Archive for the ‘Customer Experience’ Category

Blending the Art of Marketing with the Science of Technology

By Jeff Schick, Vice President, Social Software at IBM

Investments in IT have long been the domain of the CIO, but all of that is changing as CMOs increasingly impact IT investments in today’s social and digital world. Given the business realignment between marketing and technology, the CMO and CIO can no longer afford to operate on separate stages. To succeed, they’ll have to forge a shared agenda to deliver business results through innovation and efficiency.

CMOs: imagine your job, but with next-generation skills, expanded peer networks, and the tools and technologies to transform your profession. CIOs: think about sharing your expertise in enterprise IT integration and expanding your horizons further outside the firewall. Together you can approach marketing as an essential enterprise system that delivers innovation, business results, and better customer experiences.

One area challenging both CMOs and CIOs is how to leverage the growing social sphere.

Today’s CMO is struggling with how to better reach and engage with customers. According to the 2011 IBM CMO Study, 82% of CMOs say they plan to increase their use of social media over the next three to five years. We know today’s consumer has unlimited access to information and can instantly share it with the world. This immediacy has raised consumers’ expectations for 100% personalized communications and top-notch service.

At the same time, CIOs are facing a similar struggle within the organization’s walls. That same empowered consumer is today’s empowered employee striving to meet deadlines and deliver superior results at an even faster pace. According to IDC, employees typically see up to 30% increased productivity using social tools internally to complete their work. With a workforce that is socially oriented and geographically distributed, CIOs today are struggling to provide company data on every type of device for their on-the-go, highly motivated employees.

While social is a common denominator for today’s CMO and CIO, what does it look like when they come together to achieve their goals and in the end realize business value for their organization?

Here are some examples of organizations across the globe that are leading the charge, pioneering this C-suite social agenda, and as a result, delivering a superior social, digital brand experience for their customers and employees:

  • Taking advantage of cutting edge digital experience and social technologies, Wimbledon has transformed its web presence to meet the needs of the 16 million people who tune in online to the annual tennis championships. By visiting its website,, fans can share information, interact with, and connect to The Championships as though they were actually there.
  • is similarly embracing web experience technology to provide a 360-degree view of its entire business operations, enabling dealers to examine current inventory, change pricing, and manage photos, among many other business activities—ultimately providing better services to its customers. Today, has scaled to support 200 million unique visitors a year, an increase of 145 million visits since 2007.
  • Gruppo Amadori, a wholesale distributor of quality foods in Italy, has improved its online presence, enabling the company to communicate more directly with younger consumers and increase consumer loyalty. The organization can create new mini-sites up to 40% faster, saving time and costs. Amadori has also created an up-to-date database of consumer details, helping the company better understand the needs of its customers.
  • The region of Windsor-Essex, Ontario, Canada has created a community portal built to provide the region’s government and related organizations with the tools to help citizens with emergency and community services, transportation, health, utilities, and life events, such as getting married, having a baby, or retiring. Through the region’s innovative use of IBM technology, asthma attacks have been alleviated, a local automobile manufacturing plant diversified into the aerospace industry, and 250 tons of waste materials from a road construction project was made into new housing for those who needed it the most.

Despite a few trailblazers, like the organizations listed above, this collaboration between CMO and CIO is the exception and not the rule, but it’s clear that if your organization is looking to gain an advantage over the competition, this relationship is the ticket to success. It’s time as a marketer to knock on your IT department’s door and get collaborating!

Bridging the Digital Gap with SnapTags

By Jeffrey Hayzlett, author of Running the Gauntlet: Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change, and Grow Profits

If you are a marketer, I can almost guarantee that one of your goals for 2012 is to figure out your mobile strategy. You’re not alone. Everyone is talking mobile, but very few have figured out how to integrate a mobile strategy into an existing marketing plan. I found an answer to this dilemma, and it’s called “SnapTags.”

SnapTags are similar to QR codes but way sexier, offering more options for the user and a wider reach (SnapTags have capabilities on 88% of mobile phones, compared to 13% with QR codes). I’m encouraging marketers to integrate SnapTags into all their existing marketing campaigns. It’s a low-cost solution that bridges the gap between your physical marketing campaigns and your mobile and digital marketing goals.

In my case, I’m using SnapTags in my new book, Running the Gauntlet: Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change, and Grow Profits. Readers can “snap” a SnapTag at the beginning of each of the 37 chapters to view the video that accompanies each section of the book. This creates a more personal connection with my readers, as they get to see and hear me introduce each chapter on their mobile phones! Plus—and this is the best part—the reader is provided with links to my Facebook and Twitter pages each time they “snap.” I’m bridging the gap between the physical book and the digital relationship I’m building with my readers through social media.

The advantage of this strategy is that your brand can create more than a simple piece of print media. SnapTags enhance simple print media to:

  • Forge a digital connection across social networks
  • Drive new customers through your digital sales funnel
  • Create a point of purchase through virtually any placement

Some of the largest brands in the world are already using SnapTags, like Bud Light and Coca-Cola. Most recently, SnapTags were deployed in the September issue of Glamour magazine, being featured on the cover and across both editorial and advertising pages. This campaign netted Glamour more than 100,000 consumer activations and more than 500,000 consumer interactions (includes scanning the codes with an app, texting a picture message, taking subsequent actions such as agreeing to “like” an advertiser or article, signing up for the deal or sweepstakes being offered, or sharing the offer with friends).

