Three New Required Roles for your company: (#2) Social Anthropologist

In the first post of this series, we talked about listening for what people are saying about you, your brand, your market, your products and services, or market needs that your organization has an answer for. I intentionally didn’t dig into all the things you can do with that data – some are passive and some are active. The important part was listening. Turning that data into actionable insight is where the real magic can happen, but that’s a post for a different day. 😉

A couple of weeks ago, well known social superwoman blogger Amber Naslund sent this surprised tweet out:

Amber Naslund Tweet

It is very interesting indeed. But I think I have a good idea of where that hiring company is going.

Today, I’m going to turn our attention to the second required role for your company: The Social Anthropologist.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear that phrase, it immediately brings to mind sleepy images of some British guy talking slowly and methodically on a Sunday afternoon about some displaced nomads in the bush of Botswana.

African Tribe

But that’s not what I am talking about here. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Know your customer.

Today, most companies are doing a good job of profiling their customers based on transactional data.

(1) Who spent the most money with us this year?
(2) Who is forecasted to spend more money with us next year?
(3) What net new opportunities do we have?

We may be breaking this data down by region, SIC Code, etc. We may have history of our marketing campaigns, response rates, phone calls, web form submissions, email interactions, sales person’s notes. We’ve got it all; Mounds and mounds of data about our customers.

With all this data, we may think we know our customers. But we don’t. In fact, we know very little about them.

A more complete customer profile

Harvey Mackay set out decades ago with his Mackay 66 to learn more about his customers. It was a differentiator. This was the next step towards actually knowing our customers. Do something like this, and you’ll be heads and shoulders above most of your competition.

But what if we were to take it even one step further?

What if we were to not just know about our customers, but also about the groups of people that they were part of, who they interact with, how they interact, and why?

Wikipedia defines Social Anthropology the following way:

Social anthropology is the branch of anthropology that studies how contemporary living human beings behave in social groups.

Practitioners of social anthropology investigate… the social organization of a particular people: customs, economic and political organization, law and conflict resolution, patterns of consumption and exchange, kinship and family structure, gender relations, childrearing and socialization, religion, and so on.

Most of our customers don’t live on an island (unless they live in Hawaii, or Australia, or… Suwarrow). No, I’m not talking about that kind of island anyway.

Strive to learn about your customers (and prospects) in the context of their lives.

They (We) all have circles of friendships, professional relationships, patterns, etc. that we live by. We have patterns of decision making, and we all make decisions based on influence of those we know and trust.

Below is an example of the #scrm Accidental Community on Twiangulate compliments of Josh Weinberger

By understanding more about those who influence our customer’s decisions; who they interact with, how they interact, and why they interact, we may discover valuable insights that may help us to meet our customer’s needs better, and if your organization is prepared enough, even co-create solutions with them.

Conversely, we may also begin to understand who our customers influence, and why a successful sale might not only allow us to recognize revenue from that single purchase, but also a chain of purchases based on the influence and recommendation of our customer’s purchase decision.

These insights are not only valuable for each individual prospect or customer, but also in aggregate. By profiling groups or segments of our customer base (or our target market in general), we can potentially gain key insights into who is likely deriving the most value from our products and service offerings.

The internet is compiling a huge amount of data

Feed.ly knows that 65% of my facebook friends are male, their most popular music group is U2, and their most popular movie is Gladiator.

While this may not present immediate opportunity in your mind, the point is illustrated. By knowing who I talk to, what their interests are, when and how we communicate, there are numerous opportunities to know more about me, what my preferences are, and what opportunities exist to help me in my daily life.

IBM recently did a social network analysis project called SNAzzy , to accurately chart and predict lifetime customer value and churn rates in the telecommunications industry.

James Koblieus points out on his blog the huge impact social network analysis will have on data warehouse growth and there are plenty of other challenges that await us as we begin to analyze and make sense of this data, and integrate with our existing systems and processes.

This is a new area for me and something I’ll definitely be spending more time on. If you know of any additional resources, please send them over.

