Book – Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business

outside-inThe book places the fashionable term of “customer experience” to the place that it should occupy – as an extension of company’s business strategy and as an approach that would need to be internalized into the company’s culture. Customer experience is also given its own “area” – not a part of marketing or operation, and definitely not a part of a digital channel – but an independent area that transcends practically all aspects of company’s operation, but can not substitute for lack of these aspects.

The book defines customer experience from the customer’s point of view, who does not need to worry about organizational silos and competing internal channels.


The book identifies six disciplines of customer experience:

  • Strategy
  • Customer Understanding (research)
  • Design (of customer experiences)
  • Measurement
  • Governance
  • Culture

Strategy is a critical perspective for customer experience as for any other aspect of business.

Your customer experience strategy must match your company strategy.

execThis section had some of the most interesting examples.  The authors in the consulting role asked a company that retained them to improve their customer experience to explain the company’s business strategy…  and the company could not. The consultants quickly ended the conversation with the homework for the executives to learn what their company’s business strategy was.

Any proposals to improve customer experience need to align with customer experience strategy based on the business strategy.  Some proposals that can be right for one organization can be wrong to another.  It would be wrong for a Zip Car to think about adding a live personal concierge to each point of pick up as its business strategy is low cost and self service. It would be  equally wrong for a company emphasizing highly knowledgeable customer service to build a peer-to-peer community for customers to help themselves.

appleThough many companies would love to be “an Apple of their industry,” it is highly unlikely that their business strategy is identical to Apple’s business strategy.  One of the companies hired the same builder that Apple used to design their primary location… and it looks very similar to the Apple store…  Does this approach match the company’s business strategy?  Unlikely…

Design was also an interesting section – a design of the “experience” rather than visual aspects of elements that the experience might contain.

waterAn example of UK Water utility is simply spectacular.  Water utility faced a project of installing water meters for all its customers and switching to charge based on water usage in upcoming years as required by government regulation.  Water Utility hired IDEO to design the experience of the water meter installation, information required, mobile information units in the neighborhood to explain the process during the most inconvenient for the customers time – digging near their homes, the explanation of how to conserve water, the new bill showing the water usage and a gradual switch to the new system when customers were initially billed the same and received information on their water usage, whose who would be paying less under the new system could switch immediately, and whose who would be paying more could switch over upcoming years.

Companies can be at different stages of their own progress to understanding of the customer experience and building it into their general business practices.



Chief Customer Officer is the new executive position that is appearing in the industry.  Interesting: the position can be found in different companies disregarding their size and about 50% of these companies are in B-to-B areas of business.  Possible explanation is the significant value of each customer for a B-to-B company.

chiefThe authors suggest that some companies will hire Chief Customer Officers because it is fashionable, rather than based on the company’s need and readiness.  this approach will create high profile CCO failures and general industry backlash.  Though the backlash will probably last in the industry for a couple of years, the backlash will be more profound in the companies that had first unsuccessful experience with the CCO.

Not every company may need a CCO now, but we might need to start paying attention to customer experience as our competitors are racing to improve it.  And companies that have better customer experience are more financially successful.


Book – Show Me the Numbers

bookFantastic book!  This is the second book of the author that I read, and it was even more useful than the first.  My presentations changed to become more understandable… and no more pie charts 😉

The book is an excellent textbook that I wish I could study before I became comfortable with Excel.  The book explains what is wrong in data visualization, why it is not beneficial, and what is a better solution.  The book also has excellent exercises and Excel tips explaining how to simulate certain type of graphs in Excel (including the lens graph, which I started using more and more.

Important stories live in the numbers that measure what’s going on in the world.  Before we can present quantitative information, we must first uncover and understand its stories.  Once we know the stories, we can tell them in ways that help others to understand them as well.

Excellent book that I would recommend to any marketer.

Below is the explanation that cured my unfounded love for pie charts.






When pie charts are placed next to an easier to understand bar chart, it looses clearly.  I tested myself preferences for different charts, and pie never won…  it just stayed in my presentations for unknown reason.  No more!  🙂




Book – Dataclysm

dataclysmInsightful book. The book gives an understanding of the degree of data analysis that is becoming possible and how different the expression of preferences in data compared to previous methods of research.  People can answer surveys based on what they are “expected to think” rather than on what they think.

A few “obvious” findings from the book are still complicated race perception in modern US, male preference for 20 year old women, and hiring decisions based on physical attractiveness or names that could be associated with a specific race.  The author was not surprised.  However, the method to determine all these preferences is becoming more precise.

One of curious findings: dating sites (OK Cupid, data from which the author analyzed, and tried social media connections…  and they did not work.  Generally, people prefer to keep their romantic endeavors away from their friends 🙂   This is probably one of quite a few aspects where people would embrace technology, but not social media.

axiomThe book gave another reference to Axiom – I am yet to understand how the data companies can benefit b-to-b, but the benefit to b-to-c seem to be very clear.   M&A activity in this area will probably intensify while it will take some time for the market to understand practical applications of the data services universe and budget for it.

