crme13

5 Thoughts from CRM Evolution 2013

I spent some at CRM Evolution 2013 last week doing something I really enjoy – getting out and talking to people. If you want to find out what’s going, you have to talk to people who are living it. This was a solid show, with SpeechTEK, CRM Evolution, and Customer Service Experience all sharing the same venue (attracting a rich base of attendees and providing a rich perspective on the Customer Experience – #CX – market).  Here are some quick take-aways from my conversations with vendors, users, investors and even the occasional analyst at the event. Continue reading

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Kickstarter: The long-tail of short attention spans?

We live in a world of short attention spans. Our food is fast, our entertainment on-demand and the phrase “interrupt-driven” dominates everything. 

The world of media and entertainment is no different from any other. We consume in bites, when we want, as we want. My kids don’t watch a TV show every week for a season, they watch a season of episodes in a week.

On-demand. Continue reading

Coca-Cola-verses-BUZZ

FIRST GLANCE: Coca-Cola gets “buzz”

Coca-Cola’s disclosure that it found limited short-term value from online buzz raises some good questions about information perception and the relative value of Real-Time-Marketing (RTM).

Takeaway: RTM (Real-Time-Marketing) isn’t about 15 minutes of fame – it needs to be part of an integrated long-term brand communications strategy. Continue reading

Long Beach Brands and Broken Narratives

Of Brands and Broken Narratives

An organization’s brand is defined by the totality of everything they do and say. Enduring brands are built on solid corporate narratives that serve as a beacon of trust and yield positive public perception.


This article was originally published on “Sensei Blogs – A Business Blog with a Point of View” and is reprinted here with permission.

A colleague recently asked me to take a quick look at a firm he had run across. Let’s call them BizCo. They had been around for years, many of them as a strong market leader. But they now faced a fundamentally different market than they had previously, and they were struggling. New competitors, technologies and pervasive media were also rapidly redefining their market and consumer needs.

Long Beach Brands and Broken Narratives

A COMPELLING ORIGIN

BizCo had both history and a compelling story. Their origins came out of a very basic human need, and the founder’s goal to help enrich the lives of others came through very clear in every aspect of the firm.  This “essence” had helped shape a strong corporate narrative. Or at least it once did.

A BROKEN NARRATIVE

A firm’s corporate narrative is the totality of everything they do and say, all their actions in both analog and digital worlds. This includes marketing, public relations, customer relations, and even their corporate actions, human resources, products and services. All are individual messages of a sort that when combined form a greater narrative that tells the story of the firm.

Unfortunately for BizCo, their individual messages now appeared disjointed, opportunistic and somewhat less than compelling. They were mostly advertising products in a one-off fashion with limited continuity that rarely hinted at the original ideals that shaped its founders vision. Their outward message was wandering, and their corporate narrative broken. Fixable, but broken.

FROM WELCOME TO DISTRESS

Messages that are random, disjointed or unclear can easily be misinterpreted either individually or collectively if they lack context or order.  In an age of pervasive media, even well planned messages can fall victim. We may hear individual concepts, but not be able to put them together in a meaningful way. We get confused. And confusion is never good for a brand.

With BizCo, individual messages were targeted but did not reflect the essence of the firm. The result was not a welcoming message as intended but rather a perceived message of disorganization or distress. And from a consumer perspective, messages of distress are often perceived as warnings: Stay away.

WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE

As your business evolves over time it’s only natural for the narrative to change along with product and customer needs. But if you only write random chapters, or chapters that simply don’t fit, you’re not enriching or extending your narrative. What you think may be positive steps could translate into a message of distress, and very few people are willing to buy from a firm in distress.

Is your message one of welcome or one of distress and danger?

When you look at your own company, are you writing a long-term story, or a series of short-form articles? Are you letting your inner essence focus your business decisions, or are you looking for opportunistic quick hits? Do your various messages across different mediums have a consistent theme, and are they true to the vision of your firm?

If you are unsure of your answers, take a moment to reflect and reconnect with your inner essence. Your corporate narrative will thank you.

Image “Long Beach 1933” by California Watch, Licensed under Creative Commons

trust_sxsw2013

TRUST: Designing Social Glue #SXSW2013

I had the opportunity to speak at a #sxsw interactive session in Austin, TX (“Why trust is the new social glue” - March 11, 2013). I used the following short presentation as a framework for discussing trust points, trust enablers and how story and narrative can can be used to foster trust in a digital community (the issues around creating a trusted user experience).

As part of the session, we divided the ballroom at the Driskill Hotel into groups, each group evaluating the examples at the end of the presentation to collectively identify trust points (or the lack of) and discuss why or why not a particular piece of content demonstrated trust. Each group then shared (and debated) their opinions on the examples. The diversity of the group led to some very good, and far reaching, discussions, including how we evaluate and form a position of trust for brands and products and the role of culture and community in shaping our interpretation of trust markers.

