14 Questions Your Company Should Be Asking About Big Data

September 21, 2014

If you’ve been at all plugged into the technology discussions of the last couple years, you’ve undoubtedly encountered the buzz around “big data.” In an age where everything is super-sized, we’re sold on the idea that “more is better”. We have wall-sized TV’s and Pop Tart-sized cell phones. Everywhere we turn, something is being promoted as maximized, extended, increased or extreme. In this echo chamber of overkill, it would be easy to make the mistake of lumping big data in with the rest. Big data is changing the way that business is done, that goods and services are sold, that strategy is formed. Big data presents big challenges and even bigger opportunities. A little knowledge goes a long way in solving the former and positioning you to take advantage of the latter.

So, What is Big Data?

In today’s technological world, almost everything we do generates some sort of data that is collected. Cash registers, cell phones, email, websites, video games, virtually every electronic touchpoint in our lives generates collectible data. As a result, our ability to amass information has far outpaced our ability to process and act on it.

According to a 2011 article in the journal Science, the world’s technological per-capita capacity to store information has roughly doubled every 40 months since the 1980s. And in 2001, Gartner analyst Doug Laney pioneered the 3Vs description of big data: volume, velocity and variety. Since then, many have added veracity, a fourth V, to the equation. So, by this definition big data refers to large amounts of complex, diverse, accurate data flowing at tremendous speed—typically impossible to process using traditional data analysis tools.

To grasp the scope and scale of our information overload, here are two examples of the sort of growth that technology is driving. In 2000, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey began collecting astronomical data. Within a few weeks, it accumulated more data than had been collected in the entire history of astronomy up to that point. When the next generation survey telescope goes online in 2016, it is expected to duplicate the total data collected by Sloan EVERY FIVE DAYS! Closer to home, Walmart conducts more than a million customer transactions every hour, and has amassed a store of data that exceeds the total information collected in the Library of Congress 167 times over.

Years ago, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt was quoted as saying, “Every two days, we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.” And the pace has only escalated since then. The World Economic Forum has recognized the power of big data and now categorizes it as an economic asset, potentially as valuable as natural resources like oil or gold. Data is the currency of the information age, and we are multiplying our data wealth exponentially every day. But the true value of big data will be determined by our capacity to process and use it.

What Are The Challenges of Big Data?

In a 2012 Oracle survey of more than 300 C-level executives in the U.S. and Canada, 94% said that their organization was collecting more business information than they had in the past. We aren’t talking about a little increase, either. On average, they reported data volumes up 86% since 2010. More importantly, 93% believed that their organization was losing significant revenue because they were failing to make use of data they collect, and a whopping 97% said that their organization would have to make significant changes over the next two years to better leverage the information they collect. That two years brings us to today.

A recent Wall Street Journal blog post does a nice job breaking down the challenges into six primary categories:

  • Identifying the right data and determining how to use it
  • Hiring or training a workforce capable of working with the new technology and interpreting the data
  • Achieving appropriate access and connectivity to be able to aggregate and manage the data
  • Finding a technology partner to create an IT architecture that can efficiently adapt to the ever-changing landscape
  • Developing the organizational dexterity and leadership (Like a Chief Digital Officer) to leverage data collaboratively across functions of IT, marketing, engineering, finance, etc.
  • Maintaining informational security

Each of these points could be expanded upon at great length, but for our purposes here, let’s use them as a basis for establishing the questions your company should be asking and answering.

  1. What data do you currently collect?
  2. What business function(s) do you want your data to accomplish?
  3. How can you use your data increase the value of what you do?
  4. Is collecting data from your own transactions enough, or should you be accessing data sources external to your company as well?
  5. Which areas of your business are most likely to benefit from the information being collected?
  6. Are there security or discriminatory concerns around personal information contained within your data?
  7. Which departments within your organization have to work together to process data and use it to its best effect?
  8. Is your technology sufficient for the current task? Will it still be five years from now?
  9. Is your size and knowledge base of your leadership and staff sufficient for the current task? Will it still be five years from now?
  10. Can your new data be integrated into your existing business processes, or is a new model required?
  11. Are there ways in which improved data would reduce costs?
  12. Are there ways in which improved data would save time or other resources?
  13. Are there ways in which current decision-making suffers from a lack of actionable data?
  14. Are there new products or services that better data might inform?

Where Does Big Data Go From Here?