Mark my words—in 2012, mobile integration will play a critical role in your overall marketing plan. The key to bridging the gap between your traditional and digital marketing campaigns is the mobile device. SnapTags Founder and CEO, Nicole Skogg says, “In 2012, you will see shopping SnapTags create a new way for consumers to buy whenever and wherever they encounter a brand message. Anticipate seeing SnapTags in some transformative brand marketing campaigns.”

I’ve already integrated SnapTags into my big marketing campaign for 2012. Have you?

The Power of “Likes”

By Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Media and author of Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (& Other Social Networks)

I was standing in line to check in at Las Vegas’ then-trendiest hotel in town, the Aria Resort & Casino, for nearly an hour. It was June 2010, and I had just arrived after a six-hour flight from New York. The last thing I wanted to do was waste an hour of my life waiting in line. Frustrated, I pulled out my BlackBerry and tweeted, “No Vegas hotel could be worth this long wait. Over an hour to check in at the Aria!”

Interestingly enough, the Aria didn’t tweet back to me, but a competitor did. I saw a tweet from the Rio Hotel & Casino just two minutes later. If you’re anything like most people with whom I’ve shared this story, you’re probably thinking, “What did the Rio tweet, ‘Come on over—we have no line.’?”

Had the Rio tweeted such a message, I would have likely felt annoyed by them, too, as if they were stalkers or some creepy characters looking to manipulate me and benefit from my bad experience. On the contrary, however, the Rio tweeted the following to me: “Sorry about the bad experience, Dave. Hope the rest of your stay in Vegas goes well.”

Guess where I ended up staying the next time I went to Las Vegas?

The Rio used social media to listen and be responsive, showing a little empathy to the right person at the right time. An ad or a push marketing-like message simply wouldn’t have worked. But the hotel staff’s ability to listen, respond, and be empathic did. The Rio essentially earned a $600 sale from one tweet—one message that got my attention and ended up being integral in my decision as to where to stay the next time I was in the city. That would be considered an excellent ROI by anyone’s standards. But the story doesn’t end there.

Before I even arrived in Vegas for my next visit, I “liked” the Rio on Facebook by clicking the “like” button at, thereby letting my 3,500 friends—and the world at large—know of my endorsement of its customer-friendly practices.

A few months later, my friend Erin was looking for a hotel to stay at in Las Vegas over the New Year’s holiday, and I received the following message from her on Facebook: “Hey Dave, I noticed you liked the Rio’s page. Thinking about staying there for New Year’s. What do you think?” A friend’s recommendation is more powerful than any advertisement, and Erin ended up staying at the Rio as well.

Dozens of other friends have surely noticed my tweets and Facebook “likes” about the Rio and have been influenced since. So, one tweet led to one “like” on Facebook and, in fact, thousands of dollars worth of business.

It used to be that happy customers tell three people about their good experiences, and unhappy customers tell ten about their bad ones. But as my experiences with the Aria and Rio hotels demonstrate, today—thanks to social media—happy customers AND unhappy customers can tell thousands of people their feelings about a company’s service or products with just a few clicks, relying on the “like” button as a virtual endorsement. The Rio leveraged this fact to its advantage, while the Aria did not.

Freedom from Friends?

By Diane Hessan, President & CEO of Communispace and co-author of Customer-Centered Growth: Five Proven Strategies for Building Competitive Advantage

Would you post a Facebook status update containing your thoughts about innovative ideas for a brand? Most of us would not. But would you join a Facebook fan page to get a sneak preview of new offers from the brands you love? I bet you would.

Two recent studies from our research team help to shed light on this. In the first, we found that in the eyes of consumers, public venues are primarily for hearing from brands—and having their loyalty rewarded—whereas private communities are more conducive to advising them. In the second study, we found that participation rates in public social marketing sites still tend to follow the “90-9-1 Rule:” 1% of people create content, 9% respond to it, and 90% view the content without contributing. In contrast, participation rates (people creating content) in our private communities averaged 64% each month.

What accounts for that discrepancy? In the first study, entitled “Like” Me, we found that people mostly join social marketing sites and Facebook fan pages in order to get product information and promotions. Brands are “liked” in order to learn about sales/discounts, new products, and interestingly, local events. These tangible, “pushed” offerings are more important to them on fan pages than having their voices heard.

And it isn’t just our own research surfacing these trends. Our data complement findings from a December 2010 study by SSI which determined that the relatively small population of Facebook users who are willing to participate in surveys is skewed towards 13-17 year-olds, and it also noted that those willing to participate in surveys are not interested in participating in public discussions, thereby limiting the range of consumer input available to marketers and market researchers. Also, recent studies by Razorfish and ExactTarget found that consumers do not view Facebook and Twitter as proper places for having conversations and building relationships with brands. That conclusion was echoed in a study released by iVillage which found that women, in particular, are “more inclined to have serious discussions on focused community sites than on venues like Facebook.”

In contrast, consumers prefer private communities for giving their feedback and opinions on new products and brands. 92% of members in our study of 246 private communities and more than 86,000 members said they feel their opinion matters in private online communities, as compared to only 66% of members who said they feel their opinion is being heard in the other brand-sponsored websites. In private communities, they feel the brand is actually listening, and this makes them feel more invested in the community sponsor.

But it’s not just about feeling heard. What makes private or highly targeted public communities such gold mines lies in what people are willing to share. Five times more people are comfortable sharing pictures of the inside of their medicine cabinets in a private community than in any of the social marketing sites they visit. Four times more are comfortable sharing the details of their holiday shopping budget. And so on.

