Do We Really Need More Data? When it Comes to Women, Yes.

There is more information in one Sunday edition of the New York Times than contained in all the printed material in the 15th century.

The average person hears or reads over 90,000 words a day. For reference, the word count of To Kill a Mockingbird is 99,121.

We are swimming in data. Near-drowning in the information rich environments of our daily lives.

So how can it be, when it comes to data on women — how they go about the business of their lives, their spending power, the routes they travel, their health and safety — we know next to nothing?

Simply put, for millennia, we have seen “male” as the standard. The ramifications for data collection meant women were either collapsed into the same category as men (think drug trials up until 1990 and crash test dummies up until roughly 2004, both involving the male body as the universal norm) or not seen as especially relevant, as in the case of women’s transportation needs and uses, something less than a handful of cities across the globe measure and study.

In a day and age when one can determine in less than thirty seconds the global migration patterns of the Great White Shark — a relatively nascent scientific discovery in and of itself — we cannot find a definitive answer for the percent of consumer spending decisions made by women. Why? Because consumer expenditure surveys don’t disaggregate their data by gender. By race? Yes. Occupation? Yes. Age, geographic region, and pre-tax income? Yes, yes, and yes. But not gender. (Incidentally, this number is considered to be between 70–83%, quite a wide statistical berth.)

Good data is the foundation for good policy, good programs, good design. No one argues with this axiom. What does it mean when we have little to no data on 51% of the population? Can we look at the design of our physical places, our programs and policies with the same confidence?

You Cannot See (or Value) What You Do Not Measure

Obviously, we need more data. It seems almost strange to say as much in an economy wherein attention is increasingly the most coveted resource — a response to the glut of information and data in our markets. But when it comes to women — their perspectives, challenges, contributions, and lives — data is indeed in short supply.

Data is accounting. And accounting, in this instance, means to take women into account. To see them. To value them. To measure them so as to learn how best to move forward in designing worlds, both physical and systemic, more suitable to everyone.

Taking women into account in collecting and disaggregating data by gender is a very new enterprise, one we don’t currently tackle often or widely. The call for data specific to women feels simultaneously obvious and innovative and will surely spark conversations around design in a range of applications.

Desinging for Women_Santy.jpeg

New Appreciation for the Data-Design Relationship

For now, understanding the need for data on women, their lives, and experiences also reinforces the relationship between data and design. Data collection is preceded by thoughtful design — the design of methods and instruments most suitable for collection — and is followed by the design of tools for data analyses. One can imagine the process as a water fountain with a series of cascading buckets. As one bucket fills and tips over with the water’s weight, the water flows into the next bucket, and so on until the water reaches the basin and is recycled to the top of the fountain where the process repeats.

This energy, momentum, and cyclical flow is one way to characterize the data-design relationship. Looking at the practice of design through the lens of valuing and seeing women allows us to find new appreciation for this synergy and apply it to creating better workplaces, neighborhoods, cities, programs, policies, and more — for women and in service to everyone.

Women-first Design: An Idea That's Time Has Come

Direct Object Co-founder and CEO Virginia Santy’s work for and on behalf of women in Denver was recently featured in 5280’s piece, It’s a Man’s World But It Doesn’t Have to Be. The premise: could Denver be the first U.S. city designed for women? If our fair Ginna (below!) has her way, it very well may be.

Virginia-Santy_Timothy-Devine.jpg


But before we understand where Denver is going, it’s important to acknowledge where we are:

“(Santy) wants to understand how we got to a place where, every day, women encounter too-heavy doors (often built to be opened easily by the average middle-aged man, who weighs 201.7 pounds), endure frigid office temperatures (standards set in the 1960s when fewer women worked in offices), and lose time searching for spaces to breastfeed. Cumulatively, these design choices force women to endure what Santy calls ‘death by a thousand paper cuts.’

“These cuts, one after the other, don’t just make women uncomfortable or frustrated. ‘My argument is it shows women we don’t value them,’ Santy says. ‘We don’t even value 50.8 percent of the population enough to see the ways we might be presenting little challenges to it. And we certainly don’t value it enough to address them.’”

