Creating and Measuring Communication, Effectively

By: Nickie Harber-Frankart

We’re constantly looking for innovative ways translate data and information into interesting visualizations for our clients. There are many ways to accomplish this by using bar charts, gauges and graphs, but but I’ve recently found word clouds to be incredibly useful for analyzing text.

Wordle.net provides text-based visualizations, using content pasted from articles, blogs, questions from surveys and more, making the top, most prominently used words in the text the largest in the cloud.

For fun, I entered the URL of our blog into Wordle.

Wordle Word Cloud

The prominent words were: interesting, experience, customer, approach, OrangeBoy, work, time, meetings, process, and so on—all of which explain our mission to help our clients become customer-centric organizations.

This exercise was a reminder about branding and creating effective messaging. It was also a lesson in content analytics.

  • Messaging should align with your target audience, as well as your organization’s mission, brand and personality. I was relieved to know that this was the case with our blog. However, it’s not uncommon to see misalignment. Often I hear clients say, I want our customers to know about XYZ, but it doesn’t align with customers’ needs or their behavior. Communication should relate to the core of what you do as an organization while meeting the needs of your customers. A good example is a library sending targeted email messages about early literacy programs to parents with small children who use the library.
  • Use multiple visualizations to tell the whole story. The blog publisher WordPress has a dashboard tool that displays visitation statistics, views, clicks, and popular pages and topics. Amidst all of this “raw” usage data, there are no metrics to describe the blog’s personality or common message themes. The word cloud helped uncover that. By using Wordle, I was able to visualize the messages we send to our readers and understand commonly used words that describe our blog’s personality as it relates to our brand. In other words, multiple data visualizations resulted in a well-rounded story about messaging and its impact on behavior.

I encourage you to think about your messages and use analytics in a similar way. The next time you craft a message to your customers think about how it aligns with their needs and your organization’s brand and mission. Then, consider the best way to measure the impact of that message, effectively.

OrangeBoy works with organizations to uncover valuable insights about customers and the markets they serve. Insights lead to innovative solutions. OrangeBoy helps clients create personalized customer experiences and communications to achieve measurable results. 

The age of the customer

“In the age of the customer, the only sustainable competitive advantage you can have is the degree to which you know and engage with your individual customers.” –WSJ

Know your customers. Read today’s tips in the WSJ and start building your holistic data strategy: http://ow.ly/jtpaW.

Ask us how OrangeBoy can help you http://www.orangeboyinc.com

The Glass Half Full

By: Sandy Swanson

Half empty or half full? A classic example used in numerous articles and self-help books asks us to identify how we see the glass. The thought is that if we see the glass half empty, we are pessimists. We have a client, Wadsworth Public Library, who chose to see their financial situation quite the opposite way. With their optimistic attitude and determination, they passed a levy that had failed just eight months earlier. You can also read a related article about the Wadsworth Public Library on the Library Journal blog, The Digital Shift.

Glass half fullOrangeBoy provided the Wadsworth Public Library, located in Medina County, Ohio, analytics about its customers and community to pass a crucial operating levy. This time, armed with optimism, dedicated volunteers, and good data, it worked. Here’s how they did it.

The library is anchored between the Akron and Cleveland metropolitan areas and it serves a community of approximately 25,000. The community had seen steady declines in state library funding since 2001, but it reached a critical point from 2008 through 2010, after sharp cuts to library funding due to the recession. This resulted in immediate budget reductions of $500,000 for the library (nearly 20 percent of its overall budget), and cumulative losses of $2 million over the previous 10 years. These cuts reduced operating hours, staff and programs.

The library went to the voters in March 2012 and attempted to pass a 1.25 mill levy. Despite a valiant effort from community volunteers and the library, the levy did not pass.

A ‘half-empty’ mind-set could have overcome the library and they might have just given up, cutting library services even further. But they didn’t. They decided to re-group and try a different approach. This time, they adjusted the desired levy to 1 mill, formed another dedicated volunteer committee, and hired OrangeBoy to understand the market dynamics at play.

OrangeBoy helped the library with a comprehensive market analysis. Our study identified where their cardholders lived and displayed geographic trends visually with GIS maps, in addition to identifying other demographic characteristics of their customers and the overall market. We also incorporated voter registration information to add deeper insights about voting patterns in their community.

After presenting our research, the library decided to play to its strength and focus its levy efforts on known supporters. They believed they would have a better chance at passing the levy if they could encourage loyal users to get to the polls. Their strategy worked, and the levy passed with 55 percent of the vote, a nine point swing from the election just eight months earlier.

Our role in this effort is extremely rewarding, but it is their ‘half full’ optimism that inspires me. When I have a day that didn’t go as planned or am greeted with disappointing news, I remember the Wadsworth Public Library and look at that glass a whole new way.