And why? Precisely because unlike a social network, in a small, private, password-protected, recruited (vs. self-forming) community, their friends and colleagues aren’t there. Private communities provide a sanctuary from the daily, real-world relationships that can inhibit sharing as much as support it. (See the second study, The 64% Rule.)

So as you refine your own social media strategy, step back and evaluate your objectives. Don’t abandon your fan page—it’s a powerful channel to consolidate your brand fans and win an even larger share of their wallets. But recognize that if you want to learn what makes your customers tick and want to engage them in a constructive, ongoing dialogue, you may be better served by providing them a safe haven, away from the prying eyes of their thousands of “friends.”

Social SERPs: Social Media’s Growing Influence on Search Engine Results Pages

By Dana Todd, Vice President of Performance Innovation at Performics

In “ancient” times (circa 1999-2009), traditional search engines were a one-stop shop for people to search, find, consider, and purchase things online. Then social media emerged. Facebook—with the help of Twitter, Foursquare, and others—enabled people to search, find, consider, and purchase things online with a little help from their friends. Now people spend more time on Facebook than on Google. According to comScore, Facebook drove ten percent of all Internet pageviews in 2010.

Google and Bing are keenly aware of this new reality. To keep their users, they’ve recently adapted by layering social on search. And to stay relevant, they must continue to make search engine results pages (SERPs) more social. Google and Bing have started by incorporating various social aspects into their SERPs—from reviews in Google Place pages to tweets in real-time search to embedded user-generated YouTube videos. Google’s new +1 button enables searchers to “+1” (or “like”) search results, so that other searchers, like their friends, can see that a result was helpful. Similarly, Microsoft has partnered with Facebook to incorporate Facebook “likes” into Bing SERPs.

The effort to socialize search has resulted in SERPs that are controlled by 1) the brand owners and 2) the consumers—more appropriately called the “participants”—and by extension, their networks. In ancient times, brand owners exercised the most control over their brand’s SERP goodwill. Today, brand owners still control the SERP’s paid search ads (“paid content”) and can employ SEO tactics to boost digital asset visibility (“owned content”). But the participant has the most control over the SERP’s “earned content”—opinions, reviews, recommendations, social chatter, and videos.

There’s no doubt that the social SERP complicates search engine marketing (SEM); it requires brands to take a grassroots approach to reputation management—one that starts on the social networks. And brands must accept that their SERP goodwill is built with their customers’ participation and collaboration. When a person searches for a brand, they now see results potentially influenced by friends’ opinions, links, and experiences. Search engine marketing thus becomes word-of-mouth marketing.

The good news is, word of mouth can be influenced at its source—the social networks:

  1. The first challenge is building and organizing a meaningful number of participants (i.e., building the fan base). Twitter Promoted Accounts and Facebook Engagement Ads provide a creative platform to gain fans/followers through guaranteed reach. For instance, Redbox gained 269,000 Facebook fans in ten days using Facebook Engagement Ads (counting direct ad impacts only; nearly twice that number joined during the period measured, above normal baseline, which appears to have been influenced from seeing their friends join). Redbox incentivized people with ad copy that offered a free video rental to anyone who “liked” its brand.
  2. Once a fan base is established, the second challenge is mobilizing those fans/followers to talk positively about the brand—ideally in venues or channels that are indexed by search engines. This can be accomplished through incentives, promotions, polls, questions, or by creating highly sharable content. For instance, Baskin Robbins mobilized its 18,000+ Twitter followers on April 27th through its 31-cent scoop night promotion, which included a charity campaign partner. On April 27th, so many people were tweeting about the promotion that a Google search for “Baskin Robbins” showed a first-page link to 300+ real-time results.
  3. Third, keep it up. Sometimes the most difficult part of marketing is consistency and long-term commitment. Given that digital marketers consistently complain of being overworked and under resourced, it’s no wonder there are so many “ghosts of social media campaigns past” floating around out there. The companies that are succeeding the most in harnessing the powers of social media are distributing the workload between various departments (e.g., customer service, HR, PR, and marketing) and regularly inserting highly creative campaigns to keep the momentum going.

Of course, there’s the other side of the coin—the negative social media conversations that can make their way to the SERPs. Once again, these conversations can be influenced at their source. Savvy brands today employ social listening tools to uncover what people are saying and quickly address customer issues/gripes before a negative conversation spirals out of control. In many cases, these “fixes” become part of the social SERPs and can help offset any negativity. This becomes important in presenting balanced information for consumers and search engines. (Recently, there’s evidence that Google is using sentiment analysis that may weigh against a site or asset based on negative reviews).

As search becomes more social—and social drives more search—influencing participants to engage in positive social media conversations around brands is fast becoming the most important tactic to fund. Social media itself links customer experiences seamlessly from device to device, and it is thus of significant value as consumers move through the screens of their lives and express their intent through more search tools than just Google and Bing. Winners in social media can more easily be winners in mobile search and barcode/QR code search, Internet television, news search, and beyond.

Nordstrom Does Twitter Right

By David Meerman Scott, Author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing, and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly

The other morning, I popped over to my local Nordstrom store to check out what’s new for spring. Dave Angiulo helped me choose some styling shirts that I can wear with my blue Peter Millar suit.

