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Archive for March, 2010

Real Time Brand Management?

I understand brand as a collection of products, marketed under common name/trademark by a specified company.  While the brand is “owned” by a company, perhaps a symbolic image of a brand resides within the minds of consumers.  Formerly, when tenative threats were made to a brand, it could take months for it to be publicly identified.  Social media has altered the timeframe to mere minutes.

Recent blogs discussing the topic of real-time brand management were based on the March 13 Virgin America flight detained for more than 4 hours due to inclement weather.  I find the debate quite interesting.   The story suggests passengers and crew on this flight became quite restless and nerves were waning.  During this time, David Martin, the CEO of Kontain.com, utilized a social media app on his IPhone to “share” the unbelievable experience.

This effort initiated a phone call to Martin from a Virgin marketing officer with a $100 voucher proposal for his inconvenience.  His response was that all the passengers deserved more.  Subsequently, he was called by Virgin’s CEO, David Cush where Martin maintains he negotiated a full refund and a $100-per-person voucher for all passengers.

While you cannot amend the acts of Mother Nature, I am concerned that spontaneous reflexes such as this will begin to emerge when they are more likely very expensive patches for inadequate customer service processes or poor brand management.    A deeper analysis of root causes for poor customer experiences with a goal of the these causes systematic elimination constitutes a real “function” of brand management.

In response to the Virgin account John Sviokla suggested, “Every company must have “a brand radar system” to constantly monitor social media.”  He also states in a recent blog for the Harvard Business Review that businesses need to adjust to the new reality of being “on stage” at all times.   However, Real-time brand management is more than responding at the speed of a tweet.  Conceivably, we should strive for real-time identification, monitoring and analysis of customer feedback in an effort to develop a consistent set of rules that makes our brand stand out. 

Socialnomics – A Marketing Tsunami

This week as Facebook surpassed Google in terms of overall traffic, it provides evidence to my perception that social media is vastly becoming a Marketing Tsunami.  Now that Facebook has 450+ million users, if it were a country it would be the third largest in the world behind China and India.  Just 6 short months ago FB would have ranked 4th behind the United States, but has quickly maneuvered ahead.

Let’s consider the historical warning signs of this phenomenon.  For years to reach 50 millions users:  it took Radio 38 Years, TV-13 Years, Internet – 4 Years, iPod – 3 Years and Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 month.  IPhone applications hit 1 billion in 9 months.

What force is driving this huge wave of information that is rapidly stretching out and putting television, radio and print media to shame?  While viewing Eric Qualman’s video on Social Media Revolution, it become more obvious to me that Social Media is not only lending to buyer behavior, it is more or less dictating buyer activities.

The statistics are astounding and these hundreds of million users say they prefer to view a peer recommendation over traditional advertising.  According to Facebook, only 14% of their users trust traditional advertisements.  Savvy shoppers are no longer going into the marketplace without delving into the social ranks for assistance. Unless a product also has social support riding on the surge of information, it could become dead in the water.

Moreover, consider the effects this movement is having on American institutions such as the US Postal Service and newspaper industry as a whole.  Items such as news and mail are finding us, where the need to “wait” on the 5 o’clock news is passé for generations across the board.  Joe Puzilli once said ‘we are seeing nothing less than a tsunami affecting business of every size’ in reference to Social Media.  The Mom & Pop businesses that won the battles against big business may now lose the war if they don’t pay attention and defend themselves within Social Networks.

A remarkable platform has emerged allowing you to engage in conversation with your customers.  No longer can you simply sell your products straight away without building a relationship with buyers.  If you are not using these social mediums to listen to consumers, build your brand and increase sales you are falling way behind.  Socialnomics may compel us to action as in the self-help quote “Don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out to meet it.”

Listening Versus Understanding Your Customer

These days a huge gap has formed between listening to our customers and actually understanding what they are saying.  It’s now evident to most companies that Social Media has opened new doors for listening to customers.  Although it seems they are drowning in volumes of voices, without good tools and/or methods to extract clear and actionable signals.  In a sense they can’t see the forest for the all the trees.

While CRM has become the hottest way to connect with customers, it is often mistaken as a form of technology used to disclose customer feedback throughout a company.  CRM is much more than technology; it’s an ongoing process to improve relationships with your customers resulting in better customer service, improved customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty.