The article goes on to explain how Ginna brought her groundbreaking idea to Tami Door and the Downtown Denver Partnership. The resulting initiative, Designing a City for Women as an Economic Imperative, has been created to support, attract and retain women workers in Denver. As Door explains, “‘Our goal is to be the first center city in the world that has a strategy and a platform specifically focused on women and meeting their needs.’”

Be sure to click through to read more about Ginna’s innovative ideas, and keep your eyes on this space – and the Denver skyline – for updates.

Owning the End-to-end Customer Experience

Too often, marketing is abandoned the second a lead is kicked over to inside sales. Suddenly all the hard work on nurturing and funnels, all the time dedicated to ensuring materials look and read just so, all the angst spent wooing your hummingbird-like prospect with sugar water, bits of cake and cocaine – all FOR NAUGHT as your lead is tossed into a churning sea of flotsam helmed by a 22-year old.

It seems so counter-intuitive, so deeply wrong yet so many companies treat marketing qualified leads with the same subtlety and taste as a nerd in a bathroom with a pair of girl’s panties.

“LOOK HERE!!! LOOK AT ME!!! I GOT ONE!!!”

“LOOK HERE!!! LOOK AT ME!!! I GOT ONE!!!”

It’s time to wrest back control. Marketing-focused leaders need to envision the customer experience from end-to-end, and give someone with an interest in consistency, design and messaging some measure of control over the whole thing.

What does this mean tactically? Well, let’s set aside all the marketing activities for the time-being and assume that the campaigns and collateral and digital effects and so forth converting this rare bird into an MQL are relatively buttoned down. Instead, let’s look at the rest of the customer experience, including – but certainly not limited to – the following eight elements: 

  1. Business Development Rep (BDR) call script / email follow-ups

  2. Marketing process to suspend MQLs out of ongoing campaign activity

  3. Sales / solution architect call scripts / email follow ups

  4. Support collateral

  5. Reference calls process

  6. Contract

  7. Welcome letter

  8. Support scripts / emails

(Perhaps a radical simplification of the end-to-end customer experience, but a basic framework within which to apply your own specific process.) 

Let me walk you through a typical situation. Imagine the scenario: marketing has had little or nothing to do with any of this except, potentially, providing the letterhead for the contract and – perhaps – any support collateral that the salespeople deem appropriate. (I say perhaps because if the SAs are developing and sending reference architectures, it’s probably safe to say marketing isn’t involved in their layout.) 

Our little hummingbird, who up to this point had been coddled and adored, is now being barraged with different communication styles. Typos, bizarrely laid out documents, messaging inconsistencies, you name it. When you let individuals control the brand – they tend to individualize it. And not always to brand or corporate standards.

Take a moment to think through, or even write down, your typical customer experience. Are there any breaks in the chain that would benefit from a marketer’s expertise? While it might be unrealistic or mistaken to expect one department to have total control, it is still necessary for the company to have control. If that means, as I suggested above, assigning one person the task or title of brand steward – so be it.

You worked too hard for those leads. Don’t let them drown in trash.

 

How to (Better) Monetize Word of Mouth Golden Tickets

Wonkas Golden Ticket.png

“Word of mouth” marketing and sales efforts is a double-sided blessing. On one hand, you’ve got a (likely) free source of lead gen chock full of just the type of buyer you want in your pipeline. On the other hand, you’ve got an unreliable and uncontrolled source – one that could be great and could be not-so-great – but which you have little direct influence over.

It’s like Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket – great if you find it but leaving a little too much up to chance if you’re relying on it.

Naturally, there’s a better way to do things. And you won’t even have to hire a bunch of Oompa-Loompas to get it going. Even more good news? It’s a pretty clear, step-by-step process that will quickly show whether or not it’s working.  

Step One:  Audit word of mouth leads. Understand, first of all, if these are the deals that make most sense to pursue. If they’re small, annoying potatoes, keep doing what you’ve been doing. If they’re meaty, take a look at your referrers and see if there are any themes between them. 