As we were heading to the cash register, Dave asked me if I was on Twitter. It was a very low-key, casual question. It did not feel pushy in any way. “Absolutely,” I said. “Are you?” He gave me his business card, which included his Twitter handle: @NordstromDave. Damn. I wanted to learn more.

Dave said he uses Twitter to keep his customers informed. He tweets photos of clothes he likes. Sometimes he comments on what’s happening, like this tweet on the Academy Awards: “I think my vote goes to Colin Firth for best dressed last night… or maybe Tom Hanks. Just proves again that you can’t go wrong with a classic look.”

Dave also told me that he has a bunch of clients who he sends direct messages to. He knows their tastes in clothing, and when something new comes in, he informs them, privately, right away. This real-time effort frequently generates immediate sales, as Dave already has his customers’ sizes and payment information, and he ships the items right out. Brilliant.

As I was checking out his Twitter feed upon returning to my office, I found myself fascinated by a video that Dave pointed to about Ex-Girlfriend jeans. Dave’s not too fond of them. Can’t say I blame him. His tweet read, “Not sure I’m up on this skinny jeans for men thing… slim, straight is okay, but “jeggings” for men? Video from @GMA:” Others jumped into the Twitter discussion.

This is how you use Twitter at work!

In a corporate environment where many companies fear letting employees use social networking, Nordstrom is doing it right. Yes, there is a corporate @Nordstrom Twitter account, but Dave’s personal touch is a fantastic way to use Twitter for business, pushing the interaction down to people who work directly with customers.

To be sure, this is Dave’s initiative. He’s making it happen. But the effort is fully supported by Nordstrom. Dave has access to computers and iPads at work to tweet, and he usually uses his personal iPhone for the photos.

I’ll DM @NordstromDave the next time I need something. I want to make sure he’s there before I go in.

How Social Media is Helping Marketing, PR, and Sales Become Better Friends

By Michael Brenner, Senior Director of Global Marketing at SAP

The biggest question I get asked on B2B Marketing Insider is about the challenges of sales and marketing alignment. I try to address the big issues in B2B marketing—such as integrated marketing, demand generation, and social media—but somehow, the topic comes back around to the relationship between sales and marketing. And it extends to our colleagues in PR.

I guess this shouldn’t be a huge shocker. I started my career in sales. Then I quickly moved into marketing to follow my frustrations. The alignment problem is what drove me into marketing.

BtoB Magazine recently reported on a Forrester survey that proves the point that this is huge challenge: only 8% of B2B companies say they have tight alignment between sales and marketing. Just 8%. They identify marketing’s long-term view vs. sales’ short-term view as the main reason for this disconnect.

So how can marketing and PR lead our organizations to better alignment with sales? The answer is social media.

A recent survey of 175 CMOs by Bazaarvoice and the CMO Club tells us that 74% of CMOs will tie their social media activities to quantifiable ROI in 2011. While that should help address the timing differences, I think there is more to it.

Today more than ever, marketing sells and sales people are marketing. And we are all communicators—some of us just more highly trained or capable. As Joe Pulizzi recently exclaimed, “Yes, We’re All Media Companies. What Now?” We need the content we produce across our companies to be professional, solve real customer problems, and be easily found.

Along comes social media, causing even more of a collision between sales, marketing, and PR/communications. The reason? We are all trying to align around customers through social channels. Add customer service, support, HR, and operations folks, and we have a real social media cocktail party happening.

Steps towards social alignment:

  • Define the goal. Marketing and PR should help lead our organizations to a better total customer experience in alignment with sales, but also across our entire organizations.
  • Work together. Social media can help us all get along (better). Marketing and PR should continue to take a leadership role in social media by defining how to best orchestrate social media strategy with sales, customer service, support, and other customer-focused groups across our companies.
  • Develop a crisis plan. This is really where PR can take the lead. They have the skills and best practices knowledge, but they also need to partner with marketing, sales, HR, and customer service so that a 360-degree process is identified. As the Kenneth Cole fiasco on Twitter showed us, the crisis can come from anywhere, even within. So get your crisis plan in place today.
  • Manage responses. One of the biggest opportunities for companies in social media is to develop a full response plan for inquiries, complaints, and so-called “trolls.” Here is an excellent example of a social triage process that can be used a model. By taking a leadership role in defining how we listen to social conversations and how we will respond, our companies can begin to achieve the true goal of a positive total customer experience.

I believe that by following these steps, we will start to see marketing, sales, PR, and all the functions across our companies become much better friends. And we just might create some new, happy customers along the way.

Keeping Score in Social Media

By Dr. Don Roy, Professor at Middle Tennessee State University

The use of social media to develop customer relationships can be compared to interactions with co-workers at an office party. Many of your co-workers may be relative strangers in that you may know their names and perhaps even the names of their significant others and children, but the relationships lack depth. Conversations outside the usual environment of the relationships allow for a greater quantity and quality of communication. Similarly, social media can humanize the faceless, impersonal image of a brand, becoming more of a friend or trusted advisor to a customer than a business that exists to sell things.

The potential impact of social media on customer relationships with a brand calls for measuring engagement, not exposure. Yet many managers look to measures of reach to quantify social media’s impact on brand building. Let’s consider the sports industry as an example. Sports properties are driven by reach measures such as ticket sales and TV ratings. Extending that mindset to the digital marketing space, the reach of a sports brand in terms of followers or friends on social networks is used as evidence of brand power.

