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Abedeen Chief Marketing Officer Conference 2008

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Last week I was at the Abedeen Chief Marketing Officer Conference. Some of the speakers included the CMO’s of Walmart.com and Wells Fargo, VP’s of Marketing from Levi’s and HP’s personal computing division and the Chief Business Development Officer from Kodak. If you want to know what CMO’s are worried about in 2008 it’s social media, web analytics and making CRM simpler.

For the majority of CMO’s social media is a black hole and their attempts to leverage it have been problematic. As one speaker pointed out, the analog is that many of these marketing organizations are trying to do the same thing they have done for years – be the one’s in control of the conversation. It’s similar to early websites. Before we really understood web interaction early websites just looked like brochures that had been scanned and hosted online. Most social media attempts are trying to put the website tactics to work in a place that’s far more dynamic and fluid.

The question we should be asking ourselves is Peter Drucker’s favorite, “If we were not already doing it this way, is this the way we would do it?” Walmart.com’s Cathy Halligan was refreshingly honest when she admitted that they are not sure what social media means to their 130,000,000 weekly customers yet. What she does know is that the reviews and comments on the product sections are slowly creating conversations between customers. This ‘conversation-in-the-aisle’ is the Holy Grail for Halligan because it drives loyalty and community.

For companies like Walmart.com, Best Buy and Levis there is a direct, and fast growing, correlation between online research and buying behavior. In 2007 all retailers saw a massive spike in purchases directly influenced by online research. According to Halligan’s presentation data some $603 billion in purchases were first researched online.

What’s really interesting is that this researching behavior is moving away from friends and family sources to online options like blogs, product review sites, and user generated product and service reports.

The good news for web designers and marketers like us is that web marketing is definitely the most important area of spending and development for all companies. That said, the hard part is knowing how to position yourself on the web. If you’re Levi’s you combine reality TV and online design competitions to create a community. Patrice Varni, Levi’s CMO, partnered with Bravo’s Project Runway to create an innovative campaign. Even then, Levi has failed to see beyond the initial campaign and their follow up has been simply to gather email addresses. What they do with those email addresses remains to be see. More spam? Let’s hope not.

One of the outstanding campaigns we heard about was HP’s “31 Days of the Dragon”, which combined the blog business develop skills of Buzz Corps with some unsold inventory to come up with a blog author driven promotion. The campaign succeeded in driving serious traffic, comments and sales of the laptop in question.

Others are also seeing increases in revenue directly related to web analytics learnings. Stephan Chase, from Marriott International, says that a deep understanding and application of their web analytics data has been so influential on bottom line improvements that he calls data “the next big creative”.

Author Richard Banfield

As CEO, Richard leads Fresh Tilled Soil’s strategic vision. He’s a mentor at TechStars and BluePrintHealth, an advisor and lecturer at the Boston Startup School, and serves on the executive committees of TEDxBoston, the AdClub’s Edge Conference, and Boston Regional Entrepreneurship Week.

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