The Two Faces of Innovation

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Written by: Travis Kendall, Account Manager

Traditionally, there are two main methods organizations use to develop new innovations: internal and external. I’m going to dive into each and give real-world examples, and I hope this may inspire you to think differently about the possibilities of innovation in your organization.

Internal Innovation
One method to develop new products, services, and strategies is through internal innovation. With internal innovation, a company acquires funds, then sends a group of highly-qualified people to a deep, dark laboratory for the development phase. The development phase focuses on research, whiteboarding, building, and testing their inventions and hypotheses until they have a working product, service, or strategy. Then it is passed on to the organization’s marketing and sales teams to form the best strategies to take the innovation to market.

External Innovation
The other method to develop new products, services, and strategies is through external innovation. With external innovation, the developing company works directly with consumers outside the organization, and they continue to develop through the proceeds of limited or unfinished versions of the final vision. External innovation allows the end user to participate in the development process from start to finish and allows for constantly evolving development, marketing, and sales cycles based on public interest in the innovation.

Big-Picture Examples
Two great big-picture examples of internal innovations are cars and phones. Scientists sit in laboratories and do their best to innovate vehicles with the safest crash-test ratings and smartphones with the most foldable screens. They’ll continue testing and innovating as long as the funding organization keeps cutting checks.

Great big-picture examples of external innovations are flight and the internet. The Wright Brothers used the proceeds from their bicycle shop to effectively develop the most advanced bicycle of the time, one that could even fly. Similarly, the internet was initially developed through the proceeds of academic and big business organizations interested in cataloging and communicating at expedited speeds. Internet innovations and infrastructure continue to be developed as long as the consumers that use it keep cutting checks.

Real-World Case Study
Both methods of innovation have worked in the past and will continue to work in the future, but one of the most exciting internal innovation vs external innovation competitions happening today is between Google and Tesla and their race to develop better-than-human self-driving vehicle technology. Both Google and Tesla are light years ahead of any other competitor in regards to total data collected, but they have gone about collecting that data in very different ways.

Google’s self-driving technology began development in the labs and parking lots hidden away on Google-owned property. The company’s self-driving technology depends on lab-developed innovations in three-dimensional space mapping, as well as limited real-world vehicles on public streets. As of 2018, Google has used this and other technology in their labs to simulate over 5 billion miles of autonomous driving.

In comparison, Tesla’s self-driving technology began development on public roads and streets across America. The company’s self-driving technology depends on monitoring real-world drivers and driving habits. Each and every customer-owned Tesla on the road is sending data back to Tesla HQ, and with each new car sold, there’s yet another source of data. As of 2018, Tesla drivers have logged over 5 billion fleet miles driven.

Will Google’s internal innovation strategy and brilliant laboratory minds carry them to the top, or will Tesla’s external innovation strategy and growing feet of consumer drivers beat them to the punch? Only time will tell.

For more reading on Google and Tesla’s very different approach to self-driving car innovation, check out this article from the Verge.

At Futurety, we use external innovation to develop full-functioning automated marketing strategies for Fortune 1,000 companies and public organizations that want to be the first. Combining marketing automation tools and advanced data analytics, we are building programs that engage consumers how they want to be engaged, all with a small, nimble team of engineers and strategists. Want to learn more about how your organization can start building the innovations of the future with us? Contact Futurety today!

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Why Links Matter for Your 2019 SEO Strategy

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Looking to increase your organic website traffic in the new year? One of the most important, fundamental strategies you can implement to boost your rank in search listings is link building. It’s so important that even Google has come out and said creating backlinks is one of the most invaluable ranking signals.

In its simplest form, link building for search engine optimization (SEO) means getting websites with authority to link to your content because it’s useful, relevant and credible.

Search engines will be focusing on not only the number of links your site has but even the quality. Before diving into a full link building campaign, you need to understand what exactly makes a good link (or a bad link).

We’ve outlined four things to keep in mind while obtaining new links:

  1. Authority of the site: In general, a link from a well-known online publication like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or NPR will have a greater impact than a local blogger.
  2. Authority of the page: One layer deeper than site authority, is the page authority. Links from authoritative pages pass more authority, or PageRank, to your site.
  3. Relevancy of the site: Not only do you want high-quality links, but you also need to be sure the site you’re receiving a link from is relevant to your own. For example, if you’re a local restaurant, you wouldn’t want a link from a site about mechanical engineering.
  4. Link position on the page: You want your link to be embedded in the body of the website. If the link is buried in the footer or sidebar, the link could mean less in the “eyes” of search engines.

Think you’re ready to launch your own link building campaign or still have a few questions? Let’s link up! Contact Futurety today to learn more about our SEO and digital marketing strategy services.

Photo credit: Rawpixel on Unsplash

Is More Data Always Better?

