Consumer lifecyles

Nobody is coming to help.

Nobody is coming to help. It’s a stark and confronting reality that almost immediately invites a fight or flight response and in business we see it every day.

Whether you’re trying to resolve a bad customer experience that shouldn’t have happened or if you’re tackling structural change to your industry, or whether you’re simply trying to pull your business out of disappointing quarterly returns, the reality is in that moment no one else is coming. There’s no second team just like yours squirrelled away in another room, there’s no one else already working on the problem, there is just you and a handful of others to solve this.

The only time someone else will come is when you’re gone and by then it’s too late to do anything because it’s not your problem anymore.

The realisation that it’s up to you and your team, or you and a cross-section of colleagues all focused on a single task above all else can be an incredibly empowering, uplifting and educational experience.

If you succeed it’s because of your collective works. If you fail but tried everything you could then at least you’ve learnt a lot and your effort will show. But if you fail because you spent too much time trying to mitigate risk from lack of action,  and in doing so don’t put enough actions in to the market, then you’ll have learnt little and achieved less.

So no matter your challenge, be it with your boss, your customers, or your whole business realise this: no one is coming, it’s up to you to make the difference.

So go make it.

Advertisements

Is it worth it?

It’s a question we all ask ourselves multiple times per day – even if it’s just unconsciously – ‘is it worth it?’

If your customers are thinking for too long about whether you’re worth their time, their money, their social reinforcement or their verbal recommendation then you need to be working harder at giving them more reasons to shorten the time they spend evaluating you.

You see this evaluation most frequently in the supermarket. People paused in aisles staring at one or dozens of similar brands trying to decide which one they’ll buy.

Take a look at your business and what your company puts in to the market. Find the opportunities where you can engage with your current and new customers in brand appropriate ways, perhaps even where your customers don’t expect you to be, but when you’re there, it becomes a natural and welcome addition.

The 2013 Social Rich Media Benchmark Report

 

A new Social Media benchmarking report has compared 2000 Facebook posts, which had exposure on more than 2 billion impressions, from companies to determine the most effective combination of types of posts (updates, questions, polls), those that are sponsored vs organic and those with and without imagery.

As a quick excerpt, I’ve extracted one of the key slides, which demonstrates Paid vs Organic engagement across multiple post types. It’s interesting to see the ‘discovery’ nature of Social media coming through pretty strongly here. In notes, photos and offers – consumers are more than happy to engage with Paid posts from company’s (which they may or may not be following).

Paid vs organic engagement rate by post type - Facebook.

Paid vs organic engagement rate by post type – Facebook.

Download the full report, free, here.

 

——————————————

I also run a Google+ page, check out Digital Optimisation Reports for the latest analysis and studies of best practice Digital marketing and optimisation from around the world.

 

 

Is Microsoft about to dump Bing?

A piece out of Business Insider today, by Matt Rosoff argues that maybe Microsoft is giving up on Bing. It’s a quirky question, businesses of this size don’t usually give up on products that are growing like Bing is. But nontheless Matt has some decent points, as below.

microsoft bing

Earlier today, Google and Mozilla renewed their deal to make Google the default search engine in the Firefoxbrowser for another three years.

This seems like Microsoft passed up a great opportunity to get more traffic to Bing. Right now, Firefox has about 25% market share and is used by more than 400 million people. According to Comscore, about 75% of the searches conducted from Firefox go to Google. (Users can manually select Bing or another search engine, but most don’t.)

Last year, Google paid Mozilla about $103 million for the right to be the default search engine. (That’s 84% of the Mozilla Foundation’s total $123 million, as per its 2010 financial statement, which were released in October — PDF here.)

That’s chump change for Microsoft. Even if the deal was much more expensive this time around as both companies bid up the price, Microsoft blinked first. Why?

Microsoft had no comment, but here’s one possibility: Microsoft has already reached its market share goal with Bing and is tightening the wallet to bring expenses under control.

The evidence:

  • Microsoft decreased Bing’s marketing spend last quarter. The Online group’s operating loss decreased for the first time in ages last quarter. That’s partly because sales and marketing expenses for the Online group dropped 25% last quarter (compared with the year-ago quarter). That’s a big shift from the previous four quarters, where sales and marketing expenses for Online rose 5% from the previous year.
  • It’s letting Bing talent migrate. Back in April, a former Bing engineer wrote that Microsoft was no longer spending big bucks to retain the best talent — instead, it was paying “far below market rates.” This year, two top Bing leaders — Satya Nadella and Yusuf Mehdi — took jobs elsewhere at Microsoft, suggesting that they saw more opportunity elsewhere (or that Steve Ballmer wanted to shift top talent away from Bing).

