Thursday, February 22, 2007

Mundane but Critical

Once again, data quality has interrupted a very well laid out process intended to reactivate lapsed customers.

This time the house file had two understandable but damaging problems.

1. The address field was used by customer service for adding commentary based on phone conversations.
2. The first name field was appended with nickname in parentheses.

So, without scrubbing what was promised to be a 'clean' file we ended up with things like

Dear Patricia (Pat but not Patty) our records indicate the contact address is:

356 Sycamore -don't call on Fridays
Randolph, ST - Tuesdays are good in afternoon

Power Points:
1. Ensure everyone understands how information is going to be used across the organization.
2. Enforce data validation entries.
3. Add lots of space for comments.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New vs. Traditional Media

When did the change occur?

Remember when it used to be traditional vs. online media? Now the discussion is around social media vs. traditional online media like 'email and ppc'. It's funny how fast things change; in the course of just a short period of time the comparative position became the adjective.

Pretty soon, maybe next week, social media will become traditional and will be replaced by something else.

Things are Always Wrong

Why should we evaluate programs?

Assumptions, like forecasts, are always wrong. What's interesting is understanding why they are wrong. It is the understanding of how current programs work today that makes our jobs interesting. And since nothing is forever, although Google never forgets, tried and true methods that worked in the past run the risk of being irrelevant today -- particularly in Internet marketing.

So, here are my Power Points:

1. Never assume what worked will continue to work.
2. If somebody says "I think..." they're probably wrong.
3. Don't get in the rut of 'set and forget'; it will erode quickly.
4. Tweak, tinker, and test - continuously.
5. Know what you're trying to achieve in the first place.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Idol Voting

What's in a word?

Actually, everything on American Idol. Seems that forgetting lyrics is a sure way of getting sent off. Last night a contestant with commercial appeal was sent packing. The fan traffic this morning was that she should have stayed.

In the spirit of tracking opinions; here is a vote for Bailey Brown.

Create polls and vote for free.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Marketing Duality

Is something I see content or an ad?

The lines between content and advertising are so blurred that it is much like physics where light behaves as both a particle and a wave. Okay, the concepts of particle and wave don't apply with really small things like those found in quantum physics but when viewed from those terms things behave strangely.

It seems that marketing is moving toward a duality where something we see is both content and advertising. At the scale of TV or even print magazines, it is relatively easy to separate the two concepts. One is used to financially support the other - everybody knows how the game is played.

But what happens when the unit of consumption is very small -- a search result, a blog entry, a posted video, a mobile message? At what point do 'content' and 'advertising' lose their meaning?

The rush to monetize ever-smaller pieces of content may reach a limit where uncertainty creeps into the equation and we're left in search of a completely new explanation and business model. If there are no direct costs of producing content, why do we need advertising?

For a variation of this topic see Steve Smith's post on the impact of mobile messaging on branding.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Social Search

Why can't I find what I'm looking for online?

On the heels of today's earlier post "Finding Optimal Relevance" Google has released personalized results. The 'one page fits all' model has been replaced with a collective understanding of what you do and possibly who you are in order to improve results.

Not surprising, optimizing for Google tools is recommended. A bit more interesting is "Social Search" - using the searches of others to find results; not unlike collaborative filtering for books.

Maybe I will find that SEM doesn't mean scanning electron microscope.

A New Acronym: FOR - Finding Optimal Relevance

What does relevance have to do with technology?

One of the current threads on the marketing blogs is around the value of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). A recent debate is whether it is 'rocket science' or not.

Once again I feel that the tail is wagging the dog and a specialty is taking over the controls of the big picture.

As a searcher, I'm looking for results that match my current intent. (Which is sometimes date dependent and sometimes not; causing a lot of frustration.) So all that matters is relevance. Instead of trying to game the system and optimize around the internal machinations of search engines, why don't we work on Finding Optimal Relevance (FOR goodness sakes). This is a much bigger opportunity than the current SEO landscape.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Problem of Choice

When does having choices make it difficult to choose?

I've been straddling the Mac vs. Windows fence ever since we got a G5 at home. At first, frustration -- it didn't work like a PC. We can argue the merits of that statement but 20+ years in Windows some things are ingrained. So I wait.......

But now that Vista is out I'm thinking about my choices. This is where stagnation comes in. There are, count them, six (6) editions.

1. Windows Vista Home Basic
2. Windows Vista Starter
3. Windows Vista Home Premium
4. Windows Vista Ultimate
5. Windows Vista Business
6. Windows Vista Enterprise

I simply don't want that decision forced upon me, I've got enough other things to think about.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Yahoo Pipes

What's new in the application space?

