It's Easy to be Scared; That's Exactly What "They" Want

In an orthogonal departure from our occasional stream of relevant content here, or at least a tangential departure, we want to briefly comment on the senseless and tragic event that marred one of the most historical mass participation events in the country yesterday, the Boston Marathon.

(And incidentally, we promise to pick up the frequency and hopefully quality of posting here shortly.)

"Orthogonal" to the extent this has nothing to do with how business connects with its clients and customers.  "Tangential" to the extent this actually might have a connection if we think about the wholesale collapse of what should have been a wonderful day of celebration and well, yes consumption, but most importantly: What that might mean for the next massive marathon, like this Fall in New York City.

Look at the headlines and column feet of commentary -- for instance today's edition of USA Today declares: "TERROR RETURNS" and "That Post 9/11 Quiet? Its Over."  And we don't mean to single out USA Today; heck, it was the entire newstand regardless of publication.  Sadly, it sells papers and persists the awful truth that we're a voyeur nation.  But here's another take: our's with an all caps "FWIW" meaning "For Whatever It's Worth."

Its easy to be scared.  As the details of this tragedy unfold its easy for us to demand our government do something, anything to make it go away.  It would be easy, but wrong.  Doing so plays right into the hands of the criminals responsible for this.  And it simply glorifies and illuminates whatever crazed cause they may have.  We say "they" because we bet it was more than a lone actor, but that's totally beside the point.

You see, terrorism feeds on fear -- fear to go out, to be a part of massive crowds, or be found in large public places -- whether its the Boston Marathon or the first shopping day of the holday season.  And its designed to scare us well beyond the scope of what actually happened.  And that (what happened), we believe is actually more rare than our senses suggest.  Give credit to the nation's law enforcement and security experts for their vigilance following 9/11 to lock down on terrorist opportunities.  But recall the gloomy predictions that we would see chaos every few months afterward?  It didn't happen because by refusing to succumb to terror and being vigilant but carrying on, we better managed our destiny.  And avoiding the reality disotrtion field these rare events cause is imperative.

There has been a bunch of research on fear and the brain teaches us to exaggerate threats, especially ones that are rare, immediate, with shock and awe, and in the end random.  The media feeds it, and we ingest it. Terrorism pushes all of our fear buttons, very hard, and we overreact rather than respond. 

The simple truth is there is no fool-proof way to stop these senseless acts of terror -- whether domestic or foreign.  They will continue and so must we.  But we must not assume that at every corner chaos awaits.  Remain vigilant yes, but remain calm and carry on.

Remember, although it is easy to compromise the securtity of uncontrolled areas, terrorism experts will also tell you it takes an enormous amount of coordination, resource management, and precise execution of a plot.  Hollywood has made it spectacular (and deceptively simple) to blow things up.  In the real world it is really much harder to do; hard to bring together the materials, hard to get the coordination, and hard to make a workable plan go off like clockwork.  The result?  Yes, every so often there will be an unusual event where things come together and a tragic strike occurs.  But its rare, and we always adapt and adopt to the circumstances (even if it now means pulling our shoes off in airport security lines and body scans at nearly every public office entry).

We all should be angry; really upset.  For good reason.  But we should refuse to be terrorized.  And honestly, we think we'd all be better off if somehow the Media could contain themselves and refuse to sensationalize this.  Otherwise, we're playing right into the real plot of terrorism: to strike a disproportionate amount of fear, altering our behavior, and scuttling our daily lives.  Don't succumb to this. 

Sure, its hard to keep this perspective.  But how "successful" this attack is depends more on how we react in the next few months than the tragic and horrific scenes in Boston yesterday.  When we (over)react by changing laws, policies, or procedures that ultimately make our great nation less open, reducing our freedoms, and constraining our ability to flourish, then terrorism succeeds, even if the attacks fail.  If, on the other hand, we refuse to be terrorized, then terrorism tends to fail even if an attack is somehow a "success."

