September 15, 2011

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Marketing Branded Apps There are 300,000 mobile apps that have been downloaded 10.9 billion times. The average smartphone user has 22 apps, the average feature phone user has downloaded 10 apps. iPhone fans lead the way with an average of 37 apps. Every one of them raises our expectations about content, connectivity and functionality. But in spite of the rapid development and proliferation of apps, we are still in the very early stages of app design and development. Too many consumers expect too much too fast for marketers and IT guys to keep up. The idea of an app suggests connections, possibilities and uses that we can only dream about technically. We are just beginning to develop apps that use and leverage the native technology in phones – GPS, cameras and accelerometers and mobile payments are right around the corner. We are just scratching the surface in terms of user interface design and workflow management. And we have way too little understanding of how people actually think about and use these apps. At the moment, many brands are struggling to package and develop the absolute minimum app content and functionality. The basics include a store locator, product specs and descriptions, availability and pricing, some kind of 2-way communications channel and basic facts and information about the brand. Consumers would be surprised at how difficult it is, from a systems perspective, to organize this fundamental data around a somewhat easy and intuitive navigation and design scheme. Even if a brand can get this combination of content and functionality together, it’s a baseline, and possibly a “me-to” app. Connecting the dots and transporting the data is a huge technical and organizational challenge for most retailers. Data is usually siloed and collected, stored and secured in different formats for different purposes. The opportunity to create an app often exposes bureaucratic fault lines, multiple systems that don’t talk to each other and IT shortcomings that are understandable in context but frustrating to those eager to embrace and deploy the latest technology. Joe Tedeschi recently reviewed a bunch of retail apps in the New York Times and concluded that some retail apps make the shipping process marginally less frustrating and costly. "The better ones suggest that they can help you find an item in the local store. Some also offer prices on those goods, but they’re often inaccurate." After evaluating apps from Best Buy, Target, Home Depot and the Westfield Mall, he half-heartedly concluded, “The apps didn’t fail us completely.” Its no wonder that 1 in 4 apps downloaded are never used and that a second app is probably used once or twice and abandoned. Given the evolutionary state of apps, brands need consumers to buy into the app development process rather than buy into the current release or current version of the app. Hyping the debut of an app will boomerang and most likely disappoint consumers with high expectations and slight technical knowledge. Here’s how to enroll your customers in your app marketing program: Set Expectations. Be humble and realistic. Don’t promote your app as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Present yourself as a pioneer and cue your customers to expect a good-better-best progression of services from you. If you can share the loose timeline, though don’t promise firm delivery dates. Gather Customer Input. Borrow Google’s loose definition of “Beta Tester” and enroll your early adapters into the process. Solicit their input and ideas. Get your employees involved and talking about app development, too. Give associates and consumers guided tasks and ask them to give you feedback. Ask for suggestions on colors, labels, sequences, buttons and other user experience elements. They’ll know what’s intuitive and what’s easy much faster and better than you will. You’ll be surprised by how much energy and goodwill your brand has and how many good ideas you collect. Be Transparent. Let your customers know your dreams but also your reality. Explain what you are going for and how great you expect the final version to be then tell them what it will take to get there and the challenges you face. People rally to reality. Many are more than willing to give you latitude and genuine help along the way. Consumers know that technology is evolving, is hard to master and is costly. Senior executives think this approach shows vulnerability and exposes potential weaknesses. But savvy marketers understand that investors already know the weaknesses, which are offset by how this tactic demonstrates the humanity of a brand and engages customers directly....
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7 Tips for New Managers The hardest but most rewarding career transition is from individual contributor to first time manager. The first step on the ladder is the steepest because it is the most ego challenging and because it forces each individual to think and act differently. In most organizations the path to fame and fortune requires you to manage and succeed through the efforts of other people. In many cases the people you will manage aren’t as fast, smart, well intentioned or skilled as you are. So, from the get-go, you have to get over yourself and focus on them. Here are 7 tips to get started: Think Like a Coach. You are no longer just a star player. You are a coach. Your success is directly dependent on how other people act. So your task changes from doing the job well to helping others do the job well. This requires a quantum leap in your ability to be patient. Coaches devise the plays and assign the players. You have to figure out what needs to get done and who’s going to do it. This means you have to get a clear read on who does what best and who can be relied on most in each situation. Focus on Individuals. Each person is motivated differently. You have to get to know the people you manage. You have t learn to read their moods, their minds and their body language. You have to suspend judgment. You have to figure out how to speak with each person and how to get across what you want, why you want it and when it’s due. Factor in Negative Examples. Bad managers have managed us all. Think about the things they did to piss you off. Don’t do them. Think about how you can structure your relationships to insure you don’t repeat their crimes. Aim for Clear Navigation. Most managers fail at setting down clear expectations, timetables and goals. Staff members crave clear, simple directions. Work as hard as you can to simplify, clarify, give advance notice, create milestones and schedules and help everyone understand what, why, how and when. Share Your Tools. Be sure your people you know all the right accounts, portals, passwords and tools you’ve come to rely on, where to find things and who to go to. You are their sherpa through your organization. Somebody showed you the ropes, now it’s your turn. You can’t expect anyone to perform at peak performance if they aren’t cued into the formal and informal tools. Give Them Space. Nobody likes to be micro-managed. Most people get the job done their own way. Respect this. Avoid extra meetings, reports, check-ins or paperwork. Manage by walking around and talking to people. Don’t worry if your people don’t do it the way you do. Worry about the end product. Your job is to give clear feedback and to help people succeed. Rarely do people strive for success if they feel their manager is looking for opportunities to criticize or bust them. You don’t have to be a cheerleader, but you have to set a positive tone and a well-defined direction. Be Real. Many first time managers take on a boss persona. Don’t! Be yourself. If you are a jerk; be somebody else. Be straight, funny, compassionate, relaxed, and focused. Position yourself as a player-coach and as a resource rather than as a judge. People want to like their bosses. Give them a personality to relate to and like. Becoming a manager isn’t easy. But it can be fun and ultimately rewarding if you are conscious about your own actions and attitudes and conscientious about the mission – developing a great team.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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