planet for these elements or if you’re going to end up with a lot of hot air.

Public relations firms such as FeishmanHillard are moving toward an integrated service offering, but as a senior PR contact posited to me earlier today, will FH’s Omnicom agency partners welcome this new quasi-competitor?

Call it “integrated communications” or “integrated marketing,” the transition will not be easy. As Dave Senay, president and chief executive at FleishmanHillard in St. Louis, pointed out: “About a third are turned on by” the new vision, “about a third will go along with it and about a third will not get it.”

Why are single-focus PR, social, mobile, and traditional agencies affected so deeply by the digital r/evolution? The modes and mediums by which we market have changed dramatically in less than five years, e.g., mobile, social, apps, and data influence. Data can now inform (and complicate) a multitude of related independent and interdependent channels. Long gone is the traditional purchase funnel … and long live the analytics and measurement industry.

Welcome the new marketing mavens. Call them Math Men and Women, strategists, data scientists, … these are the principles and collectives (agencies or otherwise) that understand how to harness the integrated marketing ecosystem. They ground their recommendations in strategy and planning (an understanding of the customer), manifest them in effective creative, build them with tech, and measure them in analytics.

And while traditional PR agencies and large holding companies reconfigure (along with mobile- and social-only shops) to serve this brave new marketing world, agencies that were born digital – that were built for media integration – had better maintain their sprint. Everyone is gunning for the leader, and right now the leaders aren’t the biggest or most specialized agencies; the leaders are scaling to meet the increasing demand for integrated services.

Read the article that inspired this post at nytimes.com.

Public relations professionals can play a big role in driving and amplifying their clients’ digital marketing efforts. One area of opportunity is search engine optimization (SEO).

We all know that customers use search at the beginning of the information gathering and purchasing cycle, so it’s imperative for all brands and businesses to be found in natural (organic) and paid search. Since paid search can be costly for broad, general terms, it’s best to employ best practices to improve your clients’ exposure in organic, unpaid search.

Here’s a quick playbook for improving SEO with public relations.

  1. Determine the keywords and phrases your clients want to be known for in organic search, e.g., your client’s value proposition, brand or product names, and top three communication pillars or points.
  2. Measure where your client ranks for those keywords and phrases. There are a number of web and desktop applications that you can use for rank measurement including Rank Tracker, Bright Edge, and others. You’re looking for search volume (number of searches for these terms), competition (where competitors rank), and your client’s current rank.
  3. Create a plan to integrate the highest value and highest opportunity keywords into future communications. Map these words and terms to the most relevant pages on your client’s website. You want to match keywords to pages where high-value information and transactional goals are in place, e.g., a download, a lead capture form, etc. Or, create new landing pages that best serve your clients’ customers.
  4. Even if you’re measuring rank for 50-plus keywords, be sure to prioritize 5 – 10 keywords that will send viable leads or sales to your client’s website. This prioritization helps focus efforts across marketing channels and disciplines.
  5. Now it’s time to do the work:
    • Update web page meta data (your page titles, keywords, and descriptions) to include the targeted keywords and phrases.
    • Integrate keywords and phrases into your press releases and boilerplate, again mapping back to relevant pages on your client’s website.
    • Run your links through your measurement package’s link tracking tool, e.g., this is the tool for Google Analytics.
    • Create a process so that all internal stakeholders take these steps across all published materials.
  6.  Measure natural search referrals and results weekly (or monthly, based on resources), using any additional learnings to fine tune your SEO efforts – carefully reviewing how visitors navigate through your client’s website.
  7. For keywords and phrases where there is too much competition and your client cannot rank highly in natural search, consider using paid search and social marketing to boost visibility.

This same methodology can be applied to all outgoing content-related efforts, including press releases, website content, white papers, and more. Any digital content that enables links to your client’s websites, microsites, and other digital presences, such as social media, can help reinforce brand messaging and pillars. If there are special targeting considerations such as geography, customer job roles, etc., be sure to incorporate those into your planning.

This type of optimization on-site (websites, microsites, social destinations) and in outbound communications ‘tells’ search engines that your client has content authority, thereby improving their search engine rank over time. Be patient however, ranking result improvements take 30 – 90 days to start materializing in organic search results.

For all of the talk and work around consumer data integration, the industry is just getting started with the type of data correlation/merging that enables seamless, relevant experiences across the Web. When systems play nice it’s a beautiful thing, e.g., Amazon.com, the promise of Facebook Custom Audience Targeting, etc., but when systems get the wrong instructions (keywords, omission of negative keywords, algorithm weighting) you get this headline with a food ad.

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