I hope you enjoy the presentation as much as I enjoyed working through it at the session.

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Maker’s Mark misses the mark…

 

English: Maker's Mark production line, just af...

Maker’s Mark production line, just after being dipped in red wax (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From a minor tweet about the length of time it takes to char a barrel for making bourbon to a congratulatory tweet from KFC, Maker’s Mark missed the mark with an expansion strategy that was counter to both the essence of their brand and their loyal consumer’s expectations.

The following Storify transcript highlights selected social media activity and mentions following the Maker’s Mark announcement that they would be slightly diluting the brand’s signature bourboun in an effort to meet rising demand.

(Note: Some date sequences have been adjusted to highlight flows of conversations and threaded discussions)


From a minor tweet about the length of time it takes to char a barrel for making bourbon to a congratulatory tweet from KFC… How Maker’s Mark missed the mark with their brand strategy. (Note: Date sequences have been adjusted to highlight flows of conversations and threaded discussions)

From a minor tweet about the length of time it takes to char a barrel for making bourbon to a congratulatory tweet from KFC… How Maker’s Mark missed the mark with their brand strategy. (Note: Date sequences have been adjusted to highlight flows of conversations and threaded discussions)

From a minor tweet about the length of time it takes to char a barrel for making bourbon to a congratulatory tweet from KFC… How Maker’s Mark missed the mark with their brand strategy. (Note: Date sequences have been adjusted to highlight flows of conversations and threaded discussions)


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Competitive Lens

12 Most Basic Strategies to Know Your Competition

[Originally posted on 12Most.com] We live in a world where competition is part of the fabric of life. Survival of the fittest, and all that stuff. The business world is no different. Being about to not only know your competition, but to outsmart them, is just another aspect of the game.

Here are some relatively basic steps you can take to win the competition game. Are they a bit difficult to pull off? Some of them. But if you can get your hands around even a few, you’ll find yourself in a better competitive position:

1. Know yourself better than anybody else
If you really want to evaluate your competition, you have to first understand what YOU have to offer. This will help you define WHO your competition is. If you do this right — and look at your core competencies, you might find that your ultimate competition isn’t exactly who you think it is.

2. Execute your business first
Going back to point 1, if your business isn’t being executed to its fullest, you may like to think that you are competing against top-tier companies, but the reality is that you may be competing against the middle of the pack, and trying to best “the best” is simply never going to work.

3. Listen to their financial calls
You’d be amazed at the information that comes out of financial calls from public companies. And no, you don’t need to be a financial analyst to participate. Sure, you can read about their call the next day, but short of being in the room with them, listening can give you a sense of excitement or tension that you might not get in print.

4. Read voraciously
From public SEC filings to blogs to articles (and even support forums), the amount of information out there that can prove valuable is immense. How are they perceived? What are their customers openly complaining about? Where is YOUR opportunity?

5. Talk to their customers
If you are not talking to your competition’s customers, you might as well pretend you’re in a business that has no competition. Not only can you gain a good bit of information about your competition, but also about their sales cycles, new products that have been promised — even who their sales reps are (rep churn is very valuable information). Who knows, you may even land a customer yourself.

6. Follow their customers on social media
Customers say the most amazing things on social media. Sure, some of it may be slightly anonymous, or a bit questionable. But when you see a trend of #FAIL hashtags at the end of messages about a competitor’s new product, it’s probably worth looking into. And please, don’t just stop there. Some clever searching can reveal a great bit of information about former customers as well (and open up new prospects at the same time).

7. Talk to (or follow) their suppliers
By our very nature, we tend to look forward — to be customer focused. But what about the people supplying product to your competitors? Did they have a good quarter? Did they have a bad quarter? Could it be that their shipment levels (or margins) are tied to your competitor? Absolutely.

8. Follow their employees on social media
Gaining insight into customer sentiment is incredibly valuable. But gaining insight in employee sentiment is even better. When a social media user’s profile states “I work for XYZ Corp, but my posts are my own”, remember that is usually not the case. People talk, and they talk about work. How busy they are, how late they had to stay at work, how high/low their job satisfaction level is… get my point?

9. Visit Q&A sites
With sites like Focus.com, Quora.com, G+ (no, not the Google version) and LinkedIn Answers, it is becoming increasingly easy to find out what questions users are asking about your competitors products, and the type of responses they are getting to their questions. Are they asking about how to configure a product (perhaps a sign of poor technical support)? Are they asking for alternative products (displeasure with their existing product)? Or are they asking the best places to buy a competitor’s product (a sign of positive sentiment)?