Here’s to an optimistic and rewarding new year.

Leave us your comments or questions below.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2013

Just the Facts…

By: Andy Minister

As we were driving from LAX into the city last week for the Library Journal Director’s Summit, my colleague Clark quoted the opening line from a famous TV show – Dragnet. After the Summit concluded, I imagined how the opening voiceover would sound at the conference…

“This is the city. Los Angeles, California. I work here. I carry a badge. My name’s Friday – I’m a cop. My partner is Frank Smith. It was November 29th. It was raining in Los Angeles. We were working the day watch out of the Library Security Division. A steady stream of disruptions had been finding its way into the city’s library system. We’d gotten a lead on some of the sources of those disruptions – We had to check it out.”

Joe Friday was no-nonsense, straightforward, diligent and paid attention to detail. Those characteristics led to solving crimes. But Friday was also a man set in his ways about how police work was done.

The Director’s Summit’s theme was Disruptions and Opportunities: Libraries Welcome Change. Many libraries find change difficult. The summit showed that libraries are getting out of their comfort zone and realizing a new way of thinking is necessary.

The positive energy from all the directors at the summit was truly exciting to see, and change is certainly coming. Like Friday, today’s libraries are diligent and pay attention to detail. Many have already begun to find opportunities in the pile of disruptions they face in order to make their library more effective and efficient.

“Just the facts, ma’am.” This is thought to be the most recognizable catchphrase from the show. But I learned while writing this, the actual phrase is “all we know are the facts, ma’am.” Think about the difference of these two phrases. In the former, Friday is asking for the facts, in the latter, he is telling her the facts are all that matter.

In our work at OrangeBoy, we have been evangelizing this approach for years, touting the benefits of customer segmentation and data-driven approaches to allocate resources, retain customers and build library support. We believe the facts are what matter, and we truly enjoy working with libraries to uncover those facts. When the facts are all that matter, libraries are able to make decisions that are not only easy to defend, but bring opportunities that result in outcomes that benefit the community.

It was refreshing listening to the thought leaders that participated in the Summit. All of the presentations were excellent and educational, but a few in particular stood out.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to hear is true. The names have (not) been changed to protect the innocent.”

Corrine Hill and Nate Hill (no relation) put on a show outlining a whole new way of thinking about how a library operates and serves its community. When Corrine’s vision becomes reality, the future Chattanooga Public Library will look more like an Apple Store than a Barnes and Noble. Nate has literally turned the library into a virtual playground. He has taken the fourth floor and turned it into a laboratory of library experiments. When those experiments are successful and validated, they find a way to implement them throughout the library…when they aren’t successful, they throw them out and move onto the next. I for one cannot wait to pay a visit to Chattanooga, a.k.a., Gig City because of the city’s commitment to high-speed Internet for all residents.

Admittedly, I may have some bias since he is from my fair city and a client, but Patrick Losinski, CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, shared how he views his effectiveness having served for 11 years in that role. He discussed ways for long-tenured directors to stay focused, keep enthusiasm high, and determine when it is time to make changes. One of his success stories in Columbus is inviting local CEO’s to his office for lunch. He claims that he has eaten more turkey sandwiches than anyone in the city, but the relationships he has made, and the advice he has received in those lunches, has enhanced Patrick’s skills as a leader, and in turn made the library more successful.

It was a pleasure meeting so many directors and hearing about their challenges, but more so hearing their ideas and opportunities to meet those challenges.

As I left That City. Los Angeles, California. All we knew were the facts. Not all the facts are positive. But they do provide opportunities to grow. Growth is positive. And that’s a fact, Jack (uh-oh, I think that’s a line from one of my other favorite movies – Stripes.)

Leave us your comments or questions below.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

Tips from the Obama Campaign to Make Data Work for You

By: Nickie Harber-Frankart

Since the presidential election, discussions have been popping up on the Internet and in the media about how each candidate used data-driven campaigns to target voters. Many agree that Obama’s analytics were far more sophisticated than Romney’s.

I believe the success of the Obama campaign attributed to three simple rules. Apply these to make data work for you.

  1. Merge multiple sources of data. A single dataset consisting of all of your constituents (customers, donors, volunteers, etc.) linked to transactional data is a valuable asset. Data merged across departments and an entire organization can provide powerful insights about constituent relationships, needs, consumption behavior and other knowledge. Data crunchers for the Obama campaign amassed data (voter files, field data, consumer databases, and more) to form one “megafile.”
  2. Behavioral modeling. Using the variables from the “megafile,” the Obama campaign built complex behavioral models. The advantage: predictability and measurability. As Time Magazine reported, statistical models allowed the campaign to target voters efficiently and effectively, using data to determine how and where to reach voters–either by phone, knocking on doors, sending direct mail or social media. The campaign then processed polling and voter-contact data “66,000 times every night,” providing the campaign with instant results about Obama’s odds of winning swing states to help allocate campaign resources (also reported by Time).
  3. Retain data. Some organizations purge data on a regular basis, the Obama campaign did not. The campaign team quickly learned this was a benefit. Analysts discovered that people who had unsubscribed from the campaign’s 2008 e-mail lists were among the easiest to re-engage for support. It’s much easier to retain or re-engage past constituents than win new ones. (Sound familiar?) At some point, you’ll want feedback from customers who don’t (currently) use your products or services. Keep your data. You will want it someday.

