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Quest-Post

The Quest for Quanlitative Measurement

By | Building Community, Business Stuff, Data and Analytics, Social Media, The Quest for Quanlitative Measurement, Web Marketing | No Comments

Quest-PostIn which Mack Web shoots for the moon and and hopefully lands among the stars (since we’re pretty sure the moon is dusty and barren and impact would be both painful and messy)

Let’s just be clear up front: we think we’re pretty great.

We’re proud of the work that Mack Web does, we’re proud of the growth and knowing-stuff-ness that have centered on our community building goals of the last few years. We’ve made tons of new friends, published an Arthur, been invited to some nifty conferences, told a lot (a lot) of llama jokes, and discovered/developed/adopted/hybridized/stumbled-accidentally-over-in-the-night our beloved ‘Goals Not Tools’ approach to web marketing and brand building.

That’s some good stuff.

But you know what else was some good stuff? Uniting all of Britain under one benevolent rule and establishing a prosperous meritocracy of virtue, chivalry, and the rule of law.

But did Knights of the Round Table stop with Camelot?

Camelot is a silly place

No. No, they did not. They set out on a new holy mission rather than resting on their laurels.

(Or so Monty Python would have us believe, anyway).

How could we, the noble denizens of Mack Web, do any less?

And so begins our great journey of 2014 and beyond: The Quest for Quanlitative Measurement! (Trumpet fanfare, please).

(Curious? Be patient. You’re going to be hearing that fanfare a lot this year).


In which Mack Web makes up a word and undertakes a vital task

Do not adjust your screens: you are seeing that word correctly: Quanlitative.

We made it up because there wasn’t a single word that adequately described what our deep thinking and praiseworthy insight identified as the principal challenge we (as a company and an industry) are currently facing: proving the value of what we do.

These are common dilemmas for the circles in which we run: how to demonstrate the ROI for social media and this community building stuff, how to get buy-in from the C-Suite, tracking the indirect connections between online campaigns, offline campaigns, and legitimate leads. And so forth. You get the picture.

Lots of people are taking a crack at this in their own ways and we are definitely borrowing inspiration and sitting on the shoulders of giants and the like. But – as far as we can tell – nobody has gotten it quite right yet.

Which leads to our grand adventure and the birth of a brand new word.

As we framed it for ourselves, what we’d like to solve is this: how do you wholly and adequately marry quantitative measurements (number of sales or leads, volume of downloads, increase in signups, etc.) and qualitative measurements (brand reach and awareness, follower vitality, thought leadership, and all that stuff)?

So that’s what we’re going to try to do.

And to kick it off, we decided we needed the right term for it. It wasn’t hard for our own ingenious Mack Fogelson to portmanteau it up. (Hey, if the paparazzi can do it, so can we. Brangelina, anyone?)

quanlitative etymology

So let it be written. So let it be done.


In which Mack Web reveals their deepest hopes and fears (appreciate this moment of vulnerability, please)

We’ve got our sights set slightly lower than the Chalice of Christ and its consequent immortality (but really only slightly).

What we hope to have in hand, at the end of all the questing and dragon-slaying and sage-seeking and trail-blazing and trap-evading and riddle-decoding, is this: a method of measurement that puts the integrated back into integrated marketing. After all, if we’re pulling in all the channels and trying to accomplish both intermediate and company-wide goals, we need to be able to measure and report that in a quanlitative manner. If it just so happens to be fully scalable, aesthetically pleasing, and both convincing and comprehensible to the layperson/C-suite type audience? Well, won’t we be happy little clams? (That’s the Grail).

That’s what we hope to find/create. But here’s what we actually want, the big party when the triumphant questers return home: more trust from our clients. We want to be able to quench that ever-present uncertainty, to prove that our methods have value and thereby gain a little breathing room to try new things, to get off the defensive and go on the offensive. (That’s the Immortality).

We’re not so naive to think it’s going to be easy.  There’s a reason nobody’s quite nailed this down yet.

Neither do we think we’re going to hit the mark in just a year. It takes time to summit Everest. For 2014, we’re just aiming to get out of Kathmandu to the Base Camp.