Your customers and prospects are sharing, talking, conversing, and transacting. Get to know them. Partner with them, and find more people like them.

The 5 Stages of Customer Acquisition for the Social Business (Part 3)

This is the third and final of a three part post.

We’ve been talking about the AIPEE Pyramid over the past couple of weeks. I haven’t embedded the full image of the AIPEE Pyramid on this post, but if you’d like to take another look, you can click here to have it open in a new window, or review Post 1 and Post 2 in their entirety by clicking on the links.

In Post 1 we introduced you to the AIPEE Pyramid, and pointed your gaze toward the enchanting Blue Circled R – the icon representative of desired destination our prospect’s journey: the R Value Exchange.

The Mysterious and enchanting Blue Circled R

In Post 2, we took a detailed look at the 5 stages of the journey up the pyramid:

AIPEE Pyramid Simple

In today’s third and final post, we are going to focus on the following:

  • The customer’s response to their journey up the pyramid
  • The Value Exchange Retention Cycles

(1) The customer’s response to their journey up the pyramid

Humans have always been social. We’ve always told our friends, family, acquaintances and business associates about our day, our experiences, our hopes and dreams, who we like and don’t like, etc. Mitch Lieberman expands on this thought in a very worthwhile post titled Social Just Is…

Word of mouth has been around since, well, before words were written. Once upon a time, all communication was word of mouth.

What has changed is how many people we can tell things to in such a short amount of time. Social Technologies are an amplifier. The spreading of ideas, good and bad, and the repercussions of the spread of that information are now exponential.

Good experiences get amplified – an exponential boost to your brand.

Bad experiences, well, can spread like wildfire, and can do significant damage to your brand and reputation in a short amount of time. Here are some of the top negative PR events of 2009.

But really, this isn’t new either. Bad PR stories have been picked up and spread via the press for decades.

What is new is that EVERYBODY is the media. There is no longer a filter. ABC, CBS, and NBC no longer have the control over what is worth hearing about. Our peers do. You do. I do. Ashton Kutcher certainly he believes that he does.

Information and Stories that are worth spreading will be spread.

You: “Great Brian. But, what does all of this have to do with the pyramid?”
Me: “Good point. Let’s try and tie these pieces back together.”

Up to this point in the series, we’ve talked about how each prospect, one by one, makes their journey up the pyramid. There is a specialized craft in designing our sales and marketing efforts so that we can add the most value possible at each stage in the initial journey with our prospect.

But what if there was such value in what we shared that our prospects began to amplify and spread our content across their networks, at each and every stage of their journey with us?

Seth Godin expands upon this point in his blog post titled The Big Drop Off:

We try so hard to build the first circle.

This is the circle of followers, friends, subscribers, customers, media outlets and others willing to hear our pitch. This is the group we tell about our new product, our new record, our upcoming big sale. We want more of their attention and more people on the list.

Which takes our attention away from the circle that matters, which is the second circle.

The second circle are the people who hear about us from the first circle.

If the first circle is excited about what we do and it’s remarkable enough to talk about, they’ll tell two or six or ten friends each. And if we’re really good, the second circle, the people we don’t even know–they’ll tell the third circle. And it’s the third circle that makes you a hit, gets you elected and tips your idea.

The big drop off is the natural state of affairs. The big drop off is the huge decline that occurs between our enthusiasm (HEY! BUY THIS!) and the tepid actions of the first circle (yawn). Great marketers don’t spend their time making the first circle bigger. They spend all their time crafting services, products and stories that don’t drop off.

GOAL #1: Create and provide maximum value in your content and interactions
GOAL #2: Keep the amplifier in mind. Try and create so much value that people are compelled, almost mandated to share it with their network of friends and associates. Think of it this way: What could you provide to you prospects that would enable them to add value to their network by sharing it?

Hey, I know that most of you are smart savvy innovators – sales, marketing and demand generation geniuses. So let’s fast forward a bit, and assume we’ve done that. We’ve knocked it out of the park. What happens after we get to the R Exchange, and exchange value with our prospect for the first time?