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One of the most common problems we help solve at Futurety is, “My data isn’t giving me actionable insights.” In today’s data-driven business culture, we all look at our existing data to help us find new markets and differentiate from competitors; but what if the problem isn’t a lack of data, but a lack of good data?

We’ve all heard the age-old innovation story about Henry Ford choosing to build a car, instead of building a better horse. This is somewhat of a tired refrain in product development but opens up new worlds when we apply it to data problems. What if, rather than organize, systematize, analyze, and strategize our existing data (that hasn’t helped us so far anyway), we can find new opportunities faster, cheaper, and better by obtaining new data on the problem we’re trying to solve?

Here are a few examples:

  1. Not sure why users are visiting your e-commerce site, but not buying? Stop your team over-analyzing pages per session, time on site, and funnel completions, and try surveying existing customers to see where they had trouble before purchasing.
  2. Having trouble justifying an expensive display campaign that maybe is driving search traffic, but also maybe isn’t? Validate the campaign by identifying similar geographic markets and A/B testing by turning off the campaign for 30 days in all the B markets.
  3. Can’t figure out why certain products on your site aren’t selling? Install Google Tag Manager and see how far people are scrolling on the page and what buttons they’re clicking on to identify a pricing or photography issue.

Generating new, actionable data isn’t the resource-hungry process it once was. Tools like Amazon Mechanical Turk, affordable and flexible survey options, Google Tag Manager and Optimizely, and many more are making high-quality data much easier to come by, and in a matter of days rather than weeks or months.

If your past data projects have been underwhelming, maybe it’s time to rethink your data sources. Contact us for a free data strategy audit with one of our analysts, and let’s find out what ideas we can create together!

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4 Strategies to Optimize Survey Design and Research

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Survey research is a quick and effective way to gain actionable business insights. Whether you want to learn more about your target audience, test new product or service concepts, or evaluate perceptions of your brand, a well-designed survey can deliver the answers you need.

While survey design seems simple, content and format choices can significantly impact your respondent’s answers to the survey. Here are four easy tips to improve the survey experience and ensure the reliability of your data.

1. Simplify survey wording

Did you know that most Americans read English at an 8th-grade level? Using clear and simple content helps respondents better understand the questions you are asking. Making survey content accessible to as many respondents as possible helps you gain insights without excluding valuable perspectives. The readability of survey text can easily be evaluated using Microsoft Word.

2. Avoid double-barreled questions

Double-barrelled questions have two separate questions in one statement. They are a common mistake in survey writing because we use them so often in our everyday conversations. Unfortunately, a question like “How often do you diet and exercise?” doesn’t translate very well to written surveys. If a respondent exercises frequently, but never diets, their response won’t accurately capture their behavior. Luckily, this is an easy fix! Separating these questions allows respondents to answer accurately. And it makes it easier for you, as the researcher, to analyze and interpret results.

3. Clarify the meaning of terms

Terms like “frequently”, “a lot”, or “most” can be interpreted differently depending on the question content or different respondents may interpret the meaning differently. Clarifying the meaning of questions (“most of the time”, “almost none”) can avoid confusion and help simplify respondents’ answers.

Scaled responses (like the one seen below) provides a logical context for your question.

  • How often do you exercise?
  • Very Frequently
  • Frequently
  • Somewhat Frequently
  • Neither Frequently Nor Infrequently
  • Somewhat Infrequently
  • Infrequently
  • Very Infrequently

This helps respondents to take the guesswork out of their answers and helps to avoid unreliable survey data.

4. Give your respondents an out!

Some respondents may skip questions if they are unsure of the answer. Even worse, they may choose an answer at random so they don’t leave questions blank. Providing options like “Not Sure”, “I don’t know”, or “Can’t Remember” gives survey takers the opportunity to respond honestly, without skewing your data. For multiple choice questions, you can also include options like “Other: Please specify” so respondents can offer their own answers.

Photo Credit: Small Fit Business

You’ve Got [Personalized] Mail 📧

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Open up your personal email and you likely have dozens of unread emails promising the best-ever promotions, sales, articles, reports, and more. Dozens of companies are vying for your attention, especially with the upcoming holiday season.

Whether you’re a B2B or B2c company, you’re likely asking yourself, how in the world can our message stand out during such a crowded, busy season?

At Futurety, we’re all about personalization. Each customer has different preferences, purchasing habits, and behavior, so email marketing should be personalized, as much as possible, to break through the inbox. We understand that personalization strategies can vary from something small like including a first name in an email subject line or as large as building out a robust preference center to segment communication preferences.

Here are four key personalization strategies to consider for your 2019 email marketing to break through the noisy inbox.