10. Listen to their corporate or customer support social feeds
You’d be surprised how much information you can gather my monitoring a company’s “support” feed on Twitter or Facebook (and soon Google+). Sure, they try to move the customer support issues offline as quickly as possible, but there is still enough activity to gain some insight (and social media is fast becoming a way to quickly spot trends in advance of mainstream awareness).

11. Understand their/your market
In a world where change is now measured in days or months, not years or decades, keeping apace of emerging market trends is just as important as understanding your competition and their products/services. Learn to anticipate what changes will disrupt their (or potentially your) business and be aggressive/proactive. Don’t let them dictate your move, rather seek to influence theirs!

12. Buy one of their products
Unless you are talking about a product made from unobtainium (or a service), it is probably worth getting your hands on one of their products. Buy it used. Buy it damaged. Just get it, and figure out how it works and what it is really capable of performing. You’d be surprised how often that slick-looking data sheet doesn’t quite match up to the real deal. And even if the product is a year old, it can still yield some interesting insights into their design process. To be fair, I’m not advocating you break or even bend any laws or copy any intellectual property (be very careful here – designers should be locked in a different room!). But nothing beats actually having something in front of you to figure out how it works and how you can sell against it.

So there you have it — just a few ways that you can get a leg up on your competition. But remember, it all starts with items 1 and 2 — getting your house in order first.


Featured image courtesy of claudiaveja via Creative Commons.

peoples_oil

Why being frictionless is good business

Being social takes work. Communicating across any social network brings with it a level of overhead, both in terms of time and learning. It doesn’t matter if that social network involves flying across the country to meet with somebody or sending out an “I’ve arrived” ping on FourSquare when you land half a world away. They all have overhead. You need to learn how to use the medium efficiently. And you need to learn how to deal with the increased number of social contacts that increased “efficiency” will bring with it.

While social communications channels can greatly expand our ability to reach an ever-increasing number of people, they can also, through their added overhead, bring with them the wrong type of friction and limit the number of networks that we can actually leverage to our advantage. In fact, it can become a very limiting factor in the number of social communications channels that we participate in at any given time.

OVERHEAD EQUALS FRICTION

Consider this. If I use a single social channel to regularly interact with 5 people (assuming they don’t know each other), the level of “channel” overhead is relatively low. I learn how to use the channel and I communicate.

But if those 5 people are all on different communications channels, I have to learn – and keep up with – 5 different channels to keep up with them. That’s overhead – especially if each of those 5 different communications channels has their own social conventions, unique “media-rich” value or medium-based communications limitations.

At the end of the day, the more social communications channels that I utilize (and I’ll toss in email, SMS, my mobile phone and even that occasional hand-written letter – yes, I still write those), the fewer true intimate and personal relationships I can maintain. Overhead equates to unwanted friction.

FRICTION CAN BECOME MORE FRICTIONLESS

As social communications channels grow in number and user adoption (yes, I know, I’m avoiding using the phrase “social media” because this isn’t about “social media”), my ability to reach an ever-expanding number of diverse people increases. And I consider this a good thing.

With reduced friction, I can reach out more fluidly

to a larger number of people

But to make it a great thing, I must overcome the learning curve of a new communications channel and decrease its overhead. Less overhead means the channel becomes increasingly frictionless. With reduced friction, I can reach out more fluidly to a larger number of people. Reducing friction requires one of two things: a user experience that is fundamentally intuitive (with an equally compelling/intuitive use case) or time to figure out how a system works. I prefer the former, but usually settle for the latter. I’m willing to do that because the more I can make a communications channel frictionless, the more likely I am to use it to explore the worlds around me.

FRICTIONLESS COMMUNICATIONS OPENS NEW WORLDS

As I reach out to a larger number of people, the number of diverse perspectives I have access to is amazing. With each perspective comes a unique experience and story. And with each unique story comes a new world of ideas and concepts upon which I can build, and expand, my own world. Over time, my world begins to look a lot less like my world, and a lot more like a melding of those that I touch. In return, the worlds that I touch begin to look a bit like me.

Every world that I look into won’t necessarily fit my perspective, or the rules which define it. There are many that don’t. But for each world that doesn’t mesh, I still learn a bit, and there are an almost endless (well, 7B and counting) number of perspectives that I can look at. And many of those will mesh, or connect, in some way with mine.

“The less friction there is to a communications channel into these worlds,

the greater the exchange of ideas”

The melding of perspectives, experiences, stories and ideas from these worlds is mutually beneficial. The less friction there is to a communications channel into these worlds, the greater the exchange of ideas. In fact, some of my best conversations are not only frictionless within a communications channel, they transcend multiple channels in a single conversation.

