As a social media advocate I often discuss adding value to the conversations, to the communities or to the relationships. I guess I assumed everyone already knew what the term means and how it applies to them until I started to get questions from people.
So what exactly is adding value and how? Is it just an over-used marketing jargon? An illusion of a feel-good emotion? The more I use the term “value” the more I feel like it’s loosing its soul (I’m guilty as charge at times).
One of my favorite artists, the awesome Hugh MacLeod had a great piece about Adding Value with the quote, “The aim of “adding value” is a hard one to argue with… who doesn’t want to add value to their current enterprise? But it’s also utterly meaningless…”
Well, obviously there are many ways to look at it but here is how I perceive the meaning of adding value.
Let’s face it, most businesses wants to add value to the bottom line which means making sales and growing profits.
In sales, adding value used to mean networking in the best interest of your company or your career which is to sell, sell, sell!
Today it means helping people to make informed decisions, finding out their needs first and showing an interest to solve their problems not yours. The one way sales pitch broadcasting simply becomes part of the meaningless noise in a sea of noises.
The Meaning of Knowledge
In sales, either the product sells itself (more of an affirmation and emotional validation) or it’s selling via education (information and data).
A Porsche salesman don’t sell the 911 Turbo, they sell the experience of buying a Porsche (great products drives emotions). On the other hand, a Honda salesman sells the features and benefits against competitors like Toyota and Nissan (value proposition, more needs than wants).
In both scenarios, the goal is to ensure that the person feels good about the decisions that they’ve made (or going to make) on the purchase which leads to trust building. And trust is built on relationships from knowledge and actions.
The more knowledge you have, the less fear you have, the less stress you feel and the better you feel about your decision making process.
You could think of having knowledge as freedom from limitations and having information is empowerment. The ability to make your own decision is valuable because who wants to be pressured into buying?
Emotion Trumps Logic
Now you know the importance of adding value through knowledge transfer, you then need to know how to take actions with your knowledge.
Besides physically helping someone, the action part comes down to communication. And because emotions are the essence of the communication, marketers need to focus on the emotional needs of the customers at the time when feelings are vivid. This mean to empathize with your customers and truly focus on how to make their lives better.
You can not make people’s lives better if you don’t understand their lives.
When you solve someone’s problem, they’ll usually remember it not because of the facts but because of how they felt when it was happening. Simply put, memory is tied to emotions and emotions are more real than thoughts.
Now apply that to marketing and you’ll realize that providing useful and meaningful information does exactly that – it makes people remember you if you satisfy their needs by providing value!
This is why the increasingly Social Web is a great place to find those that are in need of knowledge (also why information product sells). When you need an answer, you want it now, you Google it (you can Yahoo or Bing it too of course).
The online conversation across all social networks are as authentic as it gets, besides the offline in-person engagements, because it’s taking place when people are still feeling the emotions dealing with their problems – what is, how-to, why is, who can…you get the point.
The rest of it is about the context of adding value, at the right place at the right time.
The optimal time to email your subscribers, the suitable LinkedIn group to contribute knowledge or the people you engage on Twitter – they’re all channels to add your value to the conversation within the communities to forge solid relationships.
Motives and Actions
The last point in adding value is the motives behind such actions. Why are you doing this? Why are businesses embracing the freemium model?
Most of the time the objective is to create brand awareness, build credibility and what I keep pounding the table on: to create social proof around the topics of health, wealth and relationships.
However; there is always a trade-off, you get free Gmail with all the awesome features of other Google Apps because Google advertises around your inbox.The same applies to most of the social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. You’re exchanging personal information to use their products.
My take is that if you’re honest about your intentions and focus on serving only those that matters to your business, you will attract the customers you want.
Like what Seth Godin wrote in his book Purple Cow, “the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” Well, he’s right, everyone is NOT your customers.
And the science behind motivation isn’t as clear cut as features and benefits or even monetary rewards. Checkout this video by RSA animation adapted from Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA on “The surprising truth about what motivates us.”
The take away: Identify your customer’s problem is where adding value starts. And listening when they talk is your opportunity to fill the value gaps.
Think of it as facilitating the process of buying on their terms not yours. You have to create the right environment that entices people, and if you do it well, then they will show up and join the party.
It is only by adding value you will be remembered, reciprocated and passed on (via word-of-mouth).
There are simply too much information and too little time. Marketing messages are everywhere and people have developed ad blindness, seeing doesn’t mean retaining.
Social media is changing how businesses find customers and how customers engage with brands. There are many reasons to believe that it will eventually overtake email marketing, but I’m a firm believer that it’s here to stay.
In fact, I believe email marketing combine with search (SEO) and social media will the best strategy moving forward.
However; let me get a few things straight. First, email is the original social network. Second, you need email to open social network account and get alerts.
And third, search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) will continue to index and aggregate social network data not to mention most social network has their own internal search engine as well.
It sounds like there is a lot of cross-over between the three, so how should you use these three tactics to help you strategize your marketing efforts?
It’s hard to realize how these tactics can impact your business without some basic understanding of the big three. Let’s look at how each works and what you can do to get the most bang for your marketing bucks.
The Big Three #1 – Email Marketing
Why email – Today it’s hard to find someone without an email account and majority of account holders have had it for a while (I still check my hotmail from 14 years ago) thus letting it go is not likely for most.
Account holders may reduce the time they spent on email but it doesn’t have the abandon rate (Facebook, Twitter) like majority of the social networks.
Almost all basic business communications are done via email not via social networks. The perception is that it’s more secure, private and user friendly (centralized contacts, integrates with calendar, easily accessible via mobile devices).
Simply put, people will use what’s easy to achieve the same goal – to get work done and to communicate.
Another benefit of email is that it’s a direct private channel of communication to alert customers on new product offerings or promotions. At the same time, customers can use e-mail to provide feedback and ask questions.