So what is Social CRM?  Simply defined, this new advancement is a way to manage social relationships.  Its function is collecting data found in social networks and disseminating among the areas within the company that can respond to it. In the words of Paul Greenberg:

“Social CRM is a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes & social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted & transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”

Typically, it has taken a drastic measure such as decreased revenues, customer churn or product issues to compel us to reach out to our patrons. On average, this knee-jerk reaction is short-lived and dropped once the next crisis appears.

Customer satisfaction surveys are also utilized by many companies as a way to ‘connect’ with consumers. Although well intentioned, satisfaction surveys are often self serving and primarily give management the impression they are accomplishing something.

A good place to start connecting with your customers is by way of:
Buyer behavior – adopt a ‘buyer orientation’ vs. the typical ‘seller orientation’
Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs – go beyond satisfaction.  Bruce Temkin, a principal analyst at Forrester, defines VOC as “a systematic approach for incorporating the needs of customers into the design of customer experiences.”
Empowerment – make sure your organization is focused and able to make changes based on customer feedback.  Lack of this key element is often why customer satisfaction surveys are typically a flop.

Another interesting fact is the correlation of customer satisfaction with a company’s market performance.  A study published in the Journal of Marketing found that companies at the top 20% of the American Customer Satisfaction Index greatly outperformed in the stock market, generating a 40% return.

There is also a strong correlation between customer satisfaction and financial performance.  A study by JD Power and Associates discovered that organizations with the highest levels of customer satisfaction experienced profit margins at three times the growth rate than those with medium levels of customer satisfaction and more than 21 times that for low customer satisfaction ratings.

Often an organization may possess various methods of obtaining customer feedback but they are not able to comprehend it, creating action plans while many do not have the resources to try.  As a veritable strategy, perhaps we should be focusing more than ever on CRM (& Social CRM) development to bridge the enormous gap between listening and understanding our customers.

Social Networks: The New Focus Group

As any business seeks to better understand customer needs and behaviors, it’s no secret that Social Media has opened more doors to CRM opportunities than ever before.  Last week while reading a recent marketing blog, I was amazed to observe that the writer failed to suggest the current trend of social networking as a frontline method for creating a relationship with customers.

Social Media is providing a colossal platform allowing us to hear what our customers are saying.   It is quickly becoming one of the best ways to engage a customer and gain valuable insight into their experience with our products as well as those of our competition.  Are you listening?

This explosive technology could permit any business to identify competitive threats or opportunities through information that might not otherwise be detected without listening to thousands of customers.  Historically, formal focus groups were utilized as the most common means of collecting this data in-person from the end user.  Perhaps one could imply at this juncture that social media is quickly becoming the new focus group.

Consider for a moment that while traditional focus groups draw in customers to discuss their experiences, so are Social Networks providing the same information.  Is there really a significant difference?  The value of a focus group depends largely on quality of questions posed to the participants with all the biases that are incorporated into a question. The main disparity is that social media presents a very public review of a product or company’s benefits and even shortcomings.  However, we must not ignore the exponential numbers of consumers who are vocalizing this valuable data.  It is often more candid than any focus group could provide.

Getting connected with them is just part of the solution.  Connecting & engaging within these social mediums is relatively easy.  Nevertheless, just like any other ‘marketing” effort, its success is not realized without measurement.  Therefore, the opportunity exists in figuring out what to do with the unstructured data.

Fortunately there is technology available to “interpret” this valuable data. Utilizing a multi-dimensional analysis, we convert various forms of feedback into an actionable plan then we take it one step further.  We are examining customer ratings across the market of nearly 15,000 products (shameless self promotion).  Many of the companies who have attempted their own translations had to invest very significant amounts of money into text mining implementation projects that allow  only to handle feedback about their own products.  With more than 1.4 million reviews, our database can deliver satisfaction scores from real world consumers about your products as well as that of your competition.

Self help author and motivational speaker, Robert Kiyosaki,  was quoted last year as saying ‘I am a bit old to focus on social media now but I spend an average of two hundred thousand dollars monthly through hired employees or consultants on social media, online reputation etc’.  While the use of social media as a marketing tool is still in its early stages, let’s not ignore this novel opportunity to act on customer feedback.

Our New Home Page Has Been Deployed

The Product Reputation Market Intelligence Reporter was released into Public Beta about twenty days ago, and more than few of you made some very good suggestions for improvement of our overall user experience.

