Recently, Google changed its policies to allow European marketers to bid on other companies' trademarks — but surprisingly, the floodgates haven't opened yet. In fact, we're not seeing very much competitive keyword bidding at all in Europe — nor in the UK, where Google has allowed this type of bidding for several years. This got us thinking: What types of marketers should bid on their competitors' trademarked keywords — and which (if any) shouldn't? Is competitive bidding best used as a branding exercise or to generate leads and sales? When you bid competitively, how should you change your creative strategy and your landing page choices? And, critically, how should you respond if you find your competitors bidding on your keywords?
I'm working with my new colleague Lucilla De Sarlo on a report on these topics right now, and we would love to hear your opinions. Feel free to post thoughts in the comments below or to e-mail Lucilla at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Six weeks ago, Forrester published a report some found shocking: "A Global Update Of Social Technographics®" noted that “social behaviors that require creating content have seen no substantial growth in adoption since 2009; in fact, some behaviors have experienced attrition.” After years of tracking demonstrable year-over-year growth in consumers' social behaviors, it seems the social train has ground to a halt. I created a blog post on the topic, but this didn’t seem nearly sufficient for such an important change in the most significant trend to hit marketing since the Internet went public in 1995. So today Forrester is publishing the report, “Fight Social Media Stagnation.”
The data speaks for itself — since 2007, every category of Social Technographic behavior (other than Inactives) demonstrated constant growth each year, but in 2010 that trend changed. Why? In part because we’re now reaching a point of social media saturation. With Joiners (those who maintain a profile on a social network) currently encompassing 59% of US online adults, it is inevitable that the growth of social behaviors would slow. The social media battle for the hearts and minds of US consumers has been fought and won!
The value of Facebook "Likes" is supposed to be clear: My friend likes something, and that is valuable and persuasive information for me. This is the idea behind Bing launching social search — if my friends have liked something for which I'm searching, that will be more relevant and helpful information than just another one-size-fits-all search engine results page. It's also the idea behind Facebook's Open Graph — if you visit a site and see that a friend has "Liked" it, you are more likely to pay attention, spend time, and complete a transaction.
But as we all know, a "Like" (with quotations) does not necessarily signify a like (without quotations). An interesting ExactTarget study demonstrated that people may "Like" a brand for a wide range of reasons: to learn about discounts, to earn freebies, for entertainment, to gain access to exclusive content, and — of course — to show support for the company to others. Just look at the list of companies you follow on Facebook — do you like them all equally? Are there any you've followed even though you really aren't a true fan of the organization or its products? The disconnection between “Like” and like will only grow greater in the coming year, as brands looking to expand their pool of Facebook friends reward new fans and followers (an activity I compared with the “black hat” tactic of buying links in the early days of search engine optimization.)
In a blog post a week ago, I stated that Auto Direct Messages (Auto DMs) on Twitter are unwelcome. Many agreed that these preprogrammed messages sent to all new followers are annoying, but others vehemently disagreed. To bring clarity to the topic, we conducted a survey that was completed by 336 individuals. The results are unequivocal: People hate to receive Auto DMs, think less of those who send them, and are quite likely to unfollow the senders or even report them as spam.
My recommendation based on the survey results is short and sweet: Don’t send Auto DMs. There may be exceptions to this rule, but they are few and far between. This is because the actions of many others have already destroyed people’s expectations of and attitudes toward the medium of Auto DMs. Auto DMs are the unsolicited email spam and telemarketing of the social media world; sometimes those discredited tactics work, but usually they spark response from very few recipients while damaging the senders’ reputation and influence among many, many more.
No matter how much you rationalize that your Auto DM is more welcome, personal, social, authentic, or helpful than everyone else’s, the data from this casual survey speaks for itself: By a margin of 40 to 1, survey respondents who have an opinion on Auto DMs indicate they find them unwelcome and usually do not get any information of value in the Auto DMs they receive. Almost three-quarters of respondents chose, “I find Auto DMs to be unwelcome because they usually do not contain information I find valuable,” versus 2% who said, “I find Auto DMs to be welcome because they often contain information I find valuable.”
I recently examined Forrester’s data to find out how consumers provide feedback about bad service experiences. (For my full analysis, see: "How Consumers Complain About Poor Service.") The big takeaway is that consumers are much more likely to provide feedback directly to companies through relatively traditional channels (surveys, phone calls, email, surface mail) than provide feedback publicly through social channels (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, review sites). More specifically, 71% of US consumers provided feedback through at least one traditional channel (including email), while only 16% provided feedback through any of the social channels we asked about.
