Archive for January, 2010

Do You Use Lagging or Future Performance Indicators When Leading Your Organization?

January 27th, 2010

We’ve said it to countless marketing executives nationwide —traditional market research is a lagging indicator of past performance and social market research is a leading indicator of future performance. A bold statement, I know, but one that we truly believe in because, as we prepare social market audits for our corporate clients, we see evidence of it each and every day. What exactly do I mean and what specifically do we find during our process?

When conducting these social audits, we initially look at the traditional market research relevant to our client’s industry, and then we see how effective their marketing efforts are compared to their competitors. While that data does help us learn more about the space our client navigates in, we also know that the information is only representative of previous investments made by our client (and their competitors). It doesn’t give us a snapshot of what is going on now, what happened two weeks, or two months ago for that matter. More specifically, it doesn’t tell us if our client’s competitors have, for example, launched a new campaign that is swaying chatter in their direction and taking 1Q or 2Q market share away from our client. In a time when even the largest of organizations need to be nimble and neutralize all lead generation obstacles, lagging data doesn’t help our client lead tomorrow —and lead competitively.

Today’s market share is reflective of a company’s ability to retain customers, expand their revenue relationship with existing customers and their ability to acquire new customers which for many years has been based upon traditional buying processes. Given the changes in communications over recent years, it is clear that tomorrow’s market share is now dependent on the social customer life cycle.

The buying process, or the social customer life cycle, in most cases now begins online. As an example, when speaking with a CIO recently, their company was looking to make an investment in a business intelligence (BI) solution. The first step in the process was to reach out to peer-to-peer networks to learn about what other CIOs were using, why they selected the product/solution they did, why they eliminated others, and what impact did these products/solutions have on their business. In parallel with that research, the members of their own IT organization, with specific roles as it applies to their BI program, have also been reaching out to their own peer-to-peer networks to learn from others just like them. Often they are conducting online searches and/or reading and engaging with key bloggers and thought leaders to get a sense of which companies are the visionaries and are most likely to be of assistance. They are also looking to see which BI vendors are engaged online. Are they listening? Participating? Driving? Leading? Are they a player? Are they dominant? This is how companies get on the short list.

You see, this is just the beginning of the social buying cycle. At this point they have not yet reached out to the vendors directly. They are narrowing the field and will only contact the vendors they are most interested in, when they are ready. What about the other vendors? They don’t even know that they missed an opportunity.

What many don’t realize is that customers are now creating their own, customized, personalized buying process. The companies that understand and embrace this and build their strategies around this new reality in order to maintain market share, become thought leaders, and establish a corporate image that makes them the easiest vendor to find (and of choice) within their key market.

Markets today are more fluid and dynamic in nature than ever before.

In our opinion, traditional market research is a static snapshot and is as accurate as the information that was available at the point that the report was published. For example if, according to Wikipedia, the Gartner Magic Quadrant is published every 1-2 years, can it truly represent the current state of the market?

Social market research, when done correctly, on an on-going basis, provides a more real time, dynamic understanding of the market conditions, the competitive landscape and the social footprint of individual companies.

Companies can now learn with greater granularity what impact their thought leadership, products, services, solutions, and so forth have on the market. An indication of the important of this are investment firms who are now seeking the social market analysis on companies in order to make decisions about which companies and markets to invest in, whether angel fund, venture capital or corporate.

Fluid markets provide the ability for small companies to capture market leadership position based upon their ability to embrace the social technology disruption. What does this mean? A small company, responding to the realities in the marketplace, can actually tap into market share a large organization earned over many years. We’ve seen this type of disruption before with the web, when over a 10 year span there were 62 new companies that jumped onto the Fortune 100. We believe social media is creating another disruption in the marketplace —do you have the right data in your hands to lead your organization effectively during this important change?

Just to be clear, you might think that we are not advocates for traditional market research, and that’s simply not the case. All we’re suggesting is that companies should keenly be aware of their current social market position and gather timely data to help them put forth strategies that will ensure they continue to be the leaders within their industry in the new social marketplace.

10 Recommendations for Socially Enabling the Customer Lifecycle

January 27th, 2010

We have had a lot of discussions as of late around how to socially enable the customer lifecyle. Also, begs the question “What does that mean?”

First, we are talking about how you manage customers from awareness, through interest, purchase, delivery, support, repeat, and referral. Depending upon your market, how complicated your sales process, channels, etc. this will vary to a degree, but we are talking about managing a customer from cradle to grave ( hopefully “not” grave). Companies are paying a lot of money for business intelligence systems, CRM systems, contact center, marketing and sales technologies to try and address the challenges around the heightened customer expectations.

