Archive for the ‘Customer Experience Management’ Tag

If Content is King, What Does that Make My Writer’s Block?

I have been suffering from writer’s block for about a week on my blog. I even had an editorial calendar and the blog titles written. I got busy in meetings and I couldn’t concentrate on writing. Although, I actually have some really cool perspectives on social marketing and CRM that I have been developing, but nothing that was ready for prime time. It was interesting to watch my blog traffic to see how it would hold up without my daily posts.

As I only posted one time last week, my traffic dropped slightly, but actually held for most of the week and spiked on the day that I posted. Now, I was looking for how close the relationship between the activities that I do to promote my blog (and myself) are tied to my traffic. I am doing a guerrilla level marketing program leveraging my blog, my social networks, and a $50/mo email marketing program. Essentially, the tools available to every small business without a budget. I don’t expect to become the next Seth Godin, famous marketing blogger, but I do expect that I can build an audience with very little resources. My results tell me that I have gotten outside of my own direct marketing efforts and I am now getting residual traffic from my prior marketing activities.

In addition to assisting me in finding my next opportunity(s), I am using my blog to provide a tangible case study of what can be done on a very little budget as representation of what the strategy could accomplish with a much larger budget. I am also using the concept of the blog as a repesentation of a corporate website. In my new social marketing model, the website is becoming the focal point of all the marketing activities. Prospective customers do not really care where the interaction is, they just want to get the information they need where and when they want it. I call this post-digital because when everything is digital; then digital doesn’t matter.

To that end, you have heard the phrase “publish or perish?” That describes blogging. Also, is an apt expression for creating fresh, compelling content with strong emotional hooks into your website.

So, back to my writer’s block. If content is king, then there are a few lessons that can be applied for companies looking at building content to help drive interest in their company:

1. Editorial Calendar – You need one for your content. It saved me last week in that it still kept me on pace to do at least one post. It also will help a team of people on track.

2. Be Consistent – I was getting great traffic when I was writing every daily, sometimes twice daily; even to a simple wordpress blog.

3. Be Relevant – I write for my audience, which is my contacts, who are business executives. I try not to write for techo-wonks about the infinite depths of a technical topic. My audience is also whom I partner, work, and sell so I want to be as approachable; to appeal to the “decision maker.” I can get more technical about software and infrastucture when talking with a CTO or CIO, but I save that for particular face-to-face meetings. I find technical specs hard to swallow as “easy reading.”

4. Content by Committee – Realize that it is almost impossible to sustain a huge torrent of content by yourself; let alone make it relevant, compelling, and fresh. That is why communities are so appealing with different voices, perspectives, interaction, and ideas. It doesn’t hurt that it drives SEO through the roof, provides a larger pool of contributors, and allows for different audiences.

5. Get it Viral – Keep in mind that you already have a relationship with your network, but you need to reach a broader group of contacts that don’t know you to drive more business. Sherry Heyl, Atlanta-based social media goddess and friend, talks about building consumble bites of content that can be distributed easily. The key to success is to get your morsels of content, “sound bites”, into circulation and distributed beyond your first and second degree contacts to go viral.

To that end, I am working on creating a social marketing planning framework that I will share over the next few weeks. The social marketing plan will assist companies in building online relationships, leveraging integrated website communities, building compelling calls to action to generate website traffic,  managing effective customer experiences, and developing effective measurement systems for the above activities.

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Corporate Social Media Roadmap

One of my contacts on Twitter posted a reply back that “Social Media is a Fad”. I have been thinking about that for the last couple of days. There is a tremendous amount of momentum around leveraging social media for business. This isn’t the first time that I have heard this in the last several months, but I guess perception is reality.

So, to that end, I have outlined a social media roadmap for those who are trying to “figure out” if the hype will lead to something real. I have been around enough to have seen this conversation a few times; websites, ecommerce, web applications, and now social media. This simple roadmap is targeted to those who want to do something, but are having a hard time presenting a business case, especially in this economy.

Social Media “Crawl”

  • Make sure your team has a complete profile on Linkedin –It would be nice if they were on Plaxo, Facebook, Twitter, etc.; but make sure that the profiles are complete and up-to-date; including past roles. For a lot of potential buyers, awareness of your company comes through an employee’s profile. Make sure they have a good impression.
  • Make sure that everyone has the same basic description– For the company, links to the various pages on the website (including one to careers). Also, make sure there is consistency in the company name (ie. Abbreviations, LLC on the end, Website name, etc)
  • Create a social media policy for employees– There is a fine line between personal and private. Social media can blur that line, especially on Facebook with pictures. Make sure that policy also includes connections to partners, vendors, customers, and other employees. I am not recommending that you curtail their ability to interact with online relationships, but make sure there is protection for the company.

Social Media “Walk”

