Evolving What It Means To Be An Agency

So, I have been thinking about change…a lot.

As I look back over the last 11 years (since The Buddy Group’s inception) it has been our team’s ability to evolve and force change that has provided some of our greatest fuel for growth.

This week I will be speaking to a group of business leaders and fellow CEOs about a point of view we (at The Buddy Group) have had for a while.

The premise of the topic is simple for entrepreneurs to grasp as most entrepreneurs are by their very nature mavericks and risk-takers,looking to disrupt static industries or blaze trails to create categories fertile for monetization. Despite the inherent understanding of the importance of change, for most change is often difficult to define and implement.


Because change can be very scary! I am attracted and invest in business leaders, inventors and creators who face the fear head-on and embrace change.

Change is a stance that’s ingrained into our own business and company culture at The Buddy Group, so much so that it anchors our own mission statement.

The Buddy Group is evolving what it means to be an Agency
– The Buddy Group’s Mission Statement

The agency model is broken, retainers are rarely mutually beneficial and client perception of agency value is at best, strained. At the same time, today’s consumer (user) behavior changes, often overnight. We are seeking to disrupt the agency model, build long-term relationships powered by success and in-turn, change the way clients perceive working with an agency. Evolving an agency requires several things, most importantly being bold and helping others to do the same.

Being bold in business today means understanding your audience’s needs and behaviors in real-time. It means creating a culture at your company where informed change- leveraging data and evolving customer expectations- forces frequent change.

So how exactly should a brand BE bold?  It starts with being true to who you are. We have all been at those parties where someone in the room is trying too hard to be something that they are not. Sure there are a few people in the room who fall for it, but generally speaking people can sniff out the bull-shit.

#1  Be authentic

Bold is forward thinking, bold is imaginative, and bold is brave.  That is…until it’s not.  Marketers must be careful, because bold can very easily lose its courage and daring.

How?  By losing its authenticity.  There is a fine line between authentic (connecting with the audience) and being inauthentic (being self-centered and turning them off).   

Be authentic by being aware of your audience.  Develop the storyline of your brand according to your audience and always have their needs in mind.  Consumers expect this more than ever.

#2  Have change happen because of you, rather than to you

Change is happening in your business right now. Are you calling it out and embracing it? More so, what may work now may not work six months from now, simply because technology and consumer behavior change faster than ever before.

As business leaders, we must feed off that change, adapt accordingly, and evolve just as quickly, in order to create something that has a lasting impact and stays relevant. This does not mean implementing change just for the sake of changing.

Make change happen because of you.  When you make an emotional connection with your audience, it then leads to a change of behavior.  Base change on information garnered by data.

#3  Know what to do with (big) data

Big data is a large volume of information that can be analyzed to reveal trends and patterns in how consumers interact and behave.   

The people of today’s world (both consumers and marketers alike) are in a new era where data simply floods them.  With desktop computers and personal mobile devices at their fingertips, consumers are able to access more information than ever before, and at a faster rate than ever before.

Marketers meanwhile, are able to see how consumers interact with this information.  With this influx of data volume, it is easy to assume that marketers have everything they need to pinpoint exactly what consumers are looking for.

Not true.

The volume or amount of data in itself is not useful.  Big data, no matter how vast in volume, will be just a useless pile of information sitting on a hard drive if you do not correctly leverage it.

The real worth of big data is knowing what to do with that data when it arrives on your desk.  You must know how to extract the information and then turn that into solid strategy and decisive planning.  Big data simply informs us, but it is what you do with that information that is the true key to success.

So what do we do with that data exactly?  We use it to focus on the personalization of the brand.

#4  Place importance in the personalization of brand messaging

No matter if you are building a B2B brand working with channel partners or a consumer focused consumer packaged goods company, we must understand that brands are not one-size-fits-all. There are many levels of personalization, and brands need to understand their specific truth to know where they fall in that spectrum.

With brand personalization, it is important to note that there is a fine line between normal personalization and creepy personalization.  Creepy is characterized by personalization that feels forced, inauthentic, and too…well…creepy. Despite the ability, Starbucks doesn’t give you mobile alerts telling you that you have a full day of meetings ahead and suggesting you to grab a shot of espresso. Starbucks would rather make the process of ordering more efficient and create a great customer experience than leverage creepy means of marketing to their valued customers.

The creepy side of personalization has spawned huge backlash in digital advertising with ad blockers, yet another reason why the agency model has to change…dramatically.