Done right, you will be kept away from the spam folder and earn a permanent spot on the white list.
This is why great email marketers tend to focus on delivering high value content at the right time, with the proper frequency using attractive subjective lines that encourage clicks and forwards.
Building your email list should still be all marketers’ top priority. Give people a reason to subscribe and to remain subscribed is the ongoing art and science of email marketing.
The Big Three #2 – Search Engine Marketing
Why SEO – This one should be a no brainer. What is the first thing you do when you’re looking to buy a product? If you do your homework you would first Google it.
This applies to almost anybody looking to learn more about a company, a product or how to do something.
Often times, people don’t even question the search results because it’s just easier to trust Google’s rankings and feel good about the decisions you’ve made based on what was found.
It’s no surprise that 79% of United States hiring managers and job recruiters search online information about job applicants according to a recent research commissioned by Microsoft.
They understand search engine is catered to “people” and people want relevant, valuable content that’s going to move them a step closer to identify the information they’re searching for.
The key is to create great content around what your customers are interested in when looking for your product; such as how things work (the outcome of your product or services), step-by-step guides or research reports that reveals product comparisons.
Then tie these high quality content with relevant keywords and over time you’ll likely to move higher through the non-paid “organic” rankings. And today you can SEO anything from websites, blog posts, videos, images, podcasts you name it.
SEO is one of the key marketing arsenals especially for retailers, direct marketers and authors.
The latest Internet Retailer Survey (some sample data below) clearly shows a growing interest and investment in search to drive more online sales. It’s not a matter of why, but how.
There is simply too much information and too little time. Search engine is our instant gratification to today’s ADD (Attention-Deficit Disorder) society.
The Big Three #3 – Social Media
Why Social – If search engine is a way for people to find information, then social media is a way for people to find conversations and be part of them.
It adds the credibility fuel to the fire of trust since social media is basically word-of-mouth. Instead of just believing in what you read from company websites or reviews you found online, you can talk to people you trust or listen to experts you follow.
Similar to search, you can get people to your site with social media, and it’s a great tool to tell customer stories, demonstrate expertise, and stack up your social proof to win business from competitors.
The goal is to connect with customers on an ongoing basis to further understand their needs, wants and concerns.
This will help you to build strong, lasting and engaging relationships with your customers for future business as well as referral opportunities by getting people to share your products on social networks to bring in traffic and find new customers.
And since social media is word-of-mouth, it’s your brand’s reputation on the line. Your digital reputation is your first impression and perception is reality.
How The Big Three Can Work Together
Although you can choose to only do one or two of the three, but to get the most out of your marketing investments, you should consider doing all three.
Here are a few ideas to consider on how to leverage the big three:
1) Create Once, Recycle Many– Focus on content not just promotions and sales, it’s about facilitating people through the sales cycle. People usually don’t buy base on just one piece of data think of it as adding “trust points” to people’s decision to buy.
If prospects consumed a great piece of educational content on your landing page, that’s one point. If they read some great reviews about your product from a third party site, that’s another point.
If there is more positive comments than negative ones about your brand in social networks, that’s another point.
The goal is to accumulate enough trust so prospects feel good about why they’ve made the decision over you than others.
You want to invest your time and money on creating the best blog content, how-to articles, educational videos, whitepapers or anything that will get your audience to bookmark, download and share.
Then make sure you optimize the content for search engine with the proper keywords and deliver them to the right people in your target channel via email and social networks.
For example let’s say you have a really good article on how to do something (try not to involve your product first, focus on solving the problem then introduce your product later when appropriate), you can package it in a downloadable PDF put it on a landing page that’s highly optimize for SEO.
Then abstract the summary from the content for your email newsletter so you can send your subscribers to that very same landing page, a typical web marketing campaign.
But let’s take it a step further by turning that piece of content into a video (using screen capture tools like Camtasia, or with a webcam or FlipVideo) and upload it to YouTube, Ustream or Vimeo to drive traffic back to your landing page.
Then post the video on your blog, tweet it out via Twitter, send it to relevant groups on LinkedIn or submitted to social network sites like Technorati, Digg, Reddit or StumbleUpon. Continue to produce great content and after 3-6 month you can recycle that piece of content with some updates and do it again.
2) Streamline with Process – Think about how your customers consume information and respond to connections.
It’s NOT jamming the information down their throat like traditional one-way push advertising but allowing them to discover and get permission to establish a relationship.
Talk to your customers, ask them what they read, who influence them and why? Understand what they don’t care about (don’t be surprise if it’s a lot of what you do) is just as important as what they care (a lot of what you should know).
If you make the wrong assumption it will bring you the false conclusion which will impact on how you strategize your campaign.
For example if you know your customer reads certain blogs regularly, should you advertise on their site or is it better to build a relationship with the blogger?
Once you’ve made your decision, focus on identifying the path to your web properties.
Take out a piece of paper and map out that path and create a process to streamline every possible step that your customer may take so you can funnel them via your sales pipeline.
Remember, not everyone consumes media the same way, some people like to read while others prefer to watch videos or listen to a podcast.
It’s important to have as many media options as possible available to maximize engagement opportunities.
3) Target, Track and Repeat – Without the right data you won’t know where to focus your marketing efforts and no accountability in your actions.
What happens after your prospect conducts a search?
What actions were taken after consuming your content?
Was it shared on Facebook or forwarded to a colleague?
The biggest benefit from tracking your email, search and social media analytics is that you will be able to tie them all together and figure out your ROI.
You’ll know where your site visitors are coming from, which email links they clicked on and what gets shared so you can make adjustments to improve conversion rates.
Why continue to do something that doesn’t work?
You need to know so you can keep doing what works and stop doing what doesn’t. Perhaps Facebook is not the best social network to target your audience or is it because your marketing messages aren’t resonating with them?