We know that careful statistical analysis can provide remarkable precision and results. Follow the rules outlined above to get you started, and next time you have a data question just ask us. OrangeBoy has been helping clients gain customer insights from data for the past 16 years. We’re happy to help.

Leave us your comments or questions below.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

The Customer Journey

By: Nickie Harber-Frankart

Harley Manning said it best in his recent Fast Company article calling the age we live in the “age of the customer.” I couldn’t agree more. Digital technology, access to real-time information and social media has empowered customers. Today, customers anticipate high levels of service, tailored experiences, and content that is relevant and fit to their needs. What’s more, 88% of American adults have mobile phones, and statistics for smart phones continue to climb—we’re only beginning to scratch the surface on how technology will change customers’ consumption of products, services and information.

So how can your organization keep customers engaged?

I’m sure you are familiar with the famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Well, that statement also applies to business. For your customer, it’s not about the transaction or sale (i.e. the destination). It’s the journey—the entire engagement or experience the customer has with your organization.

Think about the customer journey as a road trip—everything that takes place before, during and after you reach your destination. On road trips, you make several stops, take time to enjoy the scenery, and maybe even try a few new things along the way. Each stop is a touch point, the scenery is your brand, and new things are your organization’s services and products. Combined, each function contributes to a meaningful customer experience.

Let me take you on a customer journey to illustrate what I mean.

Let’s say you have a customer who receives a custom email letting him know that a product he regularly buys, but rarely goes on sale, is 15% off the regular price. (Thanks, Sales and Marketing!) Excited, he uses the Internet to make the purchase on your website. As he shops, he can easily navigate through the website and the shopping cart works wonderfully. (Cheers to the IT Department!) Finally, he makes it to the payment page to discover that your organization accepts multiple payment options, including credit cards and PayPal. So, with the click of a button, he finishes the transaction. (Nice job, Accounting!) After he makes his purchase, he receives the product on time, without damage. (Bravo to Logistics and Operations!) He then writes a grateful online review and the organization responds with a kind thank you note and small reward for his time. (Way to go Customer Service!)

The point is, organizations that fail to realize the importance of the entire journey, or focus only on the destination, miss an opportunity. The best way to keep customers engaged is to remember that it’s all about the customer and the ride. In the end, a great journey makes reaching the destination even better—and that’s what keeps your customers coming back.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

Curiosity Drives Exploration

By: Clark Swanson

I was a wee lad leaning against my father on the living room sofa as we waited for Neil Armstrong to leave the lunar module to take those first steps on the moon in 1969. It was July, and despite my best intentions to stay awake, I could not. Sleep washed over me and that moment was lost.

Some 43 years later NASA provides another opportunity to witness history—if only I can stave off sleep this time. In the early hours of August 6, NASA’s Curiosity rover will begin its descent to Mars. If my father were alive today, he would sit and savor every moment because this mission is about exploring rocks on the surface of Mars.

My father appreciated the technical achievement of Armstrong’s flight, but he was all about the rocks. He wanted a glimpse of that first moon rock, as fuzzy and grainy as it might look in black and white. Those rocks were the deal. An avid amateur in his early years, he never lost his fascination for rocks. (His rock collection is housed at Missouri State University, his alma mater.)

I don’t believe my father ever attached any philosophical meaning to his rocks. He simply loved their beauty, marveled at the natural forces that created them, and sought an understanding of how our physical work formed. For him, the Curiosity rover could prove the mother lode. I can imagine him sitting intently, watching and waiting for Curiosity to drill into the first outcropping to reveal the true nature of the rock underneath.

For me, the fascination with the Curiosity rover and this mission is about exploration. Space is the last frontier of discovery for today’s Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan types, having already tackled nearly every square inch of land and sea on earth. The rover is aptly named Curiosity.

In fact, curiosity is one of the words we use to describe our company OrangeBoy. We even named our latest OrangeBoy office cat George, after Curious George—the character in a series of popular children’s books. Instead of mining soil, rocks and other formations, we are mining data. And, what a rich resource that is!

So, if you are inquisitive enough to watch Curiosity land on Mars next Monday, think about applying that interest to your business. How can you explore the data you collect, the observations you make, and the behaviors that describe your customers?

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012