MN Search – SERPS Insights

niftyVery insightful presentation – as usually.  One of the most reassuring points is a recommendation to do our own research rather than jumping on the best practices of the industry.  Best practices may not quite work as they are promoted, or not quite work in your industry.  Best practices may not quite work in your particular competitive environment, even if they might be beneficial in your industry.

question-everythingAnother interesting point is prevalence of SPAM in some industries, and the knowledge that SPAM does work.  In some cases SPAM can result in the banning of the site, and if it happens, the site can be restored in a few months (with loss of the position).  However, the business benefit that SPAM can bring to the organization before the site is banned, could be valuable enough that business in some industries chose to engage in SPAM.  In some cases, the loss of activity after the ban occurred and site is restored is relatively small (one penalized company saw 10% decrease in leads).


Mike Ramsey researched the search activity of legal industry (his concentration), and discovered that local search was not as popular as expected. screenshot-desctio

Interestingly enough, the mobile local search (what the event audience expected to be very popular), performed even worse.


In some cases, Paid outperformed Organic, and not only Local.

Recent discovery in the community (“mechanical Turk” method) – clicks influence ranking…  most likely, this algorithm will be changed quickly now to prevent abuse.

Interesting – large companies may not need to invest so much efforts (or resort to SPAM) because of significant brand equity they already have.  Ah – but large companies are typically compete with other large companies 😉

Is creating good content enough?  You might be missing traditional techniques, particularly in local.

Local search marketer’s dilemma:

If I report on ROI, I will need to “play dirty” in some competitive industries.  If I report on Traffic, some of traffic will not bring ROI.

Mike is starting to see “smarter spam.”

We are creating marketing content at a rate that soon there will be more content that can be consumed.

AttributionMarketers need to get better on Analytics and Attribution (ah, yes, completely understandable – marketers seem to make significant efforts, but the time required for the true mastery is rather significant).   T-shaped Web Marketer has been mentioned again 🙂

Tools: (usability tool)  (Backlink tool – has a free trial) (Digital Marketing competitive tool – has a free trial)


MIMA – Overused and Misunderstood: What “Experience” Really Means

cxoAh – the title of CMO was very recently new…  and now we can see a presenter with the title of Chief Experience Officer.  Long live progress! 🙂   Chuck Hermes made an insightful presentation on the November MIMA event and recommended a few resources that worth investigating further.

What is experience?  It is an event or occurrence that leaves an impression.

It does not have to be limited to any specific channel or department…

Omni-Channel Experience – Days of Product and product features are over. The product is the experience.

Experience innovation


  • Companies thirst for customer experience innovation, but don’t know how to get it. Companies are throwing time, money, and resources at customer experience innovation. But most simply copy their competition or pray that the shiny technology du jour will put them ahead. The result is scattershot experiences that provide no real value to either the customer or the business.
  • Customer experience innovation differs from typical improvement processes. Customer experience improvements enhance interactions that already meet customer needs and drive immediate business value. In contrast, customer experience innovations solve for unmet customer needs, create new types of interactions and/or significantly change the qualities of interactions, and drive long-term differentiation.
  • Successful innovations triangulate on customer needs, business model, and brand. New customer touchpoints and interactions that don’t solve a real customer problem are just innovation for innovation’s sake. Once customer needs are uncovered, potential innovations must be vetted within the context of the business model and brand to ensure business relevance and longevity.

Excellent article below explains the need to combine the physical and digital company’s operation and avoid digital silo…  silo approach is considered a development stage in the road to the more enlightened future of business.  Macy (considered success in the article) has a Chief Omni-channel Officer and not Chif Digital Officer…


Based on a study of 20 global industries, the article recommends 5 approaches that can help companies to succeed in the transition.  “Some of them are common sense but not commonly practiced.”

A very interesting point of the importance of not only understanding the need, but ability to execute based on the understanding.


Recommended books:

book-gapThe Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design



book-outlide-inOutside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business



book-peakPeak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow


UXPA – SmartThings and RedBrick

World-usabilitydayWorld Usability Day 2014 combined three components of the “world” of usability: the internet of things, the content strategy (or behavior design), and… organizational structures that we have to navigate (as an example of government agencies).  Quite interesting – as usually.


SmartThings is a company trying to “connect” all “connected devices” with each other.  Its core product is the platform that makes the connection possible.

Though the first step in development of these devices was the creation of devices themselves, the next step is the possibility of the connection of all of the devices.  My guess, it is close to the concept of Cloud 2.0, when cloud-based software was expected not only interact with the cloud, but also with other software in the cloud.


I guess, it is still difficult to see the practical application of the “connected home;” the most interesting are security-related (knowing when the liquor cabinet has been open, or when children came home from school).

Interesting usability point on “difficult of use” of the “internet of things” in the case of a guest visiting “smart home:”

If you don’t know how devices are operating, it is difficult to operate somebody else’s devices

Samsung demonstrated that it clearly sees potential in the industry by purchasing SmartThings.   I love the site design!

RedBrick Health

RedBrick Health presenter, Sanna Yoder, has probably one of the most futuristic job titles: Director of Content Strategy and Behavior Design.