Marketers must aggregate customer behavior information to build a holistic view of the customer.
This means analyzing quantitative data to measure and monitor customer-related metrics such as customer attrition rate, customer retention rate, number of products purchased, repeat purchases, likelihood to recommend, etc.
When you have the right customer insights, you’re in a position to address customer needs, improve processes (to shorten the sales cycle), and to maintain a strong connection for an opportunity to turn customers into fans and fans to brand evangelists.
Do Your Homework, Fish Where Fish Are
Before you start, you should learn where your customers are at, the tools they use and why. This allows you to make better informed decisions and build a framework for your assumptions before you jump in. You can find some valuable research data from the internet and here are two examples I’ve found.
First is the Morgan Stanley Internet Trends Analysis, which has a lot of in-depth information about all things internet, mobile, cloud computing, email, social networks and more. (Check out slide 12 on social networking vs email usage).
The second report is from Edison Research on “Everything You Need To Know About Who’s Using Twitter.” I found it particularly interesting that people actually go to Twitter to learn about products, far more than they do with other social networks. (51% of active Twitter users follow companies, brands or products on social networks)
The take away: Email marketing, search engine optimization and social media are all great, but it takes a combination of know-how and creativity to get people just to open your e-mail, to click on your search results or to retweet your messages.
Business owners and marketers need to have some technical knowledge of what methods produce positive results.
Your goal should be to have a mix and balance of the big three utilizing content strategy that is useful and easy to share.
Think like a publisher, not only do you have to figure out ways to engage your subscribers (and to remain subscribed) but also prospects, people on the fence and try to sway influencers your way.
Whether it’s for your marketing research or product innovation, the intention for gathering these data should NEVER be for spamming but to help integrate your value proposition into what people are truly interested in.
If you can become part of what people are interested in, you will have a better chance of connecting. Therefore it’s best to utilize permission marketing when executing your communication strategy.
Getting more data is great, but it’s not intended so you can just add more people to your weekly email blast.
Making quantitative analysis can help you create interesting ideas that differentiate your brand and drive actions.
So how can social media create opportunities for you?
Understand The Social Network Ecosystem
First, learn how each social network ecosystem works and the habits of the emerging “social consumers.”
Think of each social network as a town and the ecosystem is basically the infrastructure of the town.
Knowing how each social network is used is like having the map of the town.
Once you have knowledge of the streets around town, the next step is to find and connect with your customers.
This is where my last post comes in handy, if you can identify a social consumer online, he or she is more likely to have multiple social networking accounts which can help you to further profile your target audience.
This is especially helpful if you use a CRM (Customer Relationships Management) system such as GoldMine, Dynamics CRM or Salesforce.
Let’s look at B2C (business-to-consumers) social consumers; these are people that are willing to share their personal information on social networks engaging in activities such as updating their Facebook status, displaying their locations on Foursquare, leave their product reviews on Amazon or restaurant reviews on Yelp.
If you apply the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule, you can expect the power users represent 20% of the users that’s generating 80% of the activities.
Accordingly to the latest study by Chadwick Martin Bailey, “consumers who are Facebook fans and Twitter followers of a brand are more likely to not only recommend, but they are also more likely to buy from those brands than they were before becoming fans/followers…The study also uncovered perceptions among consumers that those brands not engaging in social media are out of touch.”
The idea is to focus more on the power users that command influence within the social networks. Keep in mind connecting with “medium” and “light” users also helps to earn social proof and trust via the long-tail.
They represent how social network can be utilize to build a community by providing practical value whether it’s a piece of software, platform, resource center or networking destination, they give back in return to what participants put in.
I recommend doing some in-depth research to get useful data on demographics of your target audience.
Then identify the appropriate social network(s) that fits your demographics to go after.
The key to success will be your understanding of how your target social consumers think, act and make decisions.
What and who influence them?
How much research was done prior to the purchase?
What was the second or third option?
Implementing Accountability and ROI
Now that you’ve got your customer profiles and social network(s) identified, what’s next? For businesses serious about ROI (return on investment), it’s time to increase accountability of your marketing efforts.
You can do this by using existing data or the customer insights from your research (profiling, surveys, CRM) to create campaign projections, a realistic goal that you aim for.
Then create a mix of financial and nonfinancial metrics that you NEED to measure, not what you can measure.
This is to help you understand how your marketing activities impact the bottom line and how you can optimize them by doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
Make sure you track your marketing cost as well as where the money is coming from to justify true ROI and conduct performance analysis.
How much does it cost to run a local campaign vs. national campaign?
What results are you getting targeting moms instead of kids?
Can you compare the effectiveness of your marketing investments in direct marketing and affiliate marketing?
Share Your Insights
Another great use of these valuable customer data is to share the insights with your customer service representatives, sales staffs, product development engineers, design teams, or anyone that will benefit from them.
If the sales staff knows what words or questions your target audience used most frequently when talking about your product, they can craft a better sales pitch.
If product engineers realize how many different ways people actually use the products they create, they can improve and create better products.
If the design team identifies how your customers come to visit your page and where they clicked, perhaps they can increase the conversion rate on your next campaign.
You can also involve them in the insight generation process to help increase the adoption and with regular distribution of these insights, everyone will take part to improve your business incrementally.
Ultimately you want to have a holistic view of your customer data so not only do you know what they’ve purchased, but also what they think about your industry, how they talk about your brand, and why they react to your campaign a certain way.
Simply put, it all comes down to keeping up with the shifts in how people think and act as well as the technologies used.
If you’re unable to keep up then outsource part of your social media efforts to marketers, consultants or agencies; but make sure you understand the implications.
Here is an short and excellent report on how social media influences paid search by GroupM Research.
