Defining The Backend

14 09 2009

As a digital marketer, I am constantly faced with the challenge of explaining what the hell that even means. It’s like, people’s eyes get huge the moment you utter the word Digital or some three-letter acronym (TLA) associated with the trade. Sometimes, when I meet a fellow digital person, I get so excited speaking my native tongue, that I forget all about how completely ridiculous it sounds. “Well, you could build a custom CMS, but WordPress might be even better because of its high organic SEO.” Ateewhattee?

That is the inherent challenge of being anything technical. Remember the IT guy from SNL? That old solution of turn-off-your-computer doesn’t solve anything on the world of the interwebs. I have finally faced the ultimate challenge in being a digital. Explaining TLAs doesn’t even hold a candle to trying to redefine E-Marketing with a buzz-word heavy term like Lead Nurturing or User Experience. Not to mention introducing a new, fairly complex software like Eloqua.

It’s not Eloqua and what it does; lead nurturing and why it’s important; email marketing and why it’s (arguably) ineffective; or how it all ties together, that’s the challenge. It’s coming up with a high enough-level explanation of all of these in a visual way.

Last year during budgets I found myself inventing new terms to explain digital terms over and over. Not because I’m a bad communicator; I think it was because the message wasn’t memorable enough to executives all with vastly diverse backgrounds and their own set of buzz words to keep straight.
I’m a DigiBaby. My memory has always been immensely integrated with computers: instant messenger, text, Napster and Facebook (Myspace, Friendster, whatever). There’s no doubt that my brain functions at an entirely different level than the executives I work with. So naturally, when they see a line item that says “Social Media” a glazed look of WTF falls over and a continuous cycle of explaining occurs. “It’s not just Facebook, it’s a continuous conversation with your consumers online.”

So when the challenge arose to take a deeper look at how digital marketing integrates and affects every aspect of overall marketing, I in turn, felt that sense of WTF.

That’s when the white papers began, (they have pretty graphs). I worked with Effective UI (new website!) at the beginning of this gradual slope, who I regard as having the toughest job of any of us in the digital marketing space. They have to explain what UI is after someone sees it in their name. What a challenge to overcome! And then you get down to the core of their mission, the User Experience — which isn’t even abbreviated as such — so have fun with that one. BTW, I’ve stopped using the acronym UX in general because of the complete disconnect I see when I say or especially write it. I think people think it’s a computer processor or something, like the way people react to letters at the end of a software version. CS4? WTF!

The sequence of planting the seed with white papers went as follows:
I. White paper from Eloqua explaining the pipeline, how it’s changed, and how Eloqua + Salesforce “close the loop”. Spent about a month using the term “close the loop” until it became an internal term. Success.
II. White paper explaining UX (User Experience). Tried to integrate this term internally, but it never stuck. It has since morphed into the Consumer Experience with Our Brand and finally into a module called the Concierge. Not bad, because the end result is the same. The hardest part is convincing that we need some research to support that experience. Overall, I’d call this a Success.
III. Strategy meeting bringing up whitepaper No. 1. It ended with, “Why can’t you do this manually?” Fail.
IV. Flow chart in Excel. Breaking out each touch point of communication in an excel document. This got the UX look.
V. Flow chart in Word. I added colors this time, so you could see how the leads (type of prospects, etc.) would go through different types of communication paths as they experience the sales cycle. Again, this didn’t resonate with the team. I think there were too many unknowns, such as the bubble that says “Dramatic Re-engagement with the Brand.” I think this also failed because there is an entire front end component to this that isn’t represented, which in turn distracted my highly visual team.
VI. White paper on a progressive form. This helped a little with saying that a form doesn’t have to be a form; it could a mechanism that extracts information on the user based off of their behavior with the online environment. We got a little closer with this concept, because at the end of the day, it sounds pretty neat.
VII. Powerpoint Presentation explaining what each type of prospect is and how we should communicate differently with them. This exercise actually might have brought us back about three steps. I think defining the different prospects may need to occur after you define the optimal end user experience.
VIII. Six months go by and the name Eloqua has been morphed into this term representing an end-all solution that will just feed personalized and relevant information to our users – automatically. I needed to change that thinking because Eloqua is ultimately just code and a fancy user interface. So I started calling it the “capture mechanism” – that magical piece of back end technology that will ensure that no lead falls through the cracks, ultimately “closing the loop”. Bam. It finally stuck, and not only did it stick it moved to the center of the bubble diagram, which held all of the other marketing objectives together. Big-time success. But still, this made it all too intangible. What does Capture really mean? It’s too spatial. And thus the ultimate digital marketing conundrum – how to you show someone a system that doesn’t tangibly exist outside of code? How do you show that there’s a digital component to even things that have zero online presence?
IX. This is how it was done. Matt Fajohn, Digital Strategist from FL-2, and I physically taped a wireframe to the conference table and walked everyone through the steps of how it would play out in the world.
To be honest, I don’t know if it achieved the ultimate goal of explaining the complexity of the integrated system; what it did do was show how something offline eventually will get put back online. My team could finally see what I’ve been talking about all this time. Success.

Digital marketing and all of its TLAs and buzzwords needs to get over itself. It is such an enormous part of all of our marketing efforts that it really needs to stop singling itself out. Digital marketing is no longer just a website; it’s not an email campaign; it’s not a database; it’s not a user interface; it’s not mobile web or an application or even software. It is ultimately the way a user interacts with a brand. Digital is supposed to make everyone’s life easier and disseminate free information for all. It’s about convenience, knowing that you can find what you want the moment you think about it. So if a brand is investing heavily in their digital presence, they better make sure that the end experience, no matter how complicated the backend is, is flawless, simple and completely integrated.