(2) The Value Exchange Retention Cycles

Hopefully the relationship we’ve worked so hard to nurture doesn’t stop there. I’ve highlighted 3 areas where and how further exchange might take place. Let’s briefly touch on each of them.

A. Repeat Transactions

Depending on our business and our previous exchange, we may regularly exchange value in a similar fashion. We may keep getting referrals. We may keep selling the same consumable over and over. The monthly subscription might just keep auto-renewing. It might just take a series of brief, regular “touches” to keep the Value Exchange wheel turning . But remember, in order to keep our customers with us, we need to continue to add value. It’s a post for another day, but access to competitive alternatives has never been broader or easier.

B. Upsell Opportunities (Deeper Commitment)

We’ve had an initial exchange. But, there’s more there. We know it. They know it. There is more dialogue to be had. There are more problems to be solved. You’ll see that the retention circle extends back down into the engagement stage. Deeper dialogue covering Value Discovery, Co-Creation, Deepening of trust are now back in play, and layers of the onion are peeled back as new needs are discovered and new solutions are presented.

C. CrossSell Opportunities (Different Product and Service Offerings)

You’ll notice that this retention circle ventures all the way back down to the permission stage. Perhaps we’ve solved a set of problems for our customer. We’ve added value in a specific area. But perhaps, there are new opportunities for value exchange in areas we haven’t even touched on yet. Areas of our customer’s business that may have different rules, needs, players, politics, budgets, goals, etc. While we’ve exchanged value for one business purpose, we may need to display competency in another area in order to earn permission to engage in dialogue for that need as well.

And that, my friends, brings us to our close.

We’ve taken a look at how to get our prospect’s attention, and facilitate a journey towards a mutual value exchange. We’ve looked at how social technologies amplify everything good and bad, and we’ve taken a brief look at how our relationship with our customers (partners, influencers, etc.) can be retained and nurtured for continuous value exchange.

Now it’s your turn. I’m anxious to hear your feedback:

1. Am I on the mark? How can we adjust this image to more accurately represent how businesses today and in the future can leverage social technologies for exponential revenue growth?

2. What did I forget?

3. Where am I flat wrong?

4. How does this compare with your personal Customer Acquisition efforts today, and your plans for the future?

5. Does the image accurately reflect the concepts and ideas presented in the text?

6. And most of all, I am interested in hearing your unique, unfiltered personal insights, questions, and observations.

Thanks again for your feedback.

– Brian @CRMStrategies

The 5 Stages of Customer Acquisition for the Social Business (Part I)

This is the first of a Three Part Post.

“The purpose of a business is to create and keep customers.” — Theodore Levitt

So then, the next logical question is how do we create customers? And once we get them, how can we keep them? While keeping them engaged and developing them into advocates is vitally important and we’ll touch on that subject slightly in this post, the focus here is: How do we bring new sheep into the flock? This will likely appeal most to the Sales, Business Development, and Marketing types.

But isn’t this an old conversation? Has any of this really changed with the rapid rise of Social Technologies? I believe it has, and will illustrate the point below.

Don’t get me wrong. The fundamentals of business haven’t changed – but the tools and technology available to us, and how we can (and will be forced to) accomplish fundamental business goals like “New Customer Acquisition” have.

I’ve attempted to illustrate my thoughts in the image below – called the AIPEE Pyramid. Click on the link to view the diagram in a higher resolution. Special thanks to Mitch Lieberman and Graham Hill for reviewing my first draft and sharing their valuable feedback which have been incorporated into the current draft.

Before we get too far, here are some parameters to keep in mind as you study the Pyramid:

WHAT THIS ISN’T:

(1) A Comprehensive Social Business diagram – there is far more going on in the Social Enterprise than what is illustrated here. The focus is relatively narrow, specifically on Customer Acquisition. Quite simply, how do you have more conversations with more prospects, and provide enough value so that they participate with you in an R Value Exchange? (What happened to creating Customers you ask? More on that below.)