The take away: The key to effective marketing communications is to have a solid brand strategy.
It’s indicative that social media must work together as an integrated whole of your brand strategy because your brand lives day-to-day in communication platform such as sales presentations, company brochures, product packaging and now the semantic web.
Synchronizing these efforts assures consistent communication of your brand’s strategy, helping to create brand awareness and recognition of who you are and why you matter.
Moving forward, there will be an increase demand for marketing ROI as more data becomes available and new measuring tools are developed.
As always, focus on the signal instead of the noise, maximize the value of social media to improve your business beyond marketing.
What do you think?
Love to hear your thoughts and feel free to share your ROI metrics.
he study also uncovered perceptions among consumers that those brands not engaging in social media are out of touch. When asked the question “What does it say about a brand if they are not involved with sites like Facebook or Twitter?” they said the following:
Some of using these information as a way to improve products and identify service gaps.
All three marketing tactics are proven to be somewhat cost-effective in terms of managing their reputations online while funneling leads and converting sales.
There is enough free information out there that business owners and marketing managers can find to start immediately so I’m not surprise that everyone is doing it.
In fact, I always check out the Twitter or Facebook page of where I’ve visited to see what level of engagement and following they have as well as to identify how the platform was utilized.
The result I found is that companies fall into two categories of social media marketing buckets.
First are the highly engaged profiles with regular updates and a large following that creates instant social proof. Second are the uninspiring profiles with the lack of updates and little to no interactions.
This is the same observations made by Jeremiah Owyang, who recently posted on his blog that, “many brands are jumping on the social media bandwagon, without giving proper thought about the impacts to their marketing effort. In particular, many brands are putting ’social chicklets’ on their homepage to “Follow us on Twitter” or “Friend us on Facebook” without considering the ramifications.”
This is the problem with low barrier to entry tools such as Twitter and Facebook that many brands are using without a real deliberate strategy.
I encourage those of you that are serious about your digital marketing efforts to use Jeremiah’s matrix to help make your decisions.
Keep in mind, you must understand not just the rules of the game but also how it applies to your specific industry, your customers and your organization.
There is no doubt that the internet has made it easier to find what you’re looking for while connecting you with like-mined individuals from networking to referrals, relevant information is available in abundance.
The questions is where do people get those information and how will these content providers be perceived?
First you need to realize that all of the answers have changed.
Same Questions, Different Answer
Although the internet has forever changed our expectations in media consumption and in communication, one thing remains constant for businesses today: the question of how do we attract more customers to us?
How do we get customers to spread our brand? How do we get customers to buy more and buy often?
As a marketer today you must realize that we’ve been asking those same questions for decades and in order to answer them now you must first understand the following 6 fundamental social change in customer perception and behavior:
1. Choice overload: Customers are bombarded with choices; the market is saturated with selection.
And people get frustrated when they have to make a decision from tens and thousands of product categories, brands and price points.
Everything looks the same, everyone sounded alike and it doesn’t help when people have shorter attention span as we become more distracted everyday.
2. Conflicting information: We’re in a hyper-connected marketplace where people are using social media to discuss new products, do their own research, cross referencing information in the blogosphere and everything goes from frustration to confusion.
There is simply too much information and how can an average consumer know who’s right and who’s wrong?
3. Customers know marketing: Over time, customers understood the game of marketing regardless of B2C or B2B.
Described by Tom Asacker: We’re no longer passive consumers but active discerners participating in how products are marketed at us.
This is why there is an increasing trend in banner blindness and average web users will give you only 8 seconds to decide if they’re going to stay or not.
4. Lack of trust in the marketplace: There is a sense of distrust in the marketplace. People simply don’t trust individuals let alone corporations.
We’re conditioned to identify the tactics such as sense of urgency (buy now and save!), risk reversal (money back guaranteed!), or scarcity thinking (for a limited time!).
Watch any TV infomercials and you’ll find those tactics in most of them.
Simply put, these tactics are losing their effectiveness and even if they worked that led to engagement opportunities, you must meet the customer expectations otherwise it’s hard to fool them twice.
5. People define your brand: Brand messages only sets the initiate expectations of your target audience and ultimately people make meaning out of things themselves.
When push comes to shove, people go with what feels right not your product features or service benefits.
It’s how you make them feel, not what you tell them how they should feel. If they can relate to your message, it only means they’ll give you a few more seconds to keep going down your path to purchase.
Your brand is defined by how you make people feel about the decisions they’ve made not just your messages.
6. The shift towards frugality: This is the simplest concept to grasp as the recession has permanently changed the way consumers behave and perceive value.
It goes beyond pricing strategy and product promotions.
Whether you’re a retailer, a B2B service provider or a marketer, this means extracting deeper customer insights to build meaningful, differentiated messages that communicates relevancy.
This is best described by a recent article “The New Consumer Frugality” in Strategy+Business, by Booz & Company, in which the authors defined six frugal consumer segments.
After a thorough understanding of the above trends, you should also be aware of the fact that brands are becoming publishers creating opportunities that’s leveling the playing field.
And in order to be successful moving forward, you either have great content strategy or you have unique customer experience (in product or service innovation).
Specifically he noted that “any online marketing, whether social media, email marketing, search engine optimization, landing page conversion, etc., does not work without first having content strategy.”
As a brand strategist that focuses on marketing integration, I couldn’t agree more.
I’ve heard business owners and marketing executives realize the need to change their strategy, but it’s often due to the need to “keep up” with the current trend. “We must get into social media because everyone’s doing it,” or “We need to engage our customers on Facebook and Twitter.”
But what does engagement mean to your organization? How will that benefit your bottom line or increase sales?
It’s easy to setup a WordPress blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook fan page or a LinkedIn Group.
The key is what will you be pushing out to generate meaningful conversations?
How will you provide value that sparks engagement?