  1. Website behavior — Did a customer visit your website,  sign up for an account, add two items to their shopping cart and then leave? No problem. A triggered email can be deployed to that customer to remind them of the items they left behind. This could also be a perfect opportunity to use a small promotion to build additional trust.
  2. Purchasing behavior — Just like website behavior, purchasing behavior can be tracked online and offline. This is the perfect opportunity to engage with customers based on their specific and known preferences. If a customer prefers to dine with you over dinner, send them an email when your new seasonal dinner menu rolls out.
  3. Topic interests — For all you B2B companies out there, you can send personalized email based on the content your website visitors are consuming. Did they download a report on the Top 5 Email Marketing Trends of 2019 last week? Send an email 3-5 days later with a similar report on how they can use data to power smarter email marketing. You deliver value based on what you know they need help with.
  4. Time of Day — The time of day an email is deployed can drastically influence open and click-through rates depending on your product, service, and industry. Have a lunch promotion? Deploy the supporting email at 10:30 AM, right around the time the mid-morning hunger kicks in.

According to Experian, brands that personalize promotional marketing emails experience 27% higher unique click rates and 11% higher open rates than those who do not personalize.

So whether you’re a Fortune 100 company with 1 million plus contacts or a startup with a small but mightly list of 1,000 contacts, email personalization has the power to connect deeper, engage further, and convert higher. Smarter marketing is all about next-level customer engagement.

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Consumer Trained Algorithms: Why You Are Already Working for Google, Tesla and Dozens of Other Organizations

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Mark and Huckle are quite the pair. For those of you who have not met them, Mark is one of Futurety’s data scientists and Huckle is our resident machine learning agent, or as I like to call him “super awesome fancy computer”.

Mark works hard every day training Huckle on behalf of our clients so those clients can use machine learning and artificial intelligence in their organizations.

A look inside Huckle, Futurety’s Data & Machine Learning Powerhouse

For example, Mark could show Huckle thousands of images and x-rays of healthy shoulders and teach Huckle that these are “healthy shoulders”. Then he can show Huckle thousands of bad shoulders and teach Huckle that these are “bad shoulders”. Pretty soon, Huckle can tell healthy shoulders from bad shoulders, even if he’s never seen that particular x-ray and Mark is so proud and he’s not crying he just has something in his eye.

There are several other ways of training Huckle. Huckle can analyze millions of emails and get the equivalent of a catnip treat from Mark when an email recipient opens an email. Huckle can get a big ol’ belly scratch when a recipient makes a purchase after clicking a link in an email.

Finally, Mark can feed Huckle a bunch of information and let Huckle figure out an answer. For example, if a real estate developer is trying to decide whether to build luxury homes, family homes or retirement housing in various zip codes, Huckle can cluster information like age, income, and marital status to help determine what homes to build and where.

One limitation with all of this is that Mark is just one guy. And even with 100 Marks, there is a limit to how much Huckle can be trained.

Unless…

What if the very consumers of your product also become its trainers? What if you could have real people, in real-world scenarios constantly training your product?

Welcome to the age of Consumer Trained Algorithms. Since 2015, Google has talked about Rank Brain, an AI platform that makes search results more relevant. Does Google do anything as tacky as survey us on how happy we are with our search results? No way. However, when we click a result, and spend 2 minutes on the site and make a purchase, we’ve just reinforced a good experience. When we click a link, spend three seconds on the site and change our search terms, we have likewise trained the algorithm. Multiply that by a billion searches a day and we can see how Google can start to think like a person.

It’s been said that when one Tesla car learns something, all Teslas learn it. We contend that Tesla isn’t a car company. It’s not a battery company, it’s a custom neural network… essentially a giant brain of the world’s infrastructure.

It’s also been said that Tesla loses around $15,000 per car sold. Flip this thought and think more along the lines of “Tesla is paying us $15,000 each to map the roads and highways you drive.” Ultimately, we are the Mark to Tesla’s Huckle. We train the algorithm.

Facebook, Apple, you name it, they can all be thought to be doing the same thing.

I happen to fall on the side of the automation debate that believes automation is a good thing. Automation will empower us to solve more of the world’s problems and we only create a better user experience for ourselves and for others when we train technology to adapt to human needs. We don’t pay a monetary fee to use Google or Facebook. We pay less for a Tesla than we should because in exchange we help develop the technology.

With Data Visualization, Anyone Can Have a Slice of the Pie (Graph)

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Do you want to know how to make your data more manageable, gain valuable business insights from the data you have or communicate your data in new ways?

At Futurety, we believe data is power. Deriving insights from data drives smarter marketing, product development, and business strategy. Data visualization allows you to see a crystal clear picture of what your customers are currently doing and how you can influence what they do next.

 

We’ve gathered a handful of definitions and thorough articles to empower and increase your understanding of data visualization.

What is Data Visualization?

Data visualization software simplifies complex data and translates it into a story that anyone can understand and share. Futurety uses a variety of tools to process data and convert it into easy-to-understand images.

How Do We Use It?

