Archive for October, 2010

SEC Social Business Framework

October 21st, 2010

Beyond social media and marketing, Social Business is really about internal and external customer experience –a cross-functional responsibility of the entire organization.  To help executives wrap their arms around the key pieces that can be augmented through social efforts, the Social Executive Council (SEC) created the Social Business Framework. This framework is designed to help organizations understand how to align, manage, and bring cohesion to business objectives, company activities, and social solutions. In essence, this framework “operationalizes” social business in a manner that modularizes its components into company-relevant pieces that can then be utilized to build a social roadmap of strategic and tactical steps that facilitate implementation.

This framework also helps executives visually understand the complexities associated with a successful social program, as well as gain clarity on the:

  • Multidimensional benefits of an enterprise-wide social enablement program.
  • The structured business gains when implementing a social communication layer that allows free flow of ideas and reporting.
  • Limiting results gained when assigning social activities to one silo-ed department and/or junior marketing/public relations associate.
  • Opportunity costs of not participating in this program from a financial, efficiency and productivity perspective.

The SEC is an active forum for senior executives to collaborate and adapt the Social Business Framework to their own organization. The impact is too large and too overwhelming to do it alone —the SEC and this framework are here to facilitate the process and help our members gain social market leadership.

Social Market Research Will Save Marketing

October 15th, 2010

Even as I write the title, I cringe. As I am a late convert to the value of formalized market research. I still have flashbacks of my market research class in grad school. All I remember is statistics, database, demographics, statistics, blah, blah, blah… all I retained is that mean and medium are somehow different and important. I got lucky in that my immediate neighbor in the first class was an actuary so when they formed teams, he became my best friend.

As I progressed in Sales and Marketing management, I realized the value of asking customers what they really wanted and how they felt. I also realized there are limitations in that process. Not that customers lie, but I can’t always tell you why I do something instinctively. I just do. In asking me to explain, you may or may not get to the heart of “why.” Also, depending on “when” you ask me my opinion will vary greatly.

That is why good market research leverages statistical sampling to make sure the sample size is large enough to represent a target population. We use sampling techniques because the population is too large to cost effectively poll or they are too difficult to get all of the responses.

Shocker Statement: Traditional Market Research has a Fundamental Problem

If you know anything about political polling, they have lots of discussions about the difference between likely voters and registered voters, etc. They also beat each other up about polling techniques; whether it was phone based, did they include cell phones, the average age of the respondent, etc. What they really are trying to do is correct for the impact that the process of polling has on the outcomes. Minor differences can radically shift the results of the poll.

Corporate market research has the same challenges. Not that they don’t account for much of it, the state of the art is pretty sophisticated and gotten much more so with algorithms, etc. What the challenge for corporate marketers is always who constitutes “likely buyers” versus potential buyers. If I poll based on demographics, I can’t really tell who is likely to be a potential buyer. On websites, they spend a lot of money on predictive algorithms and website “cookie crumb trails” to try and predict potential buying behaviors.

But the challenge in primary market research is that it is an approximation of the market. A sampling set if you will. The challenge that I contend is that we sample the wrong sets in market research.

Ok, before I get lynched by a bunch of analytics, let me explain. We have been doing social market research over the last year. We probably surveyed the landscapes of 60+ markets — probably 100+ sub-markets.  Everyone of them is showing a difference in the way buyers are approaching markets versus sellers. Not talking subtleties, but in most cases, the majority missed the mark —buyers are talking over social media at a 10:1 clip versus vendors. AND they are using completely different language. Vendors are focused on the “solution stack” -– features, functionality, benefits. Buyers are focused on pain, experience, exploration, decision support, value, etc.

What it is telling us in aggregate is that vendors are only focusing on a subset of the market; those who understand the industry jargon. The vast majority of buying markets are not being serviced with the right information. I would guess somewhere about 80% of buyers or potential buyers don’t know what they don’t know and therefore cannot perform structured searches or clarify their buying interest to market researchers.

I also think this is why major brands are shifting much of their new product innovation to social media and online communities. P&G has dictated something like 50% of their new product innovation will come from its customer community. Staggering, but also a recognition that the traditional market research approach cannot get to those who don’t self identify as being part of the market.

