AIMS blog correspondent Brian Moran recently sat down with Steve Mast, Vice President and Managing Director of Delvinia Interactive, a strategic digital agency that focuses on humanizing the digital customer experience for its clients.
RBC asked Delvinia to create and implement the online strategy for the RBC’s Next Great Innovator Challenge. The aim of the challenge was to gain client insights from university and college students by inviting them to share their views on how today’s teens will influence the financial services industry of tomorrow.
"The RBC Next Great Innovator Challenge was a way of gaining deeper insight into our younger clients. In order to encourage participation and maintain a connection with this group, we employed some new and innovative tools. The blog in particular, was very effective at keeping participants informed and engaged throughout the competition."
-- Nelson Torrao, Program Manager, Applied Innovation, RBC Royal Bank
BM: Tell us about the Next Great Innovator Challenge.
SM: In addition to the client insight, RBC wanted to learn more about how to develop new products and services for youth and the best ways to connect with this audience. They brought us the Innovator Challenge concept and we developed the online strategy and components to implement the program.
Those components included:
· Website and digital video
· Blog (the very first blog from a Canadian financial institution)
· Virtual agent to guide people through the website
· Innovator quiz
· Links to external resources
Participants were invited to form teams and submit unique and innovative ideas by January 26, 2007. The top five teams will present their idea to the judging panel. The top team will win $20,000, second place will take home $10,000, third place will receive $5,000, fourth place will receive $3,000 and fifth place will receive $1,500 during an awards ceremony held in Toronto at the end of March.
Most importantly, the top teams have the opportunity to share their ideas and meet top business leaders. For students who are about to enter the workforce, this exposure and networking opportunity could prove invaluable.
BM: How did the Innovator Challenge start?
SM: RBC understands that companies must be innovative and think ahead to be successful. They wanted to do something out of the ordinary to learn about the best ways to connect with youth.
The purpose of the program was to listen to youth, find new ways to connect with youth and gain insight with this group by asking for their ideas.
Tell me about some of the strategies for the program.
We had three main strategies for the campaign.
1. We wanted to generate pre-campaign buzz. RBC spoke to the universities and told them about the challenge. They embraced the challenge and encouraged their students to participate.
2. We wanted people to register for the program. Registration began September 18, 2006 and closed October 31. That only gave us about six weeks for teams to register. RBC created pre-registration excitement so we could maximize the number of people registered within the six- week period.
3. We wanted to keep participants engaged. We accomplished this by developing a blog and encouraging readers and participants to post their comments. We also set-up email support for people involved in the challenge.
BM: Why did you use an online initiative for this campaign?
SM: Most university and college students live and communicate online. RBC wanted to reach them where they live so, we decided to use a website, a blog and social marketing tools to reach the audience, create dialogue and keep them engaged.
BM: So how did it turn out?
SM: We expected about 50 teams to enter the challenge. By the time registration had closed, 269 teams had signed up for the challenge. Here are our final numbers:
· Registered teams: 269
· Registered students: 927
· Participating schools: 45
BM: What are some of the challenges you faced during the campaign?
SM: The technology used to power the blog and the postings had to tie into RBC’s technology platforms. It had to undergo extensive testing to ensure that it didn’t jeopardize the security of RBC’s existing systems. This required a large amount of time and resources that we did not anticipate.
BM: Any lessons you’d like to share with AIMs readers?
SM: 1. Build your social marketing tactics into your strategy.
When deploying any new marketing tactics get all stakeholders – from legal counsel to policy makers to the information technology department – involved early. Tell them what you’re planning to do, seek their input and get buy-in right from the get-go. That way, when you face challenges, you’ll have the resources available to deal with those challenges.
2. Try to anticipate some of the challenges you’ll encounter and deal with those challenges proactively.
For example, if your site includes a blog, make sure you have a clear policy on what –
and what not – can appear in the postings. That way, you’ll be better able to deal with issues as they arise.
3. Build extra time into your plan because implementation will take longer than expected.
When you’re breaking new ground and implementing new disruptive technologies you’ll face issues that you don’t anticipate. Issues will take longer than expected to resolve. You won’t be able to move as fast as you’d like. The best way to deal with these unexpected challenges is to add extra time into your timelines.
4. Get an internal champion.
You’ll face many roadblocks. An internal champion will pave the way and help you connect with people such as policy makers and legal that can move things forward. When you’re breaking new ground, you’ll need all the help you can get!
BM: Any other insights you’d like to share?
SM: Using the technology behind social marketing such as blogging tools is relatively easy. However, it’s not about using the latest technology for its own sake. It’s about using that technology in a humanizing way to create connections – it’s about using technology with a purpose.
I think we sometimes get caught up in the excitement of the technology – how easy it is to use, what it can do for us and how good it looks. We need to:
· Not lose sight of the purpose of the technology
· Always go back to the business problem and objective
· And above all, keep focused on the customer
In the end, I think we accomplished what we set out to do which was to bring the real world and the practical world together through networking, collaboration and innovation.