How Are You Using Social Marketing Management Tools?

Back in April I published a report called Take Control of Your Social Marketing, which looks at the emerging market of social marketing management tools.  In it, I identified three groups of these tools: the social publishing platforms, the social promotion builders, and the platforms that focus on both. 

In the two brief months since that report came out, the volume of questions I get about the topic has skyrocketed.  I can’t say this is surprising, as our own research is showing that many marketers are reaching a level of social marketing maturity at which tools like these can greatly increase the efficiency and success of their programs. There’s also been a lot of press coverage of the moves, changes, and announcements coming out of the vendors in this space, which has undoubtedly raised the profiles of these companies with marketers. 

  • In January, Vitrue, a company that falls into the “concentrating on both” category and which wasn’t able to participate in the original report, announced the closing of a $17 million series C financing round.
  • In February, Syncapse Corp.  made its own financing announcement -- an investment commitment of $25 million.
  • In March, SocialWare announced a partnership with LinkedIn that brings its regulatory compliance expertise and tools to the professionals’ social network.
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Will .Brand Top-Level Domains Catch On With Internet Users?

ICANN will soon allow companies to apply for and operate domain registries for generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) that represent their brand or keywords. For example, Aetna can apply for .aetna or .insurance. Many of the biggest brands are planning to apply for their .brand TLD, but many marketing leaders I've talked with look at this as a nuisance and are skeptical about whether Internet users will embrace them.

What do you think? Do you believe that the new .brand domains will catch on with users, or are they so used to .com that they won't change their behaviors? Take the poll over on the right pane of my blog.

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Magnificent Mile - Yes. Multichannel Mile…Still A Work in Progress

Recently two colleagues of mine, Patti Freeman Evans and Martin Gill, put their respective cities’ shopping meccas to the multichannel test.  The question: To what extent were bricks and mortar retailers on Fifth Ave in New York and Oxford Street in London using their physical stores to advertise and promote their digital channels?  

Eager not to be left out...and curious to see how my city of Chicago would fare…I paid a visit to our world famous “Magnificent Mile” to see if/how bricks and mortar retailers promoted a connection to their own digital channels.

As I walked both sides of Michigan Ave (home to retailers such as Northface, Macys and Gap…as well as high-end retailers such as Tiffanys, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel)…I thought to myself, would Chicago be different from London and New York?  Would America’s heartland have a better feel for a large and growing number of shoppers today who may physically “be” in stores but whose shopping “attention” may reside elsewhere?

Some findings:

  • Traditional Brands Disappointed.  Count among this grouphigh-end/luxury brands and more established brands (e.g. Louis Vuitton, Macys).  Which is not to say that all youth-oriented brands excelled (e.g. Zara, Disney)…in fact, a surprising number of them failed to show their multichannel chops (e.g. no URLS in store, no discernable mobile presence). For example, The Disney Store was heavily promoting the “Cars 2” movie on monitors in its store, but I could not find any links anywhere to their content-rich website.
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Call Center Satisfaction Ties To Consumer Loyalty And Overall Brand Impressions

In a previous post, I said that bad call center experiences spoil millions of daily opportunities to drive business value. Now you can figure out just how much business you're missing out on. 

Forrester recently asked US consumers to rate their satisfaction with call center agents from companies across 11 industries. As a part of that survey, we also asked consumers about their loyalty to those same companies. Then we analyzed the correlation between the quality of call center customer experiences and customer loyalty.

What we found was pretty compelling.

As customer satisfaction with the call center goes up, the willingness of a consumer to make another purchase and to recommend that brand to others increases. In addition, likelihood to switch to another provider goes down.

These correlations were particularly high for PC manufacturers, parcel shippers, Internet service providers, TV service providers, and credit card issuers.

We also asked consumers about the usefulness, ease of use, and enjoyability of their interactions with these same companies. We used that data to analyze the correlation between the quality of call center conversations and consumers’ overall perception of the customer experience delivered by the brand.

Across every industry we looked at, call center satisfaction highly correlates with consumers’ perceptions of how well the company met their needs and how easy and enjoyable it was to work with the company.

Customer experience professionals, call center execs, and marketers need to start discussing these connections and developing a plan to improve the call center customer experience. Your brand and your customers’ loyalty might just depend on it.

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Forrester's Consumer Forum 2011 (Oct. 27-28 in Chicago)

I'm excited to announce that the theme for this year's Consumer Forum, to be held from Oct. 27-28 at the Hilton Chicago, is "Delivering Optimized Product Experiences Across Customer Touchpoints." Disruptive technology, digital connectivity, and the proliferation of customer touchpoints are dramatically changing the way customers interact with products and channels. Coupled with changing consumer behavior, this means that we are seeing the eradication of traditional business models, products, and distribution tactics.

Marketing and strategy professionals must therefore adapt the physical and digital goods they sell, as well as how and where they sell them. Only those executives that become customer-obsessed, agile, and global will capitalize on new distribution models across touchpoints, delighting their customers and driving incremental revenue in this new age of the customer.

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Are We Headed Toward A Cashless Society?

These are exciting—and challenging—times for anyone who is responsible for developing, managing, and innovating consumer products.  Why?  Because digital technology is disrupting everything—the way we communicate with each other; the way we access, store, and share information; the way we purchase and interact with the products and services we use every day; and yes—even the way in which we actually pay for those products and services.  Whether you like it or not, digital disruption is happening everywhere, it’s happening fast, and it’s accelerating.

