Posts Tagged ‘buyer behavior’

Breaking Down Social Commerce

November 18th, 2010

If you read Jeremiah Owyang from the Altimeter Group’s post with their report on social commerce, you will know that they do a great job (as always) breaking down the “what” of social commerce. They outline clear stages and shows best in class examples. A great read if you haven’t already.

Most of the time, most companies need help in working through the process of “how” does it apply to us and how do we build a social business strategy that makes sense. Social commerce is a large component, but usally part of a larger business strategy.

To that end, I thought I would throw in our 2 cents worth (no pun there) on developing a social commerce plan for your organization piggy-backing on Jeremiah’s post:

Continue reading “Breaking Down Social Commerce” »

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.

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

Traditional Sales and Marketing Roles are Blurring

September 7th, 2009

Reposted in full version from www.salesjournal.com blog as guest columnist

I can hear the collective groan from the Sales Journal readership, but social media is blurring the traditional lines. Sales now needs to be concerned with participating in linked-in groups, answering linked questions, participating in community forums, reading blogs, sharing tweets on twitter, sharing photos, Facebook, etc. along with their traditional lead generation activities. Sales organizations now have to worry about broadcast messaging to communicate the product value proposition and greater educations across a wide audience.

Marketing now has to focus on the 1:1 relationship whether out on the social networks or in the corporate community/website. Marketing now gets measured on lead productivity, the value of discussion versus broadcasting, and the effectiveness of their ability to assist the sales pipeline. This is far more intimate and front-line than many marketers have been traditionally involved. Additionally, the marketing organization has to worry about the specific prospect’s motivation and the customer experience.

Social media changes the rules as the relationship dynamics are more fluid because the buyer behavior is changing. The 1:1 conversation can now happen in a public forum or be forwarded (re-tweeted) to a broad audience. Customers are also doing buying research on social networks and blogs.

In the last few years, this research has gone from search engines towards social search where they value the recommendations from participants over the traditional advertising messages from marketing. Also, they buyers are doing their research prior to engagement with vendors. If you are not in their research, you are not on their short list. This means that you have to do education prior to engagement; which is the definition of evangelism.

This is causing a considerable amount of disruption in the market and within companies. You can see the whole emotional spectrum played out; fear, skepticism, frustration, doubt, distain, and even elation. Marketing is being held more accountable for results and Sales is being held to a higher standard for managing communications.

I see this as the natural evolution. Customers don’t want to be “sold”, they want “to buy”. That means they want education earlier in the sales process; which means you need to adjust the way you support their buying process. Hence, the shift in roles between sales and marketing to align more along stages of evangelism versus functional silos. Sales and marketing should be held accountable to the same results if they are working on the same objectives. The roles will be more fluid, but the expertise is still there and can be very synergistic if leveraged correctly.

Three Areas for Thought

On the People front, you need to assess how your sales and marketing organizations are aligned. Are they designed to optimize the business or the customer experience?

On the Process front, you need to rethink your approach to branding and content development to empower Sales to have the 1:Many conversations. Can you create component messages that can be tracked and measured?

On the Technology front, do you have the right tools to support the 1:1 and 1:Many conversations across social media, manage the library of corporate IP & marketing content, and manage the lead conversion from the social environments?