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Focus on ROI, Data Preparation, Communication for Success : Takeaways from Predictive Analytics World, Boston, 2014

The recently concluded Predictive Analytics World 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts, was chock full of insights from organizations who have successfully implemented analytics in a variety of settings. A few points stood out and I will attempt to capture them here:

1. Focus on ROI measures:  This is spoken of very often, but frequently in an attempt to develop the “right” or “perfect” model, the focus on ROI sometimes begins to waver. Being driven by ROI implies understanding which variables are controllable by the business, which data observations are of real interest and sometimes making adjustments to accomplish that. This may mean considering variables that are otherwise not significant, or oversampling certain data observations and so forth. But a relentless focus on ROI will yield the desired results.

2. Eschew Complexity: Seek simpler models, fewer variables, and explanations that make sense. Given results, the human mind will find ways to explain it -- so do not rely on interpretability as a defense of your models. But let the sheer simplicity of models tell their own story.

3. Ensure algorithmic Data Preparation: As all practitioners know, Data Cleansing and Preparation is 80% of the effort -- but what is sometimes forgotten is that Data Preparation is not a one time effort, but is subject to the algorithms being considered. Understand not only the assumptions, but the limitations of the algorithms being considered -- and do for the algorithms, what the algorithm cannot do for itself.

4. Consider Ensemble Techniques: Ensemble methods such as Random Forest, Gradient Boosting and others have proven repeatedly to provide stable and usable results. Master these techniques and more.

5. Simulations are often a good Communication technique -- All practitioners understand that the ultimate success or failure of their efforts depends upon successful communication of their findings. Leverage simulation of your results, and the likelihood of success or failure of your model in real situations to help further communicate and define your findings.

And incidentally, if you wish to understand the analytics maturity of your organization, visit this link at the INFORMS website!

Automation and Ambassadors. Smart Move?

October 7, 2014 at 9:00 am PST

In today’s marketing world we’re bombarded with automated solutions to help us meet our goals. For every objective we set there are ten platforms ready and waiting to assist. Ambassador Programs are no exception, and when vendors show you all their sparkles and bells and whistles it’s tempting to jump on board. But how do you know if you’re making the right decision? What do you look for when you’re shopping for a solution? In this article I’ll share three important guidelines to use when exploring Ambassador Program platforms. But first here are two important lessons I’ve learned. Read More »

The ABCs and 123s of Social Listening

October 2, 2014 at 12:38 pm PST

The Greek philosopher Epictetus once said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” This is an important adage to embrace, especially with social media marketing programs. Listening enables you to understand what people expect from your brand and how they feel about your products. It can also give you valuable insights to guide your strategy and develop deeper, more meaningful relationships with your customers.

All too often, a common failure with brands is that they speak twice as much as they listen – or worse yet, they don’t listen at all:

  • 56% of customer tweets to companies are being ignored (source)
  • 70% of brands ignore complaints on Twitter (source)
  • 39% of companies do not track their social media responses at all, and 55% ignore all customer feedback on Twitter and Facebook, largely because they have no process in place to respond (source)

Companies who fail to listen are losing an opportunity to satisfy and engage customers, and they also miss out on other strategic benefits. Listening delivers great value during the strategic planning process as well as in tactical operations. It can help you:

  • Identify emerging trends
  • Provide competitive insights
  • Discover product issues and concerns
  • Manage crisis and mitigate risk
  • Uncover sales leads
  • Find influencers and advocates
  • Guide your content marketing strategy

Sophisticated listening guides our approach at Cisco. We implemented a Social Media Listening Center (SMLC) to visualize conversations that are relevant to us. Our listening center started out as a single-screen display outside of our CMO’s office. Now, it is a multi-screen experience that enables customized visualizations in real time. It features conversations related to our brand, trends, influencers, and sentiment, as well as short-term activities such as new product launches, major campaigns/sponsorships, and our annual customer conference, Cisco Live.

But listening alone is not enough. Today’s social media savvy customers expect companies not only to listen, but also to respond. A study by Edison Research found that 67% of people want a response within 24 hours or less. This is where the “ABCs and 123s of Social Listening” comes into play.

ABCs

Step 1:  Action-Based Conversations (ABCs)

Cisco is mentioned 5-7K times a day and roughly 3% of those conversations are actionable. Using our listening tools, we developed a process to help filter out the noise and identify the ABCs. These conversations are then categorized into one of the six categories below:

  • Support – Request for help resolving real-time issue
  • Question – General inquiries and product questions
  • Critic – Conversations that merit brand management consideration
  • Buzz – Praise from Cisco fan or advocate
  • Lead – Pronouncement of near-term purchase decision
  • Idea – Request to enhance a product with a new feature

Step 2:  123s

After we identify and categorize the ABCs, we then prioritize them into 3 levels. Priority 1 conversations typically have a 24-hour response time, and priority 2 conversations have a 72-hour response time. Priority 3 conversations fall in the discretionary response category.

Step 3:  Route and Respond

Once conversations are tagged, they are routed through our social content management platform to the appropriate team members and experts who can provide a response within the designated time frame.

Step 4:  Measure and Evaluate

As with any marketing program, it’s extremely important to measure your results and set targets for success. At Cisco, we began by tracking baseline metrics such as the number of action-based conversations and replies. Now we also track reach, revenue from listening for leads, average response time and adherence to SLAs (i.e. response posted within the recommended time period). We monitor these performance indicators and make adjustments to the program as needed to ensure continued success for Cisco and our customers.