Why would people spread your idea or pass on your name?
What’s the call-to-action when people get to your website, your blog, or your social media pages?
Product Innovation Creates Loyalty
The other way to win in the marketplace is to deliver awesome products or services that build brand loyalty via innovation.
An easy example would be what Apple is doing with their continuous innovation in products from iPod to iPhone to last weekend’s release of iPad.
Amazon’s endless pursue to have everything available, fast and easy via their online store regardless what you’re looking for.
Zappo’s unmatched customer service in finding and delivering not just the shoes you ordered but what you may also like.
For restaurants, it’s the food you cater, the service you provide, the price tag you put on as the total experience that says “we’re different.”
Customers will automatically go on to Yelp and OpenTable to give you reviews and recommendations. Your customer will decide what quality is and what value means to them.
I love what James Surowiecki wrote in an excellent piece in The New Yorker: “the more information people have, the tighter the relationship between quality and price: if you can deliver a product or service that is qualitatively better, you can charge top dollar. But if you can’t deliver the quality you can’t get the price.”
You’re going to struggle if you don’t deliver brand experience that’s worth talking about.
Everyone have access to the same tools and resources, if you can deliver a mix bag of value using content marketing strategy on your innovative products, you win.
The take away: Brands must adapt to the new realities that everyone is a content producer and we are no longer competing on eyeballs and clicks only, but value that builds long-lasting relationships in a trust-driven era.
It is essential to establish clear, integrated marketing strategies for various media channels in order to deliver personalized messages that properly aligned with your business objectives.
If you don’t know your desired outcome, why are you implementing tactics where you can’t see what success means to you?
If you don’t have exceptional products perhaps its time you should rethink your product strategy.
Are you re ready to get actionable to integrate your marketing efforts?
It’s no surprise that the increasingly social web have enabled customers to be heard while helping to improve the very products and services they’ve purchased.
As millions of people continue to search online for the product they need and the service they want, do you know how the recession has impacted your customer’s value perception?
How are you going to improve the customer experience to optimize your products and services?
Your customer may have already shifted their spending in favor of private label brands over name brands or reduce the quantity or frequency of buying altogether.
Perhaps the freemium business model has become the new standard to get your customer to try your product.
Whichever way you look at it, consumer’s perceptions of an interaction are influenced heavily from their purchasing experience, by how they research to who they trust.
To understand and improve customer experience, companies should first research their customer’s natural behaviors, and then seek opportunities to influence those behaviors through targeted strategies and niche offers.
According to a recent Nielsen analysis revealed generationally shopping habits that reflect diverse lifestyle preferences and economic habits.
Naturally, Boomers have the highest earning of any group, followed by Gen X, then Millennials and finally Greatest Gen.
What’s interesting is that according to the study, “Millennial and Gen X shoppers favor mass supercenters and mass merchandisers over more traditional formats like grocery or drug stores which remain a draw for the Greatest Generation and Boomers … Millennials today represent the largest population segment—over 76 million strong—just slightly larger in number than the Boomer segment. The two groups together represent half of the U.S. population.”
From these data, marketers should apply behavioral economics to further understand the minds of their customers.
Once you understand the patterns contributing to buy and not buy, you can craft highly targeted campaigns and behavioral tracking techniques to connect with customers.
Couple that with direct customer research such as surveys or focus groups, you will end up with a customer segmentation metrics that can help you define how changes of an offer can influence the way people react to it.
However, it’s critical that a more systematic approach to behavior targeting is used when defining your customers.
This will help to make irrationality more predictable in an attempt to understand the behavioral economics of your customers.
Here are some questions you should consider to help you improve customer interaction:
Where does your customer go when searching for your products and services? Online communities, offline advertising, word-of-mouth, search engine, blogs etc.
How and where did they obtain the knowledge necessary to make a purchase? Do they know how to find what they need?
When and how do customers gain access to your products and services?
What kind of lifestyle and overall financial situation are they in?
What does value mean to them? Where is the line drawn between getting a bargain vs being cheap?
Who and what influence their buying decision? And why?
What conversations are generated around the ‘benefits’ of your product and services?
What are some of the potential barrier to purchase? Lack of knowledge, confusion in the market, price points, product features etc.
Who are your competitors and how are they perceived in the customer’s eyes? What other options do they have if they don’t buy from you or your competitors?
In your vertical, does you customer look at brands first or price first? Is the service or support more important than the product itself?
Often times, paid research firms will provide complete free report as well, you just have to keep an eye on it or subscribe to their newsletter. Here is one focusing on eCommerce from ComScore: State of US Online Retail Economy in Q3 09
In today’s fragmented media world where we all have some attention deficit in our busy lives, there are simply too many sources of information thus finding a filter that we trust is extremely important.
Most people tend to prefer value, look for key opinion leaders and trust one-on-one communication sources.
This data should not be a surprise because if you want recommendations for a restaurant or suggestions on buying a new cell phone, you’re pretty much going to first ask your friends.
If you’re really serious about the purchase, you will do your “homework” first by reading bunch of online reviews from Yelp to Amazon before accessing your trusted sources.
Thanks to the increasingly social web, everyone can have a voice in their sphere of influence.
As a result word-of-mouth has become the ultimate marketing arsenal for marketers to tap into their loyal customers and advocates to help spread their marketing messages through what it’s called earned media.
Earned Media vs Paid Media
As opposed to paid media where publicity are gained through advertising, earned media usually are from real people, not marketers, which explains why consumers tend to trust them more.
It’s indicative from the survey conducted by Synovate for word-of-mouth ad network PostRelease, over 50% of the word-of-mouth activity was to help a friend or family member with a purchase decision, as well as sharing information they found on the web offline.
While these finding are insightful, it’s simply a confirmation that earned media is what’s working and will continue to lead the way as we crawl out of this recession.