Big data is being used by governments, health care organizations, venture capitalists, banks, and businesses of all sizes, and toward very diverse ends: predicting traffic congestion, maximizing energy availability, fighting cancer, anticipating consumer behavior, identifying business trends, optimizing warehouse usage, fighting crime, fraud detection, improving customer satisfaction, and of course a myriad of advertising and marketing uses.

Regardless of your industry, big data is a tool that can be used to great advantage, but that must be used carefully and responsibly. And if it can’t be efficiently processed, too much information can be just as useless as no information.

Integration into your business strategy and structure will inevitably be a challenging process, one that will take most companies well beyond their established comfort zones. The challenges faced by today’s CIOs, CDOs, CMOs and data scientists are reshaping how information is gathered, processed and valued. For the companies that rise to the occasion, big data represents an opportunity to disrupt established markets and alter the competitive landscape forever. How will you leverage big data to rise above your competition?

Seven critical questions to help you determine whether or not your business needs a Chief Digital Officer (CDO)

September 12, 2014

digital marketing and strategy with a CDOHow would you react to the news that your primary competitor is hiring a Chief Digital Officer?

With a superior smirk? Perhaps so, if your forward-thinking company is among the 1,000 or so businesses that are projected to have a CDO by year’s end.

More likely, you’ll smile and nod and pretend that you’re taking a call, as you excuse yourself to the restroom where you can do some quick Googling. What is a Chief Digital Officer? What do they do? Does your company need one?

No matter the industry, nearly all business leaders will be familiar with what a CDO does in the next few years – either because they have one themselves, or because they are losing market share to a competitor who does.

Seriously, another C-level? (or) What’s in a CDO job description?

In simplest terms, the Chief Digital Officer is responsible for the strategy that connects your IT to your business and marketing plans, ensuring that your technology is being used to maximum effect to connect with customers and grow your business.

Depending on the type of business, the role of the CDO can take varying forms. In a company that is digital by definition, like Facebook, the role of Chief Digital Officer is likely filled by the CEO. All of Facebook’s strategy is, after all, digital.

In most companies that are not completely digital, the CDO serves as a visionary and advisor at all levels of strategic planning and operations, increasing comfort-level, innovating solutions and helping to grow business and avoid problems with digital communication and transactions. The CDO makes sure that efforts are coordinated and that funds are properly allocated to reach strategic goals at a pace that can be sustained by developing infrastructure.

The success of a CDO is defined by his or her ability to communicate vision and achieve buy-in at all levels of the company. Like any business leader, the best CDOs are those that are able not only to maximize today’s digital interactions, but are also able to anticipate tomorrow’s. Today’s CDO are reshaping yesterday’s businesses to maximize today’s opportunities and better position them for tomorrow’s success.

In time, the digital marketplace will become so common to all businesses that the role of a dedicated CDO may lessen. How many businesses today have specific telephone business plans? The CDO position evolved because many of today’s business executives don’t have a high comfort level with digital customer interaction and the online marketplace. All of tomorrow’s leaders will.

An effective CDO will help bridge the historically tumultuous gap between marketing and IT while innovating digital solutions and enhancing consumer’s digital experience at all business touch points. No matter what industry you are in, your customer base is more comfortable and is spending more time in digital environments than they were five years ago.  A CDO’s exact responsibilities change from one organization to the next, but the essential goal is always to enhance customer interactions and grow digital business.

What types of companies have CDOs?

Soon, every company that believes in the importance of the digital customer experience will have someone performing the duties of a Chief Digital Officer. Some of the biggest companies in the world are leading the way. Both McDonald’s and Starbucks have a CDO. So does CVS. So does Sears. The New York Stock Exchange has added a CDO in recent years. So have Harvard University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the City of New York, and the list goes on.

According to the estimates of the Chief Digital Officer Club, the world’s largest network of CDOs, the number of CDOs has doubled every year since 2005. By the end of 2014, that projects to 1,000 companies. CDO Club stats show that advertising agencies, publishers and media organizations have been early CDO adopters, while non-profits and government agencies are coming on strong.

Wait one flipping minute. Doesn’t IT do that? Or marketing?

One mistake that many companies make is to hand off digital strategy responsibility to IT. After all, they’ve always had the technology-related answers in the past. And to be fair, this can occasionally work. There are certainly visionary IT directors and Chief Information Officers out there who are capable of visionary leadership. In a recent survey of 2,000 CIOs conducted by Gartner and reported on in the Wall Street Journal, 20% reported that they were performing CDO duties for their company.