Yahoo has introduced "pipes" a way of linking disparate sources of data. It must be very interesting since the link to produces a humorous message:

Our Pipes are clogged! We've called the plumbers!

Glad to see a sense of humor.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Advertising Effectiveness

How to allocate sales to tactics?

A while back Kevin Hillstrom posted a challenge to figure out how multiple tactics worked in a multi-channel world. A set of catalog and online sales data was provided for 10,000 customers along with which marketing tactics they received, e.g. catalog, email, postcard, etc. He recently posted an answer.

The most important conclusion is that influence is multi channel. Just like "advertising drives search"

Some thoughts on the solution provided by Grigorios Tsoumakas.
1. It is based on the correct premise that the problem is one of allocation; not prediction. This makes it both simpler to create an answer as well as to explain. "Sales are allocated to individual tactics in accordance to their influence across all possible combinations of tactics."

2. The solution makes an assumption that one tactic was dependent on a previous one. In this case the second email was assumed to be delivered to the same customers as email 1. The data suggest that this is valid since everyone who received email 2 also received email 1.

3. Organic sales were those among customers who received no marketing. Simple but probably understated. It is close to saying that the level of sales would be $2000 if advertising was withheld. "Unattributed" might be a better label in this case.

4. This seems to be along the lines of an 'observed vs expected' problem. I wonder if there is an extension there to include costs to get to financial effectiveness.

5. No catalog sales were attributed to email. Given the large amount of sales that are attributed to the catalog, I'd 'expect' some. But the numbers don't lie.

So what would regression have told us? (And yes I was one of the 500 who downloaded the spreadsheet.)

1. It is fairly easy to distinguish between online and catalog buyers. If they shopped in one channel, they weren't very likely to shop in the other.

2. A large number of customers did not purchase in the month of interest, but were marketed to. Inclusion of these '0' sales will bias most models tremendously. So, should we look at only those sales that occurred in a given channel and only include the customers who made them? "Yes" since the problem is one of allocation, not prediction.

3. Mathematically, the role of the 'catalog' was interesting after segmenting the data. For online sales the presence of a catalog depressed sales -- okay, you're expecting that. For catalog sales, the presence of a catalog also depressed sales --- welcome to the vagaries of regression.

The math is about minimizing the error in the model, not about explaining it to your boss.

Dashboard Examples

What's new in the display of information?

Ran across a blog dedicated to the concept of dashboards. What's nice in the Dashboard Spy is the collection of visuals showing the craft in action. The emphasis is on design and implementation (as opposed to defining the metrics in the first place) with a couple of templates you can download to use as wireframes.

Nice service by a 1%er.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Customer Service - Not

What happened to falling on your own sword?

We're working with one of the ad serving technologies. Today it had some problems and posted the following error message:

Please contact the server administrator, and
inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done
that may have caused the error.

I really like the fact that they blamed me for a server error.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Applying Technology in Retail

What's Microsoft telling retailers?

While most of the press activity is around Vista and Office, Steve Ballmer recently spoke at the National Retail Federation's "Big Show."

His themes in a session called "Retail Innovation Outlook" covered four points:
1. The consumer is the center of the universe -- get used to it.
2. The competition gets it (or at least enough of them do) to make point #1 the truth.
3. Those that interact with customers should be empowered to say both 'yes' and 'no.' This means they need information and direction plus the authority to execute.
4. Technology should be implemented in a way that improves customer interactions; not existing business processes.

This make take a while.

Lombardi or Augie Trophy

Are the going to rename Superbowl the trophy?

It seems that the folks at Anheuser-Bush have the formula down pat; according to most polls this morning their spots ranked atop the Superbowl list. Different sites listed different ones as the 'best' --- "Classroom" which is all about getting the product name in the minds of the listener; "Rock Paper Scissors" sets up the audience for a laugh when one of the 'fellers' fighting over the last beer uses a real rock at the end of the challenge - although paper trumps rock in the game. "Crabs" worshiping a cooler on the beach didn't quite have the anthropomorphic punch line that I'd like to have seen.

Losers have to be King Pharmaceuticals for their strange "Heart" portrayal and GM for the suicidal "Robot." (Short Circuit it wasn't.)

The best part is that they're all over the Internet.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Social Networks meet Business Intelligence

What's new in answering tough questions?

There is an old adage that 'many hands make light work'. It appears that IBM has turned that around to be 'Many eyes make light work'. There is an interesting site that allows users to post data, create visualizations and allow others to post and discuss the insights. In the 'about' section it is described as follows:

Many Eyes is a bet on the power of human visual intelligence to find
patterns. Our goal is to "democratize" visualization and to enable a new social
kind of data analysis.