(2) A “One size fits all” solution: Most companies and business models can find value from this illustration. However, it was primarily built with a solution/consultative sale in mind. For Transactional Sales, the model might look slightly different. I am interested in your thoughts on this.

(3) A perfect image: You’ll notice that the image shows Beta Version 0.5. There will be changes and tweaks – hopefully because of your helpful feedback and critiques. Once the pyramid becomes more defined, the image quality will be better as well. 🙂 Consider this a rough “back of the napkin” sketch.

WHAT THIS IS:

A baseline road map of how to successfully find, attract, and engage prospects leveraging Social Technologies so that you may provide something of use to them, and therefore participate in an exchange of value.

What’s our Target Destination?

Before we start breaking down each stage, let’s focus our eyes on the first box under the heading Interaction Medium towards the top right of the image – this is where we’d like to ultimately go.

You’ll notice a blue R with a circle around it. No, this isn’t a tribute to the boy wonder. This is my uber creative symbol for the R Value Exchange. This is our target destination. If possible, we’d like to have as many of our interactions with new folks ultimately end up here.

This doesn’t necessarily always mean that we get money in exchange for the value that we’ve provided. We may receive money (ie. Revenue). We might also receive something of less quantifiable or transferable value – a Referral to someone who might find more value in what we are offering than the prospect we are currently engaged with, or a Recommendation, something that we may use as social proof that we are indeed a provider of value in the marketplace. In the ideal scenario, we’ll receive all 3 – over and over and over.

With that in mind, let’s breakdown each stage, starting at the bottom, since this is where things (generally) start. While I’ll lay this out in a perfect linear approach, it’s important to remember that in real life;

a. There are multiple entry points on the pyramid.
b. Most will abandon their journey before they get to the Circled R for a myriad of reasons.
c. Many could move up and down the pyramid in a non-linear sequence before they reach the Circled R.

This is a baseline. A framework from which to build a basic strategy, and a template from which to facilitate dialogue. In my mind, I have at least a dozen iterations of the the pyramid – but in all of them, this is at the core.

So without further adieu, let’s examine the first stage of the pyramid:

ATTENTION
For marketers, here is where we are casting our net far and wide. The key difference versus what we’ve traditionally done is that companies can no longer rely on “shouting” a message. Ads are less effective than they’ve ever been and trust in companies is about as low as it has ever been. The new goal is to provide something of value…something so valuable that folks who have never even heard of you or your brand want to share it with their friends. The most successful viral campaign in recent history is one from Blendtec. Google this to see what they did. There are dozens of other examples as well.

The content that you provide might be a public webcast, podcast, video, white paper, etc. It might be funny, proprietary and valuable research, or something else that will resonate with your target demographic. The idea is to get something interesting and valuable in front of the eyes of some key influencers within your demographic.

Side Note: While I haven’t created a visual yet, also visualize the LIPEE pyramid (where Listening is substituted for Attention). Instead of the company creating compelling content to attract attention, it “listens” to and monitors the socialsphere for mentions of their brand, their core competency, or other key words which might be a signal to engage in “interaction” through Social Channels.

Tomorrow, we’ll look a little closer at the additional stages, and on Friday, we’ll wrap things up with a summary. I look forward to your thoughts, comments, questions, and critiques along the way.

Traditional CRM vs Social CRM: Expanded

Brent Leary, widely recognized expert on Social CRM, does a great job of summarizing the difference between Traditional CRM and Social CRM in the Inc. magazine Article below. I’ve added some of my additional thoughts.

Traditional CRM vs. Social CRM

By Brent Leary

Traditional customer relationship management’s strong suit has been improved operational effectiveness, easier access to data, and improved collaboration. Social media adds the dimension of connecting with potential customers.

Connecting with potential customers is one of the biggest challenges facing small businesses today. A recent study by Network Solutions and the University of Maryland shows that marketing/innovation is the single biggest competitive disadvantage confronting small business, after access to capital. In fact, converting marketing leads into buyers and finding efficient ways to promote and advertise, are two areas small businesses say they struggle the most with. This finding is supported by a recent Microsoft small business study, which found customer acquisition and retention to be the biggest challenges facing their small business partners.

