Archive for the ‘Customer Relationships’ Tag

Institutionalizing Social Media for Large Organizations

My friend, Jeff, made the observation that social media has the ability to change the rules for the little guy. Kind of like boxing, a good small man can be a larger man, but a good man can beat a good small man. Size still matters, but skill can also still be a game changer.

Same in social media, first mover advantage does allows small players to get traction, but that does not preclude secondary major entrants from catching up. It may cost them more, but unless the new entrant creates barriers to entry that are sufficiently difficult to overcome by entrants buying their way into a market, they better have a niche or market integration strategy to adjust.

Couple this with my recent conversations about the mix between developing intuition and validating assumptions in new product development. Same set of assumptions and market dynamics, but the mix that an entrepreneurial company will balance approach to the market versus a mature player is far different. The 80:20 rules still apply, but the entrepreneurial company will focus the 80% on intuition and the mature player will focus 80% on validating assumptions.

Hence the time to market and the difference in approach between small and large players in social media. Small companies can jump on participating online. See a unfulfilled opportunity, jump on it. Mature organizations have to weigh the impact on existing operations, customers, plans, budgets, etc. May see the same opportunity, but when you are moving a small army, it isn’t as easy as “picking up the tent”.

So how does this map to social media? Mature corporations have mature planning processes. Some are good, others bad, but the reality is that large organizations weigh risk management equally as important (and some cases more) as innovation. Small company fails, you lose a few bucks and you move on. Large company fails;  they can lose a lot of customers, money, jobs, and investor’s money. Stakes are higher, you gotta make sure that you cover the bases.

Social media represents more of the innovation side of the 80:20 rule analogy above – innovation. It has the ability to be disruptive. Social search taps into the emotional side while search engines & standard search tap into the intellectual side. If I trust person A’s opinion on a topic and follow their links to find a product, that is actually an emotional decision. Yes, I intellectualized the decision, but emotionalized the “trust”.

Social marketing, evangelism, social networking, social CRM, collaboration, and all of the related terminology are really about systematizing the human interactions that have been lacking on the web. Websites were about content. Now they are about content, relationships, sharing, collaborating, and communicating. It is what we do every day offline, just moving more online. Great opportunity to fix a lot of poor customer relationships from over-automation. Think every bad call center experience that you have had; voice prompt hell, untrained customer service reps, crappy scripts, and frustration.

Now, think about that one shining example of the customer service rep who actually could figure it out and saved the day. They were bright, articulate, knowledgeable, and had a real conversation about you. In a sea of bad interactions, the human element shines through. That is the beacon on the hill for social marketing. Think agile manufacturing for “customer relationships”. My mantra these days is that you cannot have a relationship with a system and transactions don’t make relationships. Relationships are built on interactions; good ones and bad ones, but your relationship is the sum of your interactions (online and off).

Put this together and you will see that large organizations need to build the business case and the strategy for “how to move the army”. They need to institutionalize planning around social media to incorporate the impact on the organization and to validate the planning assumptions. Many already understand the innovation, but getting consensus on the direction requires some assistance in translating the social media innovative vision into call-center, product management, operations, finance, sales, and senior management strategic planning.

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Why Fortune 1000 (All) CEOs Needs to Understand Social Media and Marketing

The reality is that very few Fortune 1000 CEOs (or even Divisional CEOs) will read this post. Actually, very few will read any posts. BUT here is why they should…

  • Marketing – Traditional marketing activities are getting diminishing returns; social marketing leveraging social media represents a shift to lower cost, higher return activities. Ecomomics is the driver. Mantra should be “Find more cost effective ways to drive revenue”.
  • Competition – The competitor that can figure out how to leverage online social relationship networks to drive customer acquisition at a faster rate grows faster.
  • Employee Productivity – Your employees can be much more productive leveraging these web 2.0 tools. Problem is that most organizations approach these tools at a tactical level and therefore only get marginal results. Some of the real innovators are using it to rethink and realign their value delivery systems.
  • Cost of Sales – Used to be that vendors that could short circuit an RFP could command higher margins. If your prospects are doing research on the web, you need to short circuit that process OR at least get in early enough to influence the process. You will lower your aggregate cost of sales.
  • Customer Relationships – Customers are demanding better information and better interaction throughout their lifecycle. Every major company has customer retention and referral programs. How is your organization trying to provide a better customer experience?

Could you cut lead generation, customer acquisition, or customer support costs leveraging social media? Can you demonstrate a ROI?

The short answer is “yes”, but having a Corporate Facebook page is probably not the right answer when someone on your board asks your CMO about how you will leverage social media …. or how you will drive sales growth over the next 2 quarters when you are also cutting marketing budgets. You could probably flog the troups to work harder to get the short term results, but the reality is that a lot of smart companies are crafting strategic approaches to social media to help change the market dynamics. If you are not getting the sales growth that you would like even in the face of a myriad of corporate initiatives, you may want to rethink “Social Media is a Fad” or isn’t really for <insert your market here>.

Why? Social Media represents a fundamental shift in the way people interact on the web. As a result, this impacts the way customers and employees interact in business. We all have B school case studies where innovative companies leveraged innovative technology challenge the established market order. There are just as many examples of where the established market leader crushed an upstart competitor by leveraging the same innovative technologies to maintain their market lead.

Your organization spends a great deal of money and time around preparing strategic plans, why aren’t you taking the same approach to social media? Could be a game changer for your business… or your competitor…

If you don’t have people in-house who can build and articulate real strategy with a Roadmap, Business Case, and ROI around social media & marketing, then I suggest that you acquire that talent post-haste. Even if you decide that you need a slow-roll approach to leveraging social media; having a strategic gameplan that is well thought out and justified is priceless. Especially if social media represents a fundamental paradigm shift in the way businesses interact with customers.