Archive for the ‘online community’ Tag

10 Recommendations for Socially Enabling the Customer Lifecycle

We have had a lot of discussions as of late around how to socially enable the customer lifecyle. Also, begs the question “What does that mean?”

First, we are talking about how you manage customers from awareness, through interest, purchase, delivery, support, repeat, and referral. Depending upon your market, how complicated your sales process, channels, etc. this will vary to a degree, but we are talking about managing a customer from cradle to grave ( hopefully “not” grave). Companies are paying a lot of money for business intelligence systems, CRM systems, contact center, marketing and sales technologies to try and address the challenges around the heightened customer expectations.

Customers do not want the disjointed, endless closed loop frustrations of trying to manage a relationship with a company who doesn’t understand that customers choose from whom they receive “service”. This customer experience is bleeding through into marketing and sales with the ability to mass distribute customer complaints. We have all seen the blogs, tweets, viral videos, etc.

The company that can enable a sustained and coherent engaged relationship with a customer from introduction through purchase and repeat purchases will see a decline in customer churn, increase in referrals, and a decrease in the cost of customer acquisition. Bottom line is that better engagement with your customers leads to a better bottom line. The “means to an end” in this is through social media, online communities, collaboration, web 2.0, etc. type technologies that enable individuals to engage and interact online. Huge wins in terms of brand equity, customer satisfaction, and understanding of buyer behavior, beyond streamlining the service and support processes.

To that end, we spend a lot of time working with companies to design this roadmap since many are still trying to figure out how to get started, let alone walk or run. As we do a good number of presentations on what a roadmap looks like, we thought that we would share the high-level framework in the spirit of “give to get”; which is the basis of social marketing. Here is our recommendations:

  1. Find out what your market is saying. If you aren’t, you have no idea literally.
  2. Have a plan to engage with them on social networks, blogs, video, etc
  3. Build a good “fishing program” for lead generation
  4. Identify the top places, people, and discussions that your market is engaging
  5. Build relationships online as you would a good PR or business development program
  6. Build engaging content that will educate, entertain, or influence your market
  7. Build an online community for your customers, prospects,  and partners
  8. Listen to what they have to say, measure it, and respond to it
  9. Build an online community for your organization to collaborate and to engage employees
  10. Integrate your applications, corporate content, processes, and data into the community
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Enterprise Social Media and Online Community Have a Long Way to Go

I get a lot of industry articles and reports emailed to me… a lot… I think it is a reflection of the interest that is being generated around the discussions that we have on how to apply social media to business. Some of this has been documented in this blog, but much has happened so fast and furious over the last few weeks that we haven’t been able to catch up. A couple of reports that are worthy of your review as stand-alone pieces of research, but taken together validate the conversations that we are having…

1. Deloitte’s Tribalization of Business Study on Online Communities – Really good metrics on community usage. Worth noting that many of their communities are smaller which also reflects their sampling business size. Additionally, very skewed to business-to-business which also is reflective of the state of the market. An analysis of the report finds that” 60% of communities are less than 1 year old & greater than 2/3’s of the communities have less than 1,000 members.”

2. 8 ways the American information worker remains a Luddite in ComputerWorld – October 10, Eric Lai – Quotes a Forrester Research Study around corporate technology usage. “Less than 20% of information workers said they visit social networking sites for work”

Take that into context around the amount of education that we have been doing with all size organizations on how to build effective social marketing programs, you can see that the market is just really beginning. We have been doing Social Marketing Assessments for companies to give a snapshot of how they are doing comparative to the market in terms of their social media presence. Really easy to play “gotcha” with most companies as they haven’t developed formalized blogger outreach and social media participation programs. As more companies realize that this will be a critical requirement for either maintaining market share and/or finding opportunities to reach potential buyers in a low cost way, you will see more companies do outreach on social media.

From there, the next logical step will be to build their own communities into their website to continue the conversation and begin the sales process within the confines of their websites. This gives more analytics, better influence over the conversation, and the ability to drive search engine optimization. Dynamic social media content is optimized better than static content pages.