We’re going to take it one challenge at a time.

trials of the grail


In which Mack Web unveils some of the expected milestones of the journey

Though this is our first formal Quest fanfare, we’ve already started laying in the groundwork. We’ve been spending some quality time with Avinash Kaushik’s now-famous See, Think, Do framework.

Plus our own Mack gave her first talk of the year at SearchFest 2014 on integrated marketing KPIs (specifically in relation to video) that’s going to give you some hints on our starting point.

(Like this one: it’s not really integrated marketing if you don’t look at both the individual channels and what they come together to form. ‘Cuz that’s kinda the definition of integrated. Dictionaries are a always a good point of origin).

Along the way, we expect to be picking up knowledge on a lot of subjects including (but most assuredly NOT limited to):

  • All sorts of analytics
    There’s Google Analytics and there are all kinds of social analytics and then there’s the offline stuff that’s even.more.difficult.to measure, but by golly, by gum, we’re going to tap into whatever it takes to get the job done.
  • Psychology of the C-Suite types
    We’re going to be getting up close and personal with the Myer Briggs DISC personality model, probably. Good times.
  • Automating for scalability
    ‘Cuz if these reports each take 70 bajillion (wo)man-hours to put together? Dude, we quit. Let’s go home and eat Red Vines.
  • Learning to learn from ourselves
    We’re working on getting better at identifying our blindspots and spotting opportunities for growth.
  • And undoubtedly much, much more
    Every accomplishment will be communicated on our blog for your viewing pleasure and lauded with gifts and gold stars and probably chocolate.

achievement_unlocked


In which Mack Web shamelessly pleads for questing companions and wayside support

So here’s the deal: we are going to be reporting the progress on this quest throughout the year. It’s going to be our focus project so expect to hear about all the cool things we learn and resources we develop along the way. (We love sharing questing bounty with our boon companions).

But it is a truth universally acknowledged that solo questers don’t do as well as the ones who have partners and sidekicks and the occasional Rivendell rest stops. (There’s a reason the Fellowship of the Ring was nine, you know).

So we’re asking you to take part in this ongoing quest conversation of ours. Share examples, ask difficult and annoying questions, point out when we’ve gone astray, give us cryptic hints to get back on track.

We value your contributions, no matter what form they may take.

the fellowship

 

 

 

A New Team Member As the Old Year Goes

By | Business Stuff, Events, Miscellany | 2 Comments

And you thought it was the Year of the Snake

2013 was a year of growth and change for Mack Web Solutions. (Uh, as was 2012. And, y’know, 2011).

Okay, so the past few years have pretty much been all about the growth and the change. But this year the growth and change took a particular shape. And it was a person-shaped shape. (Bet you thought it was gonna be a llama, hunh?).

Hipster-llama-l

2013 was the year of personnel. We started the year with a four-person team. By the end of the year, we had employed (at various times) nine. We’re starting 2014 with six and a solid six it is.

But that’s still a lot of change.

Fluctuating and unashamed

The thing is, we don’t take all these changes as a sign of weakness or failure on our part. Instead, they’re proof that our company is evolving. We’re constantly assessing and reassessing the best ways to serve our clients and as we gain greater understanding, we reshape the team to suit.

And you never quite know how someone is going to fit until you try them out. We agree with the philosophy of looking for the “future perfect people”– choosing people based on who they have the potential to become and how they could allow your team to grow — but we’re web marketers, not prognosticators. We don’t have a crystal ball to gaze into or tea leaves to consult.

Prognosticator Extraordinaire

So we give people a try and when their future diverges from ours we give them a hearty send-off and count it a stage of evolution rather than a mistake.

Small but mighty

The thing about a small company in a fast-moving industry is that you need your team to work together seamlessly and you can’t afford to wallow when something goes wrong. No fences between departments and no divas of any kind.

You need to be lean and agile and T-shaped and all those other lovely concepts that boil down to this: stockpile as much knowledge as you can without sacrificing your ability to adapt and respond.

t-shape-employee

Image Credit: Distilled

Which means that every time we are ready to bring someone new onto the team we stop and do one of those reassessments to tell us what we need.

If the new hire is the result of someone else leaving, we stop and think: do we need to replace them or is there some other skill set we should be looking for?