Like many of you, we have friends and family in Boston, our founding partner is originally a Bostonian, and we know many who went there to celebrate their achievement of being able to run 26 miles, 384 yards.  And as we (at C[IQ]) watch this unfold in the papers, on the 24-hours news cycle of cable, in the echo chamber that is the Internet, and at our airports' security checks (for some of us this morning) we feel compelled to remind our readers to refuse to be terrorized, because although its easy to be scared, that's exactly what "they" want.

We now return you to our regularly intended content.

The State of the Internet Continues to Amaze

Our parting shot for this Friday is about the state of the Internet, and it offers some food-for-thought in light of our earlier commentary this week on the United Nations Internet land grab that's underway.

For our clients and interested readers alike, we try from time to time to help you stay abreast of facts and figures about the growth, adoption and innovation of the Internet. Our CTO offers up this report today drawing from a recent presentation by Mary Meeker, a partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufiled & Byers (KPCB), a venerable leading venture capital firm based in the heart of the Silicon Valley.  Mary made her annual presentation that tracks the growth of the Internet last May and updated it during a presentation at Stanford University last week.

To summarize in a sentence: The data is stunning

And it suggests to us a couple of hallmark take aways:

  1. the Internet is assuredly on track to be your primary,and perhaps your exclusive venue for conducting business (depending on the nature of your market, product and services); and
  2. without a doubt, the connective tissue of human interaction across the Internet will be mobile in nature, or said differently, the desktop is rapidly diminishing to an inconsequential access means. 

With that let's look a litte deeper and we offer the 88 slides presentation below for you to peruse on your own.  And you should.

First, Mary's data (as well as other sources) suggest a notable shift away from Windows-powered Intel machines (so-called "Wintel" platform) in the past few years. However, another way of interpreting her graph is that the device market expanded with new mobile and tablet categories. And accordingly, it can also be argued that the new market segments diluted the Wintel segment, rather than causing a shift away.


Regardless of how you see it, Apple has managed to do what for years the pundits maintained could never happen: it has caused a fracture in the Wintel monopoly.  Although Apple may have been the first rock into the Wintel windshield, it is Google's Android OS that’s causing the riples of crack lines across Microsoft's market hold.  according to the Meeker data, since Q-4 2010, combined shipments of tablets and smartphones have exceeded the number of PCs shipped and that trend shows no sign of slowing down.

Here are some other factoids to consider when thinking about the state (and impact) of the (global) Internet:

  • There are now 2.4 billion Internet users worldwide, a number that’s still growing eight percent yearly.
  • There are more than 1.1 billion smartphone subscribers worldwide — but that’s still just 17% of the global mobile phone market.
  • 29% of U.S. adults now own some sort of an Internet-enabled tablet device.
  • Mobile devices now account for 13% of worldwide Internet traffic, up from 4% two years ago.
  • Mobile app and ad revenue has grown at a CAGR of 129% since 2008, and now has crested $19 billion USD.
  • And here is perhaps an omen of things to come:  Mobile traffic app Waze has been adding users faster than all GPS makers combined have sold personal navigation units, and it’s been that way since the beginning of 2012. (Intellectually honest disclaimer: Mary Meeker, vis-a-vis her VC firm KPCB, is an investor in Waze ;-)

The KPCB presentation goes on to detail how these device and connectivity trends are leading to the complete re-imagination of everything.  For our Clients we encourage a moment of reflection: how you create, establish, and sustain a relationship with your customers is also dramatically shifting.  We think the underlying message here is "Go mobile, young man, go mobile."

And when you look at this data, is it any wonder there is land grab food fight underway in the United Nations over control of the Internet going forward?

 

That's our Friday Parting Shot, and hopefully it will feed your CRM strategic planning.

Happy Holidays

Is the Web Destined to be Regulated by the United Nations?

You may recall we commented about Internet governance awhile back because, well, although you might feel very removed from such issues, how the rules of the global Internet are fashioned and enforced will have a clear potential impact on how you do business in the digital age of an always-on society.  We mentioned then that a big meeting about this was scheduled in Dubai this Fall. It arrived a week ago today, and is underway – a 12-day conference debating who does (or should) rule the global Internet.