Obviously, there are other factors that contributes to the buying decision that aligns with the “four Ps of marketing” (price, product, promotion and placement), but there is a definite shift in the perception of value that builds on trust.
One thing I must point out is that these data can be misleading because financial returns actually increased but have fallen behind other factors so there is merely a shift in value perception.
We’ve gone from push advertising to social influence marketing. Online users have learned to focus on content and ignore online banners (banner blindness) simply because display focus too much on getting attention and have failed to deliver.
The concept of getting attention as a way to create brand awareness is being seen as noise which leads to resistance.
People have caught on to the fact that more marketers are increasingly behind influential bloggers, social media rock stars and even popular portals by endorsing their content diluting the credibility of peer-to-peer networks.
Long Tail of Trust
In the ear of new media, brands have quickly learned social marketing is build on the idea that people trust their friends more than they trust authorities, but on the other hand, consumers also start to question the intend and authenticity of their social networks.
When it comes to trust and brand loyalty there is no silver bullet, but knowing what value proposition to focus on and how to make adjustments can help marketers to acquire high level of trust over time.
If you truly want to earn the trust of your audience, don’t get sucked into the numbers game.
How many Twitter followers, Facebook fans or Linkedin connections you have on is far less important than how you interact with them.
Instead of concentrating on how many social network participants you have, try instead to gauge success on how engage they are with your brand.
The take away: When it comes to trust, it pays to earn it over time via high targeted more personalized channel that drives engagement and loyalty.
Mass media may reach a wider audience faster but the conversion rate is low and the experience becomes de-personalize.
There is still a place for mass media, but there is growing concerns over the value and ROI in the long run.
Moving forward companies should focus on shifting towards a customer centric strategy that retains long term customer loyalty as a sustainable competitive advantage.
Unless your brand connects with the customer, your chance of earning trust will be slim.
The role of marketing is only going to become even more important and integrated closely with customer interactions.
Get back to the basics in the context of customer feedback.
It should be more about starting the conversation to understand the customer’s point of view in an holistic effort to co-create value that defines your brand strategy.
We’re almost midway through Q1 of 2010, if your business is still going through a tough time, you’re not alone. Perhaps it’s time to review your cost cutting measures or reexamine your value proposition to your customers.
McKinsey Quarterly recently published “The downturn’s new rules for marketers,” which suggests new ways to look at marketing in this post-recession era. Here are some key points from the article:
– To weather the storm, it will be necessary to identify anew who and where the profitable customers are and to prioritize the most effective marketing and sales vehicles for reaching them.
– The old tactic of focusing on historically profitable regions and customer groups will miss the mark. Instead, marketing and sales executives must reprioritize geographic markets and customer segments at every shift of economic fortune.
– Business-to-business (B2B) companies must go a step further. A fresh look at segments isn’t enough; instead, such companies must reexamine their opportunities and risks on a customer-by-customer basis.
– No matter how a company arrives at its quality assessment, the real power comes from combining that analysis with data on the reach and cost of an advertising vehicle. This combination of reach, cost, and quality helps marketers compare the impact of different vehicles on an “apples to apples” basis—the key to effective prioritzation.
– Companies that follow the playbook from past recessions will probably chase markets and segments made less attractive by the present downturn and focus too many resources on traditional marketing vehicles and frontline salespeople. To avoid these costly mistakes, marketing and sales executives must dynamically reassess their geographic, customer, advertising, and sales force priorities, with constant attention to the ever-shifting economics of this downturn.
The take away: It’s time to check under the hood of your marketing vehicles. Not just from a marketing perspective but from a brand’s perspective to focus on customer-centric strategies in order to improve the overall brand value. What’s your value to your customers? Can you differentiate? How do you stay relevant? How will your reprioritize your business opportunities? Marketing is no longer owned by the marketing department only, consider a more fluid approach in coming up with your new marketing playbook. We must adopt a marketing strategies that mimic the lives of our consumers and how they choose to interact with brands.
As we progress into 2010, the rapid growth of social media has allowed more access to information, consumers, communities, and experiences. This new medium has enabled a new way to communicate and share, from B2C to B2B marketers are all trying to figure out an edge. Many brands start to focus on the hybrid approach which I believe will be the next phase of digital and web marketing. The question is what role will it play in the marketing arsenal?
Here are 3 steps to consider when integrating social media to your marketing practices:
Brand Strategy Reassessment
Understand the changing habits of your customers should be the focus of your brand. Use the 80/20 rule to segment your customers and identify the difference between your old customers and new customers. The recession has permanently altered the way people think of value and the concept of trust.
The effects of the Great Recession on consumer behavior are so profound that many of the assumptions underpinning consumer segmentation are no longer valid; and
Marketing strategies that do not fully recognize the diversity of consumers’ recession experiences won’t have the desired potency in the post-recession world.
Business owners should reassess existing brand strategy to gauge the shift in their industry ecosystem. Although the above report focuses on B2C, for B2B marketers, you can expect similar shift in behavior from a high level perspective.
The key is identifying the new trends in how your customers think, feel and act. Your customers may be part of the fastest growing mobile user groups or have adopted new ways to find and share information before they buy. Every person and their sphere of influence were affected by this recession, reevaluate your existing customer segmentation should be a priority. It’s time to make adjustments as to how you view your customers.
Smart companies will always shift their brand strategy to focus on customer retention by maintaining a high level of value perception. Your customers expect you to keep your brand promise and that’s just the beginning, only those that are over delivering will earn the trust over time.
Integrated Marketing and ROI
Social media’s growth is undeniable, it seems like every company has a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account not to mention all the early adopter consumers. For example, according to a report from BabyCenter, “The number of moms who use social media regularly (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, BabyCenter Community) has significantly increased from 11% to 63% since 2006; a change of 46%. 44% use social media for word-of-mouth recommendations on brands and products and 73% feel they find trustworthy information about products and services through online communities focused on their specific interests such as parenting.”