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An Open Letter To Anyone Planning To Buy Into Groupon’s IPO

Dear Potential Investor,

I have mixed feelings about the Groupon IPO. On one hand, we’ve just come out of a horrible economic period where there was a real fear of wealth destruction. But now just a few months after the near-collapse of our financial institutions, we actually have an extraordinary opportunity for wealth creation — how great is that! On the other hand, there is no rational math that could possibly get anyone to the valuation Groupon thinks it deserves. Yes, Groupon grew from $30 million in sales to more than $700 million between 2009 and 2010, but most of that growth was artificial. (The lack of profitability is another issue, but let's not even go there.) Here’s why:

  • $265 million came from its international markets, which were acquisitions.
  • It spent a quarter-billion dollars (!) on marketing. To put that into context, the average large eCommerce retailer spends $11 million on interactive marketing. Back of the envelope calculations from the SEC filing get us to $31 spent to acquire a customer, who then probably spends a little more than that on Groupon. That means it spent about $250 million to make another $300 million.
  • It launched in more than 100 new markets in 2010. I’ll conjecture that in any market in America, you can sell $500,000 of half-off manicures and teeth whitening procedures in a year just by hanging a shingle. That gets us to another $50 million in revenue. 
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It's Time To Take A Stand . . . In Your Marketing

When marketing leaders come to me looking for feedback on their messaging and value proposition, it usually sounds like this (with blanks inserted to protect the guilty):

“We were founded in 19__. We’re the leading provider of _____ products serving the ____ industry. Our products are faster, more reliable, easier to use, more full-featured, and deliver better ROI than any of our competitors.” 

Painful to listen to. Marketers have to realize that in the age of the customer, business buyers don’t “buy” your product; they “buy into” your approach to solving their problem. Read that last sentence again. Your products aren’t as unique as you think. In fact, in most markets, the products and services are fairly commoditized. Buyers want to do business with firms that share their outlook on the world and have philosophies on solving key problems that align with their own. Yet so many marketers only talk about their features and benefits.

What do you do about it? Establishing a position of thought leadership in your market is becoming the next arena for differentiation in B2B marketing. When done right, thought leadership marketing is a way to stand out from the competition, create interest, and earn the trust of potential buyers early in their problem-solving process.

Of course, it is easier said than done. Many companies already practice content marketing, but thought leadership marketing takes it much further:

  • It doesn’t just educate people on an issue; it provides your firm’s strong point of view and insightful thinking on the issue. It is provocative, challenging conventional thinking.
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Do We Still Need SMS?

Apple's announcement today on the "Notification Center" triggered my comments. Other than the fact that I no longer need to tether all of my devices to a computer (finally!), I think this was my favorite announcement. My top "negative" re notifications to date has been the inability to save or file them. Do I want to save a FB update? No, not really. But I do want to save and file coupons, promotions, news alerts, etc. Will be interesting to watch the effectiveness of notifications now that they DON'T interrupt . . . in some ways, that's the point. Less intrusiveness may attract more uses of those afraid of annoying their customers. Re 100B notifications to date . . . wow.

"Do we need SMS?" I think the answer is "absolutely, yes." I've had more than one of my colleagues suggest to me that SMS no longer holds any relevance for commercial businesses hoping to reach their customer base. I disagree. Here's why:

  • For the forseeable future, a very small percentage of any company's customers will have downloaded its application. A few companies like eBay or Amazon.com may be the exception. Relying only on push-based notifications does not offer enough reach. Apple's announcement today, however, makes push-based notifications a lot more interesting.
  • Push-based notifications on smartphones are more of a US-centric phenom. If you are targeting customers in Asia, Africa, India, Latin America, etc., you need SMS -- SMS is the primary application/transport medium on most phones in many countries.
  • Tracking calls-to-action. When does a message drive an action? Clicking through to a URL? Using a coupon? Visiting a store? Calls-to-action can be digital, physical, or calls.
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Social Co-Creation Is A Valuable Opportunity For Companies With A Latin American Presence

It’s been almost a year since I wrote Latin American Social Technographics® Revealed, which demonstrated this group of consumers’ voracious love of social media. In that report I highlighted how this high level of social engagement is not exclusive to just entertaining themselves or connecting with family and friends. In fact, it also extends to interacting with companies, with activities such as reading their blogs, following them on Twitter, or even watching a video they produced.

Given the ease with which companies can connect with online Latin Americans via social media, I’ve now published a new report entitled Take Advantage: Latin American Consumers Are Willing Co-Creators that examines whether companies can extend this interactive and social connection with consumers into the realm of co-creation in the social online world. My colleague Doug Williams, who focuses on co-creation processes for the consumer product strategy professional, defines “social co-creation” as the process of using social technologies as a vehicle to execute co-creation engagements.

To examine the viability of social co-creation in Latin America, we assessed the factors that we feel are crucial for a successful social co-creation engagement to occur. They are:

  • A high level of engagement with social media — especially at the Conversationalist and Critic levels.
  • A high degree of interaction with companies using social media tools.
  • An inherent willingness to co-create with companies.
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