Are You A Strong Node?

After around 15 years of advocating for the embrace of "Digital Marketing", we're in the early stages of being advocates for embracing marketing for a digital world. I first heard this from Mark Comerford, but like all truisms, i feel like i had heard it before. It's a nice verbal flip, of course, but it's also true: "Digital Marketing" as a separate, distinct category for marketing needs to go away, and in it's place we need to simply be marketers to people who are connected digitally across so many devices, applications, networks, and touchpoints. That is, all marketing is or should be "digital" marketing.

But, Commerford actually makes a point of distinguishing between the word "digital" and "networked", preferring "networked", presumably, because it implies what happens (we get networked to each other) instead of how (via digital means). All of us digital marketers have spent so much time talking about the "how" of digital marketing – all our jargon, our easy comparisons with traditional, our smug satisfaction about being on trend – that we haven't paid enough attention to what's really going to happen when all this stuff takes hold. More importantly, we're not spending enough time understanding how *our* behavior should change when we're all networked.

Those of us who have been around for a while owe it to others to be at our best, to ensure they're benefiting from our experience and knowledge. It's democratic, maybe a little socialistic, but we have to ensure we are acting like modern leaders connecting our peers together to ensure the effect is bigger than the sum of the parts. The best outcome for the best marketers, i would argue, is becoming a strong node in a network of likeminded marketers. We need to connect the players into the hard lessons we all learned. So, the question is, are you a strong node? Here are the questions to ask yourself: 

Are you a connector? Do you work hard to make new connections to other marketers, learning from them and connecting your friends to others who could benefit from the relationship? Are you bringing new folks and new ideas into the conversation? 

Are you a repeater? Do you take the signal your hearing – the message, the content – and clean it up  so it can be passed along effectively? Do you make sure the flow of knowledge and info is going on to the next user on the network? Are you passing it along and getting it to the right person? 

Are you communicating in a common protocol? Are you using weird jargon (um, like "Strong node") or are you focused on keeping the messaging as simple as possible. A common language helps info flow faster and makes it easier for new participants to find their way. 

Are you a Hub? Are you enabling others to plug into the flow of knowledge you're seeing? Do you make it easy for new folks to get connected?

Are you a router? Do you break the complex stuff into easy to understand, easily simplified "packets" so the knowledge can flow easier? A good router will ensure the most pertinent info gets to the right node as efficiently as possible. It could be as simple as forwarding an email, or as involved as introducing one marketer to another.  

Are you adding value? Whether its ensuring a good signal/noise ration, volunteering to be a hub, router or access point, there are many ways a good marketer can help drive some larger, pursuit-driven objects. But, it all starts with learning ways to ensure the rest of the nodes refers to you. 

Do you create Bufferbloat? Do hold onto the information you have? Do you obfuscate, complexify, or otherwise mystify those you are communicating with? Then, you're creating bufferbloat: You're holding information back, and preventing it from moving efficiently through the system

When the evolution goes well, we all end up better for our effort. That's the network effect in action. When it's NOT done well, it's a broken network that doesn't generate strength. 

 

 

 

Updated: Agile Methods to Solve Sticky Business Problems? We’ll Try it!

We're going to try something on a project we're kicking off here at work: "Agile" programming methodologies in the service of sticky business problems. We're not coders, but we're going to apply what we understand of the approach. We'll use "stories" to get our focus on the problems we need to crack for the marketers we work with, the stories we want to be able to tell when we've solved them. We'll have a list of these stories and work through them one at a time. We'll do that in quick (2 weeks), focused efforts (aka "sprints"). And, we'll if we don't get it right, we'll iterate through them again until we've got it right. We'll be focusing on "shipping", that is getting the project done and implemented. We'll focus less on the beauty of a comprehensive, centrally controlled process (ie. "waterfall), and more on getting working "software" (ie the tools and methods) into the hands of the teams we work with. Lastly, we're going to try to dramatically improve communication via "huddles" and may even try full team huddles to communicate with a much larger audience. The IT group will probably laugh at how we're doing it, but we're going to take a shot and get it right over time if the first efforts aren't spot on. 

Any suggestions on how to apply agile programming methods to a non-programming problem? 

Updated: 8:30 PM

Lots of good suggestions from folks around the web. For sure, check out Rohn J Millers post on the subject from last year. Lot's of good ideas in there. And, here's a pretty good overview from PJ Shrivasta. Finally, i look forward to re-reading Greg Meyers Agile Marketing Manifesto in a couple months to see how we're doing. 

 

Modern Agency: More McKinsey, Less Madison Avenue

I work with a pretty wide variety of agencies, from small digital production shops that may have 2 partners to some of the largest, best known ad agencies in the US. Almost all of them are struggling with the dramatic changes in the services  brands need to thrive. The small production shops seem bewildered when we ask them to bring us "big ideas" and we reject their cool app idea. The big agencies seem bewildered when we ask them to more strategically integrate social and digital into their thinking and we reject their app idea. 

Both are too focused on the output, the visible end product of their "process" and their people. What we're really seeking is smarter thinking about how brands are built and a more nuanced understanding of how to solve the business problems we're dealing with. The answer is rarely a single ad, app or video. As people are more deeply & frequently connected than ever, the business solutions, the big ideas, are  going to have to be just as networked. Our brands and marketers are seeking more nuanced solutions to meet a more complex business challenge. 

The best brand stories are always going to be simple, clear articulations of a well thought through position. BUt, the way those stories are built and delivered will require a command of many more tools. Its going to be an almost algorythmic approach to delivering the messages. We'll need partners with a deep appreciation of the how all the variables in the algorythm interrelate, not just the biggest ones.  We'll need more McKinsey, less Madison Avenue.