If we’re simply ready to grow, we stop and think: where is our team strong? Where do we have good overlap? Are we serving our clients to the degree we promise and aspire? Where are the gaps? What weak points do we need to shore up?

Sometimes when we ask these questions, the answers surprise us.

(And not just become some anonymous joker on the team who shall remain anonymous and absolutely is not me feels the need to answer every question with a cryptic, “42”).

Building the team

‘Cuz here’s the thing about our team: we’ve got some crazy mad skills already. You want to talk about your cross-discipline competence and deep discipline expertise? We’ve got that.

A genius designer with basic tech chops and a social media expert with a nice line in content and a creative strategist with analytics know-how. An entrepreneurial leader who dabbles in everything and writer who can hold her own with basic SEO and strategy. (And a partridge in a pear tree).

We are all kinds of T-shaped.

Not to mention…we all actually like each other. What are the odds?

All of which sets us on track to our company vision of a team of collaborative specialists without sacrificing our small team necessity of hybrid generalists who can roll up their sleeves and get stuff done, y’know?

But did you notice what was missing from that impressive list of skills?

Because when it came time to hire someone new and we compiled that list of skills, we saw something missing and it was a big something.

We’ve got creatives and number people and business minds and networkers. You know what we haven’t got?

They Got Every Damn Thing

Organizers.

Oh, at first glance you wouldn’t notice the chaos. We were holding our own thanks to our process-obsessed boss (and we mean that in the most complimentary of ways).

But, well…we said 2013 was the year of change and growth, right? Well, we’ve covered the change. But without some glue to hold us together, we weren’t going to be able to handle much more growth.

Because our processes were working for now but they weren’t particularly scalable.

So we realized it wasn’t another strategist we needed.

It was a coordinator.

Introducing Rebecca

Fortunately, we knew just the person. Rebecca Gilmore’s impressive experience and disposition pretty much custom-tailored her to our needs.

rebecca_crop1

She’s organized and disciplined and marketing-savvy and friendly and smart and pretty. (Plus she has impeccable taste in television, she isn’t afraid of the Master Calendar, and she has a twin sister we can set up as a body double alibi in case we ever need her to do anything illegal).

And if she might harbor some thoughts on world domination and hostile takeovers from within, well…we still outnumber her five to one.

Here comes trouble

Long story short (too late, I know)

All of which is to say…we’re delighted to introduce you to Rebecca Gilmore, our new Account Coordinator. Her job is to keep us all on track, to make sure our beloved clients are never lost in the shuffle, and to contribute her knowledge and expertise to the running of the team.

We’re pretty happy to have her and we’re excited for all of you people, too.

Because you’re going to get to know her too.

And, take it from us, that makes you pretty fortunate people.

On Processes and Predictability

By | Building Community, Business Stuff, Creativity | No Comments

For a while I was against formal processes. They just seemed to get in the way. I’d worked in big companies where an overabundance of processes often led to extra work and boredom. To me, all these rules and regulations were impersonal. They were the roadblocks that must be overcome. They were there to shepherd the incompetent, but they often seemed to just get in the way.

But I was wrong.

The first time I seriously considered processes valuable from a business perspective was when I read The E-myth by Michael Gerber. If you’ve never read this book, I highly recommend it. For creatives and entrepreneurs, it makes a great case for implementing processes in your company. His argument in this book was that processes are imperative for a business to grow. That a business needs to be able to operate at the lowest level of talent possible and set processes makes this possible.

In a sense, this is true. If you’re building a fast-food restaurant, you want the most incompetent person to be able to easily complete the task. But what happens when you build a great team? What happens if the people on your team are all A-level players with their own motivations, thoughts, and goals? Isn’t it enough as a leader to just set the vision, then encourage and guide as needed? Processes would naturally form, but making them official guidelines seemed so limiting. Do you really need processes for the high performance team players?

Yes. You do.

It’s Personal

But it is personal. That’s what I didn’t get at first. I always looked at processes as impersonal. They were rules, guidelines, boundaries, and limitations. If anything, they often got in the way of serving my client or customer in a way that was effective for them. Last week I finished this podcast by Andy Stanley further digging into processes. And his argument was one of the most profound that I’ve heard regarding processes.