Personalization of brand needs to be welcomed by the user and of value to them.  This can be done by having created a connection between the consumer and the brand, rather than using impersonal marketing techniques.  Build your business on relationships and focus your brand’s messaging AND your product around the features and benefits that speak to each segment.  As we have learned from our client, Mozilla – always respect the consumer. In return, they will be loyal to you as a result.

#5  Form a mutual story with your audience

In the 80s a movie debuted that would end up becoming a childhood classic.  It told the story of a schoolboy, who becomes engaged in a story and he begins to see himself in the story as it unfolds .  That book was called The Never-Ending Story. Some people loved that weird looking flying dog and others thought it was freaky and gave them the heebie-jeebies.

What is important is that his feelings about the journey and the characters start manifesting in the book.  His desires, his dislikes, his fears, and his insecurities affect the outcome of the story.  That book’s story becomes part of his story.

Think about that: As businesses begin to get data back from interactions at retail, sales calls or website engagement, the brand begins to provide value and personalize the story and evolve chapter over chapter. Through our individual experience with the brand, each of us develops our own unique journey.  And the brand’s story begins to evolve according to that interaction.

We all have those brands that have already done this for us.  These are brands that have become such a part of our everyday lives that they seem baked into our DNA.  For some people, Apple has done this.  And for others, Tesla has.  Loyalists of Apple and Tesla will cheer for the success of its products and wholly defend these brands because they feel that the product, brand, and experience was crafted with them in mind. They feel that these brands truly  respect their time and appreciate their business models.

#6  Prioritize the experience of the customer

There is a distinct difference between customer experience and the experience of the customer.  Customer experience is atmospheric and generalized (one size fits all).  Meanwhile, the experience of the customer is more related to how well a brand personalizes experiences for their audience, authentically leveraging technology in a more 1 to 1 manner.

 For example: Potential clients who are looking for business-to-business partnerships are doing their research on personal devices, on personal time.  They are using mobile phones at home on the weekends to research potential business partners. Afterall, businesses are still run by people, and decisions are still made by people.

Catering to mobile devices over desktop devices personalizes that experience for that customer. A prospect is welcoming you into their home, on to their sofa to engage in a conversation around a potential deal; you better respect them and give them an experience that gives them exactly what they are looking for as quickly as possible without much looking.

In the past, marketers may have only had to worry about developing a brand for one customer persona.  But in this day and age, there may be five or more different customer personas per product or service.  And for each of those personas, their behaviors could and will change.

In that case, marketers must create a framework to understand those behaviors, the tools they use, and the platforms they are on, then adjust with how rapidly all those factors change.  Marketers must ask themselves, “What are the personas that matter most, and what is the ideal customer journey based on that?”

#7  Stay bold- Continue to evolve

So what happens when you nail it?

Others are going to follow and begin to look and sound very familiar to you. Another great reason to embrace change and continue to evolve.


We welcome an opportunity to chat with you and discuss how we can drive informed change and help you “Be The Exception” in your vertical or segment. Contact me at pete@thebuddygroup.com or connect with me on LinkedIn @ https://www.linkedin.com/in/petedeutschman


THE US SMART HOME MARKET REPORT: Adoption forecasts, top products, and the cost and fragmentation problems that could hinder growth

The US smart home market has yet to take off. Quirky’s recent announcement that it was filing chapter 11 bankruptcy — and selling off its smart home business, Wink — highlights this well.

At its current state, we believe the smart home market is stuck in the ‘chasm’ of the technology adoption curve, in which it is struggling to surpass the early-adopter phase and move to the mass-market phase of adoption.

There are many barriers preventing mass-market smart home adoption: high device prices, limited consumer demand and long device replacement cycles. However, the largest barrier is the technological fragmentation of the smart home ecosystem, in which consumers need multiple networking devices, apps and more to build and run their smart home.

In a new report from BI Intelligence, we analyze current US consumer demand for the smart home and barriers to widespread adoption. We also analyze and determine areas of growth, and ways to overcome barriers.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

Smart home devices are becoming more prevalent throughout the US. We define a smart home device as any stand-alone object found in the home that is connected to the internet, can be either monitored or controlled from a remote location, and has a noncomputing primary function. Multiple smart home devices within a single home form the basis of a smart home ecosystem.
Currently, the US smart home market as a whole is in the “chasm” of the tech adoption curve. The chasm is the crucial stage between the early-adopter phase and the mass-market phase, in which manufacturers need to prove a need for their devices.
High prices, coupled with limited consumer demand and long device replacement cycles, are three of the four top barriers preventing the smart home market from moving from the early-adopter stage to the mass-market stage. For example, mass-market consumers will likely wait until their device is broken to replace it. Then they will compare a nonconnected and connected product to see if the benefits make up for the price differential.
The largest barrier is technological fragmentation within the connected home ecosystem. Currently, there are many networks, standards, and devices being used to connect the smart home, creating interoperability problems and making it confusing for the consumer to set up and control multiple devices. Until interoperability is solved, consumers will have difficulty choosing smart home devices and systems.
“Closed ecosystems” are the short-term solution to technological fragmentation. Closed ecosystems are composed of devices that are compatible with each other and which can be controlled through a single point.