But it is important to note that the fundamental skill sets that make for a successful CIO and a successful CDO are quite different. A good CIO is focused on acquiring technology and keeping it running so your company can use it. A good CDO is focused on making your business customer-centric, and how business can be improved through public-facing technology. There is a lot of CIO in a good CDO and vice versa, but both roles are distinct enough to merit dedicated attention.

Similarly, there are some companies that have had success ascribing CDO responsibilities to their Chief Marketing Officer. There is some obvious logic here. Most CMOs come from a communications background, so they understand the value of enhancing customer experience, relationship-building and brand awareness. Like the majority of CIOs, however, most CMOs are lacking some of the key ingredients for sustained CDO success. Few companies have marketing leaders who are comfortable enough with the tech environment to make best use of current tools while anticipating and preparing for those of the future. It is also unusual for a CMO to have the organizational buy-in to be able to dictate, or at minimum influence, operations beyond the marketing silo.

The ideal Chief Digital Officer is one-third CIO, one-third CMO and one-third CEO, with equal proficiency and comfort all the way across that spectrum.

What is all this talk about digital business?

In the 2012 U.S. census, nearly 75% of all households reported having internet access in their home. And with more than 250 million smart phones now allowing unprecedented levels of interaction, smart businesses are leveraging those opportunities. In the age of the omnipresent internet, customers have come to expect an increasingly high level of digitization.

Not long ago, most businesses viewed digital opportunities solely through a marketing lens. In those days, a community college might advertise its classes online. Today, many are actually conducting classes in that digital space. A few years back, B2B customers were at the mercy of your sales team. Now, your ideal client is 75% of the way through the buying process before you even know they’re looking. In B2C, most customers who were shopping for furniture were content to visit a static web page, where they could see a few photos and verify your shop’s phone number and address prior to their visit. Today, they expect to be able to rotate an image of that easy chair 360 degrees while trying out various fabrics, colors and patterns. If they like what they see, they expect to be able to order from their touch screen. A few years ago, the web supplanted newspapers and phone calls as our preferred method for finding TV listings or movie theater showtimes. Now, with online streaming services increasingly winning favor, the web is no longer just a conduit to entertainment, it is a venue.

Today’s businesses aren’t just advertising online, they are selling in that electronic space, sharing news, research and content, conversing with existing and potential customers. A good digital strategy allows you to not only be ready and waiting when your customers come looking for you, it also allows you to engage them before they even know how much they need you.

As consumers turn to digital resources for information, communication, shopping, banking, news, play and entertainment, savvy businesses understand that their opportunities have grown far beyond enticing a potential customer to look at an ad or open the door to your shop. Today’s engagement opportunities are mobile, and social, and growing with each new innovation.

But here’s a little secret. Just as the division between “business” and “digital business” will be erased over time, so too will the other imaginary lines that once defined a company’s structure. In today’s increasingly transparent marketplace, the ways that you conduct your business and share your vision are a vital part of your company’s marketing, regardless of which department is in charge. While the potential range of digital business transactions has grown exponentially, marketing saturates every interaction. Everything you do makes an impression. And that’s marketing.

An effective digital strategy will identify and expand on your company’s online potential, drive product evolution and development and unite your traditional business with all of the individual digital consumer engagements to create a unified customer experience.

Does my company need a Chief Digital Officer?

Here are a handful of questions that will help you determine whether a Chief Digital Officer would be helpful to your business:

  1. Do you have a roadmap for converting offline solutions to digital, or to develop new and unique digital products and services for your customers?
  2. Do your customers engage with you online?
  3. Do your customers engage with your competitors online?
  4. Do you have a comprehensive digital strategy?
  5. Does your online presence allow for two-way communication with customers and potential customers?
  6. Does a Google search of your company name bring up information that is in line with how you want customers to view your company? How does that compare to what they see when they search your competitors?
  7. Is digital interaction central to your company’s growth and future success?

Now what?

If you are still reading, I’m going to assume that you are at least considering the merits of adding a CDO to your leadership team. Make no mistake about it, the digital marketplace has already changed the way that we all do business. Whether yours is a small business trying to carve out a niche or a huge corporation trying to take over an industry, an ever-increasing portion of your success will be attributable to what you do – or don’t do – in the digital arena.

Maybe your company already has a visionary leader who understands the ins and outs of strategic planning, e-commerce and business transactions, online marketing, social media, product transformation, relationship building, branding, and technology infrastructure capabilities. To be successful, a CDO must not only have the majority of these strengths, he or she must also have the organizational influence to be able to act on them.  Does your company have someone who fits that description? I hope so, because with every passing day, more and more of your competitors do.