Today we released a version of the home page that includes some of the suggested design improvements. Hopefully we heard you correctly and made it better. In either case, please let us know. In the meantime we’ll continue to work on making PRMIR more useful.

Reputation Beats Everything

A Spanish saying declares “A bad wound may be healed, bad repute kills.”  Yet another proverb found in the Holy Bible reveals “Good reputation is more valuable than wealth.”

Reputation is the perception of your product (or company) based on your customer’s personal views or prejudices.  Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, defines reputation as: “What people say about you when you have left the room.” A few dissatisfied customers along the way may create negative reviews, but we all know you can’t please everyone, all the time.  It’s the majority that counts most, however it is critical to monitor and analyze what caused the negative Customer Experience, so we can learn and improve.

Corporate marketing plans often include strategies to enhance their reputation, but are they considering customer feedback as a device for measuring reputation?  Should these views yield influence on the way you produce and deliver your products?

Lately, social media has emerged as a handy tool for gaining insight into consumer’s expectations.  Customers are talking in their own language about the products they are using, voicing opinions and sharing their experiences and disappointments.  They are discussing product/brand features in relation to cost and reputation.  Perhaps ‘Social Research,’ if you will, is being prepared right before our eyes as social networks display consumer findings of our products.

While many shoppers are using social media to make informed decisions about their purchases, you can take advantage of the same information to modify your marketing plan, find a fix or correct customer support delivery, if necessary.  Building and maintaining a good reputation are keys to business success.  If positive PR is missing from your product’s character, you need to know about it quickly so you can find a solution to repair the injury.

Turning a deaf ear to the small voices of your Customers can easily turn them into a roar like the one Toyota is experiencing today and Dell experienced 5 years ago with XPS overheating. Being proactive early in the game can prevent tarnish on your reputation and enormous cost of its repair. In reputation management, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a ton of cure.

We have developed a methodology to consistently measure product reputation. Raw, Customer generated data is used to measure the difference between consumer expectations and their actual experience with a specific product. These metrics, and detailed “Deep Dive” reports, provide effective road maps for product management and delivery.

<DA Report_MP3 Summary

Reputation beats everything else.  But as Rome was not built in a day, reputation cannot be built in a day either.  However, one blunder and you could hit the wall, knocking it all down.  Learn to listen to what your customers are saying; your reputation is at stake.

DA Report MP3 3…

Using Social Media to Build Your Brand

Recently I’ve been reading various articles on brand building strategies and it has been a good review of the basic principals of marketing. The usual discussions are typically about the importance of planning the best marketing strategy.

One of the hottest topics on the internet today is SMM (Social Media Marketing).  Questions are being raised about the role of social media on the infamous 4P’s of marketing.  I think we still have to address Product, Price, Place & Promotion; however, there’s a new sheriff in town and Reputation is his middle name.  Consumers have participated in surveys for decades, but social media is now defining many product’s brand image.

Many companies are looking for ways to harness the power of social media in hopes of building a positive image for their products.  It seems that lack of strategy has been a hindrance for most.  We all know that customer reviews and feedback to our company’s website is a good source for ideas to improve our products.  It’s no surprise successful companies like Pure Digital and Bose use them to monitor and measure their products’ reputation and improve processes based on these findings.

The majority of today’s major companies are now focusing on the importance of social media marketing trends.  It seems that many product manufacturers are also experimenting with ways to exploit it for their own benefit.   Are any of them finding ways to measure social media’s strategic impact on brand value?  I actually wonder if any of them really understand what to do with any of it.

Does collecting bits of data from what all is being “said” without a plan to convert them into action make it worth the effort?  The use of a well developed process to consistently measure your product’s reputation across the consumer market may perhaps prove to be invaluable.

Taking on the challenge with great success, we use raw data from customer reviews and feedback on various social mediums to measure the gap between customer expectations and  their actual experiences with specific products.   Reflecting on functionality, reliability and product support, these metrics provide crucial information that could allow you to increase profitability as well as develop lucrative niche markets.

Successful marketing involves everything that leads to increased sales.  Realizing that social media is defining the reputation (i.e brand/product perception by it’s customer) for nearly every product on today’s market, you should definitely take advantage of this innovative marketing tool.