This may not be a huge shocker, but it is hugely important for customer experience leaders building out voice of the customer (VoC) programs. Most companies already use surveys extensively, and social media is now a hotbed of VoC activity. Yet the contact center is still largely untapped. That’s a shame, considering the mountains of valuable unstructured and unsolicited customer feedback buried in calls, emails, and letters.
Customer experience leaders need to step back for a minute to align their VoC efforts with their customers’ feedback behaviors. If there’s customer feedback gold in your contact center — and there probably is — you should mine that resource.
It’s becoming clear the music industry’s product strategy needs an overhaul. CD sales are continuing to tank, download sales are slowing, and subscriptions remain stuck in a niche. The problem is worsened by the fact that the investor and start-up communities are wising up to the fact it is increasingly just not worth the effort to launch a store or service that requires costly – often crippling – rights licenses.
Perhaps the greatest fault with the music industry’s product strategy was its failure to harness the disruption of free quickly enough. By the time it did begin to, far too many customers had already been lost. Regular readers will know that I firmly believe the record labels’ best hope is a radical and ambitious strategy of transformational product innovation which embraces the disruption. That disruption takes three key forms: free, social and interactivity.
Against this backdrop, I was intrigued to see two developments which come at the problem from different directions.
Netflix announced its Q3 2010 earnings a few weeks back and the numbers were every bit as positive as people have expected. The company added nearly 2 million subscribers in the quarter, almost four times as many subs as they added the same quarter last year. Yeah, four times as many. While Comcast and Time Warner announced net subscriber losses. At the same time, the cost for Netflix to acquire a customer has fallen 26% in the past year. Funny how when you digitize the customer relationship and the product at the same time, all your costs go down.
The number I always wait for from Netflix is the percent of subscribers that used Netflix Watch Instantly in the quarter. It rose to 66% this quarter, up from 64% last quarter. And remember, this was while adding 2 million new subscribers, which means that new subscribers are adopting Watch Instantly at a rapid rate instead of waiting to get used to Netflix; in fact, they're probably joining Netflix just to watch instantly. This is, of course, why Netflix will likely offer a digital-only plan that subscribers can pay for if they don't even want to pretend to put DVDs in their queue.
Why is this important today? Because it was just now that I finally dug through the summary financial results to find this gem of a quote, something that was briefly reported when Netflix announced it results, but was not fully understood in most of the reports I read. I want to resurface it because this is a big deal:
During 2010, my colleagues on the Customer Experience team at Forrester and I evaluated the Brand Experience at the Web sites of 14 companies across three industries (and wrote individual reports for each industry). Specifically, we reviewed five auto manufacturers (Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota), four hotels (Crowne Plaza, Hilton, Marriott, and Sheraton), and five skin care brands (Dove, L’Oreal Paris, Neutrogena, Nivea, and Olay). We’ve summarized our findings in my latest report, “The Best Of Web Site Brand Experiences 2010.”
Using our Web Site Brand Experience Review methodology, we set out to test 1) how well the sites supported their key brand attributes in a manner consistent with other channels (Brand Image), and 2) how well the site supported user goals (Brand Action). While none of the 14 sites Forrester reviewed with our Web Site Brand Experience Review methodology passed both dimensions of our tests (Brand Image and Brand Action), there were some good practices that companies across industries can learn from.
Forrester’s "US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, 2010" launches today, reporting quite a bit of optimism this shopping season. November and December alone are expected to pull in nearly $52 billion, a 16% increase over 2009. Several key factors contribute to this projection:
Consumers are shifting more and more to online retail.
Offline retail is still a significant player.
Consumers are cooperating, too. They’re looking to spend more this season and do so through a variety of means (mobile, apps, etc.).
Retailers are responding with numerous strategies, such as larger promotional budgets, honing in on key dates, and experimenting with new shipping options.
The two subjects I have on my mind will be a little more accessible: direct-to-consumer sales and the innovation of marketing. They are both included in Forrester's current marketing leader panel survey. If you're a senior marketer, I'd appreciate it if you'd take the time to answer here.
What to expect when you click on that link?
For the direct-to-consumer section: I'm trying to get a read on motivations for selling directly to consumers and the role of marketers in that decision to close the loop. Many brands have recently taken advantage of technology to sell directly to their end consumers; some of you have been selling '"forever" through branded stores. Why? To get higher margins, to closely orchestrate the brand experience, to act as a counterweight to other channels, to learn? You tell me. I look forward to your responses.
On marketing innovation: This is part of my ongoing research. You could call it an annual checkup on how innovative marketers think their organizations are, or are not. I'll also be asking how you fund marketing innovation and what types of pilots, in particular in the media space, you're testing or most considering.
We will, of course, give you a report as a thank you, and share the results with those of you who participate. As well, please consider the time spent answering the questions as an opportunity to stay inside, warm, and dry.