Customers do not want the disjointed, endless closed loop frustrations of trying to manage a relationship with a company who doesn’t understand that customers choose from whom they receive “service”. This customer experience is bleeding through into marketing and sales with the ability to mass distribute customer complaints. We have all seen the blogs, tweets, viral videos, etc.

The company that can enable a sustained and coherent engaged relationship with a customer from introduction through purchase and repeat purchases will see a decline in customer churn, increase in referrals, and a decrease in the cost of customer acquisition. Bottom line is that better engagement with your customers leads to a better bottom line. The “means to an end” in this is through social media, online communities, collaboration, web 2.0, etc. type technologies that enable individuals to engage and interact online. Huge wins in terms of brand equity, customer satisfaction, and understanding of buyer behavior, beyond streamlining the service and support processes.

To that end, we spend a lot of time working with companies to design this roadmap since many are still trying to figure out how to get started, let alone walk or run. As we do a good number of presentations on what a roadmap looks like, we thought that we would share the high-level framework in the spirit of ”give to get”; which is the basis of social marketing. Here is our recommendations:

  1. Find out what your market is saying. If you aren’t, you have no idea literally.
  2. Have a plan to engage with them on social networks, blogs, video, etc
  3. Build a good “fishing program” for lead generation
  4. Identify the top places, people, and discussions that your market is engaging
  5. Build relationships online as you would a good PR or business development program
  6. Build engaging content that will educate, entertain, or influence your market
  7. Build an online community for your customers, prospects,  and partners
  8. Listen to what they have to say, measure it, and respond to it
  9. Build an online community for your organization to collaborate and to engage employees
  10. Integrate your applications, corporate content, processes, and data into the community

10 Top Questions for Contemplating Social Media Monitoring

January 25th, 2010

For companies contemplating social media monitoring, this post analysis is meant as a starting point for integrating such an offer with Social Gastronomy’s Enterprise Social Management consulting services.

The Social media monitoring technologies are not sufficiently mature to be “install and go”; especially if the provider is looking to integrate multiple tools. This will require additional selling, implementing, customizing, and executing to manage the integration of the multiple data stream; which are exponentially more complex beyond single tool selection. Some large brands use up to 16 different tools in its social media monitoring program, we use 10+ for just our social market audit. Adding to the complexity in tool selection is the fact that a strategic snapshot that shows the relevance to the brand and business is different than the tactical dashboard and may require a completely different tools set.

Additionally, the competitive tool landscape becomes more complicated as provider moves up the “food chain” to sell to new levels. The expectations as to how extensive the monitoring program will become will be dictated by the CMO’s desire to consolidate efforts; ie. Across monitoring for brand, reputation management, customer contact, etc. the provider could find itself competing for a broader base of business against PR, Marketing Communications, and Contact Center firms for the Social Media business. We suspect that this will naturally (already) occur as CMO’s will come to the conclusion that the monitoring and listening capabilities should be centralized and feed data for multi-purposes.

Recommended Planning Steps

Area of Planning Key Issues Impact
Business Planning
  • Expected return
  • Ownership within Organization
  • Measure success
  • What are you really buying
  • Investment required over time
  • Resources
  • Business case
  • Technology investment to support offering
Roadmap will dictate the business and investment requirements. If requirements are more extensive than expected, will cause perception issues as to quality and ability to execute.
Program Management
  • Pricing
  • Packaging
  • Target customers within organization
  • Tool selection now and future
  • Duplication of data
  • Data cleansing process
  • Start with a core application and add other offerings
Expectations around the offering will dictate whether one tool or many will be required. We are seeing client have more mature requirements in terms of comprehensive information collection and synthesis.
Operation Execution
  • People Requirements
  • Process Requirements
  • Technology Requirements
How far along the business requirements have gone in preparing to scale the a program
Solution Customization
  • Add’l types of listening tools
  • Process
  • Training
  • Dashboard
  • Addl tools
  • Packages?
  • Pricing
If you trend as other enterprise social media clients that we have seen, then the customization requirements eventually will be extensive. Preparing for scenarios may allow for better initial package and accelerated scalability
Integration
  • Process
  • Requirements
  • Customer training
  • Project set-up
  • Policies and procedures setup
  • Roadmap for clients
The enterprise customers seem to be more mature in expectations around integrating offering into their environments and not as tolerant for siloed management. Has impact on operations and customization.

10 Top Takeaway Questions to Answer

  1. What is the expected hand-off when Social Gastronomy does strategy?
  2. What if organization wants other tools to include into the mix?
  3. What if monitors in other areas and wants to combine – call center, pr or marcom firm?
  4. Reputation monitoring, brand reach, complaints, categories, competitive intelligence, and qualitative analysis – what are you monitoring and why?
  5. Sentiment analysis – how leverage, how integrate with other data, how overcome shortcomings?
  6. Sentiment analysis challenges and manual review, omissions, volumes, discrepancies
  7. What does the integrated tool dashboard look like? Is there a different dashboard for the daily user, weekly manager, and monthly/quarterly executive?
  8. Integration into CRM – process, results, so what?
  9. How integrate into broader programs, how to use as door-opener for new expanded social media presence management?