To help overcome customer acquisition challenges, many small businesses are looking into customer relationship management (CRM) tools and strategies. In the past, many viewed CRM as being too complex and expensive to implement for the expected return on investment. But over the last couple of years, software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings from the likes of Salesforce.com, NetSuite, and a host of others have allowed companies of all sizes to implement CRM products and services at a fraction of the cost, time and effort needed in the past.

Brian here. I would add the following to Brent’s statements:

The first being that many companies are now looking towards “Traditional CRM” solutions not only because they are interested in improving their customer acquisition efforts, but because they have realized that customer retention efforts are their best bet in an environment where there are fewer new and existing customers in the marketplace. This desire to improve customer retention is currently next to impossible because they don’t really even know who their customers are, and which ones would be the most beneficial to keep. CRM can help with that.

SaaS (Software as a Service) offerings have been steadily gaining traction over the past several years, but the argument that it saves cost, time, and effort has been a hotly debated topic. For some small businesses a SaaS solution certainly makes the most sense, but a good percentage of companies still choose an on-premise solution because of 1. Security/Privacy Concerns, 2. Ease of Integration with other applications 3. Lower long term TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).

Traditionally, CRM’s strong suit has been improved operational effectiveness, easier access to information, and improved interdepartmental collaboration. While these are critically important to the success of any business, the focal point of these areas are internal to the company. And while a more efficient company should have a positive impact on customer interaction and responsiveness, does it really help us to meaningfully connect with those potential customers empowered in a Web 2.0 world?

Social media adds this missing dimension to the traditional, operational areas of CRM. And according to a recent Nielsen Company study, two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visited a social networking site or blogging site — what they refer to as “member communities.” The integration of social media into CR strategy — called Social CRM — differs in focus from traditional customer relationship management in a few key ways.

Data-driven vs. content-driven

Businesses began investing in CRM applications in the ‘90s mainly to store contact data. Before contact management software was available, businesses had to store their valuable customer information in Rolodexes, spreadsheets, and even filing cabinets. It was important to have a central location to store the data that was also easily accessible to communicate effectively with contacts. And with multiple people “touching” the customer for various reasons, it quickly became important to be able to track activities, appointments, potential deals, notes, and other information. Consequently, traditional CRM grew out of this need to store, track, and report on critical information about customers and prospects.

Social CRM is growing out of a completely different need — the need to attract the attention of those using the Internet to find answers to business challenges they are trying to overcome. And nothing captivates the attention of searchers like relevant, compelling content. Having the right content, and enough of it, will help connect you with those needing your product or service. Creating content in formats that make it easy for your target audience to consume it increases the probability that you will move them to action — starting a conversation with you. Whether it be by developing a blog post, podcast, YouTube video, or Webinar, creating attractive content is a key pillar of social CRM strategy.

In addition to supporting and enabling marketing, lead generation, and customer acquisition efforts, Social Media and therefore Social CRM are also being leveraged by companies for customer service, brand monitoring, and customer retention efforts. The content production that Brent mentions is a great way of attracting eyeballs and filling the lead funnel, but companies are also integrating “listening” into their Social CRM strategy. Companies like Comcast have used Twitter to monitor negative comments about their brand and take a proactive approach at solving problems for disgruntled customers. Social Media and its integration with traditional CRM efforts have opened up new ways to turn an unhappy customer into a raving fan. Other companies like HelpStream and Lithium are pioneering new ground, using Social Technologies to build communities where customers and prospects interact with each other to solve problems and discuss ways to best leverage companies products and services.

Process-centric vs. conversation-centric

Traditional customer relationship management is heavily focused on implementing and automating processes. Companies looking to implement processes like lead and activity management would turn to CRM. Management would turn to CRM to standardize on sales processes to increase the accuracy of sales forecasts. And customer service requests could be tracked, routed, escalated, and resolved in a uniform fashion to ensure proper handling. Traditional CRM helped make it possible to ensure the proper activities and tasks would be performed by the appropriate people, in the correct sequences.