  • Inventory Corporate Online Relationship Networks – You will be amazed at who your team is connected and no one else knew it. “I needed someone who could do this” or “We need an introduction to X”.
  • Identify who or which companies are missing – a key to successful networking is getting outside your own network. A lot of times it is the 3rd degree relationships that can produce the greatest opportunities.
  • Run a networking program for employees – Sales people and Executives generally know how to network, but the vast majority of employees don’t. But, they represent the vast majority or potential introductions as they had lives and experiences prior to joining the company.
  • Build an Online Relationship Campaign– This isn’t going out and collecting 25,000 random twitter followers, but building online relationships (across multiple social media sites) with the key influencers, bloggers, buyers, vendors, and participants in your industry. If the saying is “Sell where the customer is…” ; you need to start a program of connecting to them online.
  • Start an enterprise blog on your website– designate a team approach to creating an online thought leadership center for your company. Tie your blog updates to your social media participation. I update my Linkedin, Twitter, & Facebook every time I create a new post. It provides content and value for your connections; at the same time, creates a call to action for your website.
  • Cross Pollinate Your Traditional Marketing Database with your Social Media Contacts– I add all of the new contacts that I meet into my Linkedin and other social media accounts. Social CRM is becoming the new “hot” thing as companies are trying to manage the multiple (potential) customer communication channels.
  • Multi-Channel Marketing now Includes Social Media– I have been integrating my social media contacts into an email campaign list that I send my weekly blog digest. I have gotten a tremendous boost to my blog traffic by integrating email, social media, and traditional networking. A multi-channel, integrated approach allows you to reach the potential customer where and how they want to communicate. Especially with our busy schedule and email overload, don’t assume because they did not repsond that they are not interested. They may not have really “seen” the message.
  • Be Respectful– don’t SPAM your social contacts with random messages. Make sure that what you send them provides value to your network. They may not want to buy, but they will respect your attempt at providing value to the relationship and credentialing your thought leadership.

Social Media “Run”

  • Building your own online community into your corporate website – Use social media components to create a more compelling interaction on your website. Also, this provides great search engine optimization, thought leadership, differentiation, lead qualification, customer experience management, etc.
  • Build public, semi-private, and private group areas in your community– Provide value without a login through public groups, but encourage them to sign up (membership) to see a lot more. The private group areas are then used to continue the sales pursuit and provide individualized customer support.
  • Integrate your community with your marketing and sales activities– By integrating your online community, you provide a call-to-action for your outbound sales and marketing efforts. Also, this allows you to leverage your corporate website more effectively during the transition from marketing awareness and interest to sales process and lead management.
  • Integrate your community with Social Networking sites– Google, Facebook, and Linkedin all have member APIs that allow someone to use their membership in third-party communities. This removes one major obstacle for people to participate; the dreaded sign-up.
  • Integrate your community with your Enterprise Systems– Integrating your existing content and data with your online community is important because it allows you to leverage the investment in your existing CRM, ECM, etc. systems more effectively.
  • Leverage Web Analytics and Lead Scoring –An online community provides a trememdous amount of interaction data that can be measured, scored, and utlized for lead qualification.

Social Media “Sprint”

  • Integrate your business processes with your online community – Customizing the interactions of the community for your business processes; customer experience management, sales support, Call-center, project delivery, supply chain, partner management, etc. This means that different audiences interact within the community, but have personalized experiences based upon their roles and goals. I serve up a different forecasting dashboard in the Product Management Group versus the Sales Group.
  • Reimagining your Information Architecture– Some of the leading organizations are rethinking the traditional ideas around organizational Intellectual Property. They are begining to build flexible information architectures whereby the “community” is really the presentation layer for their corporate systems. They build interfaces as “application mashups”. Your access to information and applications is based upon just-in-time rights management. If I am working on a project, I get invited to the project group that has all of the project history, notes, documents, and applications that I need to interact with the project team. This also then is extended outside the organization to partners and customers. The enterprise is no longer a “castle” with a moat and a drawbridge, but a modern city with buildings, doors, locks, security systems, etc. This allows for more effecient business scalability.

At the end of the day, I don’t see social media as a fad. I think the hype factor will dimish along with the effectiveness some of the early adopters have been able to drive, but I see online social interaction as the next logical step in the evolution of the web and business.

You Can’t Have a Relationship with a System

A fundamental flaw with CRM and the reason that CRM has never reached the level of value that it was touted to provide is that you cannot have a relationship with a system.

CRM does have its place, though. Fundamentally, organizations need to manage the “data” side of customer relationships. Having a centralized place to manage the transactional data is one of the key foundations for the growth and scale of business. CRM systems along with data warehousing systems and others provide a fundamental foudation for providing clear information about running the business.

The challenge is that the systems are business-centric & not customer-centric. We design and build our business systems to run our business, but we don’t necessarily put the customer in the middle. In many larger organizations, with lots of products, markets, segments, etc.; the customer is left to cobble together their own customer experience.

I like the concept of “customer experience management” a great deal. My work in social media is a definitely parallel to the pioneering work done to bring the business closer to the customer. I also like what the folks in email marketing are doing to become multi-channel communications platforms. At the end of the day, the closer you can come to meeting the individual customers needs throughout the customer lifecycle, the better. Even better, integrating the customer touchpoints into a cohesive single point of contact.

To me the analogy to golf works. Most companies, by definition, provide mediocre customer experience. Analogous to landing in the rough. The companies that work on trying to improve customer experience through automation are getting the ball in the fairway. The companies that can figure out how to get their employees, partners, customers, and prospects to interact in a more organic way, putting the customer experience at the heart of the customer lifecycle have a better chance to get it on the green.

The best companies that are getting closer to the pin leverage business intelligence, multi-channel communications platforms, online communities, semantic technologies, and Web 2.0 technologies in conjunction with their current infrastuctures to bring a better customer experience to the table. If you can put a more usable front end to the half-dozen to the Enterprise Content Management systems that are common in a larger organization, you could really assist the organization to bridge across the multiple departments that touch a customer, as an example.

Let’s face it, the company that provides me a better “user interface”, is easier to do business with, provides better targeted recommendations, educates me without asking for a sale, provides access to information and other buyers to assist in my decision making, is transparent in their billing and packaging, connects me to a competent customer service person, and delivers value beyond the price of the product gets my loyalty.

None of this is difficult to strategize, but if it was easy, every company would do it. The challenge is prioritizing in a limited resource environment. At the end of the day, customer experience management is not a destination, but a journey.