A measure developed by Coyle Media, known as the Sports Fan Graph, ranks professional and collegiate sports brands according to the number of Twitter followers and Facebook friends. According to the Sports Fan Graph as of December 2010, the NBA was the top-ranked brand, based on the sum of its Twitter followers (just under 2.2 million) and Facebook likes (approximately 7 million). In contrast, the NHL ranked 19th, with a total reach of about 1.7 million (471,000 on Twitter and about 1.2 million on Facebook).

If we are to accept a measure like the Sports Fan Graph, we can conclude that brands with high rankings like the NBA enjoy far greater impact in their social media programs than lower-ranked brands. But not so fast! Measures of social media reach support the hypothesis that strong brands in the offline world are among the most popular digital brands, too. Whether the brand is Starbucks, CNN, Oprah, or Manchester United, success breeds success when it comes to building virtual relationships. But how meaningful are those relationships?

A measure like the Sports Fan Graph is an indicator of popularity, but how well liked a brand is may not be an ideal indicator of what social media efforts can do to build a brand by strengthening customer relationships. Traditional scorekeeping measures may be straightforward to calculate and interpret, and they may also be favored by managers who equate popularity with effectiveness. However, brand building is not based on winning a popularity contest; it is fueled by customers’ willingness to be in a relationship with a brand. Methods for keeping score are needed that link social media to enhancing brand relationships, not counting admirers.

Four Steps to Inspire Infectious Action

By Andy Smith, Co-Author of The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change

When you grab people’s attention, they sit up and listen. When you engage your audience, you connect with them and inspire them. However, too many efforts stop there, leaving people with good intentions that may never be acted on. Taking action requires individuals to exert themselves and to make the transition beyond being interested by what you have to say to actually doing something about it. When organizations combine the power of the call to action with innovative social media tools, they can achieve extraordinary results.

Consider these four design principles when you want to empower others to take action:

1. Make it easy. By demonstrating you value your audience’s time and by making use of their contributions, you simultaneously boost their effectiveness while giving them a greater sense of accomplishment. This increases the likelihood they will continue to participate. Helping people achieve small goals leads them naturally to adopt more ambitious behaviors, often without a bigger intervention. For example, if the big goal is to convince people to be more environmentally friendly, ask them to change a single light bulb in their homes. Let them breathe, basking in their success, and then intervene again, expanding the effort by making the target behavior something larger. Perhaps you might suggest they replace all the inefficient bulbs in their homes.

2. Make it fun. The fueling effect of fun is an important and often overlooked element of social movements. It will also make your endeavor more enjoyable for you and a whole lot stickier for your audience. Many charities organize runs, walks, or bike races to encourage people to donate time and money. Another way to harness fun is game play; it taps into our innate competitiveness and desire for recognition. Groupon infuses fun in every one of its communications—the company hired Chicago-area comedians as its copywriters.

3. Tailor the experience. To motivate people to act on behalf of your cause, you need to match their skills, talents, or interests with your needs. Whether being creative, as with Gap’s “Born to Fit” initiative (where customers can design new outfits), providing an endorsement or reference, or making a physical donation (such as when people with a needed blood type make a donation), the more that people feel they have uniquely contributed, the happier and more satisfied they will be—and the more likely they are to spread the word or return to contribute.

4. Be open. A critical step to creating a culture of sharing is to design with the principle of sustained transparency. Most companies believe they are far more transparent than consumers think they are. A second step is to ideate, prototype, and test frequently. By doing this, you will—by definition—be designing for feedback. Showing people they are actually making a difference is arguably the most critical aspect of encouraging action. A good example is, a non-profit that allows people to help fulfill public classroom “wish lists.” Donors can watch incremental donations to their causes grow in real time. When each project is fully funded, all donors are e-mailed photos, a thank you letter from the teacher, and a cost report.

Using Metastrategy to Amplify Your Media Performance

By Alan See, Chief Marketing Officer at Berry Network

The prefix “meta” is used to mean about its own category. For example, under the umbrella of business intelligence, you often hear the term “metadata,” which means data concerning data. For purposes of this short post, “metastrategy” could be described as an overarching marketing strategy determining which media strategies to use during various phases of the consumer purchasing process (strategy concerning strategy).

As your customers move through the purchasing process, multiple media channels have the potential to impact their buying decisions and shopping experiences. This makes an integrated marketing strategy more important than ever. There is strategic marketing importance in each phase of the consumer buying process in today’s competitive economy.

In the Berry Network Social-Ready Assessment, we asked respondents: “What level of priority does your company currently assign to social media marketing?” Less than 40 percent of our respondents rated the priority of their social media marketing initiatives as neutral or low. Interestingly, nearly 100 percent of those respondents are SMBs with revenues less than $100 million. Does that mean small businesses are anti-social? I don’t think so, but many are putting off their strategic marketing planning process since nearly all of the neutral and low responders also stated they “haven’t addressed social media related to corporate strategy on either a formal or informal basis.”

Not having a strategy is a dangerous place to be. In fact, in the Forrester report “Benchmarking Social Marketing Plans for 2011,” analyst Sean Corcoran states, “Any company not creating a long-term strategy, setting budgets, allocating resources, or setting policy is already falling behind. Interactive marketers should follow the companies that were brave in social media marketing and implement now rather than wait and learn the hard way.”

The current combination of declining customer satisfaction levels and economic concerns is creating the perfect customer experience storm. In this type of business climate, those companies that focus on an integrated consumer purchasing process will be the ones that come out on top. That means a relentless and coordinated approach to strategic marketing across all media channels has never been more important.