So does this mean if you sell to moms, you must get into all the social networks? Should social media marketing be your priority? Not so fast.
According to a study from MomConnection, The Parenting Group’s nationally representative research panel of 5,000 moms, “the role of social networks in moms’ lives is still largely for entertainment and personal communication; it’s not a channel where most moms are receptive to gathering product information. Only 24% of respondents have used Facebook for product information and buying advice, while 5% have used Myspace for product info, and 3% have used Twitter.”
Social networks is still growing and evolving because it’s mass media, it’s crowdsourcing and it’s here to stay. However, instead of being hype it’s moving towards ubiquity and part of the everyday mix that works alongside email and search marketing. People will continue to search for answers online and offline regardless of B2B or B2C. Every chance you get to optimize your brand’s search ranking is an opportunity to leave a bread crumb for your prospects.
Moving forward, the challenges will be to monitor, measure and manage a fully integrated campaign due to the amount of resources and time it takes to pull together the overall picture. This is precisely the reason why you don’t need to be on all the social networks or even be on it all the time. Some companies use social media as a platform for effective one on one engagement while others utilize it as a PR tool.
Whatever the role social media plays in your organization, you have to really understand how social media is driving your business. If you’re doing social media, do you know how many sales you got out of your social media app? Are you measuring the actual incremental sales from your e-commerce store? Or is social media primarily a driver for your brand value?
Both print and digital advertising costs have come down dramatically, this presents a new opportunity for a dynamic approach to hybrid marketing. You can simultaneously capture your audience via print and web advertising but the key is to identify which channel they come from to rapidly and accurately aggregate customer and prospect data. Perhaps most of your new customers reside on the internet while your existing customers still favors the traditional channel. Regardless of how you integrate your marketing campaign, remember to benchmark them so you can gauge the ROI to improve your sale funnel and lead generation capabilities.
If you goal is to build a customer engagement program, consider incorporating it with existing and new CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools that can be customized for each individual consumer. This helps to improve the ROI with more measurable data against the deliverable.
Businesses will emerge from the recession looking to further strengthen engagement and interaction with their customers. But what does “engagement” really mean? How much does it cost? And what will it take to engage a customer? If you have already done the first two steps by reassessing your brand strategy and integrate social media into your marketing campaigns, your next focus should be to develop a social media policy to protect your company and make incremental changes to improve every aspect of your business.
I’m hardly surprise when I read the new consumer poll by CMO Council and InfoPrint, that “consumers today are deluged and overloaded with a plethora of unwanted direct marketing and promotional messages that are blasted out via email, or mass-produced and mailed in vast quantities, ending up choking mail boxes and filling recycling bins. In most cases, recipients ignore, or have become immune, to standardized commercial overtures. And with the advent of the Internet, consumers are seeking product information and affirmation from trusted sources and referral networks online.”
That’s the path social media is on right now.
Instead of email and mass-produced mailers, it’s spam tweets and uninvited LinkedIn notifications. Marketers are forgetting that consumers and prospects are real people like you and me. At the end of the day when we go to the grocery store or eat out at a restaurant we want to be treated like a person not a prey. It’s shocking to me that “staying relevant, valued and connected to customers has become the number one challenge for marketers today” according to the report.
The biggest adjustment brands must realize is that in social media you’re no longer in control of the conversation instead you will turn over the brand experience to the community and let them define it. If you want people’s opinion they’ll give it to you the way they want how they want it. Social media will NOT fix a bad product or negative customer experience. What it will do is to force you to reveal your brand’s true persona, allow additional means for your customer to reach you, and capture relevant analytical data for product and service improvements.
If you read my previous post “The 12 Principles of Brand Strategy,” you’ll know that principle number 2 states that your brand is your business model. Well, if your customer’s behavior is changing, shouldn’t you adjust your business too?
Checkout these challenges to social marketing effectiveness, and you’ll understand why it’s not so simple to integrate social media into your existing marketing practice. Is it worth to invest in obtaining a large number of Facebook fans or Twitter followers? How do you convert them into sales?
There needs to be a transition and I believe hybrid marketing on a single integrated platform will be the next trend to emerge in an attempt to leveling the playing field across all social networks.
I hope you find the information helpful, share your thoughts what do you think? Have you integrated social media into your marketing strategy?
It will be increasingly difficult for brands to ignore the web when making marketing decisions. The brands that get ahead will be the ones that harness the web to work in conjunction with their existing offline campaigns while adopting more social marketing strategies to generating new consumer insights.
Customers will continue to increase their time spent online and they need to be reach where they prefer to be reached.
Even for companies marketing entirely online or B2B businesses, the question will be how to benefit from blogs, social media and search engine to achieve the marketing goals?
How to take their brand message online and into web communities that will create new business opportunities?
Here are 3 web marketing trends to consider:
1) A Shift in Web Properties to Blend Online With Offline Campaigns
There are two parts to this trend. First is the optimization of web properties, specifically efforts in blogs, social media, search engine optimization and email.
Second is the strategic usage of those web properties within an overall campaign that may or may not include offline media (e.g. direct mail, catalogs, print ads, TV, radio etc.).
Benefits to consider:
Both online and offline campaigns have similar concepts in reaching target audience with different processes so define your desire outcome first.
More touch points (frequency) to reach target audience throughout the buying process
Lowers marketing costs by shifting more campaigns online from offline (plus flexible payment models)
Faster time-to-benefit in tools and planning
Find out more about your customers via two way conversation online
More strategic options with online campaigns (e.g. brand awareness campaign, call-to-action campaign, lead-generation campaign)
Target new customer base across multiple demographic for wider reach
Ideas for action: For consumer brands – build and drive traffic to your own community, identify and communicate directly with your fans to help close the sales with promotions, coupons or rewards.
