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Category Archives: Marketing

Making plans in a restless economy

“Perhaps the markets are speeding up Edwin, but there will always be one way to make sure that you are ahead in the future: if you make that future yourself”. A philosophical remark, made during a roundtable session I conducted at a marketing conference in Barcelona recently about the move from market insights to marketing strategy. The focus of the session was on planning in a changing market: is planning still valuable in a world that changes faster by the day?

Is planning still possible?
According to the people that attended the session, planning is still possible. Even though there are a lot of changes in markets on a ‘micro level’, the developments on the ‘macro’ level are still growing, like all the demographic changes around the world. Some attendees remarked that it all depends on the sector of course: in sectors like stock markets, the changes come by the minute. But even though the ‘macro’ predictibility is still valid, the people around the table added that some developments become less predictable. Some mentioned that the economy is becoming less predictable, while others remarked that the behaviour of competitors is becoming more volatile.  The predictability of the internet developments differs: online platforms come and go, but the transparency trend laying behind it steaming ahead.

How should you plan?
When asked how one should plan in an unpredictable market, the attendees remarked that it all depends on the Key Performance Indicators that you choose to have a central role in your plan, they should guide you along the way. Some of the attendees remarked that you shouldn’t put all the eggs in one basket: prepare for different scenario’s and have substitues near, e.g. in the case of commodities that run out of supply. For some in the round table group, contacts with government are important to become aware of new laws that are being written, and that can rip your market to pieces.
Most attendees remark that they can adapt the execution of their plans to the changing world by letting top management decide on the big matters, and lower management on the small. But in the end, making the future yourself seems to be the most solid strategy 

 
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Posted by on 20/05/2013 in Marketing Intelligence

 

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Content Curation: The tale of the 76 Twitter-accounts

“Thanks for keeping me updated all these years about the developments in my market. I will be retiring soon and will not need your market news anymore”. Once a month, I receive a mail like this, although lately more often because people are going ‘in between jobs’ rather than in retirement. Most people that unsubscribe from our company’s daily mail newsletter are the ones that will not need the content of the mail in the new phase of their lives. Strange when you think of it: each day at 3.00 PM, 3200 of MCB’s customers receive an e-mail, for years now: in 2006 we subscribed about 4000 customers without asking, which means that 80% is still ‘in the mill’. Later on in this blog I will tell why they want to, and then I will also tell about our 76 Twitter accounts.

How do I become a curator?
Many companies  are busy working out ‘content marketing’, and acknowledge that in a few years, each company will become a publisher of some specific kind of knowledge. But if you want to help your customers with knowledge, you don’t have to do this with ‘fresh’ content, you can also become a ‘curator’, someone who collects and distributes knowledge that the target audience may find interesting. The term is relatively new, although at MCB we are working with the concept since 2001.

Scanning for Tarantino
2001. A crisis. At MCB, the Marketing Department was halved in size, a period filled with emotion. But also frustration: my plan to extend our ‘marketing intelligence’ went up in smoke, at least that was what it looked like because of the lack of people we needed to do that. Two people were working half their time on producing a (paper) clipping service, but they had to stop at that. And that is the moment I ran into Webagent.
Webagent was developed by a student, a fan of Quentin Tarantino who didn’t feel like scanning the TV guide each day to see if a movie of this director would be aired soon. So he built a website that did this for him: twice a day, a software ‘spider’ checked the online TV guide for the term ‘Tarantino’. If Webagent didn’t find anything, he didn’t hear anything, but as soon as it found something interesting, it alerted him by mail.
And that was exactly what our company was looking for: we wanted to extend the Marketing Intelligence, but had to do that with less people. I invited the student to MCB and gave him some money to make a special ‘tailormade’ version of Webagent (next to the open source version), and from then on the ‘spider’ went on a trip four times per hour past the news pages of competitors, customers, suppliers etc. We didn’t have to go out and look for market knowledge, we let it come to us. And in this way, we kept ourselves and later all colleagues informed on the developments in the market. And then the world…

Spam? Delicious!
In 2006, the system had extended considerably, and we were able to share all market knowledge with customers too: we decided to subscribe (without asking!) about 4000 customers to our daily tailormade market news mails. We did however make the threshold to unsubscribe very low, we did not want to spam our customers. Eventually, about 20% of all customers had unsubscribed from the mails, and a small sample learnt us that 30% wanted to be subscribed, but not full-heartedly. 50% viewed our daily mails as real added value.
And what makes it special: the daily news mail is completely tailormade. We know what products customers buy from us and in which market they are active, so we were able to produce a ‘news profile’: customers who buy aluminum receive news about the aluminum market, customers who don’t eh don’t. And customers that are active in construction don’t receive news about industry, and vice versa.

Permission to enter your mailbox
What I notice about many e-mail campaigns is that they are very ‘narcissistic’: the supplier and his products are in the center: “We have a new product for you” or “We have an interesting offer”.  If you then hear how few customers are still subscribed to the news letters of their suppliers, it doesn’t surprise me. One of the reasons that 80% of our customers is still subscribed after 6 years, is that THEY are at the center of our mails, or to be precisely: the markets in which they operate. We only mention our company or products a few times each month. Which is characteristic of the trend ‘permission marketing’: in order to have the right to interrupt people with your message, you will first have to do something for them. By the way: any one can subscribe to our news letter for free, although I have to add that it is in Dutch…(click here)

76 weekly papers, all for free…
Because whe have all market news digitally available, we were able to open 76 Twitter accounts, one for each product group and one for each sector we deliver in (click here, eh Dutch). Anyone interested in the aluminium plate market can follow @mcbaluplaat. Or @mcbopslagtanks. Or @mcbbedrijfsauto. Already, more than 1000 people are following one or more of these accounts. And because there are a lot of elderly people amongst our customers, who often say they don’t need news on a daily basis, we decided to make 76 weekly newspapers on the site paper.li (click here, Dutch too)

As said at the start: content is becoming more and more important, but you don’t have to be the source of it. When you help your market to find and distribute relevant content, you are a good ‘curator’. And perhaps customers will buy from you till their retirement…

This post is the eighth chapter of the yet to be written book (click here) about ‘REAL Inbound Marketing’. All comments are welcome!

 

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