Good Proactive Marketing Can’t Fix Problems Like Amazon’s EC2 Outage . . .

. . . but bad reactive marketing can make the problem much worse.

[co-authored by Zachary Reiss-Davis]

As has been widely reported, in sources broad and narrow, Amazon.com’s cloud service EC2 went down for an extended period of time yesterday, bringing many of the hottest high-tech startups with it, ranging from the well known (Foursquare, Quora) to the esoteric (About.me, EveryTrail). For a partial list of smaller startups affected, see http://ec2disabled.com/

While this is clearly a blow to both Amazon.com and to the cloud hosting market in general, it also serves as an example of how technology companies must quickly respond publicly and engage with their customers when problems arise. Amazon.com let their customers control the narrative by not participating in any social media response to the problem; their only communication was through their online dashboard with vague platitudes. Instead, they allowed angry heads of product management and CEOs who are used to communicating with their customers on blogs and Twitter to unequivocally blame Amazon.com for the problem.

Many startups, including Quora, AnyTrail, eCairn, and MobyPicture, blame Amazon.com for their downtime.

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What Email Marketers Can Do To Protect Themselves From Email Fraud

Epsilon's Symposium addressed email fraud head on, since its data breach accessed email data. Quinn Jalli, Epsilon's VP of Deliverability and ISP Relations, recommends that managing email fraud is not something to leave just to your email service provider. The wakeup call from this data breach: Brands must partner with email vendors and ISPs to protect their email send addresses, email brand assets, and in educating recipients about data usage and email fraud.  Specifically:

  • Show ISPs your legitimate emails.  Historically, marketers and ISPs haven't had much of a relationship because they were working toward different goals. Marketers want to get their emails into user inboxes, while ISPs want to manage email data volumes by blocking as many messages as possible. Well, phished emails — copies of your real thing — can be so good that neither consumers nor ISPs can tell real from fraud.  Preempt this by showing ISPs the identifying characteristics of the emails that you create. And of course any examples you have of phished messages if you have suffered this. Your email service provider can facilitate this ISP connection.
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Epsilon's Data Breach Raises Awareness Of Cyber Crime

By now, you've all heard about Epsilon's April 1 data breach — an unauthorized party accessed a subset of Epsilon's email clients' data. My colleague Dave Frankland outlines the circumstances of the incident and its implications on Customer Intelligence and data security in his blog post immediately following the incident.

I attended Epsilon's Customer Symposium in Naples, Fla., last week, and I wanted to pipe in with some commentary based on what was addressed directly by Epsilon at the event.

Marketers: The way I would look at this is "if a data breach can happen to Epsilon — a firm which specializes in data and data management — it can definitely happen to me." We learned from Bryan Sartin, director of investigative services, Verizon Business Security Solutions, and Mick Walsh, supervisor, Miami Electronic Crime Task Force, US Secret Service, that electronic crime is a huge and growing business, due in part to the ease of access to consumer information online and the ease of access to the data black market through online search engines. Three-quarters of cases of electronic crimes executed through malware come from data disclosed through Facebook.

Note that most cyber crimes:

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Apple Is Tracking Us! Oh No! Who Cares, Really?

Apple has been storing our location. (See article) Sounds bad, but really, is it? My colleague Joe Stanhope forwarded the article to me with the line, “kinda scary.” Is it? Our credit cards track where we are and what we spend. The carriers know where we are all the time — they aren’t storing the information as far as we know, but they could be. Our cars can be tracked. We buy plane tickets and make flight reservations online. What’s a bit different is that many different entities have our information, but not necessarily one.

Your phone will know everything about you going forward. My phone already knows where I go (ok, and Apple is recording), who I call, what sports teams I follow, what games I play, where I bank, how often I visit Starbucks, where I shop, what books I’m reading (Kindle), what music I listen to . . . and the list goes on. What else is my phone going to know about me? It’s going to know:

  • What I eat because I want help tracking calories
  • How often I run because I track my workouts
  • What I watch on TV because my phone is my remote control
  • Who I fly . . . because I use mobile boarding passes
  • How healthy I am b/c it will track my cholesterol
  • Who my friends are from phone, texting, and Facebook
  • Where I’m eating b/c it tracks my Yelp searches and OpenTable bookings
  • Whether I’m traveling on foot or by car b/c it tracks my speed
  • How fast I drive . . .
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Redefining Sales-Ready Battle Cards

A theme that frequently shows up in survey data and during interviews with purchasing executives is that customers care more about how tech vendors sell than what they sell. Tech customers now put more emphasis on the behavior and skill of your sales reps than on your products or prices (see “Do Your Value Propositions ‘Go To Eleven’?”). What does this change mean for your CMI team?

Since customers are changing, how are your competitors selling differently? What intelligence do reps need from battle cards to anticipate and respond to new tactics from competitors?

As you frame your CMI team’s analysis within the customer’s problem, you see competitors from a different point of view – you first determine the merits in the competitor’s approach, then contrast your company’s solution, and, finally, build out a point-counterpoint discussion that will help reps anticipate topics that are likely to come up during customer conversations.

As CMI leaders, many of you tell me you are frustrated that the company measures your value by the number of clicks or downloads on sales portal, but that you don’t have a better way to show the volume or quality of work that you produce.

The only relevant gauge for battle cards is whether they advance the selling goals of sales reps.

The challenge is that sales reps have unique conversations with many stakeholders across a number of accounts. Your CMI team, obviously, cannot build battle cards for individual customer conversations. To break this impasse, Forrester will not provide a simple formula to quantify the value of your battle cards, but we will outline a methodology allowing your CMI team to define and measure how battle cards line up with selling situations.