10 Really Cool Insights from Social Market Research

  1. Disconnect between buyers and sellers in markets
  2. Difference in buyer types leads to different online buying processes
  3. Most buying processes now intersects online and goes non-linear via social media at some point; research, validation, comparison, transaction, etc.
  4. Sellers are still trying to push a linear buying process that they think they can actually influence
  5. Estimated 80% of potential buyers don’t know that they are in the market and are engaging outside of the vendor communities traditional venues.
  6. We can see language differences in different types of buyers and vendors
  7. We are using this analysis to segment and target specific types of potential buyers who would not normally consider themselves as active in the market.
  8. Good social market research allows organizations to identify gaps in their approach to the market, focus on the psychographic buyer behavior, and eliminate the high-cost/low return marketing expenditures that they have had to cling to because they produced critical volumes of sales albeit at higher cost of acquisition.
  9. Customer experiences for good or bad are now bleeding into the non-linear buying processes. Vendors who don’t get control of their poor experiences will experience a different kind of bleeding; profits.
  10. We haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg as the semantic analytics and market research techniques get updated.

Today Social Market Research is largely a blend of qualitative sampling and quantitative support. Just because you can measure it doesn’t mean you can derive meaningful business impact from it. The qualitative analysis allows us to overcome the challenges with the state of the social media tools. We can sometimes use up to 16 different tools for just one function. It isn’t about clicking a button and “poof” you have your answer to grow market share overnight. Also, having your own community allows you dimensionality of insight versus just polling public social network sites. Add in structured customer data and you have the backbone for some amazing buying behavior analysis. Over the next couple of years, the semi-automated process will mature and give way to more automated, trending, and analytical driven systems that integrated with the current business intelligence systems.

For us today, Social Market Research is the first step in building a social business plan. Not just for marketing, but all of the customer facing touch points and all of the customer support functions. In short, pretty much all of the business. You don’t know what you don’t know.

The challenge is can you figure it out before your competitors do.

2020 – Forecasting What a Post-Social Business World Looks Like

October 14th, 2010

In an earlier post, I described that we are now at a post-digital point where buyers don’t care whether the interaction is digital or not. As I was thinking about it, I thought I would outline what a 2020 post-social world would look like. A point where social was so ingrained in our behaviors that social didn’t matter. Yes, I am possibly going to be wrong on most things or the timing (think 1950’s forecasting flying cars by 2000), but interesting to see how much I get right over the next 10 years. (Yes, I know this will still be out there on the web floating around).

Smart Markup Language (SML) – Think HTML, XML, and Web Services for the semantic and social generation. This language will allow applications to share and consume smart applications and will include semantic tags, pre-built categories of tags, descriptions of taggers (history, context, etc), and support for smart apps to apply processing and preference handling.

Smart Applications (Smart Apps or “Smart Asses”) – Component applications designed to consume personalization and plug-in-play assemblage.  These applications will contain configuration for systems, information, data, and user preference management elements.

Social Objects- The definition of social will blend back into the background. Everyone will become a social object. The definitions of relationships won’t have to be pre-defined, but rather a seamless spectrum from transactional to permanent. Much like how people interact offline today. I need to buy something from a vendor, I interact. I want to connect with a friend, I connect. The idea of my own social network will disappear as people will not define how they share things with fixed labels. I will share some things with some friends, or some colleagues or the world depending upon my preferences around the information or application.

Personal Digital Assistance (PDAs) – Won’t be an AI, but rather a series of smart applications designed to work together. Communications, information, contacts, work-flow, presentation, etc will work to present information and support your environment. The idea of personal versus professional will no longer be limited dimensions (time and location). I will share information and collaborate with whom I need to, when, where, and how on a personal and informational level. My PDAs will screen, catalog, filter, and connect me to the right people, information, data, and applications as needed. I will set personal guidelines for when I respond to certain types of information, communications, etc. I will set priority codes for individuals so that my wife can always reach me for emergencies. As for that annoying co-worker, you seemingly are always busy, right?

Smart Information Grid- Markets, businesses, and communities will be highly connected in a series of Smart Apps, Social Objects, and PDAs. Businesses will be architected to plug in the right people, information, data, and applications to get the job done. The idea of a fixed information architecture will move to a more dynamic, consumption driven architecture. Think the idea of a network of applications and people working together. Virtual will fade away as the need to define what or where something is will be irrelevant.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how long it takes to get there or even if we make it to the vision above. The reality is that these trends are emerging today. The idea of virtual work and the fixed idea of work and personal are blending. Applications are becoming smarter, interfaces are becoming more personal, and social networks are proving that the rigid structures of traditional applications don’t really need to be so structured.

When you apply this to consumers, you also realize that the over-automation of the web-based, self-service model of customer experience is really a dinosaur, but only now are we seeing the tools emerge to make these tools extinct. For those who have sat on the phone waiting for a call center to fix a problem, it can’t happen fast enough.