Good news/bad news is that we have a long way to go & it may be a shorter process than many people expect….

Wish List for Social Marketing Metrics

I get requests to review social media related platforms all the time; functionality, metrics, and integration. Some of these platforms are really good and some of them will die a quiet death. I make it a point to not discuss any specific platforms just because I want to stay strategic in this blog. But, I think there is value in outlining what I am looking for in the way of platform measurement capabilities that will support my social marketing strategy. Here is my wish list of activities that I want to measure and for which I am trying to collect tools; some of which is available and some is still not ready for primetime…

  1. Automatic Chatter Analysis – who, what, where, when, why, and how with comparisons, triggers, analysis, and a dashboard.
  2. Synchronization of My Social Networking Contacts – cross platform and multiple networks with the ability to start with one and find someone on another; i.e. uploading a twitter contact and have the ability to synch with LinkedIn or Facebook or email.
  3. Social CRM – then do that for all of my company’s contacts, dropped into a CRM system which I can then manage multiple contacts, campaigns, and relationships
  4. Online Community Lead Scoring – apply lead scoring to my own hosted community. I want to be able to identify when activities in the community indicated greater interest and send that into my CRM or multi-channel marketing system for follow up.
  5. Multi-Channel Reach Measurement – include social networking channels, twitter, blogs, back links, SEO, & SEM. Not just email and web analytics.
  6. Social Influencer Scoring – compare the various potential lead influencers to compare; blogs, communities, social networks, twitter, forums, sites, etc.
  7. Lead Source Analysis – Need a better way of being able to identify and track indirect sources for leads. I can use the latest web analytic tools to identify pages, but I need a way to elevate that to identify the sources of leads to compare and contract; i.e.  2nd generation re-tweet triggers a wave of people to our website. I want to be able to match the tweet to the twitter user to the lead. This would require some serious integration between social media and web analytics with a healthy dose of marketing legwork.
  8. Strength of Social Marketing Channels – Once you can track, then you can evaluate.
  9. Cost of Lead Acquisition by Social Marketing Channel – This is the Holy Grail; to measure the cost of lead generation by channel. Cross match it to revenue from leads and lead source and you have ROI.
  10. Social Marketing Brand Strength – Measurement of reach, calls to action, and actual action. There are some metrics out there with proprietary formulas, but this is still nascent.

If automatic ROI calculations are still some point off into the future, then what can we measure today and how can we justify our expenditures on Social Marketing? My answer is that it depends on the “how’s”; how big, how complex, how sophisticated, how much is your budget, and how much time? You can track a great deal with the tools currently available which is more sophisticated than much of the traditional brand-oriented mass communications channels that exist today. So, the good news is that we are moving in the right direction, but it is still more art than science. Well, at least until the platform vendors provide the above capabilities.

Mashable.com’s Chart on Social Marketing Benefits

Check out this chart from www.mashable.com below which provides survey results of the benefits companies are seeing in social marketing. I think it provides a great overview of the potential for social marketing. The only thing that I would add is the value of connecting with influencers (call it indirect communications) to reach a broader audience is not captured. I would add that as a category the next time they run this survey. I think they will be surprised how well this category results.

Also, social marketing is not just about social networking, but developing an online community into your existing website, building social profiles into your CRM efforts, and extending your multi-channel communications. Finally, it is about rethinking the customer experience to better orient around the 360 degree referrential buying process this is becoming the norm.

http://mashable.com/2008/12/29/benefits-of-social-media-marketing/

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.

Online Community Lead Identification – Part 2 Linkedin Example

As a continuation of the the post on online community lead identification https://rosenhaft.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/online-community-lead-scoring-part-1/  that Michael Thomas, CRMA President & CRM guru for social media plattform provider www.neighborhoodamerica.com, we decided to build a case example around an online community lead identification example that people could relate.

