Friday, July 22, 2011

Optimizing the Online Experience: the Next Frontier for Modern Marketers

One day in June, Adobe announces a new “Digital Enterprise Platform for Customer Experience Management.” The very next day, Oracle announces that it has entered into an agreement to acquire FatWire Software, “a leading provider of Web experience management solutions.”

And just like that, the market for customer experience management, Web experience management and what FatWire likes to call “online engagement optimization” has just gotten much hotter. I prefer the term “online experience optimization” (“OEO”), a type of “extreme personalization” and a spin on the widely touted promise of the early World Wide Web: “mass customization.”

Whatever you call the strategy or paradigm, successful OEO requires that every company answer four key questions.
  1. Do you know what customers, competitors and competitors' customers are saying about your company online?
  2. Do you know whether or not your Web site is equally accessible, navigable, compelling and persuasive on an iPad, an iPhone or an Android tablet as it is on a PC?
  3. Do you know how customers, partners and prospects really perceive your company online?
  4. Do you have solid, defensible evidence for all that you know?
Complicating the answers to these questions is the need to follow and delight customers, partners and prospects, wherever they are and however they choose to interact. Especially online, given the continuing growth of mobility, social networking and new and different access devices.
Customers, partners and prospects are, in effect, the most important example of what my Constellation Research colleagues and I like to refer to as “the mobile, social cloud.” And the mobile, social cloud makes clear what many already know. Current processes and solutions for OEO, especially content creation, delivery and management, are inadequate, especially given the explosion in the number and types of networked access devices.

For users and buyers, effective OEO, like effective modern marketing, requires answering some key questions about content, conversation, consistency and conversion (as outlined in my blog post "The Four C's of Content Marketing" at And when looking at candidate vendors and solutions, those users and buyers should focus on four key criteria.
  • Completeness: can the vendor deliver solutions that address all of users' key challenges to OEO success, organically or via truly strategic alliances?
  • Continuity: can the vendor deliver solutions that “look and feel” like logical, operationally non-disruptive extensions and evolutions of previous offerings and incumbent tools?
  • Connectivity: can the vendor and its offerings “play well with others” in ways that let users maximize the business value and ROI of their incumbent and future investments, without requiring “heavy lifting” by IT experts?
  • Convincingness: can the vendor cash the checks its mouth is writing?

OEO is clearly not your parents' marketing. It isn't even last year's Web content management or user interface design. It's all of these, plus more. Fortunately, processes, best practices and solutions are emerging to enable OEO and extreme personalization without tears, fork lifts or teams of technologists. And I and my Constellation Research colleagues will be opining about these and related issues increasingly during the next few weeks and months. Stay tuned...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Yellowbook + Microsoft = A New Marketing Force for Small Businesses

Google has advertising and search-empowered marketing offerings for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs).

So does Microsoft.

Google has online search tools that are popular among users and buyers, and among at least some advertisers. So does Microsoft – more so now that it has partnered with Yahoo! in select arenas.

Google has online applications growing in popularity among SMBs and larger enterprises.

So does Microsoft.

But now, Microsoft has something Google doesn't have, at least not in the same ways. What? Here's a direct quote from the relevant news release, issued June 14 by Microsoft and its new partner, Yell Group, owners of Yellowbook among other related resources.

“Thomas Hansen, vice president of SMB Worldwide at Microsoft, said, 'Yell Group has one of the largest dedicated sales forces partnering with small and medium sized businesses and provides customers with valuable, locally focused internet directories that see over 50 million unique visitors per month. We are very excited about our plans to form a strategic alliance with Yell, as it offers us a way to better reach and serve small and medium sized businesses across the globe.'”

Here's another quote from the same release.

“Yell currently provides print and digital marketing services to over 1.3 million customers across the United States, United Kingdom, Spain and Latin America. Capitalizing on the Yahoo! and Microsoft Search Alliance and the growing consumer audience of Bing and Yahoo! Search, Microsoft and Yell will join forces to offer compelling search, mobile and local advertising solutions to small and medium businesses and to make the most of emerging business models delivered through the cloud. Under the plans, Yell will also offer the full suite of Microsoft’s SMB productivity and business software and cloud services, including Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and emerging SMB-focused communications solutions. In addition, Microsoft will assist Yell to accelerate its new cloud-based services, which will provide Yell’s customers with access to these new digital offerings.”

Yell already offers a number of interesting, sometimes innovative marketing and advertising services through Yellowbook in North America and other divisions across the globe. Now, Yell Group reps will have a new, different and growing portfolio of advertising, marketing and business support services to offer.

The day after announcing the Microsoft alliance, the company announced a strategic partnership with Bazaarvoice, provider of cloud-based solutions designed to enable businesses to manage and monetize online customer conversations and communities. The day after the Bazaarvoice announcement, Yell announced a completely new corporate strategy. The company is now focused on evolving from a provider of advertising services to the outsourced marketing department for millions of SMBs.

This means SMB decision makers may soon be able to buy services for contact, lead and customer management (CRM), email marketing, online data backup, Web conferencing and other unified communications (UC) options and more from a single Yellowbook rep. Which could give those decision makers some interesting, valuable options not easily available elsewhere.

Now, Google,, SugarCRM and others offer all kinds of platforms, add-ons and plug-ins intended to enable all kinds of business service combinations. But at most SMBs, one of the first questions to which they want answers is about interoperability with...Microsoft Office. So why not start with offerings that come from the source, so to speak? Especially for those SMB decision makers already doing business with Yellowbook or some other Yell Group entity? After all, "the cloud" is still basically a wild and poorly mapped environment, making the value of a known, proven guide pretty darned high to those users.

Speaking of which...

If your company already works with Yellowbook, you and your rep should be having a heart-to-heart talk very soon now. You should ask about everything from what services will be available and when to how and whether you can move and share spend dollars across multiple online and offline opportunities. You might want to focus a few questions on how Yellowbook + Microsoft might help you to offer more and better local and daily deals.

If your company does not do business with Yellowbook but does work with one or more of its competitors, you might ask your rep what their company plans to do in response to Yell Group's moves. Meanwhile, keep a close eye on what Yell and Microsoft do, and on what Google and others do in response.