What Makes A Community Successful?

Anyone who follows my research knows that community management is one of my favorite topics. As I speak with marketers about their branded community efforts, the questions that come up most frequently are, “How do I know when my community is 'good?'" and “How many members do I need for my community to be successful?” Interestingly, these are the same questions people would ask me when I was a community manager, before I came to Forrester. Since these questions are clearly on a lot of people’s minds, I set out to answer them — analyst-style.

For my latest report, Community Benchmarking Metrics, I surveyed marketers with branded communities to try to nail down some standard measures of success. What I found was:

  • Standards come in the form of percentages, not hard numbers. For example, in communities that perform on par with averages, 8-12% of the unique visitors to the brand’s main website will visit the community. Of those community visitors, 4-6% will convert to become community members.
  • “Average” performance is consistent across communities of different types, from different industries, and with different goals. 
  •  To achieve typical results, community owners need to go back to basics: Make the community visible and don’t forget to promote it.
  • There are a few things marketers can do to beat the averages. My favorite: have at least one full-time community manager.
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Three Pillars Of Sales Coaching Success

Why does sales coaching continue to be an important sales enablement trend? Perhaps it's because salespeople learn new skills through mutually beneficial relationships with individual coaches. If you think about it, sales coaches can come from many parts of the organization and include sales managers, sales trainers, sales engineers, and in some cases from product marketers. When sales enablement professionals effectively support tailored sales coaching conversations between coaches and reps, salespeople learn faster, converse more confidently with their customers, and achieve specific sales objectives, like gaining access to the right buyers or building a winning business case.

If you think about it, the role of a sales coach is challenging. Sales coaches must process many different content inputs from across the organization, package those inputs (in their head), and then deliver content through an effective sales coaching conversation to one salesperson at a time. And, sales coaches must make sure they treat everyone uniquely, so they maximize their sales coaching impact. Sales Enablement professionals need a strategy, a methodology, and tools to effectively enable their sales coaches to implement and sustain high-quality coaching conversations that help salespeople achieve sales objectives. 

In order to make sales coaching successful, Sales Enablement pros need a clear definition. The definition should drive specific sales coaching behavior while at the same time clearly defining the business reason why sales coaching is important. The definition should serve as a clear design point for sales coaching success.
 

For example, Forrester defines sales coaching as:

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The Metamorphosis To Agile Customer Service

There is growing urgency among eBusiness leaders to consider the impact of agile commerce on customer service. In the weeks since my colleague Brian Walker’s “Welcome To The Era Of Agile Commerce” was published, I have had many conversations with eBusiness executives and leading customer service vendors to discuss on agile commerce’s implications to customer service.  The result of these conversations is my recently published document called “The Metamorphosis To Agile Customer Service."

Technology has had a dramatic impact on when, where, and how consumers want customer service:

  • The number of connected devices is increasing. Today 59% of US online adults have more than one device that is connected to the Internet. One in five US online adults — or 37 million people — own five or more devices that are connected to the Internet. (For more insight into this, see our January 25, 2011m "Welcome To The Multichannel Multi-Connection World" report.)
  • Consumers are connected everywhere. Mobile phones are nearly ubiquitous: According to Forrester's US Mobile Technographics®, 88% of US adults own mobile phones, and 21% of US adults are Superconnecteds who use their phones for information, research, and commerce.
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Interactive Marketing Spend Will Near $77 Billion By 2016

By 2016, advertisers will spend $77 billion on interactive marketing – as much as they do on television today.  Search marketing, display advertising, mobile marketing, email marketing, and social media will grow to 26% 35% of all advertising spend within the next five years.**

What does this growth mean for you?

1)      Interactive media has gained legitimacy in the marketing mix. In past forecasts, we found that interactive budgets grew because of marketing experiments, or firms looking for lower-cost alternatives to traditional media. No more. The next five years of growth comes from bigger interactive teams spending sizably to bake emerging media into their strategies for creating rich customer relationships.

2)      Search’s share will shrink. Search marketing (paid search and SEO) will continue to own the largest portion of the interactive marketing pie. But its overall share will decline as marketers shift search spend into biddable display investments, mobile marketing, and even social media.

3)      Display media will rally. Bolstered by advances in audience targeting and bid-based buying approaches, advertisers will renew their love affair with display media. We expect display investments to grow as marketers apply display instead of search. And niche or remnant inventory sells for higher prices due to demand-driven pricing.

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Preparing For Forrester's 2011 Marketing & Strategy Forum EMEA In November

This month, I (Peter O’Neill) have been planning for the Tech Marketing track at the Forrester Marketing & Strategy Forum to be held on November 16 and 17 near London. The forum has now been configured so that each of the eight role-focused tracks is presented as a series of three consecutive presentations, which means that each attendee can plan to attend one whole role-track in one session. However, I know that many tech marketers come to this event because many of the other track presentations are equally compelling, so I won’t be too disappointed if people walk in and out a little.