While there are processes involved in building a successful social CRM strategy, conversations are at the heart of it. Having meaningful conversations with those searching for the help you can provide is the turning point in transforming clicks into customers. The processes involved are aimed at making it easy for people to find us (through our content) and invite us into a conversation — on their terms. This may take the form of a comment left on a blog post, following your company on Twitter, or possibly embedding your PowerPoint presentation on their webpage. There are numerous ways to participate in meaningful conversations with people looking for help in solving challenges. Formalizing a strategy to increase the likelihood of engaging in these conversations is a tenant of social CRM.

Operationally-focused vs. people/community-focused

As mentioned above, managing customer information is a major concern to businesses of all sizes. It plays a key role in the ability of businesses to respond to customer requests, manage resources needed to close deals efficiently, and provide management with reports to keep track of sales performance. This helps executives achieve operational effectiveness, and is particularly important for businesses expanding their sales and marketing operations, needing to implement new processes to manage growth. Businesses have typically turned to CRM to improve communication between sales and marketing operations, as well as to improve data-access to positively impact decision making.

Whereas traditional CRM activity focused heavily on operational effectiveness and its impact — both internally and on the customer — social CRM is all about people and community. It’s about how your company intends to participate in the ongoing conversations taking place in the industry. How you embrace non-traditional influential people like popular industry bloggers, and social sites on the Web frequented by your audience. And fully understanding the importance of contributing to discussions, in a transparent manner, will help you build the kind of reputation needed to become a valued member of the online communities important to your business.

So if you’re turning to CRM to help bring on new customers, you’ll have to go beyond traditional CRM focuses by integrating social media infused tactics and strategies. But it’s important to remember social CRM is not a substitute, but a much needed complement to traditional areas of customer relationship management. It gets us close to what we’ve needed all along.

Brent Leary is a small-business technology analyst, adviser, and award-winning blogger. He is the co-author of Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Business. His blog can be found at http://brentleary.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/brentleary

via Traditional CRM vs. Social CRM

Have additional thoughts or ideas related to the differences? Please share them below!

Orange County Customer Experience Awards: Part 1

Over the course of the past couple weeks, I have been impressed by some local firms providing an exceptional customer experience. I’d like to highlight some of them over the next few weeks, and have thus begun the Orange County Customer Experience Awards. By the way, if you’ve recently had a great experience with a company, let me know. I’d love to hear about your experiences, and possibly highlight them here. PLEASE NO SELF PROMOTION.

While my experiences are with small, local firms, I believe enterprises should take note and evaluate how they might provide the same type of exceptional customer experience even if they are a $10 million, $100 million, or billion dollar company.

My wife and I recently had our second child, and after much research and online shopping for “dual strollers”, we decided to check out a local shop to actually see these modern engineering marvels that have ever bloated sticker prices, functions and features to see what all the hype was about.

We had been informally introduced to a local boutique firm called OC Travel Tykes that takes an expert consultative approach to strollers. I know, I know, it’s strollers for pete’s sake. But the captivating part was, once we arrived to meet Kelly (the owner and proprietor), she took the time to do a relatively exhaustive needs analysis on our lifestyle, asking a number of questions like “how often do we travel?”, “How often do we exercise?”, “How old is your oldest, and how often do they like to ride in a stroller?”, etc.

Once this initial conversation was completed, Kelly introduced us to each of the strollers that were candidates for our needs, and explained why certain strollers probably weren’t the best fit for our needs, ultimately allowing us to drive the conversation, while taking time to give background on each company, philosophy, parts and materials, frequency of returns, and pros and cons of each stroller.

The experience (regardless of the product) was one of the best I’ve been part of for quite some time. I kept thinking, “This is such a phenomenal experience. All things the same, I want to buy our stroller here.” A bit of perspective; This type of reaction happens in me about once every 4 years. Since I live and breathe CRM, I find myself being generally overly critical in evaluating vendors across the board.

