There’s already been a lot written about the massive backlash against Facebook’s new ad program so I don’t want to rehash it. I should add that there are some positive developments today as The NY Times and Charlene Li are reporting that Facebook is making changes that are steps in the right direction.
- “Late yesterday the company (Facebook) made an important change, saying that it would not send messages about users’ Internet activities without getting explicit approval each time.”
Rather than just criticize Facebook, I’d like to take a look at the advertisers who are in the Beacon program because it takes two to tango. Many of those advertisers who participated in the Beacon program have damaged their brand because of the “opt-in/opt-out” controversy. Some key questions from an Internet Strategist’s perspective are “what due diligence did they do on the program before jumping on board”, “what analysis did they do from the customer’s perspective (where was the customer advocate ?)”, “how did they assess risk/reward of participation,“ and “who at the company green-lit the initiative.”
Many advertisers jumped on the opportunity to get in on the groundfloor of the “Facebook announcement” and to ride the wave of free publicity by being mentioned in all the press releases and news articles. Makes sense from a macro marketing perspective, but if they had a “customer advocate” who analyzed customer behavior/needs and privacy issues, they would have quickly realized that Beacon would most likely have a negative impact on customer online experiences and that privacy groups would have a field-day. All this, unfortunately, has resulted in damage to some brands and given them some black eyes. There is always a risk/reward to consider, but this was a big risk.
The key to a brand is trust, and participation in this program has damaged the trust that consumers have with some of the participating brands.
In several of the articles that I’ve read, Overstock is mentioned as an example of a Beacon participant that has been the source of a lot of unhappiness for customers. For example, a customer bought a Christmas gift for someone and the recipient was immediately notified via alerts and the surprise was ruined.
NOTE: I do want to give Overstock kudos as they’ve quickly realized their mistake and today’s NY Times article reports:
- “Overstock.com has decided to stop running Facebook’s Beacon program on its site until it becomes an opt-in program.”
I don’t mean to single out Overstock, but all Beacon participants should have thought more about their customer needs and properly balanced it with the marketing opportunity and riding on Facebook’s PR coattails.
Obviously, the impact on the brand varies. For a person who’s Christmas surprise was ruined by Beacon, they may never go back to that brand and will probably share their negative experience of “ruined holiday, lack of privacy” with all their friends and contacts. In other situations, the brand may just be impacted for the short-term. Either way, since there is so much competition and alternative options online, brands (whether e-commerce site, content publishers etc.) can ill afford to risk alienating customers and getting bad virile press.
When making key decisions, it’s critical that Internet strategists look at all aspects (customer needs, marketing/ad opportunity, monetization, ROI, partner trustworthiness, technology, privacy etc) of a “potential solution or program” holistically, in order to properly evaluate the risk/reward and ultimately make the right decision.
Many organizations are planning to consolidate their web marketing functions under one centralized department, rather than having individual business units handle it. To successfully do this requires convincing business units of the benefits of a centralized web marketing department, as well as implementing organizational changes and new business processes to ensure smooth on-going operations. If you’re planning to go this route, here are some pointers to help you reap the desired benefits and avoid any nasty surprises.
1. What’s In It For Me
You’ll need to get buy-in from folks at the business units early on by convincing them that a centralized web marketing department will make them more successful so that they are willing to partner with you and to relinquish some autonomy. Here are a few key benefits of a centralized web marketing team:
- A team of web marketing experts that is dedicated to leveraging this evolving platform and implementing best practices will deliver more successful campaigns for each business unit.
- Expenses will be reduced because the centralized group can realize cost savings from vendor consolidation, volume discounts, and increased negotiating power.
- Time to market should be reduced since the experienced web team should be able to deliver campaigns faster and work with vendors more efficiently. * (see point 3 below).
- By “aggregating” assets/brands, the centralized team can create more cross-unit marketing campaigns and bundled deals that will expand reach, exposure, and value propositions.
2. Welcome to the Client Services Business
All these individual business units are now your clients. Therefore, in addition to your day job of “web marketing,” your centralized team will have a new set of “client management” responsibilities. You’ll need to collect project requests from the business units, evaluate their goals&requirements, present solutions, answer questions, and report out regularly on project status and campaign results. All this requires clear accountability, tracking systems, escalation procedures, and service level agreements.
3. Project Prioritization
It’s important to know at the outset that no matter how hard you try, your centralized team won’t have the internal resources to complete every project request. You will inevitably get more requests from the business units than you can handle at once. Therefore, you’ll want to have outside vendors and freelancers available on-call to assist you when you get overloaded. There will still be times though, when you’ll need to play triage and put some projects on hold pending resource availability. You’ll need to have a thick skin when its time to inform the business unit of this. To minimize the obvious frustration that this will cause and subsequent shouts of “bottleneck”, it’s important that you establish a clear “project prioritization process” and get buy-in. For example, one option is that each project request must include an ROI model that describes anticipated benefits. Projects will be reviewed and those with higher anticipated ROI will be completed sooner. This process also helps weed out project requests that aren’t worth doing.
4. Aligning Compensation Plans
Too often when companies reorganize and change individual responsibilities and departmental objectives, they forget to update individual compensation plans and departmental key performance indicators. Therefore new responsibilities are still tied to legacy metrics and this misalignment causes huge problems. To avoid these problems, you need to update compensation plans and targets so that they properly reflect the goals of the new organizational structures. In addition, you’ll also need to clearly define what (if any) department allocations/chargebacks are needed with this new structure and how it impacts the budgets and P/L of the business units.