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A Do It Wrong Quickly culture

How do you remake your organizational culture to “do it wrong quickly”? You know that you need to change to a more adaptive, experimental approach, but how do you pull it off? Hear from marketing leaders in several companies that have already walked down that road in this month’s Biznology newsletter A Do It Wrong Quickly Culture.

Longtime readers know what I mean when I say “do it wrong quickly“—it’s a marketing approach where you try things and do more of what works, instead of obsessing over doing everything perfectly the first time. The basic idea behind “do it wrong quickly” is that if customers are not responding to your marketing, you should do something different. (Deep, huh?) That kind of flexibility requires a special kind of corporate culture, however. (And “corporate” culture is not just for large businesses—every business has some kind of culture, even if it is merely driven by the personality of the owner.)

There’s no universal name for the kind of culture that adjusts its marketing based on what customers say and do. Some call it a “feedback” culture, others a “responsive” or “open” culture. Several marketers referred to a “metrics-driven” culture. Whatever the name, successful marketers know it when they see it.

Some of these marketers were starting from scratch. Listen to Curt Sasaki, Vice President of Sun Microsystems’ Web site: “Sun was not at all a metrics-driven culture when I arrived. When I took over, the Web was an information resource. I began to ask folks, ‘What are our customers doing?’ And they didn’t have the answers. I noticed that the first thing people did at our Web site was to leave. [Now] every single week, we measure everything. We look at the funnels of promotions to clickthroughs to sales.” Sun’s culture of “openness” is a clear contributor to the marketing transformation they’ve made—people must listen to be persuaded.

Some companies have always had a “numbers” culture, but needed to learn to apply it to online marketing. Joel Reimer, Director of Interactive Marketing at ScottsMiracle-Gro, explained, “Scotts is a very data-driven. Consumer research drives everything we do. But we’ve always struggled with justifying this internally because we have had a hard time isolating the impact because we don’t sell direct. With online, we’re trying to foster a relationship approach.”

Michael Petillo, e-business Leader at manufacturer W.L. Gore describes their transition. “Gore is very much a metrics-driven company—it’s an engineering company. We’re educating marketing in the power of Web metrics. We’ve seen an amazing revolution—there’s so much passion.”

Devashish Saxena, Texas Instruments’ Manager of Worldwide Internet Marketing, tells a similar story. “We have a culture where numbers talk. I’ve always found that if I can back up my story with the right data, people who were dead set against it are willing to change. It’s not just the culture of the company, but the openness of the leadership team. We’ve been able to educate them on Web metrics. One approach is to tie back to customers: ‘Hey look, here is what customers are telling us.’ Anytime you can bring that customer perspective and customer insight, that’s very helpful.”

CompUSA’s Al Hurlebaus noted that “Numbers play an important part of convincing anyone around here. We look at bottom-line gross margin and profit.” Still, when he proposed adding customer reviews to the Web site to raise conversion rates, “I don’t think one executive thought there’d be any change.” So they experimented—trying it on one product segment to see if conversion rates increased. (They did, markedly.) In a company without a feedback culture, Al’s bosses might have said “no” instead of “give it a try.”

Successful online marketers almost universally agree that the way to persuade companies to experiment is to emphasize listening to customer feedback. Web analytics expert Avinash Kaushik summed it up. “Most people don’t care what I think—my opinion, my analysis—they think I don’t understand their business problem, which may be true. They will be doubtful of my analysis as long as they think it is mine. But when I manage to clearly articulate the customer voice shining through, that is when they seem to accept the data.”

The thread that runs through each of these stories is the need for a change and the need for someone to persuade people to make that change. In your company, will that someone be you?

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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