Time passed, life is busy. Kelly politely placed a couple of follow up calls about a week apart.

Ultimately my wife and I stepped back into the “Stroller mindset”, discussed our options, cringed a bit at the price, and had made our choice. We planned on heading back to OC Travel Tykesthe following weekend to to pickup the stroller, but discovered that another major vendor was having a 20% off sale.

While I was impressed with the customer experience, I wasn’t about to pay a 20% tip for the experience. After all, customers are fickle, and though I hate to admit it, I fall into that category. I called Kelly and explained to her the situation. I wanted to buy from her. I would gladly pay a small premium, but I couldn’t justify paying 20% more. After some consideration, Kelly offered to meet the price, and candidly shared that it didn’t leave much margin for her since she operated on a relatively small volume, but that she was happy to do it.

THINGS THAT OC TRAVEL TYKES DID RIGHT THAT VERY FEW COMPANIES ARE ABLE TO DELIVER

1. Offered a unique value proposition
Strollers are typically offered through big box department stores with low wage employees with very little expertise is strollers. In addition, no one else that I am aware of offers the “life needs analysis” that we received.

2. Low Barrier to Entry
OC Travel Tykes offers “Try before you buy” options. I haven’t seen that anywhere else

3. Personalized Service and Flexibility
Kelly schedules one on one appointments the best that she can. This avoids the typical retail experience of talk for 2 minutes, and then off to help another customer. She also allowed price flexibility for a business case/proposition that made sense.

BENEFITS OF OC TRAVEL TYKES APPROACH

1. She earned our business
Now granted, she didn’t make a mint off of our purchase, but she did get compensated for her time and efforts. She moved one more unit for her vendor. Multiply that by dozens of customers and you begin to see meaningful profits.

2. She created a “Fan”
I am now blogging about my experience. Anyone who has been in sales and marketing will tell you that the best lead is a personal referral.

3. Free Marketing
Not only will I tell my friends and family, but also thought that this experience was noteworthy enough to write about it. I have no idea how many new strollers or associated products she might sell because of this word of mouth, but it is probably more than the one that I bought. Multiply this be a few others who comment personally or through social media, and one positive experience multiplies into dozens of sales

4. The potential for repeat business
The next time I need a stroller (God forbid we have triplets), guess where I am going to go first? OC Travel Tykes. They’ve earned by business. Depending on the longevity of the company, my kids could potentially buy strollers from there when they have kids. This is how great organizations are built.

Do you know of any other companies in Orange County (or elsewhere) providing exceptional customer experiences? Let me know. Share a comment.

How is your organization doing at personalizing experiences, providing compelling value propositions, and enabling raving fans to share their experiences through personal interactions and social media?

Sound off everyone!

Thanks again to Kelly and OC Travel Tykes for a great experience!

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A primer on Social Media: Listen, Build, Engage, Share

If you are just familiarizing yourself with social media and how to leverage it in your organization, Becky Carroll on the 1to1 media blog does a nice job of summarizing the benefits of Social Media, and how companies can leverage tools like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  She does a nice job of separating the “cool factor” and hype from tangible benefits that can be reaped.

Has your company leveraged Social Media to deepen customer relationships?Do you have plans to? What question or concerns to you have?  Soundoff.

Guest Blogger Becky Carroll: Social Media Builds Customer Relationships

One of the most common questions being asked right now is this: “What should my company do about social media?” As more and more businesses are jumping in and creating corporate profiles on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and flickr, marketers are feeling the pressure to jump on the bandwagon. Some of these marketers plan to use social media as a cool set of tools to build awareness about their company. However, it is much more than that. Social media can be an integral part of a strategy to build customer relationships.

Let’s look at how social media can be used to deepen customer interaction and increase customer loyalty.