Step Two: Reach out to your referrers. Assuming they’ve been referring you with no direct incentive, now’s the time to up the ante. Tell them you’re so pleased with the leads they’ve generated, so thankful for their awesomeness that you want to pay for the past ones (this is key) and all new ones. Don’t cheap out and just try to pay for future leads. Act in good faith.

Step Three: Look to your other happy customers. Is there anyone in there that fits the themes you ID’ed in step one? Prioritize them. Reach out and offer a lead referral incentive program. And if there’s no one you can pretty immediately prioritize, start reaching out to anyone who you’ve got a good relationship with, has left you a positive review online, has answered an NPS survey an 8 or above. You know the drill. 

Granted, necessary to make any of this work, you’ve got to sort out how and what you’ll reward these folks with. This is where testing comes into play. For Steps Two and Three, try some good old-fashioned A/B testing. See if they’re more likely to refer when they get an $x discount or straight cash to them personally or cash to their company or cash to a nonprofit. Play around and see what resonates. 

The key here is that you want to take control of your referrer network, apply some analytical and marketing rigor and spend some money on the process. Don’t let all the golden tickets go to losers like Veruca Salt. Because your customers might refer once but without any sort of acknowledgment or reward, chances are they won’t refer again.

Time to Put Your Marketing Activities on a Diet?

Mmmm, cola!

Mmmm, cola!

Marketing is a lot like the human body. It can live for a long time doing things that aren’t necessarily good for it. Will it be the best it can be – or deliver the results it should? Not necessarily. But it will, at least for a time, be able to survive.

Unlike the human body, however, marketing can be downright cagey when it comes to showing the effects of bad choices. It can take years for the consequences to make themselves known.

So how’s a business to tell if it’s marketing activities need to be put on a diet sooner rather than later? There’s a couple of key ways . . .

1.     Audit the internal inputs. Just like someone on a diet needs to keep track of what he or she is eating, a business leader should keep track of what’s being fed to the marketing team. Does sales say one thing and product another and the executives yet a third? That’s three ‘meals’ your team is consuming. Pare it down. Make sure that the internal inputs they’re receiving are as lean as can be. And if that’s impossible, at least make sure that they understand whose input is the one to prioritize. In other words, make them eat their veggies first.

2.     Make the exercise count. Anyone who’s serious about losing weight knows that they’re not going to get there walking around the neighborhood at one MPH. It’s a waste of time. So, maybe, are some of the exercises your department is engaging in. Busy writing blog posts with no engagement plan? Churning out sales slick after sales slick with no idea of usage rates or efficacy? Turning social media over to the most entry-level person on your team and just hoping it works? Go back and start measuring. Set targets and timelines. Analyze efficacy to improve results.

3.     Talk to the experts. Most dieters who are able to stick to eating / exercise plans and keep the weight off have, at some point, enlisted the help of experts. Even if that just means reading blogs like this or books – or if you take it further and decide to hire an agency or consultant – keep abreast of what the experts have to say. Very few people, or marketing departments, can achieve true health without taking the time to educate themselves. You don’t have to figure it all out yourself. Take it from Fox Mulder: the answers are out there.

If your marketing has become complacent, or if you’re focused on the convenient rather than the effective, it might be time to take a hard look into the mirror. Dieting and exercise aren’t easy, as we all know. Then again, very few things that are worthwhile are.

More Frugal, Less Filling

Budget-os.png

Talking to a client today, I quoted the cliché of only being able to choose two of three attributes when buying anything: fast, cheap or good. Nothing is all three.

Unfortunately, many, many, many companies looking to market something – anything – are both in a rush and without adequate budget for the impact they want to make. Quality is rarely the attribute that gets the love. And you can tell. Look around. B to B marketing is truly the most boring content on earth. I’d legitimately rather read the tax code because at least the tax code is just about guaranteed to provide some illumination or knowledge. B to B marketing? Not so much.  

So why do we keep making it? Because no matter how cheap or quickly you might be able to get it, what’s the point of doing it at all if it doesn’t help you achieve your objectives? If it actually looks and reads so bad that it works against you? It would probably be more interesting at this point if a company took some stance to avoid all marketing rather than putting up another ugly site with the same bullshit as everybody else. At least that would be a story worth telling. 

