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The new world order of marketing

The new world order of marketing

The new world order of marketing

Now more than ever before, brands expect agencies to be fluent in existing and emerging technologies. In their dealings with the account manager or lead strategist, they assume they are liaising directly with a community manager, strategist, developer, creative designer, data specialist, editor and public relations practitioner – all rolled up into one. Although some brand managers do try to understand the inner workings of a digital agency – and we greatly appreciate that – it is not part of their job.

So if a brand expects a superhero strategist who can do it all, why should they deal with anything less? After all, this is the role strategists hope to play if they intend to keep working in the field in the future. The question remains, how does today’s digital strategist raise the ante to become the superhero they are already being demanded to be?

A strategist can now accomplish many of the tasks only a developer could by using tools like Zapier, saving time (and money) usually reserved for programmers. Such an effort goes a long way in bridging the gap usually found between Strategy and Technology within a typical digital agency, while giving more command to the strategist, helping them manage their multiple job roles – sales, event management, content management (posting, curating, filtering), talent management, marketing, reporting and community management.

If the strategist’s job requires them to keep an eye on sales, they can create an email or SMS alert for every Paypal transaction, or create a Xero invoice for record-keeping, and store the new lead in a CRM like Zoho or SalesForce or AWeber, using Zapier’s interface. If one of the brands they work with runs many events (and uses Google Calendar to manage them), a strategist can program Zapier to automatically post to Facebook shortly before a Google Calendar event starts. For Facebook page managers who have future social media updates stored in a Google Doc – they can get Zapier to update the Facebook page or Twitter profile from a new Google Doc row, automatically.

All these automations are called ‘zaps’, and there are many other things you can do with them. A zap could allow new HubSpot contacts to be registered on GoToWebinar automatically, or sync Dropbox with Google Drive. You could create a zap that adds MailChimp subscribers automatically to a Google Form, filter a Twitter channel’s content to automatically post to a Facebook page, automatically tweet new Wordpress posts, add new Capsule CRM people to a Campaign Monitor list, or send email from a Webhook endpoint.

One of the great things about Zapier is that it allows programmers to upload their own APIs as well. You can then make these custom APIs ‘talk’ to other web services in a fraction of the time it takes to get a formal approval from a CTO. Zapier even helps you create smooth workflows between your SaaS services.

If you wish to integrate sales, marketing, accounting, and community management without being forced to use a huge (and expensive) ERP, Zapier may be the light you seek

Many strategists work with different types of talent and they use different mediums to engage with them. Say, a strategist manages four different Gmail addresses for email communications and a company LinkedIn account to find and engage new talent, it is rather easy to sync all those contacts on to one Google account using a zap, and create another zap to save those LinkedIn connections to Google Contacts as well.

The year 2013 has been termed ‘The Year of the Content Strategist’. How does a content strategist resonate with fans so that they keep coming back? What’s the viral element that gets them sharing your content? Does that lead to organic growth? How can you make use of the fact that 42% people use #hashtags to explore new content and 25% use them in their own posts (RadiumOne)?

If a content strategist is armed with the ability to curate a great mass of content (using tools like Zapier or itDuzzit), it gives them more time to be creative, and a greater ability to distinguish the sticky content from the mundane. For example, they could setup Zapier to ‘zap’ content from numerous sources onto one neat little spreadsheet. Maybe they want to include only those tweets that have been favorited more than 10 times? They can setup Zapier to do this too; saving all that time spent browsing, often aimlessly.

Instead of making our programmers and strategists work overtime, the future demands digital strategists and account managers to think out of the box and equip themselves with the ability to be driven by data and automation to ensure customer insights and brand strategy are applied throughout the delivery of their services. Zapier is just one example of a tool that helps digital agencies achieve this and retain their focus on the most important aspects of their services: using Search and Social as the primary gateways to consumers, and creating quality content to deliver authentic and compelling experiences in a brand-centric manner.

The future of currencies

The future of currencies

Bitcoin and the future of payments

In a world when everything seems to be going the virtual way, why not currencies? Though only popular recently, virtual or crypto-currencies have been in existence for quite some time. Traditional currency issued by central banks and governments of various countries is now getting stiff competition from digital.