Fueling the Social Media Engine: How Building Relationships Online Drives the Growth of Brands

By Luis Gallardo, Managing Director of Global Brand & Marketing at Deloitte

The world’s most successful brands go the distance. Beyond logos, colors, and shapes, brands endure over time and geography, attempting to do what no other commodity or service offering before them could do—or better yet, promise.

Brands are expected to perform, and customers expect nothing short of that promise. In fact, one must think holistically about the brand by understanding how multiple stakeholders are interacting, sharing, and perceiving the value of the promise across hundreds of brand touch points around the world. Then, one must get personal by understanding how emerging media and other Web 2.0 communities impact the development and maintenance of meaningful relationships—an emotional bond and distinctive brand experience for customers and stakeholders.

Is your organization capitalizing on emerging media technology as a key brand-enhancing activity to help differentiate it from the competition?

At Deloitte, the largest private professional services organization globally, social media is not just another buzzword. We boldly anticipate the success of social media in helping our people and clients to step ahead in the marketplace. Pragmatic in our approach, we are building on the success of several social media marketing campaigns to continuously grow our brand within the professional services market.

Our recent success with the 2010 Deloitte Fantasy Football engagement program, for example, allowed our 170,000-member firm practitioners, as well as our clients, to highlight their pride in cultural diversity, their love for the game of soccer, and a relentless approach to staying a step ahead of the fantasy competition during every World Cup match game. In addition to being an all-around fun game, Deloitte Fantasy Football was a strategic brand-building initiative that relied heavily on the power of building relationships online via social media channels, peer-to-peer recommendations, and real-time collaboration among colleagues, friends, and clients.

Social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, in particular) played an integral role in sustaining the momentum and energy behind the campaign, week after week. In fact, the results of the campaign exceeded our expectations:

  • More than 80% of Deloitte member firms actively promoted this event, leveraging unique opportunities for local market fit.
  • There was a ten-fold jump from Deloitte Australia’s original 3,000 participant count in 2006 to an impressive 33,848 total number of participants who registered to play the game in more than 160 countries.
  • More than 61 percent of the Deloitte workforce participated in the competition, complemented by a respectable level of client participation at 34 percent.
  • More than half a million unique online visitors from 162 countries and territories came to the competition site. More than 15 percent of these visitors had not previously visited a Deloitte Web site.
  • Each visitor spent an average of 7.38 minutes visiting the Web site—an equivalent of more than 4 million page views.
  • The Deloitte Fantasy Football campaign directly impacted our overall social media profile. We grew our official Deloitte Facebook page during that time from a fan base of 2,000 to more than 77,000 active users. Deloitte now has the largest global Facebook presence among its professional services competitors.
  • More than 40 Deloitte member firm practitioners from the South African firm acted as “green dot” reporters by blogging about the spirit of the live games.

Deloitte continues to shift perception from being just one of the Big Four to being the market-leading private professional services organization—in a category of one. To help accomplish this goal, Deloitte Fantasy Football (as well as other brand engagement programs) allowed our network of member firms to build on the exciting momentum of the world’s largest sports phenomenon, while exposing stakeholders to a variety of brand messages that appeal to clients and talent. By supporting these relationships in online social media applications such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs, Deloitte continues to break away from the pack.

Using social media as part of the marketing mix, Deloitte is able to authentically embrace the interests of its people and clients in a non-traditional way. From weekly engagement levels provided by Facebook metrics to a whole new database of potential clients, social media is a strategic business driver with the potential to positively impact lead generation, brand reputation, and risk, as well as advancements in thought leadership and new product development.

Engage Your Most Dissatisfied Customers for Radical Thinking

By Dr. Philippe Duverger, Assistant Professor at Towson University

I agree with Tom Quinn’s recent post on the SMM Magazine blog—By Invitation Only: Letting Your Customers in Behind the Velvet Rope—where he advocates for a by-invitation-only brand community that leverages customer engagement in a private and exclusive environment. Facebook Pages and other initiatives that inform and lead your consumer base (customers and potential customers alike) to follow your brand and try your services and products is a different strategy than listening to your most valuable customers. Both strategies are valuable and have their place in the social media environment.

A social media strategy using Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other open-to-the-public environments will raise awareness, trial, and traffic. But it will also allow competitors to listen in on the conversation. If you are in need of radical service ideas and want to mine your customer base or test new ideas, you should create a secluded environment where only trusted and creative clients can participate.

This is where the dilemma exists. Should you invite only your loyal customers to participate in idea generation through online brainstorming sessions? Or should you invite your most dissatisfied customers? I advocate for the latter strategy.

Your most dissatisfied customers are probably thinking about switching providers. They are more likely to feel underappreciated or have experienced sub-standard service from you. They might have logged a complaint, only to receive an unhelpful administrative response, which further enraged them, thereby increasing their dissatisfaction. So it is more likely that they can tell you what is wrong with your business.

You might not want to hear it, or you might dismiss the complaint as a rare occurrence or subjective to the customer’s unrealistic expectations. And you might be wrong. That customer could be a visionary who will feel compelled to find a service provider that will satisfy her needs. If none of your competitors provide it, the customer might decide to provide it herself (assuming she has what it takes), become your competitor, and drive you out of business. Too far, you think? Take entrepreneurs like Richard Branson (Virgin Group), Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn), or Howard Schultz (Starbucks). They all have a common characteristic: they did not like what was available in the market and went on to create it for themselves.

