Bank of America Uses Online To Keep Free Checking Free

Bank of America is launching a new eChecking account that has no minimum balance requirement. The twist is that in order to avoid the $8.95 monthly fee customers must enroll and receive eStatements versus paper and make deposits and withdrawals using ATMs versus a teller.

The development of an eChecking account is not new, but the Bank of America offering differs from forays into this area in the past because:

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GM Takes "Co-Creation" Literally

I've been a closet Corvette fan ever since I was a kid.  I went with my step-dad to the Corvette Corral in Bloomington, Illinois every year, admiring the cars on display, marveling at how they changed over time. (I've always been partial to the 1958 model, red with white sidewalls, in case you were wondering.) One thing that became clear to me that continues to this day: Corvette fans aren't just car geeks, they are Corvette geeks. And yesterday, GM gave those fans a gift.

In its announcement, Chevrolet revealed a new strategy for selling its revered Corvette: for an extra $5,800, those who buy a 2011 Z06 (top) or ZR1 (bottom) can go to General Motors' Performance Build Center in Wixom, MI and build the actual LS7 or LS9 engine that will sit in the car they buy.  That doesn't mean they will watch someone build it -- the customer will actually assemble the engine (under the watchful eye of an engine expert, natch).  What makes this possible is the fact that every engine for these cars is already hand-built (something I did not know prior to today). 

As Tom Stephens, GM vice chairman, Global Product Operations put it: “Today's LS7 and LS9 Corvette engines are pinnacle achievements in engineering, and to personally involve our customers in their final creation shows the depth of Chevrolet’s commitment to make lasting connections with the customer.”   

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Microsoft Outlook Social Connector: Making Daily Activities Richer And More Social

Microsoft has announced the release of Microsoft Outlook Social Connector, which will bring friends’ data from Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace into users' Outlook 2003, 2007 and 2010.  Before anyone says "Buzz" and discounts the value of this offering from Microsoft, I think we need to consider this not from the angle of yet another social platform or social aggregation tool but as a means of making our daily activities richer and more social. 

The Microsoft Outlook Social Connector won't change the social networking world, but it isn't designed to do so.  The Outlook Social Connector won’t replace any social networking behavior that we already have;  you'll still check Facebook.com, use Facebook's mobile site and apps and make status updates via Tweetdeck and Hootsuite.  Instead of competing with existing tools, Microsoft’s new plug-in is another step toward a more social experience where social data is organically integrated into our daily habits and activities.

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The Forrester Wave: Listening Platforms, Q3 2010

The listening platform landscape is vast, fragmented, and confusing. As a result, I handle more client inquiries around vendor selection than any other single topic. Companies want to track customer conversations, monitor their brands and competitors, measure their social marketing, learn from online discussion, identify customers online, and more. And they need technology help getting there but don't always know where to turn.

To address these questions, we've just published The Forrester Wave: Listening Platforms, Q3 2010. This research is the result of nearly four months of vendor interviews, product demos, lab evaluations, reference checks, client interviews, and customer surveys. All in all, we evaluated nine leading vendors across 76 criteria, talked to dozens of buyers, and surveyed nearly 200 customers to determine the state of the listening platform market today.

This Wave covers vendors that best address an enterprise's Social Intelligence technology needs, through a listening platform's three main steps: social media data retrieval, unstructured text processing, and insight delivery. Each vendor has its own technology platform and professional services team for consulting and can scale to meet vast enterprise needs, both in a large installation-base and between different parts of the organization -- such as marketing, PR, market research, and/or customer support. We evaluated the following vendors: Alterian (SM2), Collective Intellect, Converseon, Cymfony, Dow Jones, Evolve24, Nielsen, Radian6, and Visible Technologies.

You'll have to read the full report to see how the vendors match up, but from my evaluation I uncovered a few emerging trends:

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Social Co-Creation: 9 Benefits And 6 Challenges For Using Social Technologies To Improve Your Products

Forrester has been publishing research on social technologies for several years, much of that being focused on the Interactive Marketing role. Recently, we have expanded our research on social technologies to apply to many other roles, such as Customer Intelligence, Market Research, Customer Experience and eBusiness and Channel Strategy. You can now add Consumer Product Strategy to that list. As our recent panel survey report demonstrates, social technologies are relevant to Consumer Product Strategy (CPS)  professionals as well because they give companies the opportunity to listen to and embrace consumers — and allow them to help create new products and innovate existing products. While the idea of social co-creation has been referenced in Forrester's research reports many times, this concept has not been explored deeply, until now.

