Is This the Browser of the Future?

Sometimes it’s the little things.

In this case, the little thing may turn out to be a big thing. It’s been fun to take a good, long look at and play around with Rockmelt, the new browser that integrates a variety of social elements to make browsing a true social experience. At first playfully called the “Facebook browser,” it’s built on Chromium, has Facebook integration, and certainly has an interesting feature set.

Now, instead of having a variety of windows, tabs and programs open, you can have full access to major social media sites as part of your one browser window. At various points around the window there are toolbars and icons that provide rollover and/or one-click access to your information streams from Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other places. You can also perform the standard set of functions like share, retweet, like, etc. There’s also a search bar for access to dynamic type-to-search results and a navbar listing your most important friends on the left, with mini-window access to detailed info, wall commenting, etc.

It is definitely a highly social experience, yet I expect a slow adoption rate. There are still a ton of folks who just want to search for things, do research and read online — without the omnipresent stream of information from the socialsphere. I think that eventually the overall ease of monitoring your socialsphere at the same time you’re doing whatever you do online will be something that’s inevitably hard to refuse for most. It’s certainly gotten mixed reviews, but I think Rockmelt has something here, even if it takes time to grow in adoption.

For marketers, it means not necessarily having access to fans and followers in the confines of your fan page or a Twitter client. Your fans or followers may now see your updates and offers in a small window in a nanosecond.

All the more reason to make your social strategy built upon solid content, so you have engagement and your customers find value that lets you stand out from the crowd.

What do you think about Rockmelt — fab or flop?

The New Four P’s of Marketing — Part 2

So we’ve discussed Proof and why it’s critical to demonstrate that what you do and what you say means something to customers.

Now let’s discuss what you can do to demonstrate that Proof — go get yourself some Presence.

  • Presence — You can’t prove anything to anyone without having a Presence. And not just in terms of being there when there’s a need, or having an ad in the right place, or dropping a direct mail piece at the right time. Presence is also being there when there’s not a need. Presence means providing knowledge. It means creating or defining needs in addition to meeting needs — for example, by providing content and establishing credibility as an expert.  Or using customer interaction and knowledge to develop meaningful solutions. Presence helps you deliver the Proof.
    There are many ways to have Presence — and you need to be knowledgable about all of them, from traditional tactics like emails and direct mail, to online tactics like Google keywords, to social media engagement tools like Twitter. Maybe you don’t need them all, depending on your audience, but you better know their strengths and weaknesses. 
    And you better make sure your Presence evolves with your customers.  Otherwise, they move on and your Presence is meaningless.  There are alot of things you should be doing to stay up-to-date on new aspects of social media that allow interaction and dialogue with customers. Like Google Wave, for example. Your customers may be in all these social media nooks and crannies, and if you’re not there with them as part of the conversation then you have no Presence.
    Sure, you can still have 20th century Presence.  We still need it!  You can still send direct mail and email, run ads, hand out samples and all the other marketing tactics we develop and refine with great effort.  Hell, traditional marketing works wonders when done right. Yet if your bag of tactics has not expanded to include social media in whatever ways and websites and widgets your customers love and interact with — then you will now find that your traditional marketing has alot tougher time succeeding.  Competitors who create interaction are too easy to find, and they’ll steal your business with with their Presence.
    Presence is scalable, and it depends on your customers.  It may require people who live and breathe social media every minute of every day — bloggers, Tweeters, Tumblrs and Diggers. Or it may require a simple Facebook fan page.  And it certainly requires a mix of traditional marketing in some form.  So it must be guided by someone with comfortable vision of both traditional and new.

Next post discusses the third P: Persuasion.

The Culture of Culture

People are different.

And that’s not just marketing speak to kick off some rant about targeting messaging to various customer segments.

The people we work with are all different too. Take a good, long look around your office today. Some just show up to work and go about their business, maybe you rarely ever see them (Rares). Some are, as one of my former bosses would put it, the “perfect corporate employees” who do everything completely by the book, politically correct, neat and tidy (PCs). Some are the gossip-furtherers and water-cooler-whisperers who give the Rares and PCs knots in their stomachs (Whisps). You could get even more granular and break it down even further, yet the point is this: all the various types of people come together to make up the corporate culture. And if you’ve been through a few companies, you know that corporate cultures can be as different as the people who make them up. Hey, it’s a hot topic, to the tune of 79.3 million Google search results.

Of course, one thing that impacts corporate culture is strong leadership. And in the blink of an eye you could rattle off a few names of executives who strongly impact their corporate cultures: Richard Branson, Rupert Murdoch, Jeff Bezos, Meg Whitman. Did you ever see a robust corporate culture policy that did the same?

Well, now you can, and that’s the purpose of this post. Tell me that NetFlix’s corporate culture and policies document doesn’t do an effective job of setting high performance standards and expectations for the company. At best it’s unbelievably motivating and passionate stuff for the PCs, and at worst it makes the Whisps chatter even faster about their imposing leaders. Yet either way it’s a great example of how to define a company’s culture, in this case with specified policy instead of implied example.

Also check out Greg Verdino’s comments on the NetFlix policy, I think he illustrates some key takeaway points for today’s companies that plan to evolve into tomorrow’s leaders. Does your company show the door to non-performers in a moment’s notice? Do your finance and HR teams have simple and easy-to-follow instructions, or long lists of processes and guidelines? Would they ever dismiss tracking vacation days? Do you think this is crazy stuff, or do you think this translates into motivated employees who are passionate about their work and powerful brand ambassadors to customers?