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Marketing In “Cloud-Time”

 What is it that you think makes one tech company stand out from another? “My product is better than your product”? Not anymore. “My salespeople are better than your salespeople”? Possibly. “My channel is better than your channel”. You’re getting warmer. How about, “My marketing machine is better than your marketing machine”?

For example, 41% of customers identify “the vendor’s (not including its salespeople’s) ability to understand our business problem”, compared with only 21% who identified “the vendor’s salesperson’s ability to understand our business problem” as the most important vendor action factor when selecting a tech vendor. Marketing is clearly the difference-maker.

But cloud computing changes everything. The implications of cloud computing go far beyond its technology delivery/consumption model. It seems I get questions from tech marketers about all things cloud these days. A few examples:

  • “How can I use the cloud more effectively to market our solutions?” (Answer: It’s not what you read in USA Today about Facebook and Twitter. According to the results of our 2011 B2B Social Technographics® survey, discussion forums and professional social networking sites (read: not consumer social sites) outpace Facebook and Twitter ten-fold as information sources for informing businesses’ technology purchase decisions.)
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Got Mobile Measurement?

Last week we published a new report titled Mobile Measurement Is A Customer Intelligence Imperative. I’ve been getting more questions recently from Forrester clients about measuring mobile browsing and applications, so it was definitely time to look seriously into the topic. As an added bonus, this report also gave me the opportunity to work with two of Forrester’s mobile consumer strategy rock stars: Julie Ask and Thomas Husson; if you are interested in mobile, I strongly recommend that you follow their work.

The topic of mobile measurement has become increasingly frequent in digital analytics circles, and it’s not hard to see why:

  • Consumer adoption of mobile is on the rise globally.
  • Smartphones and other devices such as tablets are improving user experiences with advances in usability and functionality to become hubs for productivity, communications, and entertainment.
  • Improved infrastructure — carrier networks and widespread WiFi availability — supports data-intensive mobile browsing and application interactions.
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Tesco Joins The Battle For The Living Room

This is getting interesting. While Netflix is scaring the living daylights out of operators and rights holders in the US, on this side of the pond the battle to control the living room took a new twist with the announcement that Tesco is acquiring 80% of video-on-demand aggregator Blinkbox. Thus the UK’s most successful physical retailer - £1 in every £8 of UK consumer spend is with Tesco -  is set to compete head-to-head with the most successful online retailer, Amazon, which earlier this year took full ownership of Europe’s largest online DVD rental provider, LOVEFiLM.

Blinkbox is a canny company that has spent the last few years solidly acquiring pay-per-view video rights. Its execs are people the studios and broadcasters can do business with, and it has gone about its business quietly and efficiently. It looks like a good fit for Tesco, although the retail giant may yet keep its own white-label online DVD rental business, powered by LOVEFiLM.

There’s a compelling logic to this development: While media companies have been agonizing about the best way to make money from paid digital content, perhaps the best way is to ask those whose whole business is about selling stuff. And while at Forrester we regularly implore our clients to focus on understanding their consumers, that imperative is at the heart of the success of both Tesco and Amazon.

For the consumer, this could be good news, if it helps bring choice to the UK VoD market, especially on the proposed YouView platform, on which both LOVEFiLM and Blinkbox will be offered. For content owners, this opportunity to reach more consumers will be tempered by the knowledge that Tesco’s buyers are famously hard-nosed. For operators and broadcasters, this is an opportunity missed, and gives momentum to an unwelcome new competitor in the UK VoD market.

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A Discussion With Google On Search Marketing Agencies

I had breakfast yesterday with John Nicoletti, head of agency operations, and Dave Tan, head of SEM development for Google. They manage Google's relationships with search marketing agencies — updating them on what Google is working on and supporting the paid search business they manage with on behalf of marketers.

We chatted a bit about the findings from my recent Search Marketing Agency Wave, and John and Dave shared with me trends and differentiators they observe from their work with agencies.  Here are our collective observations:

  • Technology doesn't differentiate agencies; how agencies use technology does. My wave does include automation as a point of differentiation in a lot of critiera. But to be clear, I don't think automation for the sake of automation is what makes an agency good. Nor does the technology enabling the automation need to be a proprietary tool developed by the agency. I'm agnostic when it comes to what tools an agency uses.  What I care about is if the agency uses technology to improve processes, scalability, efficiency, and effectiveness of marketer search programs.

    John and Dave pointed out — and I agree — that the features and functionality of search management technologies are universally very similar. The value to the marketer comes in how these tools are used to improve their overall performance and visibility.
     

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Is Anyone In The UK Actually Using QR Codes?

Intrigued by a lot of what I’ve been reading recently, I’ve started looking for evidence of QR codes transforming how shoppers are interacting with retailers. The thing is all the evidence I see with my own eyes doesn’t back up this proclaimed uptake. I’ve never noticed a single one in a shop. Now, that could be because I’ve not been looking and if I’m honest, I’ve only had a phone capable of reading them for a few months.

Time for a quick bit of ad-hoc analysis (Health Warning: NOT OFFICIAL FORRESTER RESEARCH !!!)

In order to give this mini research project some vague semblance of credibility, I have adopted the rigorous scientific approach that Mr. Featonby, my A-level physics teacher drilled into me many years ago . . . 

Hypothesis

My hypothesis is that retailers aren’t using QR codes in the UK, and furthermore, the average shopper hasn’t a clue what one is.

Methodology

  1. I went to the local Tesco Metro and browsed the aisles, looking at every product I could find.
  2. I’ve looked through every store magazine and free paper and at every poster I pass in London, on the Midlands Mainline train service, and in Nottingham (where I live) for two weeks.
  3. I posted a picture of a QR code on my Facebook page and asked my friends (average shoppers one and all!) if they knew what it was.
  4. I never said this was a robust survey.
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