Some would argue (and we tend to agree) that the very success of the greatest global communications revolution since the advent of telephone happened because there has been a meritocracy rather than an top-down administrative, politically motivated bureaucracy.  How’s that worked out?  Well in fact, the Internet as the network of networks has experienced no down time since its inception some 50 years ago.  Ponder that for a moment.  Oh sure, there have been partial slow downs in service, but to be sure, the Internet has never had to be shut down and restarted nor experienced a “blue screen of death" (here's the new version).

Well, this could all be at risk, given that those nations who have commercial and/or geopolitical interests at stake have raised the issue up to the United Nations.  But let’s emphasize the word “could” at this point (at the risk of getting caught up in the hyperbole of both sides of the argument.)  Regardless, for digital commerce managers, we think it’s a good idea to keep an eye on this.  And you can look to us to keep you apprised (feel free to reach out) since one of our partners is a sustaining member of the Internet Society and long time observer/contributor to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Here’s the deal: the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT, pronounced “wicket”), began this past Monday, with a goal of drafting a new treaty to set the stage for international telecommunications regulations.  The thing is, “telecommunications” as the term now applies, effectively means the Internet.  Perhaps nuanced, the issue essentially comes down to whether the rules that have applied to “circuit switched networks” (that is your good old telephone) should equally or perhaps more so apply to “packet switched networks” (in particular the packet switched network – the network of networks we know as the global Internet).

Let’s back up just a bit at the risk of this turning into an unintended treatise (there are gigabytes of far better content about this via a Google search).  But to summarize, the current rules that govern telecommunications on a global basis were put in place nearly a quarter of a century ago, in 1988.  And the conference is sponsored by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU); that is, the United Nations agency for information and communication technologies.  The intent to change and/or update the rulebook has spread worries about a cyber-grab for centralized control of the Internet by the United Nations.  Consider the ITU's own self-proclaimed basis for so-doing.

There are arguments on both sides regarding Internet governance, each driven by their own commercial or geo-political agenda.  However, we do believe that to an extent the Internet Society has unwittingly brought some of this on itself.  The reason so many controversial issues are being brought up in the ITU is that existing “multi-sectoral” components of the Internet Society like ICANN, IANA, or the IETF have had difficulties ensuring broad international representation. Some countries express frustration about  the slow pace these institutions have taken towards supporting global concerns, such as providing full support for non-English domain names and different character sets.

The fears are fueled by criticism for a lack of transparency in this process to date including unpublished documents and secret proposals catalyzed by inevitable political horse-trading destined for debate.  And that’s a far cry from the meritocracy and transparent processes that have formed and refined the Internet for the past near half a century.  You see, WCIT is open to member governments and to hundreds of corporate and organization members, but their proposals and deliberations are secret. This makes it very difficult for the general public to know what’s going on in the meeting and to influence the process.  As with other international policy making organizations that work in secret (like the WTO), there’s a good case to be made that the WCIT and ITU need to be pressed into greater transparency before they are given public trust.

The results of this secret, some say “land grab” are fueled by the nature of some of the agendas being advanced in this confidential proceeding.  For instance (and here is where the proverbial rubber hits the tarmac for our Clients), the most significant proposal on the table is not about who controls the Internet, but who pays for it.  ETNO, an organization of European telecoms, is proposing to start charging large content providers a carriage fee for delivering content; in other words, YouTube and Facebook, for instance, would have to pay a European network operator to reach European viewers.  Let your mind wander on what such a proposal once implemented, could portend for a range of other digital commerce activities.  This quickly can become the proverbial slippery slope.

Coverage of this matter in the U.S. edition of The Guardian with an editorial by Dan Gilmor, offers this strong quote addressing equally concerning issues of censorship, content regulation, and most disturbingly, the mechanics of how the Internet routes traffic:

The very idea that the ITU could obtain and exert major regulatory powers over the Internet is a happy one only to dictators and others who believe the Internet needs to be controlled. We've seen again and again what nation states like Syria, China, Saudi Arabia and others do when they are unhappy with online content or conversations. Even a hint that such censorship could spread should be, and is, anathema to people who believe in fundamental free speech rights. Russia, in particular, has proposed regulations (pdf) that the United States ambassador to the meeting called "the most shocking and most disappointing" of any he'd seen.