Social Business Investment Should be 20% of Corporate Budgets

October 8th, 2010
What?? Are you crazy?
But when you consider social business is really about customer experience; you also realize that customer experience is really an crass-functional, organization wide responsibility. Social media has lowered the cost of communications, opened up the levels of transparency in business that we have never seen. Organizations cannot just assign it to marketing and go about their business. The impact is too large and too overwhelming.
We have seen a tremendous number of CIO and CMO’s tell us that they are struggling with the amount of information being generated in their organizations and they see it growing exponentially. VP’s of HR are seeing the way potential employees engage with organizations changing. Sales and partner organizations are trying to deal with the amount of noise and the speed of change. All of this has impact on our organizations and eventually, we believe, market valuations. Every function is trying to adapt to the speed of change and the amount of information now being readily available due to social media. Social business is not going to work if it is seen as a siloed functional initiative.
We have seen the similar evolution in other technologies; ERP and the Web where the evolution of the market, technologies, and business processes were silo-ed and eventually evolved into cohesive platforms. We are seeing the similar evolution in Social Business with the disruption being as impactful as many of the technologies disruptions that we have seen in the last few decades.
We are seeing at the project level where “social” projects are really 80% traditional and 20% social, but the sequencing, priority, and objectives look radically different.
If the customer experience is fundamentally going to change from the “over-automated” to a semi-automated, more personalized model, then your business systems and processes, even your people are going to have to adapt. 20% may be too little, but with a 3-5 year plan and systemic and consistent innovation; companies will be positioned to succeed.
The alternatives would be to look at the 62, all market leaders, of the Fortune 100 companies that got caught and replaced on the list of the Fortune’s biggest companies. They got caught flat-footed, or too invested in their business models to adapt to the web. Competitors caught them from behind and grew much faster. Many aren’t even around today.
This is why the SEC is so valuable. The exchange of ideas with other business drivers, the collaboration around why, what, and how… and a small enough pond to enable all of us to see the real “best in class” partners to help us deliver within our organizations.

“What?? Are you crazy?”  Ok, when you pick yourself off of the floor, consider the following….

How much do you spend on customer relationships? No just CRM, not just marketing, but all of the systems, processes, and people to support customers. If you are like most companies, you are spending probably 90% related to customers in some way. If the customer experience changes radically, 20% may not be enough.

But when you consider social business is really about customer experience; you also realize that customer experience is really an crass-functional, organization wide responsibility. Social media has lowered the cost of communications, opened up the levels of transparency in business that we have never seen. Organizations cannot just assign it to marketing and go about their business. The impact is too large and too overwhelming.

We have seen a tremendous number of CIO and CMO’s tell us that they are struggling with the amount of information being generated in their organizations and they see it growing exponentially. VP’s of HR are seeing the way potential employees engage with organizations changing. Sales and partner organizations are trying to deal with the amount of noise and the speed of change. All of this has impact on our organizations and eventually, we believe, market valuations. Every function is trying to adapt to the speed of change and the amount of information now being readily available due to social media. Social business is not going to work if it is seen as a siloed functional initiative.

We have seen the similar evolution in other technologies; ERP and the Web where the evolution of the market, technologies, and business processes were silo-ed and eventually evolved into cohesive platforms. We are seeing the similar evolution in Social Business with the disruption being as impactful as many of the technologies disruptions that we have seen in the last few decades.

We are even seeing it at the project level where “social” projects are really 80% traditional and 20% social, but the sequencing, priority, and objectives look radically different.

If the customer experience is fundamentally going to change from the “over-automated” to a semi-automated, more personalized model, then your business systems and processes; even your people are going to have to adapt. 20% may be too little, but with a 3-5 year plan and systemic and consistent innovation; companies will be positioned to succeed.

The alternatives would be to look at the 62 companies during 1989-99, all market leaders, of the Fortune 100 companies that got caught and replaced on the list of the Fortune’s biggest companies. They got caught flat-footed, or too invested in their business models to adapt to the web. Competitors caught them from behind and grew much faster. Many aren’t even around today.

Is Your Business Over-Automated?

October 6th, 2010

I have never heard anyone tell me that a business is over-automated, but I think it should be a term and concept that should enter into the business lexicon ASAP. I would define over-automation as the mechanical, impersonal, and crappy customer experience that I get when I have to engage with a large enterprise with lots of customers and too many bright people thinking about the bottom line.

I will pick on Blockbuster for a minute. Blockbuster, in its heyday, was a powerhouse in the movie business that is, as of this week, in bankruptcy. As a customer, you could tell that the company designed their customer experiences to maximize profitability; hence the late fee model that made more money than the original rental fees.

On paper, this is a great idea. In execution, it pissed off a lot of customers and, I would contend, led to the gap in trust that opened the door for Netflix. I really like the visceral experience of browsing isles looking at the sea of titles and seeing which one stands out. I like doing the same in bookstores. Online doesn