Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

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.

Questions and Answers about Relationship Marketing and Relationship Commerce

By Ted Rubin, Chief Social Marketing Officer at OpenSky

1: Relationships: how do you build them online?

I believe everything we do in our personal and business lives revolves around relationships—now more than ever. With effort, an online relationship may begin from the request of a Facebook friend or following someone on Twitter. But make no mistake—that initial request or follow will never create the relationship. Trust is built upon interaction, when you’re true to your word, authentic, and genuine. To build relationships online, you (as a brand or individual) have to offer value in return.

Be it via valuable information or personal introductions, engagement and interaction will remain key. By asking questions and proposing ideas, you can engage your followers in such a way to give them the ability and reason to respond. Then when they do respond, interact with them to solidify your relationship, lest it fade away. Directly acknowledge their response, ask follow-up questions, and share their insights with others. Follow me on Twitter (@TedRubin), and you’ll see what I mean. The more responsive you are to your audience, the more responsive they’ll be to you. And that’s where relationships are born.

2: What is the true value of a fan or follower to a marketer/brand?

I believe many are looking at this in too narrow a fashion. Everyone is trying to assign a dollar value to a Facebook fan or Twitter follower instead of addressing the fact that engagement and interaction that takes place in these mediums are incredibly important to a brand. Building a relationship with existing and future customers is the true value and strength of social media marketing. ROI is certainly incredibly important whenever investing, but companies have to start looking at ROR (“return on relationship”) when planning, strategizing, and most importantly, evaluating social marketing.

A new study shows that those who are fans or followers of a brand on Facebook or Twitter are significantly more likely to buy products and services or recommend the brand to a friend. Specifically, the study by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies found that 60 percent of Facebook fans and 79 percent of Twitter followers are more likely to recommend those brands since becoming a fan or follower. And an impressive 51 percent of Facebook fans and 67 percent of Twitter followers are more likely to buy the brands they follow or are a fan of. Considering Facebook’s 400 million-plus users, the opportunity is great for social media marketers.

3: ROR: exactly what is that?

Facebook fans, retweets, site visits, video views, positive ratings, and vibrant communities are not measureable financial assets—they aren’t reflected on the balance sheet and can’t be counted on an income statement—but that doesn’t mean they are valueless. Instead, these are leading indicators that a brand is doing something to create value that can lead to financial results in the future. In addition, these relationships can be leveraged through initiatives, campaigns, and events to create real dollar value for a brand. In other words, ROR = return on relationship!

In a fast-paced digital world, defining and maintaining our relationships has become unexpectedly difficult. Social media has enabled us to connect with an infinite number of individuals; it has given us the tools to extend relationships that years ago would have been impossible. Yet make no mistake—social media is a facilitator of relationships, but it is not the relationship itself. You have to give to get. It’s so simple in concept yet not always easy to wrap your arms around when online since it is not as simple as a favor, a hug, or a handshake.

4: What is “relationship commerce?”

The way I see it, we’re overdue for a revolution in retail. So many of us have been sharing our passions and discoveries, it’s about time we acquired tools that empower us to share in the economic benefits. I believe that our economy is experiencing a monumental shift toward an era of increased self sufficiency. We all need to learn to earn, to provide for ourselves. We can’t continue to live dependent upon the (one time) security blanket of big corporations, parent companies, and traditional jobs. They may not always be there.

How many of you spend more than 10 hours a week on your online presence? 15 hours? 40+ hours? How many times have you recommended something to a friend, and how many times have you made a purchase based upon the recommendation of a friend? How many of us wish that our passions, our energy, and our influence could evolve away from pure hobbies and into a revenue stream? Relationship commerce—sharing what you love with others and facilitating their ability to buy it—easily can be a piece of that puzzle. That’s how it can make shopping better. Relationship commerce is simple yet novel: it’s commerce that emanates from people you know and trust. It’s this interpersonal exchange, the relationship, which differentiates relationship commerce. Life is not just about financial exchange, and neither is commerce. Relationships matter!

5: What can marketers do in the next five minutes to apply this information?

A great Twitter behavior that is often overlooked as being important is thanking people for retweeting you and for giving you a mention/shout out. So say thank you. Engage. Ask questions. Propose ideas. Give your followers/fans the ability and reason to answer.

Most misunderstand Twitter. It’s not a broadcasting tool for marketing, but an extremely valuable networking, experimenting, and seeding tool. And always remember we all have lurkers—those watching and following our conversations. Even though they do not make themselves known, they are there. So be aware.