So, perhaps its no surprise that one of the most dominant players in the Internet’s growth and commercial maturity, Google, is emerging as the most vocal critic.  To be sure, there are plenty of others, we think there should be a whole bunch more.  Google, for now, however, is leading the charge with its own campaign launched last month calling for all Internet users (yeah, that would include you) to lobby their governments to charge that the conference is not the forum to determine the future (and/or fate) of the global Internet.  The problem is, Google explains, only governments have a voice in the ITU.  And this includes government without any interest in a free and open Internet.  You can probably guess which governments they might be; Dan’s quote above certainly calls some out publicly.

We think the key battleground at the conference will be the proposal from Russia and several African nations (alluded to above) to wrest control of the Internet from the Internet Society’s ICANN (the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers), the organization that helps oversee the Internet naming and addressing schemas, and other groups that are primarily based in the U.S.  The Russian proposal, leaked on WCITleaks.ORG, a web site set up to counter the lack of transparency, calls for individual countries to "have equal rights to manage their Internet including in regard to the allotment, assignment and reclamation of Internet numbering, naming addressing and identification resources."

These developments and issues are not going away.  While there is little likelihood of immediate or even near term direct impact to how our Clients conduct digital business and build and sustain customer relationships in an online world, we believe it is imperative to keep eyes wide open and ears trained forward as this unfolds.  Explore some of the links in this article, and search online for more.  Familiarize yourselfwith this development, and/or stay in touch with us as we will continue to closely monitor this through our Partner who remains active in the Internet Society.  Although this topic may seem tangential to the matters of customer intelligence and relationship management, make no mistake of its potential impact down the road—particularly for those of you conducting global digital commerce.

Let us know what you think.  And let’s elevate the conversation.

Dear Monday

We know its Tuesday.  But Monday was one of "those" days.  You know, the kind of Mondays that Moma Cass (The Momas and the Papas) used to sing about.  Geesh, each of us here had grand plans to accomplish but sometimes it all just crashes and burns... including plans for more postings on our CRM definition discussion.

So, we can't recall who sent this to us, but it seemed like a perfect way to sum up our feeling about yesterday's "Monday meltdown" :

Comment

Gregory Miller, CTO

Greg has been in the tech sector as a software architect and engineer, product manager, marketing and biz dev exec., and even IP and privacy lawyer for 3 decades. He is currently on the Board of a non-profit tech foundation reinventing America's election technology, is a venture adviser in the Silicon Valley, and serves as the CTO for C[IQ] Strategies, Inc.

CRM: Not the Floor Wax and Dessert Topping You Thought it Was

From the "what did we learn today" session we try to do around here at the end of a week, comes this little revelation: CRM is still misunderstood. We know, shocking, eh?

We're in the throes of preparing a new digital marketing technology strategy for a client, and part of that process of course is interviewing.  So, it probably shouldn't come as any surprise to us (of all people) to learn that if you put 2-3 sharp people in the same room and ask them to define CRM you get four  to five answers.  Actually, you get a vigoroous disagreement amongst them that nearly derails the project.

For one person CRM is all about database marketing.  For another it was sales force automation, and for a third it was customer service.  Of course, we asserted that CRM is Brand Management.  And that certainly widened some eyes (turns out in the end, we gained agreement on our definition, and we quickly called it a "wrap" observing that it was Friday after all, and sunny out.)

Here's the main thing: there is really nothing new about the basic concepts of CRM

After all, marketing has long urged their Companies to “to get in touch and engage with their customers” and then effectively build to suit their (products, services, encounters).   For nearly 2 decades now the leading edge of marketing (us, humbly included) have been evangelizing the importance in the 3rd Age (the digital age) to realize a shift to consumer-centricity and the power the Internet provides for direct-to-consumer commerce.

To put a fine point on the real issue: the challenge has been to figure out how to implement this concept in a cost effective manner for more than a few key strategic customers.  So in practice, relationship management or marketing (whichever "m" word you like) has only been applied in key account situations, and frankly by virtue of the phrase "key account" generally the Company and customer are already in the 3rd, 4th or 5th stages of the customer life-cycle (i.e., "consideration" "selection" or "satisfaction").