Interestingly, Starbucks recently engaged in a Web-based brainstorming exercise where anyone—including its competitors—could participate and watch. Starbucks collected thousands of ideas. Great… except that only one radical idea would suffice to make a winter-coffee company an all-season coffee and smoothies company. The Frappuccino, according to Schultz’s memoirs, was a customer’s idea and now accounts for almost half of Starbucks’ revenue.

Certainly, among the tens of thousands of participants, there are bound to be creative consumers, satisfied or not. But the most dissatisfied and creative ones either won’t participate or will be outnumbered by the conservative, happy, and loyal customers.

Cyberbullying is explained by the balance theory where a customer posting a radical idea might preface it with a complaint, leading others to defend the brand by bullying the culprit out of participating. The solution? Segregate your behind-the-velvet-rope communities between radical thinkers and those who only have improvement ideas. Or, more practically, have a radical-thinking community composed of your most dissatisfied customers. And then listen.

The Perfect Bundle: A Netbook and an Aspirin

By Jeff Hasen, Chief Marketing Officer at Hipcricket

I’ve always thought that a drugstore was a place to treat a headache, not to receive one. But we’re in dangerous territory these days. No, not the kind of danger where your wife or girlfriend asks you to pick up a feminine product that will be in your hand just when your buddy—armed with a mobile device and Twitter and Facebook feeds—is in line for his daily dose of beef jerky.

Consumer electronics have found a home at CVS between the deodorant and Pepto Bismol. How convenient, you say? How crazy, I say.

Why? It’s illogical to ask the consumer, or heaven forbid, the stockboy to be informed about consumer electronics products being introduced virtually every hour in the era of technology on steroids.

CVS began selling a $99 Sylvania netbook computer over the Labor Day weekend and quickly sold out in many locations, according to news accounts. It features a seven-inch display, 128 MB of internal memory, and 2 GB of NAND Flash. The computer runs Internet Explorer on Windows CE 6.0. How wonderful.

If you walked down the street or into your local CVS store (otherwise known as your consumer electronics destination of choice), do you think more than three in 100 could tell you the benefits and downside of 128 MB of memory and 2 GB of NAND Flash? What the heck is NAND Flash anyway? None of your Facebook or Twitter followers can help here.

Consumers were driven to CVS by Sunday circulars that proclaimed the “New Netbook… Wow! $99.99.” InformationWeek reported that “several users said they hoped to find a way to eventually download some Android apps to the netbook.” If you are going to hold your breath for this one, please consult the pharmacist. Other users said they bought the netbook for their children, while still others said they would give the machines as holiday presents. Shouldn’t this treatment of children be reviewed by the authorities?

The netbook can’t run Microsoft Office 2007 but gives lucky buyers WordPad, DocViewer, XLSViewer, and PDFViewer. Not to mention the headache that can be treated by CVS’ aspirin. Which brings us to the consumer electronics stores.

Whole new categories and operating systems are—or soon will be—for sale. Tablets are being offered that promise an iPad-like experience for a fraction of the cost. Smartphones are so plentiful that you have to wonder if every device can be that smart.

The better retail experiences will feature informed, patient salespeople educating the eager and uninformed. They will deliver on the “moments of trust” for the store and manufacturer. But that will likely be the exception, given staffing levels and the near impossible task of having anyone keep up with all the products and services that the tech world is introducing.

You’ll be hearing all about the pain on Twitter, Facebook, and a blog near you. It’s fortunate that aspirin is as mobile as the netbook and smartphone.

How JetBlue Uses Social Media to the Fullest (and You Can, Too)

By John Foley, Jr., Chief Executive/Marketing Officer at Grow Socially

JetBlue gets social media. Completely. While many companies make good use of social media in promoting their brands, JetBlue takes the ball and literally flies with it. Here are three ways they shine:

Brand Personality

Anyone who has boarded a JetBlue flight knows the company’s feel-good take on transportation. The captain and flight assistants crack jokes and one liners, the flights are filled with “get it while it lasts” free snacks, and the corporate identity revolves around bright colors and lighthearted phrases like “happy jetting.”

When JetBlue ventured onto the social media scene, it maintained its playful personality. Next to delay reports and updates on products and services, you’ll find humorous tidbits of information, often completely unrelated to business. The company recently announced an airport book signing with a tweet typical of its signature sense of humor.

The takeaway? whatever your corporate personality—be it sassy or sweet—let it show in your tweets and updates. Give your followers something to smile about! Bring a human touch to your product, and people will respond.

Instant Gratification

Want to know when JetBlue’s new Boston-to-Sarasota service starts? Drop @JetBlue a tweet to ask!

JetBlue understands that sitting on the phone or sifting through its Web site takes time. For that reason, the company has made a Twitter-based customer service rep available 24×7 to respond to quick questions, address concerns, or even just say thank you for a compliment. While the complex stuff can’t always be ironed out in 140 characters, quick questions and answers are easily handled. Even better, every question answered via tweet effectively saves a phone call, which makes JetBlue’s overall customer service more efficient.

The takeaway? Use social media to make things run smoothly for you. If your company is rolling out a new product, let everyone know quickly and easily. If you’re currently filling backorders on a hot new product, keep customers in the loop—and off the phones.

Dangling the Carrot

Not everything on the JetBlue tweetstream is supply and demand. JetBlue rewards its followers with access to contests, special deals, and insider information.