New CEO at Nest has eyes on what’s needing to be fixed

NEST’S CEO IS REPLACED: Tony Fadell is leaving his position as CEO of Nest, according to a blog post written by Fadell. He will be replaced by Marwan Fawaz, who previously led Motorola Mobility’s television set-top box business, Motorola Home. The transition has been underway since the end of 2015, and Fadell will remain involved with Alphabet (Nest’s parent company) as an advisor.

Nest and Fadell have faced a lot of criticism over the last few months.

Nest failed to meet revenue expectations. When Alphabet (formerly Google) acquired Nest in 2014 for $3.2 billion, Alphabet set Nest’s revenue target at $300 million annually. But Nest has failed to meet that revenue on its own and has only surpassed the target because of revenue from Dropcam, which it acquired for $555 million six months after Nest was acquired by Alphabet.
Nest is being pressured by Alphabet to release a smart home security system, but hasn’t yet. Nest is reportedly working on three devices — Flintstone, Pinna, and Keshi — that would work in tandem to create a smart home security system. Nest has not released a successful product since the launch of its signature smart thermostat in 2011.
Nest shut down service to the Revolv hub. In April, Nest announced it was shutting down service to Revolv smart home hubs, which were used to control smart lights, locks, thermostats, and other smart home devices. Revolv was acquired by Nest in 2014. Shutting down the Revolv hubs led to a major public backlash against Nest.
Fadell pointed the finger at Dropcam’s CEO Greg Duffy for many of Nest’s problems in an interview withThe Information. Duffy publicly responded saying that if Dropcam’s revenue was released, it would make Nest “not look good in comparison” to Dropcam.
Nest isn’t the only company struggling in the smart home market though. There are very few success stories among smart home products right now, as they tend to be expensive, gimmicky, and often don’t add enough value for the consumer. For example, the $250 price tag for the Nest Learning Thermostat is not affordable to the mass market and doesn’t add enough value to justify the cost difference compared to a $30 unconnected thermostat. Over time, the price of smart home products will drop, making them more affordable for the average consumer.