MESH Interactive’s Bill Schick Named One of City’s Rising Stars

January 14, 2014

Bill Schick Nashua 20/20

Website design firm principal Bill Schick named one of Nashua's visionaries.

A prestigious selection panel of Nashua community and business leaders has selected MESH Interactive Principal Bill Schick as one of the top 20 visionary leaders who are having an impact on the city.

Other visionaries named to the prestigious list include US Senator Kelly Ayotte, Lowell Spinners and Nashua Silver Knights President Tim Bawmann and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Director Sanders Burstein.

The Nashua 20/20 selection panel included Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, Chamber President Chris Williams, United Way CEO Paul Hebert and other community and business leaders. The panel’s goal is to highlight leaders that will lead Nashua into the future.

You can read about Bill’s selection in the Nashua Telegraph article Nashua 20/20 Emerging: Bill Schick, making global marketing connections through home base in Nashua.

MESH Gives Metropolis Property Management a Leg Up on the Competition

October 1, 2013

Pay Online by Credit Card Feature Delights Tenants, Encourages Timely Payments

Today, we launched a good looking site for Metropolis Property Management. It’s a highly interactive site with an engaging property portfolio section that lets visitors tab through apartment amenities, floor plans and interior and exterior photos. The site also is fully search engine optimized and integrated with social media.

Metropolis Website

The Metropolis website provides a better, more efficient way to complete important tasks.

These are all important aspects, but what I would like to focus on today is how the site is a great example of what I call “building utility.”

Let me explain what I mean. Building utility is when a site goes beyond simply conveying information to visitors. It provides a better, more efficient way to complete important tasks. Sometimes it involves improving inefficient offline tasks by bringing them online, thereby making them faster, easier, smarter and maybe even more fun.

Metropolis has managed properties in the New Hampshire and Northern Massachusetts area for over 35 years. During that time, the property management firm has learned a thing or two about serving their customers.

They have built a reputation for excellence by providing property owners with a full range of superior services, everything from real estate development and construction management to finance and property management. Over 600 residential apartment units throughout greater Manchester and New Hampshire are currently under Metropolis management.

Keeping Residents Happy

Pleasing residents is an important goal of a property management firm. A happy resident is less likely to move. One feature of the Metropolis website that residents really like is the ability to easily and securely pay rent online with a credit card. This is not an earth shattering new capability, but it really does make life a lot easier for the user. It saves time by eliminating all the drudgery of having to make payments offline.

Apartment complex owners like it, too. People are a lot less likely to be late on their rent if they can easily pay online. Plus, prospective residents can see that this option is available when they visit the site.

I encourage you to think about ways that you can build utility into your site. Nearly everyone likes it when things are faster, easier, smarter and more fun. Building in utility is a great way to forge close relationships with your prospects and customers, and keeping your customers close is a great way to keep them coming back for more.

Nashua Dares To Begin

September 27, 2013

New Tag Line, Logo and Websites Communicate City’s Vitality 
to Individuals, Families, Tourists and Businesses

City of Nashua - Dare to BeginEarlier in the week, the City of Nashua held a very successful event to introduce its new “Dare to Begin” branding initiative to a group of enthusiastic residents and community advocates.

In yesterday’s article about the event, The Nashua Telegraph described the initiative as being “designed to blaze innovative new trails into Nashua’s future.”

We couldn’t agree more. The MESH team is honored to be able to say that it played a strategic role in the initiative, which conveys Nashua’s qualities as an ideal destination for individuals, families, tourists and businesses to live, work and play. continue reading this post

A Small Business Blog of Your Own

April 24, 2013

Forward thinking small businesses are an important part of our client base at MESH. As you might expect, small business people have very different marketing requirements than larger organizations. That’s why last September we created the MESH LiveBuild lead generation and marketing Website platform. It’s designed specifically to address the specific needs of small businesses.

Now, as a logical extension of the MESH LiveBuild product, we’ve launched the MESH LiveBuild Blog, an online forum where the MESH team will introduce lead generation, marketing, and website design and development topics that are important to small businesses. Early topics covered include 10 questions to ask about getting found on Google local business search , using a small business mobile website to find more customers, and If an “Easy Website” Doesn’t have these Features, It’s Not Easy.

If you’re a small business person, why not check out the blog at http://meshlivebuild.com/blog/.