The new concept (for me) of Behavior Design is quite amazing – a scientific method is applied to the area of human life that was almost considered divine.

Teaching people what they should be doing is not working…  and had been done for centuries.

Fogg Behavioral Model approaches the task with concentration on small steps rather than unlikely to succeed commitments.


This approach is used by RedBrick Health in its behavior modification efforts.


Little tips from the experts:

  • If you wait for 10 minutes, craving will disappear (works on food 😉 )
  • To assure that you will exercise in the morning, sleep in your exercise clothes
  • People overestimate their chances for winning – drawing work reasonably well when resources are limited

Organizational challenges (government):

Information architecture should precede visual design (government agencies struggling with it also).

In the situation when one agency provides services to others…

We can provide glorious templates, but they manage to screw them up

Ah – so familiar situation 😉

Book – The Art of Explanation

explanationThis is one of the books, where every idea seem to whisper “take me to a meeting tomorrow…  your meeting will be much better.”  Ah, dear idea, you are right!  I should take you to a meeting tomorrow – and, definitely, my chances of seeing a favorable result of the meeting will be much higher 😉

The author suggests to concentrate on the “Forrest” before starting to talk about the “trees,” to explain major concepts before diving into specific points.  (Hm…  European educational system I experienced as a child was based on this principle – and math was considered easy while history was considered hard 🙂 ).

Another interesting point (which does not come with any educational system, I guess) is the nature of the question “What is it?”  The question is not “What is it?” but “How can it help me?”  A person who is asking “What is RSS?” does not want to know how RSS functions, but rather how useful can it be for his or her life.

Why is it difficult to explain basic things?  The curse of knowledge…  (Ubiquitous tune tapping experiment) – a new person joining the company often does not hear the tune of company culture and process, but just “tap.. tap… tap.”

In most situations requiring explanations, the target audience is somewhere in the range of understanding the topic.  Low understanding is A, and high understanding is Z, and the range of the understanding can be represented by an alphabet.  The goal of the explanation is to move the people at A further to the direction of Z; we can not start explaining from L if majority of the target audience understand the problem somewhere around C.


How to move your audience from A to Z?

1. Agreement

Statement that is obvious for the audience (we can all agree that gas prices are rising)

2. Context

Moving the points we agreed upon into specific context (more of your hard-earned income is going to pay for transportation)

3. Story

A person who is experiencing a change in perception (Met Sally, she is tired to pay for gas and looked for alternatives; look what she found…)

4. Connections

Analogies and ideas that people already understand (Sally could see that taking a bus was like multitasking – she could commute and work at the same time)

5. Description “how” – Sally saved $20 a week

6. Conclusion – summary – next step  (next time gas prices increase, remember…)

The author’s company Common Craft produced a very interesting collection of “explanation videos” that explain complex topics in a very understandable terms.

Explanation of social media on a ice-cream analogy


Augmented reality explanation

Content Strategy Meetup – How to write a great conference proposal

confabExcellent event for Content Strategy Meetup!  Kristina Halvorson and Tenessa Gemelke from Brain Traffic shared their perspective on conference submissions…  and an author-signed book “Content Strategy for the Web” – which I was intending to read for a couple of years and finally will 🙂

Speaking at conferences is a pleasure in itself and it can give an opportunity to attend the conference (speakers usually get a free ticket) – the topic is very useful for a modern marketer.  Ha – I will see what will happen with my latest conference proposal soon 😉

General recommendations for the conference proposals:

  • Be helpful

Suggest the topic that can genuinely help people.  would the information from your presentation help a person justify conference attendance to his or her boss?

If somebody asking you questions in your industry about a specific topic – it might be a good topic to address.

Start with people’s pain points and offer specific “how to.”

  • Be honest

“If you just want a free ticket…  you still need something to tell 😉

  • Be memorable

How can you stand out during the presentation – or during the presentation proposal?

  • Be brave

It is completely OK to be rejected 🙂   Experienced speakers can be rejected because of many reasons other than their own characteristics (topic, combination of topics in the conference already, etc.).

In general…  “pretend you are a person”

If the conference attendees required to provide a video; provide any video demonstrating that you are an engaging person – the objective is to see your personality and ability to communicate rather than any specific topic.

General speaking advice:

  • Number of slides – whatever is comfortable for the speaker’s style.  A successful hour-long presentation can have anywhere from 20 to 120 slides.  They need to make sense…
  • slidesharePresenting and sharing the presentation on SlideShare are completely different.  Sometimes, speakers try to create a presentation with too much words – suitable for SlideShare, but inadequate for the presenting to an audience.  Solution: target each audience separately: either create two different presentations or transcribe (add voice over) to the one for the Slide Share.
  • Webinars: when speaking at the webinar, think about communicating to one person – as this is the experience of your audience – one person sitting in front on the computer screen.  Webinars are more challenging as you can not see your audience reaction (I definitely noticed that!  🙂 ).

Local-affiliated conferences for interested speakers:

Books to check

book-showShow and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations
by Dan Roam




Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences
by Nancy Duarte