Listening isn’t always easy, but it’s well worth the effort. The more you listen and interact with those who are talking about your company, the greater opportunity you have to build connections and increase the visibility of your brand. Having a formal program in place to not only listen, but also respond offers many rewards ranging from increased customer satisfaction to positive brand perception to new revenue opportunities. Just remember your listening ABCs and 123s, and you will be well on your way to creating meaningful relationships with your customers.

Social Selling in Action—Part 3: Regional Rollout, Regional Strengths

As the number of users of social media continues to grow, the boundary between our personal and professional  lives begins to overlap. Unsurprisingly, the customer buying cycle is also beginning to change. By the time a prospect has reached out to a sales rep, in most cases they already know what they want because they’ve done their research on social channels, canvassed their peers on community forums and downloaded materials.  Where the customer goes, so does sales.

Carolyn Charles, Project Specialist and Bernard Chiu, Project Specialist, have been helping to lead the effort to transform traditional selling at Cisco into social selling. Their social selling strategy leverages the skills and expertise of Cisco sales reps by giving them the tools and support they need to interact and engage with customers in this new and constantly changing environment.

I spoke with Carolyn and Bernard separately to discuss the innovation that is taking place within the Social Selling program.

In part 3 of a 3-part series, Carolyn talks about regional differences and how different groups are leveraging new social selling capabilities. Read Part 1: Innovation Starts with Sales for an introduction to the social selling program at Cisco.  Read Part 2: Attribution for Accurate Metrics for a view into how Cisco is tracking the impact of Social Selling.


JR:  You’ve rolled out Social Selling into APJC (Asia Pacific, Japan, China) and EMEAR (Europe, Middle East, Africa, Russia), how are things going? Have you noticed any differences in how the regions are adopting these new capabilities?

Carolyn Charles: There’s a lot of excitement and passion, particularly in the APJC region. Each region works quite differently with the technology. Twitter is more likely to be used in the Americas than in EMEAR, but ultimately the teams all have a very similar style of working. They all are on  the same page wanting to be involved and using the latest and greatest technology—they’re willing to try anything. I found that the APJC sales team really enjoys the one-on-one connection that LinkedIn enables. Many of them are in new roles and are eager get started and feel that Social Selling is an ideal way to meet their new customers.

 

The Americas team is a little further along in the program because that is where it was rolled out first.  For EMEAR & APJC, this is quite new and they have a real passion for it; they are thinking outside the box and actually innovating beyond what we have formally rolled out. For example, one of the sales reps in EMEAR has created a group for his partners. They are thinking creatively and are pioneering new ways of working with their customers and prospects.

JR: Have there been any surprises in the Social Selling program?

CC: I never thought we’d get SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads) so quickly. We were very surprised it happened so soon and so quickly. I was also pleasantly surprised how up for it the sales guys are—how supportive they’ve been. I haven’t heard anyone saying “oh, not another thing they’re making us do” but rather “yeah, this is going to work.”  They’re getting marketing support and wanting to use it in their everyday efforts, and they’re also taking the initiative and trying things on their own.

JR: At a high level, what have you learned from the program?

CC: The adoption has reflected some generational differences. Our team are generally early in career and are thus actively involved in finding the best ways to use social media in their day-to-day life. They are not just using what we give them, but are actively suggesting and trying new ideas. I’ve learned there are so many new ways to communicate, and that the sales team like to control how they communicate with their network through the type and frequency of posts they use. I think these new methods of communicating will help our sales team develop new contacts, which can be really hard to do.

JR: What do you think of the status of Social Selling at Cisco?

CC: I’m really proud that on our “Full Circle Giving Back” day, when our VP John Donovan was asked by the CEO of the charity we were supporting how they can increase their visibility to potential contributors, John said social media is the way forward. The scope of how you reach people is much bigger today, and it’s how people want to connect.  I think it shows he is 150% behind the initiative.  I think Cisco, on the whole, is on par with most other enterprises of this size, but I also think there is a lot of excitement. There’s been a shift -- new talk from Cisco’s leadership that sounds very powerful. “Be amazing or be surpassed” was one call out that resonated with me personally. I think this is what customers want and how our social network will evolve. It’s going to get more and more exciting.


Jennifer Roberts (@rideboulderco) is a Social Media Marketing Manager and leads the Social Selling program. Carolyn Charles is a Project Specialist and co-leads the Social Selling program.

Networking Goes Social

As you probably know, networking can bring your career to a new level. Who you meet can open a variety of doors – you’re able to meet new clients, gain referrals, meet future peers, find a mentor, or begin a new partnership. The possibilities are endless.

Gone are the days where you would print out a stack of business cards and keep them in your wallet to hand out wherever you go. Now, with the digital age, your business card is your social presence. Interacting with someone digitally is the new norm; connecting with a colleague on LinkedIn, tweeting at your favorite brand or company, sharing your favorite articles on Facebook – these are all ways to network from right behind the keyboard.

Networking Goes Social

So, what’s the benefit of getting active on social networks? Here are my top three benefits for taking your networking skills to the computer:

Reach Brands Directly. Many brands are active on social media and are curious about how their customers and partners are using their products. Use this to your advantage and start a conversation about their latest launch, an article they posted, or good customer service. They’ll likely respond back with a follow-up question or a kind note as a way to thank you for reaching out.

Save Time and Money. While you should continue to go to live events when possible, you can network through social channels whenever and wherever you go. You can reach out to brands on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn through your phone or desktop without the hefty price tag that comes with traveling.

Interact with Industry Leaders. If you refer to an article written by an industry leader, tag them by using @[their handle]. On Twitter, for example, many company executives and brands will favorite or retweet your post as a way of engaging back. It’s a way of interacting with people you might otherwise not get the chance to.

Have you started networking online? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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