In my just-published "Social Co-Creation" report, I define co-creation as "the act of involving consumers directly, and in some cases repeatedly, in the product creation or innovation process." Social technologies like online communities, Facebook, Twitter, company blogs, and Web sites provide CPS professionals with relatively easy access to engaged consumers. Through a combination of listening and embracing, companies can understand what unmet needs exist in the market today, recognize where current products are coming up short, tap the wisdom of the crowd to test ideas, and develop relationships with engaged consumers to drive new concepts into the market. 

Today's Social Technologies Unveil Product Improvement Opportunities

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What Makes A True Research Partnership?

On two occasions in the past few months, I’ve given a speech to members of Forrester’s Market Research Forrester Leadership Board about vendor management best practices, a topic I’m writing a report on.[i] With market research budgets increasingly shrinking and research expectations growing, we see that market researchers need to select, manage, and measure their vendors more efficiently.

The key to success here is to develop partnerships with your key vendors. Why? Because conversations with Market Research professionals at a variety of organizations show that partnering with research vendors leads to better projects, deeper insights, and lower costs. As one of my interviewees said: “It’s about intellectual ROI: You need to invest less time for each project. You build a lot of equity. You also get more of a team thing going — to me, this is very important. You work with these people on a daily basis, so finding the right vendor and contact is critical, as we see them as colleagues.”

To understand how Market Research professionals currently collaborate with their research vendors, we surveyed our Market Research Panel earlier this year. The majority of our panelists feel that they already have established partnerships with most vendors, and two-thirds state that price is less important than quality.

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360-Degree Music Experiences: Use The Cloud To Target Device-Use Orbits

We have just published a new report that is an essential read for anyone working on a cloud-based music product strategy: 360-Degree Music Experiences: Use The Cloud To Target Device-Use Orbits.

The title of the report is important and highlights the key focus of the report: that cloud-based music services should not be some technology-driven rush to deliver music across as many devices as possible but should instead focus on extending and connecting the digital music experience into what we are calling 360-Degree Music Experiences.

The idea of cloud-based music has been with us for a long time (some of you many remember the decade-old concept of The Celestial Jukebox).  Now that technology and connectivity have, to some degree at least, caught up, the cloud is drifting across the digital music marketplace once again.  However, numerous hurdles continue to temper the potential:

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How Mature Are Your Mobile Marketing Efforts?

We're gearing up to write a lot of research about mobile marketing (and mobile content and mobile commerce) in the next few months -- and we'd love your help in benchmarking the state of the industry. No matter how much or how little mobile your organization has used, we'd very much like you to spend a few minutes answering our mobile maturity survey. It'll only take you 10 or 15 minutes at the most, the results will be kept 100% anonymous, and in return for your time, we'll send you a free summary of the survey results. Please spend a few minutes helping us collect the best possible data on this topic!

UPDATE: My apologies, but since the survey doesn't seem to be working properly at the moment, I've taken down the link. Hopefully we'll get it back up and working again soon.

As Australian Multichannel Retail Explodes, Marketing Leads Should Consider More Than Acquisition And Conversion

What a week! The high level of discussion around the Online Retailer Expo & Conference 2010 should dispell any doubts about Australia's near-term future: Online and multichannel retail have entered a period of rapid expansion. That was the theme of my colleague Patti Freeman Evans' conference keynote. It was a theme of both of my sessions at the event. It will be a theme of research that we expect to release shortly. And it was a theme reinforced by countless private conversations we had in Sydney and Melbourne last week: Expect continued growth and increasing competition, from home and abroad, and from both traditional retailers and new entrants, including some firms you certainly weren't expecting. Indeed, there are exciting times ahead.

So far, so good. But how will we get there? As competition increases, how will online and multichannel retailers attract and retain the most profitable customers and increase their lifetime value? Marketing leaders must answer this question, and they must answer it with more sophistication than is common in Australian online retail today.

In researching my latest report, "Online Retailing In Australia 2010: Marketing, Merchandising, And Customer Service," I found that most Australian online retailers use analytics, but generally in a limited way.

A common use would be to measure and compare the ROI on a range of acquisition tactics, such as search advertising and banner advertising. So far, so good — if acquisition is the start and finish of marketing.

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What Is The Value Of A Facebook Fan? Part 2

The other day I authored a blog post many found interesting, infuriating or both:  What Is The Value Of A Facebook Fan? Zero!  I appreciate the great dialogue from the folks who offered feedback in blog comments and on Twitter.  Because this is such a hot topic and because the feedback was so thoughtful, this seemed worth further exploration.

In that blog post, I suggested that marketers approach the question of how much a Facebook fan is worth as if the answer is zero.  I said, “It is what companies do with fans that creates value, not merely that a brand has fans.”  I went on to suggest that marketers should recognize a difference between potential value and real value.  Like a coil that is compressed to store energy (an apt metaphor from my Twitter friend, Blair Goldberg), Facebook fans have little actual value until they are activated by the brand, just like releasing a compressed coil. 

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