The rest of the time, mass-marketing principles have been employed.  So, the strategic concept of CRM has been to employ information technology to create highly personalized learning-based relationships by moving customer "ownership" up to the corporate level from the sales person or channel.  And if this could not be done affordably for all customers, then the mandate has been to focus on the most valuable customers on an RFM basis.

Add in the Internet and some churning out of innovations during the dark years between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, and now we have a wide range of marketing technology to identify, track, and interact affordably and effectively with N customers in a highly personalized, tailored and targeted manner.  The unintended consequence of this, however, is for Companies to see CRM as marketing technology itself, rather then the reason the technology came about in the first place.

So, it seems once again we need to emphasize that CRM is an attitude, a philosophy, a set of principles, and even an ethos, but not an application, platform, software, or system. 

In fact, CRM is Brand Management, or perhaps more specifically, "managing brand engagement."  It is the direct 1:1 conversations between the customer and the brand.  And CRM can be implemented with a number of marketing technologies. 

The best CRM results are obtained in those Companies who recognize that if they make and sell a product or a service to a consumer that their busines must be "consumer centric" not "product centric."

Before any strategy can be set, or changes can be made in the Company's I.T. or M.T. infrastructure,  management must become very clear about what CRM means to it's business and why it wants to proceed.

But its equally important to understand what CRM it not.  CRM does not replace, but rather complements other marketing and customer service initiatives. For example, CRM cannot replace market research.  A well executed CRM strategy will employ systems to create and manage detailed profiles on customers and their longitudinal behavioural data. This will enable the marketing team to understand what particular customers are doing (and make possible cross-sell and up-sell opportunities).  But market research remains essential to understanding (non-customer) consumer behaviour and forecast shifts in that behavior relevant to the Comany's business.  In other words, while a CRM strategy should strive to attain a so-called "360-degree view" of customers, it must be integrated with all aspects of the business  in order to do so, and complemented by other marketing tools to provide the broadest possible overview.

Therefore, our parting shot is CRM is still misunderstood.  Our insight this week is that we need to better help our clients understand that CRM is a process.  We think the key is to equate CRM to the challenges of brand management, particularly in this always-on digital age.

Time for cocktails.
Cheers!

Comment

Gregory Miller, CTO

Greg has been in the tech sector as a software architect and engineer, product manager, marketing and biz dev exec., and even IP and privacy lawyer for 3 decades. He is currently on the Board of a non-profit tech foundation reinventing America's election technology, is a venture adviser in the Silicon Valley, and serves as the CTO for C[IQ] Strategies, Inc.

Social Media is a Good Thing, Until its Not

Last Fall the British government established an independent panel to try to make some sense of what happened during that fateful five days of riots 06.August to 10.August.   They looked at all aspects of the social phenomenon of lawless havoc.  One of the more interesting elements they considered were charges that social media may have been largely responsible or at least a catalyst. What caused our tail to straighten and ears to perk was the notion that the government might need a "kill switch" of some sort for social media services including texting and Twitter to prevent a recurrence of this scourage of illegal assembly (or disassembly as the case may have been.)

In particular, reported the Guardian newspaper, Steve Kavanagh, the deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police charged that "Inflamatory and inaccurate messages on Twitter were the primary culprits of the melee."  

"Social media and other methods have been used to organise these levels of greed and criminality."

Our Take: Sure, social media is to blame in exactly the same way flyers, banners, telephones, fax machines, and bull horns were the principal culprits behind riots of the industrial age.  We're going to go out on an intellectual limb here and suggest that if you're going to blame the tool, you're unlikely to be very successful at quashing a riot.  If people want to speak out, they're going to speak out; whether they charge up the battery and speak through a bull horn, or charge up their phone and let their thumbs do the talking. But that's not really our point today.

Actually, our Friday's "Parting Shot" is about to be fired, so read on.

You see, this independent U.K. panel recently published an interim report, and their response to the social media question (also reported in the Guardian) is eye widening:

On the role of social networks, the panel concluded that rioters were aided by instant messaging services but warned against plans to shut down websites such as Twitter and Facebook. They pointed out that the UK has pledged support for the open use of social media during the Arab spring uprising across the Middle East.