The question we asked of ourselves was “How could you identify in Linkedin that someone was looking for a job without their explicit use of key words like; available, looking, seeking, etc” A lot of recruiters are using Linkedin for passive candidate identification. In short, if you could use behaviors in Linkedin to identify the difference in passive candidates between those who were quietly looking versus those who were not, you could potentially save a recruiter a great deal of wasted activities & cut down on the unnecessary contacts. If you could build a lead scoring system that aggregated the activities so as to identify the “interest” of the candidate, you could leverage those behaviors to identify potential “leads”.

Identified Behaviors for Recruiting Lead Identification in Linkedin

1. Updated Recommendations in last 30 days – Higher score for greater number

2. Frequency of Use – Patterns of use change dramatically

3. Changed Last Position Description or put end date on last job

4. Changed Profile Description

5. Changed Email Address

6. Added a large number of new connection invites

7. Accessed the jobs listing page

8. joined a group(s) – more points for larger numbers

9. Began to post questions or answers in groups

10. Other Employees at the same company score high on activities

None of these in isolation represent that a person is now seeking a position, but taken in aggregate begin to show a pattern of behavior that could be scored. Part 3 will outline our thoughts as to a corporate community & how to perform sales lead idenitifcation leveraging social media tools in an corporate online community.

Updated with Part 3: https://rosenhaft.wordpress.com/2009/06/08/online-community-lead-identification-part-3-corporate-community/

Re: Will Corporate Websites Become Irrelevant?

Alexa Ellis asks the question in a post in iMarketing 2.0 on Techlinks http://www.techlinks.net/component/content/article/43-community-voices/122444 and I thought I would weigh-in….

I believe the future will see a greater importance to the corporate website, but the twist is that it will become a corporate online community include social media components, ability to port identities from Linkedin, Facebook, Google, etc, and will become the collaboration center for the organization.

The corporate website will become the web interface for managing a relationship with the company as an employee, partner, prospect, or customer. There will be the ability to have both public forums for marketing and private areas for internal collaboration and customer interaction.

The technology to support such a corporate online community exists today. The expectation is that as the technology will become more ubiquitous; the price for integrating social media component platforms will become more affordable. As the big social media sites become more open, more organizations will take advantage of the ease in allowing customers to share logins from these sites to their own corporate communities.

The challenge for marketing is that the traditional role of broadcast messaging will morph into a more fluid, multi-directional relationship. This will require a whole new approach to marketing and a rethinking of the idea of a corporate website.

Online Community Lead Identification – Part 1

A few weeks ago, Michael Thomas ( President of the CRMA & CRM guru at the social media platform company,  www.neighborhoodamerica.com )and I were collaborating on a topic that is of great interest to a lot of Sales and Marketers…

How do you create actionable information from an online community? This is relavent as more companies are integrating online communities into the corporate websites. The challenge that I am hearing repeatedly is “how do you identify leads in your community so that you can get them into your CRM system to begin the sales pursuit?”

In short, how would use the interactions within a community to identify interest that you could then qualify through activity scoring? There are several fine lines that are involved…

1. Difference between servicing a potential buyer and turing off someone who is just “looking”

2. Online communities are supposed to be educational and not for hard sales

Both are valid concerns and I think can be addressed. Online communities, if done correctly, are not about the hard sell, but about creating a thought leadership and evangelism center for your company. Potential buyers know that when they visit your website, you are providing the information to assist them in buying. Potential buyers also do not want the hard sell. Online communities can provide the education AND the engagement if done correctly. We all want to please our customers and have them appreciative of our service. I think it largely is based upon expectations. We all appreciate when Amazon provides a recommendation that we like. We all wish the recommendation engines were smarter.

If you host a branded community on your website, there is a different expectation versus an unbranded, open industry community. Most of us are willing provide our contact information in exchange for whitepaper or webinar access. A vendor provides access to their community with the understanding that, if you look interested, they will approach you to guage interest, but won’t harrass you. If they could do a better job of determining when you were interested and serving up content to assisy you in making a better buying decision, would you mind?

The next several posts will outline the basics of online community lead scoring. I will also outline a community example that we are all familiar with: Linkedin.