Recently, the company hosted a citywide “scavenger hunt”-style promotion in Boston. One stop on the tour asked players to bring a photo of 10 standard office supplies to Copley Square for a chance to win a free ticket. Incentives such as free bonus miles and contests for tickets and trips gave followers the sense of actively participating in JetBlue’s ongoing conversation. It was a great way to generate positive chatter for the company.

The takeaway? Give your followers something to talk about, and occasionally, give them something for their loyalty. Word of mouth is the best advertising you can get, and on the Web, word travels fast.

By Invitation Only: Letting Your Customers in Behind the Velvet Rope

By Tom Quinn, Chief Revenue Officer at Passenger

“Invitation only.” “Private.” “Exclusive.” “VIP.” These words hold significant power in the marketing world. Nightclubs make their living off this allure; the retail world has been revolutionized by the success of invitation-only sites like Gilt Groupe and Although often a mirage (an invitation to a private sale club is often as simple as entering your e-mail), the allure of exclusivity has a profound effect on consumer behavior. Mainstream brands have taken notice and are incorporating this into their marketing strategies.

The Web offers exponential consumer touchpoints, making it easier to regularly engage with customers. The common online marketing approach has been bigger is better—many use public social networks or develop branded public communities in hopes of acquiring new fans. You can reach a large audience, and the interaction is completely open, making it easy to see how consumers are reacting to your brand/product/service.

From a loyalty and advocacy perspective, however, public initiatives can feel less personal and participants less “special,” as everyone can see what you are offering or asking. Competitors could be monitoring your community, so you have to watch what you reveal. Attempts at a personal brand connection through public social networks can also go horribly wrong: consumers can instantly amplify positive and negative experiences. Many brands struggle to create authentic intimacy without losing the scale and reach necessary to compete in the mass market.

A different approach is to focus in on your most loyal and vocal customers by establishing genuine dialogue in a private setting. Ask consumers to participate in an invitation-only online community to help shape the brand, services, and products they care about. This personal invitation gets them in the door; you can then foster the “velvet rope” feeling by sharing exclusive content and involving them in the creation process.

There is no better tool for creating intimacy than demonstrating that you are listening. Bring them into the product development process, solicit input on a new ad campaign, or ask what types of perks they might like as part of a rewards program. Then show them how their input is being incorporated. Reward their loyalty and enthusiasm with access to insider information, special brand experiences, or online “credit.”

Most companies find that a majority of their business often comes from a disproportionately small percentage of loyal customers. With this in mind, it makes perfect sense to start small and build real, tangible relationships with your inner circle of fans. In addition to fostering loyalty, this inspires those behind the velvet rope to broadcast your messages publicly.

A well-run community takes engaged members and turns them into ambassadors—driving interest around offline events and building buzz around the community and brand. This is something a Facebook and Twitter presence can rarely accomplish because the level of engagement is not as high. Treating your customers as VIPs and giving them exclusive access to your brand and the decision makers that shape it can drive unprecedented levels of brand loyalty and advocacy.

The Marketer’s New Clothes

By Johna Burke, Senior Vice President of Marketing at BurrellesLuce

My friends and I have joked over the years about CEOs (who will remain nameless) taking on the persona of the “Emperor” in the Hans Christian Anderson tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes. It was all fun and games until we let a CFO friend in on the joke, who suggested that, perhaps, marketing and public relations professionals are the scoundrels in this analogy. Ouch! This seemed harsh, but it gave me pause to reflect and better educate my CFO friend on why we are not the scoundrels.

In the spirit of his DNA, the CFO only responded to the numbers. Not just any numbers, but those that impacted the bottom line of the business. Certainly, this was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. He opened my eyes to the importance of every activity driving the bottom line, and I opened his eyes to the importance of the customer experience. Without evaluation and measurement, it was hard to know where you’ve been, where you are, where you’re going, and the most efficient way to get there.

While he appreciated the metrics I was using to manage the department (the outputs and the outtakes) and pointed out that perhaps those were simply the bolts of invisible fabric, clothing my CEO (and organization) with those metrics would be just like sending him out into the crowd naked. This was a pointed lesson that took hold and has stayed with me throughout the years.

In this analogy, is social media the cloth, the crowd, or the golden thread?

Social media is the golden thread. It’s real and it’s quantifiable. It’s how you use it in the weave of your fabric that makes it an effective cover of your efforts.

In social media, one of the easiest metrics to quantify is the conversion of an unknown to a qualified prospect. While this is an important metric to the marketing department to understand how your campaigns are performing, it’s only when the conversion becomes a sale (or outcome equivalent) that it really matters to the organization as a whole. The same stands true with engagement. While engagement is important, we should all look for opportunities to listen and learn from our customers. Until there’s a marriage or the deal is closed, it’s really all ceremony.

The moral of the story?

  • Know the difference between metrics necessary to manage your department and those important to the business objectives of your organization.
  • Don’t allow your organization or CEO to be naked while pretending to be clothed.
  • As a matter of strategy, make sure your organization’s “suit” is made of only the finest fabric, woven with solid metrics that are visible to the crowds (investors and stakeholders).
  • Don’t invest your time or resources in anything—including and perhaps especially, social media—that doesn’t cover your organization as you venture out into the crowds.

In the final analysis, trust your eyes, and if something doesn’t look right, say so. Even if it isn’t a popular thing to do.