This is a popular approach to get opt-ins and many consumers actually look for these value-added deals.
Aggregate your social media profile on all outbound materials both online and offline to support the decision and buying process of prospects and customers.
Own the relationship and be platform agnostic with you network of customers, focus on supporting the needs of the community as a priority before promoting your offerings. As always, enlist someone that will take ownership in this role.
For B2B brands – Leverage content marketing strategy to drive sales leads from search engine ads, email campaigns, social media communities, affiliate blogs or offline media to a highly targeted micro-site for prospects to opt-in for webinars, podcasts or free resources (e.g. whitepaper, reports, presentations).
The goal is to pre-qualify leads that can filter through the sales cycle to improve the probability to convert the sales efficiently.
When you’re able to convert sales efficiently, it saves time and money allowing your operations to be more productivity.
2) New Measuring Matrix: Hybrid Measurement
Unlike traditional forms of gathering consumer insight, online tools are often cheaper, based on much larger sample sizes, and are quicker to deliver results.
For the past few years the value ofsearch engine marketing (SEM) are measured largely by ad impressions, page views and click through rates.
However, as internet users are more willing to input additional data online, companies are now looking to measure key metrics of engagement on a person-level.
According to a recent comScore and Starcom USA’s study on how U.S. Internet users click on display ads, “Only 8% of internet users now account for 85% of all clicks… The results underscore the notion that, for most display ad campaigns, the click-through is not the most appropriate metric for evaluating campaign performance. Rather, advertisers should consider evaluating campaigns based on their view-through impact.”
That’s just one of the examples that web analytics can be misleading.
It will continue to be challenging for marketers to abstract reliable data as social media adds another pile of data to the media measurement mix.
The future trend to measure more accurately will be to combine technical web analytics (server logs) with a sampling of user surveys (opt-in by visitors) that visits the site. Although there will be sampling errors, it certainly beats making assumptions that doesn’t reflect real user behaviors.
Benefits to consider:
Provides more realistic feedback that extends the meaning of web analytics
Rich information aggregation from online surveys/feedback forms provide personal data and demographics to better understand your audience
Keep track of page(s) users frequent and the duration can help you benchmark it against server data to find the delta in errors
Can be utilized across multiple platforms including mobile, gaming, ad networks and offline campaigns
Ideas for action: Create a web survey on your site, put them on different pages then compare them with your web analytics.
Develop your own dashboard using hybrid measurement by choosing one that’s has the API integration with your Google Analytics account (most of them do now).
Reward visitors that take the survey with coupons, discounts or gifts (sometimes it’s not even necessary, just a thank you will do).
Switch out the questions, put them on different pages and try different styles of asking from stealth at-the-corner feedback button to in-your-face pop ups.
3) Marketing Platform Extends to Mobile, Social, and Local in Real-Time
There is no question with 13 hours of YouTube videos uploaded every minute and over 900,000 blog posts every 24 hour, you can definitely count on the continuation of information overload over the social web.
This means content has to be tailored to fit the lifestyle of today’s digerati on smart phones that can accessible the web via faster and more available network.
Accordingly to The Niesen Company, “U.S. mobile subscriber base grew 7% to 277 million by the second quarter of 2009, which represented 221 million unique users…. Social networking drove the growth train for mobile Internet, with a 187% increase in audience for the year ending July 2009. The distribution of 18.3 million unique social network users by the top three sites is Facebook (26% reach), MySpace (13% reach) and Twitter (7% reach).”
What does this mean? It’s means that the growth in social networking will accelerate as mobile technology advances to embrace emerging trends in mobile social commerce, on-demand interaction from the real-time web, and fascinating concept of augmented reality.
Brands should leverage mobile marketing strategy to drive sales and cultivate customer engagement.
There are a number of ways to do this but ultimately consumer brands will have an easier time in adopting the usage of the mobile platform than B2B companies.
The opportunities for B2B companies remain the same – to generate leads and shorten the sales cycle.
Marketers will need to rethink content marketing strategy that aligns with the business objectives to deliver a dynamic mobile consumer experience.
Benefits to consider:
More opportunities to engage with customers (new or existing) means brand building and top-of-mind awareness
Smartphone owners tend to be affluent with expendable income, making it a prime target for product and service marketing (ready-to-buy candidates)
Aggregate rich user information (e.g. user profile, ratings, recommendations, tags etc.) from location based mobile apps
There are numerous mobile apps that can push out information across all social networks by authenticating with your Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube account, making it mobile and real-time viral
Deliver superior experience with augmented reality
Ideas for action: Leverage the mobile platform to provide unique location based experiences (e.g. services, games, ads, commerce) for your audience via instant customer support (e.g. assist in the buying process like check inventories or availabilities), real-time product information (e.g. price check, health labels), or event promotional notifications (e.g. cause marketing programs for non-profits, or buy-it-now via SMS or mobile web app/browser).
Another idea is to create downloadable coupons to promote offline activities to drive traffic to local events. According to RetailMeNot, “coupons are now the deciding factor in purchases for nearly one-third of consumers.”
In today’s economy, coupon is the call-to-action that can produce rapid, favorable results to drive sales. Offer coupons based on location also helps your customer to discover new retail locations, making marketing as a service via alerts.
The take away: These Web marketing trends will reshape your marketing efforts as more conversations, engagements and experiences are delivered via the internet.
In order to stay relevant, brands must transition to become more social on the web and use mobile platforms to gain competitive advantage or risk of loosing opportunities.
Are you thinking about moving your marketing efforts online?
If you’re already doing the mix and match of online and offline marketing, how are you measuring your ROI? Do you have a mobile marketing strategy?