IoT 2020 Business Report

Dubai – MENA Herald: Schneider Electric, the global specialist in energy management and automation, recently unveiled its IoT 2020 Business Report, outlining the company’s predictions for how large organizations will leverage Internet of Things technologies as a serious business tool by 2020.
The GCC region has been steadily investing in enhancing IT capabilities and digital readiness and has been known for its widespread adoption of cloud technologies. Similarly, the region’s forward-looking governments have been quick on jump to the IoT bandwagon to help its industries, cities and people live a better connected, safer and greener life. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), the total IoT spending in the Middle East will reach $1.8 billion in 2016 and then increase to $3.2 billion by 2019, with manufacturing, transportation, and utilities accounting for up to 50% of this total. Vendors and solution providers must be quick to adapt their offerings to be compatible with the IoT, as it provides visibility to ensure proactive management of assets and can propel the region’s vision to design intelligent and eco-friendly cities.
“We’re past the point of questioning whether IoT will deliver value. Businesses now need to make informed decisions to position themselves to maximize IoT’s value in their organization,” said Dr. Prith Banerjee, Chief Technology Officer, Schneider Electric. “Our IoT 2020 Business Report is designed to serve as a guide for IoT implementation and innovation to help customers reap its benefits as the market evolves over the next five years. It reflects our commitment in delivering technologies that ensure Life Is On everywhere, for everyone, at every moment.”
Based on a recent global IoT survey of 3,000 business leaders in 12 countries, in addition to Schneider Electric’s expertise with IoT solutions and feedback from its customers and partners, the predictions showcase the immediate value for both the public and private sector.
Dr. Banerjee added: “The Internet of Things has been at the top of the hype curve for some time, but the findings of this survey demonstrate that IoT technologies can and will continue to drive real business value across industries and geographies.”
The following predictions serve as a guide for what business leaders can expect as the market evolves:
1. The next wave of digital transformation. IoT will trigger the next wave of enterprise digital transformation, unifying the worlds of OT and IT and fueling a mobile and digitally enabled workforce: As more companies both expand and deepen their digitization programs enterprise- wide, IoT will increasingly take center stage. This new wave of transformation will be enabled by more affordable “connected” sensors, embedded intelligence and control, faster and more ubiquitous communications networks, cloud infrastructure, and advanced data-analytics capabilities.
2. Insightful data. IoT will translate previously untapped data into insights that enable enterprises to take the customer experience to the next level: When thinking about the value proposition of IoT, most businesses point to efficiency and cost savings as the key benefits. Yet access to data – including previously untapped data – and the ability to translate it into actionable insights, the hallmark of IoT, will deliver greater customer-service transformation and new opportunities to build brand/service loyalty and satisfaction.
3. Premise-to-cloud confidence. The IoT will promote an open, interoperable and hybrid computing approach, and it will foster industry and government collaboration on global architecture standards that address cybersecurity concerns: While cloud-based IoT solutions will grow in popularity, no single computing architecture will monopolize their delivery. IoT instead will flourish across systems, both at the edge and on premise, as part of private cloud or public cloud offerings. Making IoT available across heterogeneous computing environments will help end users adopt IoT solutions in the way that best suits their security and mission-critical needs while also offering entities with legacy technology infrastructures a logical and manageable path forward, allowing them to transform over time.
4. Innovations that leapfrog existing infrastructure. IoT will function as a source of innovation, business model disruption and economic growth for businesses, governments and emerging economies: Just as the Industrial Revolution, birth of the Internet and mobile revolution have driven advancement, innovation and prosperity, so will IoT. Businesses and cities alike will deliver new IoT-enabled services; new business models will emerge; and, in particular emerging economies will have a significant opportunity to quickly leverage IoT without the constraint of legacy infrastructure, essentially leapfrogging old ways. In fact, McKinsey forecasts that 40 percent of the worldwide market for IoT solutions will be generated by developing countries.
5. A better planet. IoT solutions will be leveraged to address major societal and environmental issues: IoT will help countries and their economies respond to the biggest challenges facing our planet, including global warming, water scarcity and pollution. In fact, survey respondents identified improved resource utilization as the number one benefit of IoT to society as a whole. In concert with the private sector, local and national governments will embrace IoT to accelerate and optimize current initiatives to curtail greenhouse gas emissions in accord with the breakthrough COP21 climate agreement, whereby 196 countries pledged to keep global warming under the threshold of 2 degrees Celsius.
The key global survey findings that informed the predictions revealed:
• Seventy-five percent of businesses are optimistic about the opportunities the IoT presents this year, including:Improved customer experience: Sixty-three percent of organizations plan to use the IoT to analyze customer behavior in 2016, with faster problem resolution, better customer service and customer satisfaction ranking among the top five potential business benefits.Cost savings in automation: Building and industrial automation represent the highest potential annual cost savings (63 and 62 percent, respectively). Results showed automation technologies will be the future of the IoT, with nearly half (42 percent) of respondents indicating that they plan to implement IoT-enabled building automation systems within the next two years.Mobile delivers the value of IoT: Two out of three organizations (67 percent) plan to implement the Internet of Things via mobile applications in 2016. Even further, one- third of respondents (32 percent) plan to start using the IoT in mobile applications in as little as six months, citing potential cost savings of up to 59 percent as a major driver in implementation.
• 81 percent of respondents feel that knowledge gathered from the data and/or informationgenerated by the IoT is being shared effectively throughout the organization.
• 41 percent of respondents anticipate cybersecurity threats related to the IoT as being a critical challenge for their business.


Smart home service providers like Vivint, Alarm.com, and Xfinity Home are getting more positive online reviews than smart home devices makers, according to a new report from Argus Insights. This shows that customers prefer to have a service provider who comes in and installs their smart home devices for them.

The report analyzed more than 56,000 online and social media reviews of smart home devices and apps. Looking at the app reviews, Vivint’s Sky app had the highest satisfaction rating in the report. Other service providers including Xfinity Home, Alarm.com, and Cox Communications are all seeing improving app satisfaction and subscriber growth, according to Argus. In comparison, smart home apps from device makers like Nest, Philips, and Belkin are lagging behind in satisfaction, the report found.

The big difference between the service providers and individual device makers is that the service providers will install customers’ devices for them. When consumers buy an individual smart home device like a Nest thermostat they have to setup and install the device on their own.

Unfortunately, many smart home devices are plagued with technical glitches that can make installing them very difficult for the average consumer. If a customer is experiencing technical problems with their device, it will likely reflect on their satisfaction with the app that controls that device. So smart home service providers are carving out a space for themselves in the nascent smart home market by solving this technical challenge for customers.