10 Digital (and Nondigital) Resolutions to Make '11 a Win

Watch Your Business Grow With These Key Points

By Published on .

I spent a fair amount of time over my coveted holiday break in California enjoying many of the nondigital aspects of life. It felt good. It cooled my jets. It actually informed better perspective on what matters (or doesn't) on the digital front, both for consumers and marketers. So from this brief respite flowed 10 resolutions for all of us.

Keep your head up: Let's aim for no less than a 90-degree shift this year, especially when we're around other people. We're just looking down too much, weighed down by mobile distraction. In our pursuit of connectedness, we're disconnecting and detaching. Let's equalize the "send" button. Press the flesh, meet and greet, savor a good handshake, bask a wee bit in eye contact. (Don't worry, we'll have plenty of time to sneak in a text or tweet.)

Trust but verify: These days everyone's got an opinion -- or rating, or a review or even a video testimonial -- even the bots. But who can we really trust? Who's a shill? Who's not? With "promoted tweets," how do we know whether someone truly "earned" their followers? Is WOMMA's disclosure hashtag (#disc) enough? We may need to peel the onion a bit more in 2011 to vet authenticity, privacy and other sensitive areas. Due diligence matters.

Measure and move on: Rarely have we been blessed with so many opportunities to test, experiment and measure. Heck, we can launch a brand Twitter account in five minutes, or hire some hacks to create an app in five days. But most tests will fail -- even with extra layers of smart iteration -- and we'll just need to move on. Our true test of leadership in 2011 will be our ability to detach from things that just don't work.

Flip the LIP THE ORG chart: Despite our delusions of digital depth that come with "time spent" and work experience, the digital experience spigot flows most mightily from the hyper-wired young folks and new hires. They live and breathe (and text) our future. Moreover, they bring healthy, sometimes refreshingly innocent impatience to our calcified process flows and old-school notions of innovation. Let's hear them out in 2011. Don't be afraid to give them a pedestal. Think reverse-mentoring.

Service the service desk: In the social age, service is marketing, but service isn't easy. We're just not hardwired to "deliver happiness," like Tony Hsieh of Zappos. And managing consumer emotion is hard.

So we need practice.

Let's start 2011 with a few hours in the call center or in the social-media lab answering both easy and tough questions on Twitter or Facebook. You'll learn things about how your brand connects (or disconnects) with consumers you never knew before. Such interactions might just be the starting point of digital strategy.

Check the check-ins: Yes, there's value here, but we don't need to tell the world we're checking into the bathroom, or every McDonald's drive-thru. Let's also use discretion or take a chill pill on telling the rest of the world when we are out of town. Sharing can be scaring (to one's family). We also want to keep these exercises quasi-meaningful to ensure they stick around.

Don't abandon TV: Contrary to myth, TV is here to stay. It's actually getting better. We consume it in new ways, in more places, and with far deeper and participatory interaction. Nielsen data suggest consumption is actually increasing, and social-media currents reflect intense levels of conversational wrap-around. Smartphones, iPads and other devices dominating this week's CES corridors are opening up TV doorways.

As David Carr of The New York Times put it so perfectly last week, we're experiencing "a great mashup," and TV's a big part of the mix.

Pause, ponder, then pontificate: Twitter (and even Facebook to some extent) has trained us to be impulsive and reflexive -- often to a fault. We engage without thinking, fearful that others will quickly beat us to the tweet or retweet. Our conversation output, consequently, often lacks inspiration or depth. (Yes, some self-criticism here.)

Unless you are in a severe "must respond now" crisis, don't sell your soul to speed. It's OK to be deliberate.

Remember the benefits of slow marketing.

Get back to boring: In this same vein, let's continue keeping our eyes on the boring basics. They still matter, and shiny new objects will only get us so far -- and occasionally run us off the road. Let's keep our eyes on the enduring truths: great consumer understanding, the power of listening, the all-powerful buyer funnel, the primacy of brand credibility and trust, the upside of brands improving and enhancing consumers' lives. Moreover, let's turn those boring basics into real competitive advantage. Apple is a great reference point here.

Downsize with the 90/10 rule: Beware of the curse of cluttered and consuming congestion. With the explosion of apps, we'll be testing, beta testing and test-driving like crazy.

But at the end of the day, we'll likely only use 10% (or less) of the apps we download. So let's make it a habit to clear the deck. (Same might apply to relationships.) Don't assume -- even for a second -- that all apps bring sustainable value.

Happy New Year.

Pete Blackshaw is chief marketing officer of NM Incite, a Nielsen-McKinsey Co., and author of "Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000: Running a Business in Today's Consumer-Driven World."
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