10.  Where does this go? Roadmap?

Enterprise Social Architecture: Need My House Jack?

January 21st, 2010

We spend a lot of time with larger enterprises discussing how to integrate these newer technologies; web 2.0, community, social media, collaboration, etc. into their existing environments.

There are similarities to owning an older home. Learning a lot lately about how older homes were constructed. Our house was built in the 1950′s and they used a center beam and wing construction model. Think of a ship, center beam and wings fanning out from there. Over time, the center beam begins to sag a little, not very flexible so you put in house jacks, bracket the beam, and put in supports, etc. In older homes, you always find that the previous owners have added their improvements; rewired electricity, added a bathroom, added an addition built on a different foundation, etc.

If you think about many of the larger enterprises, they have the same challenges. Centerbeam for support which isn’t very flexible and sags. The center beam is the ERP system and the wings are the other systems that hang off of it; payroll, onboarding, content mgmt, crm, business Intelligence, supply chain, logistics, intranets, portals, various biz apps, email, etc.ERP. Added a lot additions; business intelligence, CRM, content, web apps, intranets, supply chain, etc.

 We spend a lot of time with enterprise organizations and their domain experts talking about how to socially enable the core business systems and processes custom lifecycle management. We hear all the time from CIO’s that they don’t want to make any major system changes as they are still paying for it; with all of the additions and changes, they still have a hefty residual mtg payment or amortization and  would like to get more life out of the systems without having a payment.

 The good news is that the home remodeling busness has advanced with new technologies, techniques, and implementation processes to retrofit an older home with the latest green and or backbone and foundation strengthening and life extending techniques for older homes.

Same thing for larger enterprises looking retrofitting their social backbone for their organization to gain effiencies, competitive advantage, or keep up wth their customer requirements. They can implement a social architecture without requiring them to rip out existing systems or do major infrastructure changes.

 We have begun to develop social program and system implementations with the variuos partner organizations to take advantage of enterprise class social for lead generation, customer lifecycle mgmt, business intelligence, new product development, project collaboration, and emploee engagement as just a sampling of initiatives that we are seeing.

Retrofitting a home is harder than new construction in a lot of ways, but for many homeowners who want to keep the charm of their home intact or who cannot afford to major home repair, it is an attractive option.

Retrofitting older information infrastructures to take advantages of social and collaboration can provide similar life extending and or cost reducing alternatives to upgrading without disruption.

Every Conversation is Social

January 19th, 2010

What does that mean?

You ever wake up and remember a snippet of a dream? We work through problems in our sleep. If you don’t capture it, it is gone. Or at least for me. So, I wake up with this “Build it and they will come” message in my head…. “Every Conversation is Social”.

 It is like my subconscious is trying to punch through to my conscious to get the message through. I am reminded of the 1960’s scifi movie where they shrunk the space ship and floated through someone’s body. If they didn’t get the host to do something, they would be trapped. What message what trying to get through?

 Every Conversation is Social – Possible Meanings

  • Consulting – every conversation that I have had lately has been around how to socially enable the enterprise; customer lifecycles, lead generation, enterprise search and collaboration. I have been feeling guilty about not blogging more, but we have been so busy since the new year with speaking opportunities and client meetings… Maybe…
  • Social Market Audits – we have been doing a lot of social market audits; looking at the market for companies to assess how ready their market is for social marketing and how to leverage social media for lead generation, branding, and thought leadership. Maybe a reflection of our discussions about how to identify networks, influencers, and conversations in social media.
  • Partners – we had a conversation internally about how to better empower our business partners to have the social enablement conversation in their respective domains; business intelligence, CRM, call center, employee engagement.
  • Kids – could be just simply a random phrase. I have been joking with my 4 year old that he “gets older every day”. Maybe it is just a tru-ism…
  • Really Important Epiphany – maybe it is a garbled thought that I can’t remember anything other than the last thought of a great idea – Like the Lassie commercial on TV lately – “Lassie, go… blah,blah, blah… Farmer Brown… blah, blah, blah… help… blah, blah… COOKIE…”  Maybe it is like…“Every…. Blah, blah… Conversation… blah, blah, blah… social.
  • Could be a title – possibly for a great book or seminar on “Social Marketing”.
  • Really Bad Epitaph? – I really hope this isn’t the highlight of my life, though.
  • … Or just maybe I have social on the brain and it is a random thought