Would you consider these kinds of issues as part of your next career move? Do you have a strong personal brand and social network that employers want to attract? Do you want to work with Rares and Whisps, or the type of talent described in NetFlix’s policy?

While some of NetFlix’s policies may be shockingly different from the norm, I bet they had the desired impact: top performers from far and wide charged ahead and are banging on the NetFlix front door.

7 Things To Do in the Next 7 Days — Part Two

Hopefully you’ve been able to make some progress on the first three to-do’s posted not too long ago. Or, at the very least, you plan to start on them now, then come back to these four after. Anyway, here you go — four more things you need to do for the latter part of the next seven days, for all the reasons discussed here.

4. Open a Twitter account and watch the conversation.
Ok, I know for a fact alot of people think Twitter is just plain crazy. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I just don’t get it.” However, if you’re anti-Twitter, you’re anti-customer. You’re anti-being-informed. You’re…anti-marketing.

Let me explain. Love it or hate it, customer conversation occurs on Twitter every day. Check that…every minute. And you don’t want to be part of that?

If you’re not on Twitter already, you need to open an account right now, on Day 4. Don’t like the concept? Fine, don’t even participate then, just watch the conversation. You read stuff to stay up-to-speed right? The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, or now the five blogs you’ve already lined up, per my earlier post. Isn’t a huge group of potential customers talking amonst each other valuable too? So start the account and watch the conversation. Follow hashtags relevant to your business, products or customers, and see what’s being said. There is powerful dialogue going on and powerful sharing of thoughts, gripes, praise and ideas that you need to know about. Here’s a good WSJ tune-up article, and a video below.

You need to do this — what you learn from the dialogue impacts your marketing strategy AND your knowledge of customer needs. Guaranteed.

5. Find information about Google Wave and read it start to finish.
Part of our jobs as marketers goes beyond just using what tool are available today, like Twitter. We need to stay aware of what’s coming next, so we understand what can help us be more effective, help make our messaging more impactful, and get us closer to our customers. Enter Google Wave.

Google Wave is positioned to be a ridiculously cool new communication tool. Incredibly powerful, and alot of promise for empowering web-based conversation on a whole new level between people and among groups. Here’s an excellent article to start with, and another article that’s a preview for developers on the Official Google Blog. Mashable also has a nicely detailed article.

After those, find a few more and read those too. As marketers, when this launches, we need to be ready to use it. It’s customer dialogue on steroids. The world of social media moves at a speed unseen before, and we need to move just as fast. What’s next after Wave, what will be the next cool tool that helps us be more effective? Do your homework and you tell me.

6. Look at your current marketing spend — are you over-invested in a particular area? Fix it.
I’m not a big advocate of change for the sake of change. Yet even though the lion’s share of your customers or sales may come from one place (and by place, I mean channel or medium), you need to fix your budget and strategy if you’re spending too many of your dollars in that one place.

Being over-invested right now likely means you’re sending too much direct mail, running too many print ads, or most importantly sending too much email. You need balance — more than ever, customers have different habits, different preferences. Don’t discount channels until you’ve tested. “It’s always worked the way it is” is not a valid enough reason anymore to avoid trying and testing different channels or different messaging. Mail less, test some creative. Hell, try sending LESS email for a few months that has more relevant messaging. You may be pleasantly surprised.

7. Stop planning “monologue” marketing campaigns and create campaigns based on “dialogue” instead.
My friend Alex Krawchick said this a few weeks back, and it stuck with me. His actual quote was:

I’ve had it. If I see one more “industry thought leader” pontificate about how to “…use Twitter to increase awareness of your business…”, I’m seriously going to lose it. You s are completely missing the point. Twitter (and FB… and LinkedIn) was built as a tool for dialogue. The days of the marketing and advertising ‘monologue’ are over. Move on. Or just shut up already. Either way, smarten up.

I don’t think I need to add to that much. Well said. If you have a Twitter account, blog or other social media endeavor, use it for what it’s meant for, not as a megaphone for a one-sided message.

So there you go. Seven things to do in the next week that can make a great impact. Charge ahead.

Another Letter to Marketing Professors

Dear Business School Marketing Professors–

How are you doing? I haven’t had time to drop you a letter since my last one in April, but I took a good, long look at something today that made me think of you.

Leave it to the guru, Seth Godin, to write another blog post that makes it all clear (you guys might want to consider recruiting him and turning him into the President of Professors). His post is about the textbooks you guys use to educate these kids you send out here. You may want to rethink the whole concept, as he suggests.

I’ll tell you why I agree with his ideas. Re-read the last letter and think about the skills these kids lack when you send them out here. You can’t teach that stuff in a textbook. These kids need real-world skills and perspective, not definitions and false belief that they’re equipped with what it takes to succeed. Seth is right, let Wikipedia have the definitions — their definitions are much deeper and broader than anything in a textbook anyway.

Plus, when do kids ever learn things like people skills with customers, time management and managing expectations from a textbook? I know, I know, you guys do that all the time — but I keep reminding you, you’re academics, you’re j-o-b is to write, read and learn from books and studies and papers. I don’t give out a how-to book to people out here, you’ve gotta figure it out on your own, and quickly. But c’mon, a marketing textbook for a class in 2009 with no mention of Google? How is that in anyone’s best interest? The folks who write your books don’t know about Google yet?

Listen, give Seth a call, invite him to your next conference. Hell, read his latest book, and use that as the textbook in your next class. If nothing else, go Google some information on Google.

Let’s keep working to make sure the kids you send out here charge ahead with the best idea on what it takes to get ahead, create a strong personal brand, and build a career.

I’ll be in touch again soon.

The Real World