Once data visualizations are created, data-driven insights can then be shared with key decision makers to inform organizational, business, and marketing strategies.

How Does Data Visualization Fit Into My Industry?

Finally, data visualization can be used in a wide variety of contexts and industries from retail, finance, healthcare, and beyond.

At Futurety, we believe these processes and applications should be accessible to business leaders and industry innovators alike. Now, share your insights with new audiences!

Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

Use These 5 Internal Data Sources to Transform Your Marketing

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For many of us, realizing that our marketing or product communications plans are getting stale can be a moment of panic. What worked a few weeks, months, or years ago is looking like it’s running out of gas, and reinventing that strategy is an intimidating process. Should we run focus groups? Survey our past customers? Test and learn until something works? The options are endless.

In our work here at Futurety, we’ve found that many of our clients overestimate their need for external data. Often, you already have the information you need to identify a new marketing or services delivery strategy, it’s just a matter of organizing it so you can brainstorm on it. Here are a few sources that often trigger new ideas and insights:

  1. Google Analytics. Bear with us–there’s a lot more here than you may think. You probably already know what channels are driving traffic or sales, but what are your top exit pages where people drop out of the funnel? What search terms are people using who ultimately convert vs those who don’t? Does landing on a certain page impact if that user will ultimately place an order? This is all available in Google Analytics, it’s just a matter of slicing and dicing the data the right ways.
  2. Google Ads. We often call Google Ads (formerly AdWords) a “crowd-sourced focus group.” Google Ads are great for testing messaging in real-time, even if you’re not primarily selling your products or services online. Put a $100 budget on a campaign with 3 ad copy variations, and see what gets the highest click through rate, and voila–you now have a good idea of what messaging gets you the most attention from the average user. Google Ads are great for A/B testing landing pages, value propositions, and discounting strategies, too.
  3. Email Data. Much like Google Ads, your past email sends can tell you an awful lot about what your prospects or customers want to hear from you. What subject lines get the highest open rate, and what does that tell you about your offerings? What specific links within emails get the most clicks, and what emails led to the most orders from your site?
  4. Your Sales and/or Customer Service Team. We’ve often found that the best ideas for innovation come from those who spend the most time with the customer. Most sales or customer service reps have strong opinions on how your products could be better positioned to your customers–they spend all day doing it, after all, and want to do well for themselves. Consider asking these front-line types their honest opinions, or hiring an intermediary to conduct an anonymous survey and see what anecdotal ideas are created.
  5. Google Trends. We make frequent use of the Google Trends tool to see what the top search terms may be around our clients’ industries or services, and how that could impact our work on their behalf. For example, over the past 90 days in Columbus, the top related searches for “tacos” include “fish tacos” and “shrimp tacos.” A savvy Mexican restaurant might launch a new campaign featuring their fresh fish and shrimp lunch specials.

      Photo credit: Campaign Creators

The Secret Sauce to Next-Level Customer Engagement

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How do customers currently engage with your business? What is the ideal way you would like them to regard your service, offering, or product? The answers to those two questions may differ from each other, maybe not. At Futurety, our team is on a mission to elevate how customers, both B2C and B2B, interact, engage, buy, and talk about your organization or business.

We’ve developed a framework (or pyramid) that divides all audiences into four categories: Casuals, Regulars, Advocates, and Champions.

Next-Level Engagement Audiences
What makes our framework different is that we work to bump each audience up one level (Casuals to Regulars, Regulars to Advocates, and so on). This is done through our data analytics and marketing automation services. To help explain our audience pyramid a bit deeper, let’s imagine your business is a local taco shop a couple of miles from the interstate situated in a nice, quaint town.

Casuals
Your casual audience interacts with your restaurant every once in a while. They’re on the family road trip and stopping by because everyone needs a bathroom break and they just can’t stomach another bout of fast food. You are on their list, but priorities are priorities and you’re not one of theirs, sorry.

Regulars
Your regular audience interacts with you frequently enough to collect usable data (score!). They come in on Fridays, attend the local specials, and bring the family every year during the holidays.

Advocates
Your advocate audience enjoys your spot for themselves but also recommends you to co-workers, family members, the stranger at Starbucks. They bring you up in conversation, convince the office to tend your way, and fall back on your brand even after trying out your competitors just for fun.

Champions
And last, but certainly not least, we have your champion audience at the top. Champions pay to promote you — they sing your praises, buy your T-shirts, and run your 5k. They only interact with other brands when they must. They’re super proud, see themselves as part of your community and help bring every other audience category up to where they’re standing!

How do we level up each audience? Futurety creates and executes a cross-channel strategy with exactly the right messaging and targeting to help our clients stand out in a crowded field. Taking customers to the next level doesn’t just happen in a matter of months either. Understanding business goals, analyzing internal and external data, and current market trends will all contribute to mapping out how to elevate your customers.