The first widely used decentralized crypto-currency, Bitcoin can be used in transactions without interference of any financial institution. Formally introduced in 2009 by developer/hacker Satoshi Nakamoto (pseudonym), Bitcoin is an open source currency that relies on cryptography alongside proof-of-work scheme in order to create and manage the currency. Bitcoin has been specially designed to prevent problems faced by centralized currencies.

The amount and speed of generation of Bitcoins is algorithmically controlled and only a fixed amount will exist. A person will have a virtual wallet and can have many virtual addresses through which virtual money can be received or sent. No additional tax or fee will be levied on trading of cryptocurrency from wallet to wallet and all this is done instantly. Bitcoin users send payments by broadcasting digitally signed messages that transfer ownership of coins. A decentralized global network of specialized computers verifies and timestamps all transactions using a proof-of-work system. The operators of these systems, known as “miners”, are rewarded with new coins themselves.

Bitcoin is getting an overwhelming response from investors and the business community. According to David Johnston, CEO of Engine, it is already the 75th most valuable currency on Earth. Bitcoin has soared to a valuation of more than USD$1000.

Risks over conventional currencies

• Intractability
This feature of Bitcoin will undoubtedly attract crime. Bitcoin can be widely used for buying and selling illegal items because of significantly less risk of being tracked by the authorities;

• Threat of theft
Bitcoins can’t be recovered if stolen if somebody hacks into your wallet;

• Lower acceptance
There aren’t a lot of places where Bitcoins is accepted as payment yet. However one of the main reasons why Bitcoins are receiving criticism is because of its association with criminal activities. It is being looked down as an effective medium that could be exploited by criminals to conduct illicit transactions online;

Good or bad, Bitcoin has certainly captured the imagination of the media. Just look at the excitement over the first Bitcoin ATM installed at a Starbucks Coffee shop, which made the cover of a recent edition of the New York Times.

On why the agency business model must die

On why the agency business model must die

Let’s usher in the era of marketing communication services up in the cloud

In the following words, I will try to convince you that all advertising agencies out there should get rid of their swanky offices, fire every single one of their staff (with the exception of the relationship owners and the creatives), and move all their Excels, Powerpoints and Photoshop files to Google Drive.

But before I’ll start by saying this: there’s no other industry I know that has a higher concentration of effective problem-solvers than the advertising industry. Maybe third-world brain surgeons are up there too.

So what’s all this grudge I have with the ad world?

First, there’s an issue with incentives. Institutions are motivated to sustain the problem to which they are the solution, and the advertising agency business is no different. Agencies are still keen on keeping the media-buying model that James Walter Thompson helped make popular around 1877 (yes, that old). There are no incentives to change that, and still (as far as I know), there isn’t an automated online marketplace for traditional advertising space. Google, hello?

Second, a traditional agency is usually two steps behind true innovation. In general, they only start working when their clients have reached out for them in the form of a brief. The folks issuing briefs, on the other hand, are incentivized to play it safe. Any marketing manager I’ve presented campaigns to throughout my carreer will rather choose constant 3% sales growth year-on-year than the possibility of 30% growth if there’s also chance of market loss.

Third, it’s a highly concentrated business. Four or five of the holding companies control the agencies that manage almost the entirety of the available communication budgets out there. I’ve worked for three of these, and I can assure you, they are trying as hard as they can to persuade clients that they are still the best service provider out there.

So what does the future hold?

A completely new business model for ad agencies. One that relies on only the two pieces that deliver true strategic value to clients: the relationship owners and the vision shapers. That’s it. All the rest is superflous. The secretary? Ditch her. Accounts payable? Harvest can automate that for you. When you remove all the fat of an agency, all that remains is the guy who truly understands the business problem, and the other guy who can solve it.

I’m currently trying to turn this concept into a reality through a collective I’ve founded called Mecenato. We have no offices, and never will. We’re just a bunch of business and creative people scattered around the world bearing web-connected laptops. We all worked in big agencies before. All our finance, cash flow, time sheeting, file management and production systems are up in the cloud (right now as a big mash-up of different web services, but ideally a cohesive software offering that will be our first digital product we can sell to the very ad agencies we now want to destroy).

The fallback plan has always been to go back to work in an agency if this experiment fails. After all, they are everywhere, they work in the exact same way, use the same jargons and their offices are identical in their belief that they are all different. Thinking again, maybe I should change the post title.

This essay was originally published on July 21st on Medium