Build Real Engagement By Turning Your Community Into Content Creators in 5 Easy Steps

February 27, 2013

Every day I talk to folks in every realm of marketing: traditional, social media, and everything in between. Everyone has their take on how to use social media to get new business, but one question that almost always comes up, is “how do I get people to engage with my brand on Facebook, after the initial ‘Like’?“ continue reading this post

Leadership Greater Nashua Class of 2012 and MESH Interactive Partner for a Cause

October 22, 2012

Leadership Greater Nashua, Class of 2012 and MESH Interactive Agency announce partnership to benefit the Nashua Legacy Playground Community Project. Leadership Greater Nashua’s (LGN) project is the construction of a universally accessible playground to be built next year. The universally accessible playground will offer children and adults of all abilities a place to play and develop. The LGN class has begun fundraising events throughout the community to support the project in reaching its goal of $250,000. continue reading this post

MESH Announces Lead Gen and Marketing Platform to Address Small Business Needs

September 26, 2012

LiveBuild Empowers Small Businesses to Generate High-Quality Sales Leads with Marketing-Driven Landing Pages, Social Media Integration and Search Engine Optimization

MESH Interactive Agency, a full-service inbound marketing and creative agency specializing in multi-channel branding, web development and integrated social media engagement solutions, today announced MESH LiveBuild–a powerful integrated lead generation and marketing platform designed to help small business achieve sales and marketing success with little time and investment.

LiveBuild is built leveraging the most current cutting-edge technologies to minimize the learning curve and maximize marketing ROI. Small businesses can get a branded online presence and start generating new leads within 10 business days.

“After nearly a decade of working with businesses to address B2B and B2C challenges via the Web, the team at MESH Interactive Agency has developed a solution to empower small businesses with a professional branded online and mobile presence they need–and deserve–to gain a competitive edge. LiveBuild makes it simple for small business marketers to engage customers with the right content, at the right time and in the right format,” said Bill Schick, principal, MESH Interactive Agency. “My team has delivered above and beyond by developing the most gorgeous and elegant mobile site you can get on the market. Branding is carried throughout the mobile design unlike most mobile sites you view. Our cutting-edge proprietary full site navigation system offers a unique, well-thought-out design delivering a positive user experience every time.”

LiveBuild is built to deeply integrate within marketing programs, empowering small businesses to leverage each online channel–Email, Social Media, SEO, Mobile…to facilitate superior engagement, driving high-quality leads resulting in measurable revenue.

Built-in, easy-to-understand analytics provide on demand access to insights to validate site traffic, user behavior on site, referring sites, top searched keywords, measure site performance, track marketing campaigns, and more.

“MESH LiveBuild is a cost effective way to build a powerful website quickly and easily for the healthcare sector. It is user friendly, enabling anyone to edit and expand the LiveBuild site with ease,” said Jonathan Burroughs, president and CEO, Burroughs Healthcare Consulting Network.

MESH LiveBuild will change the way small businesses currently market themselves. With LiveBuild’s powerful marketing tools, gorgeous web and mobile site and robust built-in analytics businesses now have the control to optimize customer engagement.

  • Generate High-Quality Sales Leads with Marketing-Driven Landing Pages, Social Media and SEO
  • Grow Your Business with Scalable, Easy-to-Manage Web and Mobile Sites
  • Track it all with Powerful Integrated Analytics
  • All with a Dedicated Graphic Designer, SEO Expert and Project Manager

MESH LiveBuild is extremely user-friendly and provides me with the access I need to update our website at any time,” said Alyssa DellaCamera, internet marketing specialist, Eaton & Berube for  Knapton, Reade & Woods Insurance. “I would highly recommend it to small businesses looking to create a simple yet professional website that is easy for both you and your customers to use.”

Learn how you can start generating measurable, high-quality sales leads with MESH LiveBuild at meshlivebuild.com.

MESH Interactive Agency Announces Opening of New York City Office

March 5, 2012

MESH Interactive Agency, a full-service inbound marketing and creative agency specializing in multi-channel branding, web development and integrated social media engagement solutions, announced today it has opened an office in the heart of New York City to expand its national presence.

“MESH has experienced rapid growth, nearly doubling in size almost every year since it was founded in 2006. We are incredibly excited to announce the opening of our New York City office, this was a big next step for our boutique agency. As a digital media mecca and hub for innovation, New York City provides us access to a wealth of resources, talent, as well as a gateway to new opportunities with global brands,” said Bill Schick, founder and principal, MESH Interactive Agency.

The New York City office is located within two blocks of Times Square at 19 West 44th Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10036–an upscale area know for its private college clubs. Operations will be handled through MESH’s Boston-area headquarters in Nashua, New Hampshire.