Social media builds trust.
It allows companies to be perceived as more human. You aren’t just talking to Comcast; Frank Eliason is there for you. You want to know more about Zappos; Tony Hsieh tells it like it is. Customers don’t want relationships with faceless companies; they want relationships with other people. The use of social media hastens the trust-building process by putting people instantly in touch with other people–critical in these days of corporate bail-outs and public uneasiness. Trust is the main component of a strong customer strategy.

Social media builds community.
Customers can’t easily rally around a website, as there is little interaction there; but they can rally around a brand’s presence on social media. What makes these communities so powerful is that many of them have been built and sustained by a brand’s fans. Fiskars, which makes scissors, encouraged the formation of a scrapbooking community. However, it is their customer ambassadors, or Fiskateers, who are responsible for driving the conversation and inviting others to join in. National Instruments uses its community, powered by social media, to bring together business customers to share technical information with each other, which is then used in National Instruments marketing materials. These communities are examples of likeminded people coming together and interacting around a common purpose; in this case, a company’s products and services. Ongoing customer interaction and engagement such as these increase loyalty and ultimately rate of purchase.

Social media increases word of mouth.
It allows information to be shared peer-to-peer at light-speed around the globe. As a result, customers are turning to social media ratings and reviews to research an organization’s offerings before making a buying decision. This is especially true in the B2B environment, where a large number of B2B buyers are participating actively in social media for business–reading blogs, writing reviews, watching user-generated videos, and joining social networks (source: Forrester). All of this enables the rapid spread of company news and information, as well as the sharing of customer success stories. Organizations that enlist their customers to help evangelize their products and services via social media find those customers to be fiercely loyal and willing to share their experiences with others who are like them. This in turn builds trust, as well as the customer base.

Social media enables two-way conversations.
This is the gold in the equation. Where companies used to have to rely on one-way email blasts, advertisements, and direct mail pieces, they can now interact directly with customers via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and a myriad of other social media tools. More is required than simply hanging out a corporate shingle on these sites, however. Companies need to fit these conversations into their overall customer strategy and marketing communications plan. In so doing, they will be able to gain deep customer insight from these new online interactions, including an understanding of customer behaviors and needs, as well as online reach and influence.

Getting Started
The best way to begin using social media is to stay quiet. Yes, social media enables great customer interactions, but first it is important to do some listening. Once a company has spent time monitoring conversations–about the company, competitors, the industry–only then is it truly equipped to begin participating in conversation. This is the best way to be relevant when stepping forward and inviting customers into your virtual lounge to get to know them, their likes and dislikes, as well as their personal side. The foundation will be laid, and rich customer relationships have every opportunity to blossom from these online engagements.

via Guest Blogger Becky Carroll: Social Media Builds Customer Relationships – Think customers: The 1to1 Blog.

Six (wait, Seven) Questions Every Company Should be asking themselves now related to Social Media

Guido Oswald, in his blog post, Are Facebook and Twitter just new channels? makes the assertion that Facebook and Twitter might revolutionize CRM as we know it.

I would argue that Social Networks are primarily another lead generation source, and is rapidly becoming THE MEDIUM by which customers prefer to use.

The fundamentals have been around for a long time. Customers want to have a conversation about what is important to them and will align themselves with individuals and companies that best meet their needs with a valuable solution. The technology has enabled this to happen as never before.

The statistics are staggering. The next chasm to cross is how to transition those social media conversations into the transactional based CRM (which by the way is important, too), and at what point?

Either way, the questions below are pertinent for all companies to ask themselves. I would add the the list – “How Can I get my customer base talking to each other, and then listen, learn, and/or engage or intercede at appropriate times?”

Adapting to the new consumer behavioral patterns leads us to what I call a CRM 2.0 strategy any other term will do as well as long as it has the same meaning and results.

New questions must be asked:

1. How can I have a meaningful conversation with my customers?

2. How can I engage customers to take an active part in this conversation?

3. How can I leverage the knowledge and willingness of customers?

4. Does my corporate culture allow meaningful conversations what changes are required?

5. Do I know the little aches and pains of my customers? Are they dealt with?

6. Who are my customers and where / whom do the talk about products and services?