Connecting online with like-minded people (both professionally and personally) has changed peoples’ business and private lives and I don’t think we’ve seen anything yet. Whether it is through online collaborations (such as “The Age of Conversation“) or through applications like LinkedIn and Facebook. But are they friendships?
Lewis Green doesn’t think so. He writes: “Virtual is good. Reality is better” and I agree. Friendship between people requires meeting in the flesh and not once, but many times. I don’t have more than a handful of friends and they are people I know very, very well. However I have many acquaintances, colleagues and business contacts.
There is nothing wrong with that. Relationships need a starting point and a path to grow into friendships. The hardest part for most people is precisely that; a starting point.
If you are building a business, if you are a marketer, a significant part of your life is focused on creating those first steps on that path; an opportunity to start a conversation, to gain a foothold of someone’s attention and interest.
Ten years ago CRM was all the buzz and was going to change the marketing landscape forever, promising a one-to-one relationship with all prospects and customers. But CRM over-promised and under-delivered.
CRM was mostly synonymous with expensive systems, even more expensive implementations and nobody to drive the beast when it was finally installed. Everyone has heard a horror story. The company I worked for in the mid-nineties employed about 120 people and spent $500k on a system that no-one used. So is it all a waste of time?
I don’t think so. The importance of one-to-one relationship building is clearly only going to increase in the information age; to build relationships we need to be more relevant, more personal, more focused.
The good news is that the choice of “CRM” software is now far greater and no longer restricted to large corporate business. It is much more affordable, flexible and user friendly.
I have recently had a play with SugarCRM, an “open source” product that’s had good reviews online and appears to bring together simplicity and functionality at a price point that is accessible to small and medium business.
PS: Maybe CRM is not the right term, maybe it should simply be Relationship Building Systems. Maybe more on that in my next post.
I love this story about a chinese man who didn’t quite get what he expected from Dell and wanted action. Only a few years ago the power balance between complaining customer and multinational would be tipped well and truly towards the multi-national. Not anymore.
Instead of the Intel Core Duo T2300 processor he had expected, the computer had a T2300E, which lacks “virtualization technology,” a feature that allows the computer to run more than one operating system at a time. Dell says it’s of little use to laptop users, but Zhang says he wanted it anyway.
A few years ago the 30-year-old Zhang might not have gotten very far with his gripe. But 53 million Chinese are denizens of online forums, making it easy to find folks with equivalent complaints.
In the old days, we’d tell our friends and family, influencing maybe twenty people around us. This might mean some lost future revenue to the company we bought from but realistically, would Dell feel that?
Now look what happened: not only did this guy find a bunch of people like him with the same complaint as well as a laywer to take the case but more importantly, the story zipped around the world in a matter of days. I picked it up from two sources; Steve Rubel’s post on Dell’s response and CRM Daily about the actual case. Now, if you hadn’t read it yet from another source you have read it here….
For now, this is about a big, global brand but it won’t be too long when every brand, local or internationally will have to contend with the fact that customers will be able to compare notes, talk about your firm, your delivery, your service whatever it may be.
We were made an offer recently to bundle all our telecommunications services and pay a fixed monthly sum. You’ve probably had similar offers. After looking at our total spend and comparing that to the offer, we decided that it was going to save us a fair bit. Condition was, you have to sign up for 12 months.
The first couple of months the bills were massive; this was due to “adjustments” between billing periods that I gave up on trying to understand. Finally, the “adjustments” are behind us. But the bills are still massive. When I took a closer look I realised that a 5 minute mobile call now costs me around $4.00
This company will be making a fortune out of me unless I drastically change my consumer behaviour. For the next 12 months. Probably my own fault for not digging deeper initially.
Their marketing people have done nothing illegal, they have not lied, but they have still hoodwinked me. So what is the impact of this?
Here are some considerations for their brand:
- The telecommunications market is highly competitive.
- Loyalty is a major problem; the cost of acquisition of a customer is very high
- I trusted this company enough to give them all my business
- I will never trust them again; 12 months and 1 day from now I will have a new provider never to return.
- I will have told more than just a few people.
I wonder if these sums still add up for this marketing manager?
I read this post from a Kerry Stranman, a contributor to the Word Of Mouth Marketing Organization (WOMMA) about Democratizing Marketing…that title put me off a bit (it has that “advertising agency” flavour to it), but the gist is interesting; marketers are losing control over “the message” they wish to deliver because customers can now directly communicate with massive audiences of other customers via the Internet. If it’s great, they’ll spread the word, if it’s bad they will too…
Right now, you may think that this doesn’t relate to your business. That your customers don’t look online for information about your type of services or your company.
I don’t care what anyone says; within the next couple of years what you do online will be just as important as what you do offline; it’s only a matter of time. Why? Because when people buy stuff there are two things they will always want to know: am I getting the best value for money? Can I trust this product/brand?
People’s networks are the first place where they look for this information, and the growth in online networks or communities are phenomenal. Maybe no one is talking about your product or service yet. But how long before they will?
Going to Florida for a seminar is not really on the books yet, but after having read a fair few articles on the Word of Mouth Associations website it would have been nice.
Although the article itself is not revolutionary, it does focus the attention on something that I think is so often forgotten; turning customers into fans starts with the product.
9 times out of 10 the expectations of marketing are squarly focused on promotions and sales. It would be interesting to calculate the ROI on general promotional activities versus money invested in turning a customer into an advocate.
No, even better, let’s see how much business has been generated from customer referrals and other word of mouth promotion, and how much from general advertising, trade shows etc.
In b2b marketing, I don’t think there is a question about what comes up trumps.
So why don’t we do more with it?
Here are three reasons I can think of:
1. It takes long term thinking; the results pay off in the long term
2. It’s not as visible; no new website, ads or brochures to flash around
3. Based on the two factors above, it is a higher risk strategy for a marketing person.
Solution? Get support from the top first; it’s not a hard sell once you have the numbers.
Word of Mouth Basic Training: Day 2: Turning Customers Into Evangelists
There is a lot of argument online about the growing sophistication of customers, and how that impacts the way we should be marketing to them.
I just wonder how pervasive, and what evidence actually exists for this argument?
It’s a very logical argument to say that because we are marketed to so heavily we have turned off from traditional marketing messages, but the reality is that the vast majority of products and services are still sold with these traditional messages…
So what does that mean? Maybe it means that this more sophisticated consumer is really only a very small (but very vocal) group that is largely present online…
it could also mean that the market has changed and that traditional marketers are missing out by not tuning there message and channels to this shift.
But what proof is there of either? This is something I’d love to have some comment on.
The concept is not new: not all customers are equal, the 80-20 rule (80% of profits come from 20% of your customers), loyalty, relationships, etc. From what I can see this tends to work really well in two types of organisations; those large enough to have the systems, training and management to develop and implement the right strategy and those small enough to manage this in sales people’s heads.
The challenge lies with the company of that medium size, and they make up a very large chunk of the economy.
They often don’t have the resources to get experts involved in developing the strategy and the systems to support this kind of customer management, but they understand the need.
So a software package is bought at great expense, it is installed and everyone goes back to the way they worked yesterday.
So what can you do?
I believe that it’s more important to get the thinking right first. Understand what you want to do, what you can do (considering the size of your operation) and how you want to do it. And don’t forget to get the people involved first…
You may not even need a new software applications when all is said and done.