But, alas, the average organization cuts marketing off at the knees by making it about one thing and one thing only: lead generation. Not thought leadership. Not brand identity. Not any of the stuff that actually builds pipeline – but is hard to commit to and even harder to quantify. After all, making it about lead gen is the most frugal way to handle things. If marketing only works to enable sales – then you can get a lot of noncreatives for relatively cheaply and put them in a room taking orders from sales guys. Cheaper than dirt!

But…quoi? Is that a problem I see? Let’s ask the Harvard Business Review, who writes “Traditional sales methods are increasingly unproductive. In fact, aggressive sales styles and product-focused selling are now so outdated that some customers are simply refusing to meet with salespeople using these techniques.”  

Soooo…product-based marketing. Aggressive sales styles. What you’re saying is, customers want to consume information about the brand and how it will work with the customers – not just its products. And they want to consume it on their own terms, not have it forced down their throats. But…but? We cut marketing’s budget and have our sales guys leading the charge! 

Here’s the takeaway: Without inbound marketing efforts, and nuanced, thoughtful content that sends a message without reading like an instruction booklet, customers aren’t going to care and aren’t going to listen. Go ahead, test it out. Cut your marketing experts, lose perspective on the entire worth and value of the practice, and push all the budget into sales and sales enablement.

 Give it a few years and report back. We’ll wait.

The Death of Content Marketing

RIP BLOG.png

Every week or so, pundits in any industry will issue a slog of blog posts about the ‘death’ of any facet of that industry. You can set your watch by it.

This week, it’s content marketing. Something called BuzzSumo, which – naturally – has a product it’d like you to buy, nonetheless conducted an analysis (more of a tallying) of blog posts and found that 50% of them were shared 8 or less times and 75% achieved zero referring domain links like this one. (More information could be had – including how they managed to achieve such strikingly round numbers if I gave them my email address, which I did not, but I invite you to.)

The suggestions to address this calamitous turn include 1. researching what your audience would like to read about, 2. promoting the content and 3. monitoring trends (which seems to be a subset of researching, but all marketers take a blood oath that blog posts must use odd numbers).

While those seem like substantive – if not obvious – ideas to rev up the efficacy of your content, may I also suggest that you give the task or tasks to people who are actually good at generating content that people want to read and want to generate that content. If you don’t have the right people stewarding your brand and its voice, then it doesn’t matter how much research or amplification has happened: the stuff is still going to sink like stones.  

So here’s my list of three things to wrest your B2B content marketing back from the jaws of the deadliest killer of them all – boredom:

1.     Only hire people who know how to communicate with other people. Seems basic. It’s not. Watch out for those who talk down to their colleagues send rushed responses to emails that fail to answer all the points, or who endlessly prattle on with Powerpoint decks, ignoring the blank stares, open mouths and drool puddles. Give them the reins of your brand voice and they’ll bore, alienate and piss off in equal measure.

2.   Use your own experience. Whether it’s in the field talking to prospects, trying to manage accounts to reduce churn, or simply working every day to build your brand and keep it afloat – that’s what other business people want to hear about. Give them your insight. Tell them your story. Share with them your struggles and successes. But most of all, be authentic – you’re the expert at something, act like it. 

3.     Figure out where your audience is and go to them. I’m going to take my own advice and tell you that the number one mistake I have made in terms of content marketing is sitting back and waiting for my audience to come to me. And waiting. And waiting. Still waiting. That was dumb of me, and I spent way too much time and effort on it because, frankly, I didn’t know where they were. Don’t make that mistake. Blogs are important, maybe, but if LinkedIn user groups are where your customers are, divert your resources immediately.

 Listen: content marketing isn’t dead. If it were, we’d all have to go back to checking books out of the library and spending time with our families. It’s just suffering because the wrong people are sharing the wrong information in the wrong places. So pause on stressing about the shares and referring links for a minute and make sure you’ve put the framework in place to communicate with your prospects and customers the way you want to communicate with them.