"Mobile communications technology is continually evolving and new developments may benefit the police and authorities rather than rioters," the panel concluded. They added that some mobile networks have installed systems to detect crowds and the direction they are moving in so they can manage congestion.

"In the future, it may be possible to use cell congestion monitoring as a tool to tackle rioting," the report found. "What is clear from the riots is that there is no simple 'switch off' solution. Viral silence may have as many dangers as viral noise."

To us, the highlight is the naked comparison to the Arab spring riots. That's a disruptive topic, with many people vigilantly defending rioters in a stable democracy (United Kingdom or here at home in the USA) as fundamentally different than those in living under an oppressive government (Syria).  While we understand how people have less sympathy for the former, this argument should be concerning because it is used as justification for stronger methods of stopping riots (e.g., a "kill switch" for Blackberries and Twitter).

We think that produces an unsettling paradox: the idea that oppressive measures are acceptable, but only for non-oppressive governments.  While it's simple to look at some of the London rioters and see spoiled kids acting like thugs, we should be careful: Bashar al-Assad views the rioters in his country the same way.

And by the way, in as much as rioters used digital media (perhaps Blackberry Messenger more than Twitter from what is being learned), Twitter and other social media tools were also used to organize clean up efforts and emergency medical assistance.

So, we applaud the London investigative panel in their acknowledgment of the double-standard that could emerge as quoted above, because it raises a serious paradox (not to mention the trouble with blaming the tool).  It provides this unsettling notion of recognizing that...

Social media is a good thing... until its not.

It shouldn't take too much noodling to apply the learning from this to your own social media strategy for customer relationship management in general, and brand management in particular.

Happy (Belated) Twitter Day

If you haven't seen the news this week about Twitter, then you missed Twitter's 6th Birthday.  To be precise, the public birthday of Twitter is July 15th, the date Twitter actually became generally publicly available, but that's another dispute.  To be sure, its first use, internally by its co-founder Jack Dorsey, was on the 21st of March, 2006.  Either way, its already been 6 years since the start of an experiment that has become a social phonmenon.  Microblogging; condensing your thoughts into 140 characters, and doing so cleverly by using URL shorteners and hashtags.

Indeed, its become a imperative consumer-facing social marketing tool (in addition to being a critical channel of democracy driving revolutions.) So pervasive Twitter has become that comScore reports Twitter.com attracted more than 178 million unique visitors across the globe in February.  In 2006 when Twitter went to SXSW Conference there were approximately 224 "tweets" about the conference.  This past SXSW conference week before last witnessed over 220,000 tweets in the first 48 hours alone.

Our parting shot for this Friday is "Happy Belated Birthday Twitter."  We may well mark the 21st March henceforth as "Twitter Day."  And why not?

 

In Hopes of Avoiding a Mayan Sunrise

We're going to try to start a Friday habit of what we'll call our "Parting Shot" for the week.  Here is our first of hopefully a regular series of Friday Parting Shots...

During a lunch break today, someone reminded us about the forecast of Earth's impending doom.  And it got us thinking.  So, if you believe the Mayan Calendar, on 21 December 2012 the Earth's polar caps are going to reverse polarity tossing the Earth out of orbiting the sun, and send us all hurtling into outer space. 

In such case, having a strategic plan in place for how you will extend your customer relationships through the holiday season is probably useless. 

Of course, should the sun happen to rise on the morning of the 22nd, then having such a plan in place might be a very good idea.  Your choice.  But if you happen to be one of those who believes the Mayans seriously goofed their calculations of that date, we hope you remember our parting shot...

...which is to remind you we're here from sun-up to sun-down (and often times in between) to help you with your strategic plans to extend your customer relationships through the holidays and beyond.

Have a great weekend of March Madness :-)

Comment

Gregory Miller, CTO

Greg has been in the tech sector as a software architect and engineer, product manager, marketing and biz dev exec., and even IP and privacy lawyer for 3 decades. He is currently on the Board of a non-profit tech foundation reinventing America's election technology, is a venture adviser in the Silicon Valley, and serves as the CTO for C[IQ] Strategies, Inc.