I will also ask Michael to weigh-in from his blog: www.crm2.blogspot.com

Part 2 – https://rosenhaft.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/community-lead-identification-part-2-linkedin-example/

Part 3 – https://rosenhaft.wordpress.com/2009/06/08/online-community-lead-identification-part-3-corporate-community/

The Changing Role of the CMO in a Post-Digital World

The role of CMO is evolving from the traditional, functional manager who oversaw marketing communications, product marketing, PR, and online.

1. The new role of the CMO in a Post-Digital World doesn’t differentiate between online and offline, as a matter of fact, the emphasis is completely flipped from the old paradigm.

2. The idea of marketing as a silo function, independent of accountability for sales, customer experience, product or service satisfaction is also fading.

Evidence: Look at the number of marketing people on the street looking for jobs who were “staff” positions. My dad, an old-style chemical sales manager used to refer to those who weren’t in sales as “staff”, sales being “line”. Of course, this was borrowed from the military. The reality is that this model is coming back, but the twist is that in the best companies, everyone in an organization is now on the front-line with the customer. (Discussion of online communities, Web 2.0, & collaboration platforms to follow in subsequent posts)

Marketing functions disconnected from the customer relationship are a luxury that many companies in a down economy are making redundant. Whether these roles were important or not in reality doesn’t matter, the perception is that the company could live without them. I think the real question is whether these roles will come back with the economy or will shift…

The internet has continued evolve and the role of marketing is evolving with it. The divide between online and traditional is disapearing. Most customers and prospective buyers today don’t differentiate between online and offline. Even more so, when a majority of potential buyers do research on search engines prior to engaging with a vendor, you cannot afford to have siloed activities. As a matter of fact, because of cost and speed issues, more and more investment in marketing is going “online” and then repurposed offline.

Imagine that you run a webinar in combination with a partner organization that you promoted through an email marketing campaign, your partner, sales people, website, etc. ;which is really an inexpensive dry-run of your speaking engagement next month at a conference; which you will tout in a press release that is submitted online and will be picked up by all types of media, bloggers, and search engines; which you blog and twitter; which is also driven to get visability in an organic search to drive traffic to your website; all of which is to get traction so you can sell them.

At the end of the day, where does online and offline come in? Offline would be your branding and your interactive firm would be your execution of an online campaign or your website. This was disconnected from your CRM efforts which was somewhat disconnected from the way your sales people managed their sales efforts. I could throw in your business intelligence, enterprise content management, product management, etc. and you get the picture. I haven’t even gotten to what people do at your website, I will save the online community conversation for another post.

CMO’s really no longer do “Marketing”… they no longer differentiate between traditional and interactive; sales, marketing, and customer support… there are too many connected, moving pieces. The leading CMO’s today play 3 dimensional chess, ensuring that the:

  • Customer is the center of the customer lifecycle
  • Value of the offering is tangible and solves something important to the customer
  • Everyone involved in the customer lifecycle shares the perception of value
  • Company is viewed as a credible provider of the solution
  • Sales organization is positioned for the sale
  • Customer is satisfied
  • Customer will not only buy again, but will also refer others
  • Then they do it again, again, and again in a scalable way

None of the above is a traditional, functional view of marketing; advertising, PR, online product marketing, customer service, product management, channel marketing, etc. Instead, Marketing is aligned with the customer lifecycle. The Post-Digital CMO is focused and measured on bringing value throughout the life of the customer relationship; irregarless of the the medium. 

Now, take that a step further, the execution becomes more aligned to the desired value each step of the way. I don’t have a webinar, website, email marketing, channel marketing program, etc. I have a consistent value proposition, coordinated messaging, defined set of interactions through multiple touchpoints, and a measurable outcome that isn’t necessarily just about getting eyeballs or “butts in virtual seats”.

If  the integration sounds familiar, it is. Very much like sales has evolved, so has marketing. In the ’80’s the hot topic was “integrated marketing communications”, then it was “integrated marketing”, and now… just “integrated”.

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.