While Matt’s points are well argued he fails to address the fundamentals about why destop oriented browser based search may not be as appealing now, for Bing’s future. Businesses don’t make decisions like the size and scale of this one based on today’s conditions, they make them based on at least a 5 to 10 year window.

I’m not entirely convinced Microsoft is giving up on Bing at all. It could be that they’re recognising that desktop based browsers aren’t going as important in the future as it’s going to be – with the rise of mobile and tablet devices and growing search volumes, and it is because of Firefox that more people are willing to check out other browsers like Chrome, Opera etc.

It’s also worth considering that Google gave up it’s Twitter access a few years ago now, but no one seriously suggested that Google wasn’t taking search seriously. I wonder if they’re regetting that decision now?

Finally, it’s worth considering which search engine picked up exclusive access to Twitter, and also has exclusive access to Facebook – yep, that’d be Bing. Social Search – the seamless integration of arguably the world’s two largest Social media platforms and search data will be invaluable for both customer experience and algorithmic learning.

Perhaps it’s not that Microsoft didn’t want Firefox, perhaps it’s that they just think they don’t need it as much – because in the next few years social media sites are going to become even more important desinations than they are today and less people will use Search to get there.

Wrapped up in our own bubbles – part 1

There are several big picture issues floating around on the internet at the moment all of them revolving around filters, personalisation, social conversations, social media, anonymity and privacy vs conversations specifically tied to your real life and the real you. I’m going to try to tackle these issues/discussions one by one and hopefully finish up with a few summarised thoughts, potential implications and lots of questions worth mulling over in the coming weeks, months and years. The issues are too big for just one post however, so consider this to be part 1.

The first issue to tackle is the discussion around filters and personalisation. Eli Pariser, the former Executive Director of MoveOn.org, argues that more and more individuals and companies are wrapping themselves in ‘filtered bubbles’ of information, and that this is ultimately a bad thing. A ‘filter bubble’, is “A filter bubble is a concept developed by Internet activist Eli Pariser to describe a phenomenon in which search queries on sites such as Google or Facebook or Yahoo selectively guess what information a user would like to see based on the user’s past search history and, as a result, searches tend to play back information which agrees with the user’s past viewpoint. Accordingly, users get less exposure to conflicting viewpoints. And according to Pariser, the filter bubble is “that personal ecosystem of information that’s been catered by these algorithms” which, based on past choices, reflect a person’s existing viewpoint.” Source.

I strongly encourage you to watch the video below as Eli draws out, but stops short of describing, some of the impacts of a filter bubble, and what that means for individuals, groups, collectives, societies and nations.

What Eli touches on, but doesn’t go into a great deal of detail about is what this means in the medium to long-term and about the implications of companies. political and social groups trying to communicate to a broader audience. In an era of ‘over-personalisation’ where your future search and online results are influenced by past decisions it becomes easier to be convinced that you are right, because Search Engines – both algorithmic and social – deliver what you want to hear, read and see, and are influenced signficantly based on what you’ve previously asked for. How does an individual grow sufficiently to take in broad opinion if the search results they receive cater to what they know, not what they don’t know? Over time, the delivery of this personalised information leads to more like-minded searches, which in turn deliver more like-minded results. Breaking out of that cycle could be very difficult – how do you for example tell algorithmic search engines that you want to be challenged, if you don’t know what some of the alternatives are?

The challenge for business should be plainly obvious: How do you talk to the unconverted where they aren’t getting the information they might need because years of search history indicates they don’t know and an algorithm doesn’t isn’t programmed to recognise that they might need it? How do you get to individuals that should be looking at you and considering your services but where you might be prevented from delivering that information to new groups because a search engine, or personalisation algorithms have decided that your message isn’t relevant, even if it is. In an online environment a future challenge (to start working on solving now) is how to get your message to those that aren’t already singing from the same hymn sheet.

This may not be a massive issue right now because the internet is still relatively young, and personalisation more so, but consider the current generation growing up now – next generations students, consumers and leaders – how will their lives be affected, and how will businesses talk to individuals who have never known any different?

Perhaps Donald Rumsfeld said it best when he posited this:
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

On to part 2.

Making Social Media exclusive – the next evolutionary digital step

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece “not so social media” and within it I posed questions about how a business manages the balance on social media (Twitter, Facebook etc) between loyal customers, potential customers who haven’t bought, and those that joined because they might think about buying someday but equally might not.