 I am responsible for the content of the TM track, which is on the afternoon of the 17th, and will moderate the session, introducing each of the speakers, linking the topics to each other, and summarizing what was discussed. We have the following topics planned:

  • Outcome-Oriented Marketing. Peter Burris will discuss how tech marketing is moving away from a product focus to arguments more related to what business outcomes result from the promoted business technology investment. I know that he will also introduce a methodology of creating and managing marketing content that will enable this objective to be met.
  • The Rise Of The E-Channels.My colleague Tim Harmon is renowned for creating provocative titles and also for his out-of-the-box presentations. We work together often on channel marketing projects for clients and he will put forward some radical insights into where he see new sales (and marketing) channels arising and others expiring.
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Can Marketers And IT Work Together To Master The Flow Of Your Customer Data?

Marketers, how are you getting along with IT these days? It matters more than it used to. The job your company expects you to do is more and more entwined with technology. And so are the people in your target market.

Our research at Forrester shows almost half of US adults say technology is important to them.  And the ecosystem of suppliers of marketing-centric technologies and services is ballooning.  So whatever your aim as a marketer — whether it’s listening to the market, engaging with potential customers, or measuring the results of those efforts — you can’t do your job without these many technologies of new channels, new services, and new products.

This technology entwinement is especially tight when your company tackles the challenge of mastering the flow of customer data throughout the organization, from inputs across customer touchpoints, to the many ways you subsequently engage those customers. The struggle is not only in how to do this but also in how to do it sustainably: How to remember what data’s been collected, how it’s been used, what the outcomes have been, and on and on.

Where it gets messy is that marketers and IT often sing from different hymnals when it comes to making the most of all the relevant technologies. You’re eager to get to market with exciting new tools for engaging with potential customers, and you’re willing to experiment. But your IT colleagues often seem to be focused above all on cutting costs and avoiding risk — goals that rarely mesh well with what you’re trying to get done as a marketer. Not surprisingly, one marketing exec that Forrester interviewed recently called IT the “Department of No.”

Whereas in the past it may have been possible (even expected!) for marketing and IT to work at arm’s length, it’s not an option anymore.

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Netflix Offers Lessons For Digital Disruption In Any Industry

All through the past decade, observers in industry and on Wall Street have offered reasons to discount Netflix’s efforts. Supposed obstacles ranged from Blockbuster to scant streaming options to recent rate hikes on DVD renters. When will these people ever learn? We understand why people cheer against disruptive players like Netflix — it would be nice if we could pretend all these digital disruptions will go away. But they won’t, and neither will Netflix. We’ve written about this in our latest report that people who keep an eye on content strategy will find valuable (see our newest report on Netflix).

But it’s not really written for them – it’s written for people who take an even bigger view, as do we. These people – today’s product strategists – know that Netflix is a powerful example of disruptive digital product strategy and are eager to learn how to act like Netflix in their own context and industry. In our report, we extract three specific lessons from Netflix:

  • Control the product experience. The company that controls the user’s total product experience will win, whether retailer, producer, distributor, or platform. That company will have ultimate control over what options people have, what prices they pay, and what value they believe they are getting. It’s a big responsibility, but it’s one that people charged with product strategy must be willing to accept. Makers of products as wide-ranging as sleeping pills, running shoes, and auto insurance should all follow Netflix’s lead and control the total product experience they deliver.
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hybris & iCongo Come Together: What It Means

 

Today hybris announced its acquisition of iCongo in a creative deal which sees private equity firm Huntsman Gay convert its stake in iCongo into a significant stake in the newly combined companies. The deal combines complementary capabilities and customer bases, while also mitigating challenges each firm faced alone while strengthening a joint balance sheet for the combined $90-100 million in approximate revenues these firms will make up. The deal also changes a number of dynamics important to customers not only of hybris and iCongo, but also of Endeca and many services providers. A few key takeaways and thoughts:

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RIM: “We Are Committed To The PlayBook”; Still, Its Product Strategists Have A Tough Row To Hoe

Last week, HP announced it would discontinue the TouchPad and all webOS-based products. This was a dramatic reversal in strategy; just a few months ago (in March), I attended HP’s analyst event, during which HP CEO Leo Apotheker presented webOS as a central tenet of HP’s consumer product strategy and said the TouchPad was “the first of hundreds” of devices that would be running webOS, including printers and PCs.

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Connecting Frontline Staff To Customer Experience: Two Conundrums

I started an unusual research project recently. As a follow-up to my report on the customer experience ecosystem, I wanted to dig into the highly visible role of frontline employees like call center agents, in-home service technicians, and retail staff. Specifically, I wanted to know how customer experience professionals could help these folks understand how they personally affect customers’ interactions and perceptions of the brand.

The topic was – I thought – pretty straightforward, and it essentially boiled down to two main questions: What’s the best way to share customer feedback with frontline employees? And should you compensate frontline employees based on their individual feedback?

But what made this research effort so unusual, and so unlike most of my other projects, is that as I conducted more and more interviews, the opinions and “best practices” began to diverge wildly. I found a variety of incompatible tactics. But more than that, I uncovered major differences in management philosophies and deep passions underlying those beliefs.

What’s the best way to share customer feedback with frontline employees?  

A bevy of enterprise feedback management solutions can help managers collect and analyze feedback from customers – and not just about their overall impressions of a company, but about interactions with individual frontline staff members. Firms can collect survey-based quant data and/or verbatims. But what to share? The answers I’ve encountered include:

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