It’s not uncommon for a conversation to start with a text message, move to a call on my mobile, shift to a video session (with a few other people tossed in for fun), then shift from a continuous form of communications to a discontinuous form (such as email) only to revive up again on yet another channel. I often respond to a text message with a Skype message, which is frequently responded to by a Direct Message on Twitter which leads to a shared post on Facebook.

THE VALUE OF FRICTIONLESS

Let’s shift our perspective here just a bit. Nothing today is truly frictionless. Friction and overhead still exist, and there is, in fact, value in a certain amount of friction as a filtering mechanism. But friction caused by overhead is usually a negative. Now, let’s apply that to you, your business, your professional life. Have you eliminated unnecessary friction in your communications? Do you even have a strategy to become as close to a frictionless state as possible? Some key steps to consider:

  • Don’t be afraid to use a variety of social channels to meet new people or new customers. You can’t afford to ignore the chance to at least sample what new social channels have to offer.
  • Not only seek out channels with inherently low friction (overhead), but take the time to learn about, and respect, new communications channels, and find ways to deal with their overhead/friction. If the overhead friction is too high, take a step back and move on. If the friction doesn’t decrease on its own, it probably won’t be a viable channel for others either.
  • Open your world to others, in exchange for a view into their world. Remember to accept their ideas and needs as readily as you are willing to push your ideas and products to them – being frictionless in your sharing and communications is a two-way street.
  • Be willing to take the conversation, be it collaboration, sales or customer support, from one social channel to another, as your mutual relationship grows, or your need to communicate changes, and
  • Be willing to take the effort to move from relationships to friendships, from customers to trusted clients.

While we always need a bit of good friction in our lives, seeking to eliminate bad friction, and being as frictionless as possible – especially in our social communications – can be very rewarding.

Image “Peoples Special Motor Oil” by Steve Snodgrass, Licensed under Creative Commons

CopenhagenPlatform

Social Media: The community IS the platform

I’m going to get right to the point. Platforms don’t define communities, communities define platforms. And when platforms try to define a community, they almost always alienate the community, which, in turn, finds another venue on which to communicate. Simple? Yes. But, unfortunately, most social media “platforms” have yet to grasp this concept.

SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS AREN’T REALLY PLATFORMS

My colleague, Alan Berkson, recently wrote an excellent piece about Twitter and their disconnected view of themselves as a platform, questioning whether they really know what business there are in. He speculated that they don’t, and I tend to agree.

Twitter doesn’t understand the value of their own business. To paraphrase what Alan Berkson said in his post:

Sipping from the stream can be both enlightening and refreshing. But Twitter doesn’t have to own the entire stream.”

Rather than realize that they are an enabler at the epicenter of one of the greatest ecosystems ever (See Nigel Cameron’s 10 Amazing Facts about Twitter), Twitter has instead focused on dominating and owning the ecosystem that made them what they are today. In doing so, they’ve limited the choices of their user community and consistently restricted the availability/utility of some amazing 3rd party “interface” and “partner” applications – a move that may be beneficial in the short-term, but will prove to be limiting in the long-term.

If I’m a member of Twitter’s ecosystem, I’m seriously rethinking my reliance on Twitter for my bread-and-butter money.

YOU DON’T OWN COMMUNITIES… THEY MERELY RENT YOUR SPACE

What many social media businesses haven’t yet grasped is that it isn’t about their venue, it’s about the communities that support them. I live in many different social venues, covering a wide range of topics, such as global events, business trends, government and law, science and technology and social advocacy. These, and many other collective communities, not only define the platforms they exist on, they ultimately become the basis for applications and value to exist.

Social media is like a buffet. People don’t want to see the same food at every station.”

More importantly, communities often cross traditional “platforms” with ease. I belong to many groups who regularly communicate via multiple mediums, based on the type of discussions that are taking place. Part of the discussion may be held on Twitter, while other parts of it may take place on Facebook, Skype or Google Hangouts.  Each venue has its own value proposition, and none of them can emulate all others and still add targeted value.

DICTATE YOUR PLATFORM AND COMMUNITIES WILL MOVE ON

The beauty of social media is the variety it places in front of us. It can be a phenomenal research and discover tool, as well as a tremendous outreach, mobilization and engagement tool. But we always need to remember:

  • No single venue can offer a one-stop package (and I wouldn’t want there to ever be just one choice),
  • The best social media venues are those that recognize the value of the community, and match the technology to the community’s needs in a unique fashion, and
  • If you really want me to use your social venue, you need to demonstrate to me that you value the ecosystem around the venue you have built – after all, individuals users are just as much a part of that ecosystem as corporate partners. If you disrespect your partners, or are unwilling to accept their value, what does that say about the ecosystem role you are offering to me, and the members of my various communities?

 

Image (Kongelundsfortet Platform) courtesy of EuroMagic, licensed under Creative Commons

analysis – innovation – execution