There’s little debate that social media is huge for consumers and businesses. There’s even less debate that Twitter and Facebook is very useful for quickly spreading messages ranging from as ‘Britney Spears got a new haircut ZOMG’ through to ‘Rebellion in Libya, tell the world what’s happening to us’.

But where there is debate and discussion with Twitter and Facebook is its tangible, monetary value to business. Particularly to those businesses that see it as a ‘push’ service, not a discussion and communication medium. And internal conversations are fast evolving from ‘lets get as many people as we can‘ to asking ‘how valuable are the people we’re getting anyway?‘.

Businesses are now quickly facing up to questions about social media database value, and treating them just like any other database they might have built through ‘traditional’ channels. High-level questions such as:

– ‘How do we deliver real value to loyal customers through social media?’

– ‘When our loyal customers swim in the same pool as people who have never used us, how do we separate them to build meaningful relationships with either, or both, group(s)?’

– ‘We’ve managed to get 100,000 followers on Twitter. How much are they worth to us?’

– ‘How do we determine who is truly engaged, and who isn’t?’

– ‘Do we really want or need a huge database? Or is having a tight-knit, more engaged, database better?’

Many marketers are currently focused on evolving businesses, messaging and campaign offerings to deliver greater, more personalised, experiences – perfectly tailored to individuals or close knit groups of similar users.

How might social media evolve from here: Retention and deeper emotional connection

Social media will undoubtedly evolve from its current form. But as marketers, the challenge will be to ensure that evolution and adoption is valuable too. But how can social media play a part in that as part as a valuable communication ‘bridge’ if the conversation is open to anyone and anyone?

I believe there is an opportunity for businesses to take a more proactive approach to integrating social media into incredibly valuable, but as yet, largely untapped areas in their business, and that is ‘behind the wall’. Adapting social media technologies to membership marketing and retention marketing activities may just be one of the cheapest, and most effective ways of retaining customers. As yet it hasn’t been adopted much, if anywhere.

There is an opportunity to differentiate and add significant value to product and service offerings by qualifying individuals and approving them to join group(s) and channel(s) as a part of the entire customer experience.

The argument for making Social Media exclusive

Social media purists, observers and commentators might rear-up in horror at the thought of organisations locking up social media channels, and that’s fair enough – it’s a new concept.

Making some, or specific, social media channels exclusive to current, valuable clients, might sound ludicrous to some – ‘social media should be open right?’, but if we think about it in a real life situation, nowhere works that way. For example: If you go to a bar on a Saturday night, you don’t have a conversation with every single person in the bar. You will almost always have conversations with people you know or new people who have been introduced to the group by a friend. Now ask yourself why you don’t have a conversation with everyone in that bar? Nothing is stopping you. You don’t know for sure you won’t have anything to talk about with each person, but it might take a lot of time to find the few things that you do have in common. And in the end having the common ground you may have might outweigh the uncommon ground you have, thereby negating the effort and actually producing a negative reaction of avoidance should you see that individual again.

By pre-qualifying who can join discussion channels it actually makes the value proposition for the business and customers more valuable. Customers who are actually invested in the product or service have an open forum to discuss issues while ensuring that the conversation is only had with like-minded, or similarly interested parties. The conversation would be more engaging due to there being a higher starting benchmark and the participants would care more about the outcome of the discussion.

In a more private, like-minded environment more valuable conversations about product innovation, testing and idea generation can be developed, as well as more effectively presenting renewal, reward and retention offerings. Should the customer choose to cease purchasing, or continuing their membership, access to the exclusive social media arenas would also cease – if the customer is heavily invested in these groups some may continue using the product and services to continue having those discussions. Equally, it would allow customers to voice dissatisfaction earlier, and allow the company to respond more appropriately.

The wealth of untapped information that could be shared is mind-boggling, and unbelievably valuable, if you start to think about all the possibilities of what a loyal, exclusive, group of customers might discuss and be willing to share.

Maybe not for everyone

This concept may not be for everyone and every business. But in an economic environment where more and more businesses are competing for eyeballs and dollars, low-cost, effective customer retention and product innovation is fast becoming a major objective of many businesses. It’s all well and good to grow, but if you’re losing em’ as fast as you’re getting em’, then the business isn’t growing, it’s treading water.

People want to feel good about themselves and their decisions. People want to feel exclusive, and that the companies they choose to purchase from care about them.

Using social media as a retention tool is a new way of using a new technology to meet and exceed age-old customer expectations.