You see, good processes are actually very personal. They are personal to the customer. To the person on the other end of your customer service line, good processes show consistency. They give us guidelines to ensure that situations are handled the same way every time. They give us a framework with which to operate.

Take the example of a fire drill at a school. When parents entrust their kids to the school, the existence of a process becomes incredibly personal. Parents needs to know that there is a plan in case of an emergency. A well executed emergency plan helps ensure everyone stays safe and no one is forgotten. If there was no plan, there would be mass chaos when the fire alarm sounded.

But there is a plan. Everyone knows what to do. Everything is systematic and orderly. And everyone stays safe. Parents get their kids back safe at the end of the day. Now that is personal.

As marketers and creatives, we rarely (ok, never) work in settings where someone is physically at risk. Yet we work with companies and organizations who trust their brand to us. Many owners, operators, and managers have poured their heart and soul into their business and building their brand. As a result, they care about how they are treated, what they get, and how they are represented.

To these company owners the brand is personal. Having systems and processes in place to ensure things do not get missed or dropped is obviously a great part of customer service. It is also very personal to customers.

Evaluating Processes

But just because you have a process doesn’t mean it’s a good one. After all, your telephone or cable company has processes for their customer service. You’re probably thinking, “I HATE calling customer service for my cable company.” But the problem here isn’t that they have a process. It’s that they have a poor process. The never evaluate their processes. They don’t care. The process was put in place so it was just good enough to get by. Unfortunately, this is where most corporate processes live. They do just enough to get by.

This is why processes need evaluation. Process aren’t set-and-forget. They take work to refine. Chances are, there is always a better way to do something than the way you are doing it. Evaluation gives you the opportunity to change things. It gives your employees and volunteers a voice. These people are the ones who are in the trenches everyday, so they know how to do their job better than anyone else. Let them take part in the creation and evaluation of the system.

You also need to evaluate with the right metrics. Customer service lines are seen as an expense by companies, so they do everything they can to minimize that expense. In reality this should be an investment. It’s how they retain customers and drive customer loyalty. Rather than measuring customer happiness, they are purely looking at dollars and cents in the short term – missing opportunities in the long term.

If I look at the businesses where I’ve constantly had a positive experience – companies like Chick-fil-a, Disney World, Sweetwater, and many, many others – they are all based around systems that are constantly refined and evaluated. Each of these companies is a leader in their industry and for good reason. The experiences customers have with these brands are usually far better than the experiences customers have with their competitors. In the case of Disney World, it’s even described as magical.

Creativity and Process

thecreativeprocess

Which brings us to the final question: How can you capture this magic in your processes? How do you build magic into a system that is a bunch of forms and rules? In other words, how do we become predictable in our behavior but unpredictable in our creativity? We talked about this a little already in our post on building a creative process, but there’s certainly more to be said.

The magic comes when we go above and beyond. Getting your burger at a fast food restaurant isn’t magical. Nobody is impressed by that. But getting a burger and free fries – for no particular reason – is something that people talk about. Great customer service, in every industry is magical. Companies that go above and beyond what is in the contract, those are magical places.

You see, building an efficient process doesn’t take away the magic. It simply makes sure you get done all you’re supposed to get done so that you can then go above and beyond. It’s no good if you order a double cheeseburger and you get three burritos. Sure, the burritos might be worth more and even taste better, but if you were expecting a burger, you’re not going to be happy. Start by building a system that allows you to do the basics flawlessly, then build on that.

An Inside Look

chickenprocess

At Mack Web we are redoing our processes to help ensure that everyone gets what they ask for. Not only is this what clients expect, it’s also what we should be doing anyway. Once we’ve taken care of all the basics, then and only then can we go above and beyond to really impress our clients. Processes allow us to be predictable on our tasks but unpredictable in our creativity.

So what does this mean for you? First, make sure you have processes in place in your organization. Do you have systems that ensure nothing slips between the cracks? If not, start building them today. If you’re part of a business that has been around for a while, your systems may need an update. Are your systems in place just to do the bare minimum or do you have the flexibility to allow your team to delight your customers? At the very least, pose these questions to your team. If you don’t know the answers, they will.