I recently read an article in Harvard Business Review, “Don’t Spin a Better Story. Be a Better Company,” that highlights the value in fixing your company as opposed to trying to use PR experts to change customer opinion. Companies hire or use internal PR to sway people into thinking they are a great company. As the article says, “I know what doesn’t work: thinking you can tell a better story without becoming a better company.”
Look at what you do well and double down
First, you should identify what your company is already doing that you are proud of. In the article, it comments on Walmart’s response to Hurricane Katrina, when the company provided meals, supplies and money to hurricane victims. While Walmart had (and still has) many detractors, the company not only realized it should publicize these activities but that it should also increase the frequency of this type of corporate activity.
The key is not simply to find something good your company is doing and publicize it, but to also build off of it. If you encourage your employees to help disadvantaged children, take steps to have more employees participate, pay for the employees to have tools that improve their effectiveness when giving help, give employees more time off to help the kids, etc.
In the Walmart situation, it started when the CEO asked “What would it take to be at our best all the time [not just when responding to Katrina]?” Walmart then made a strategic decision to go where those questions led. It identified areas where being better would have the biggest impact. Continue reading
One of the things that bothers me to no end is when managers treat employees the same way they treat their fantasy team. When you have a fantasy football or baseball (or soccer) team, you trade players, you move them around on your roster, you release players and sign free agents, etc. You may have to deal with a salary cap or other roster limitations.
Although many people, myself included, take it very seriously, it is not the real world. You are not actually putting Jay Cutler on the field or releasing Tom Brady (as some fantasy league owners did early last year). Your moves have absolutely no impact on their success in real life.
Fantasy leagues are fun and a great social experience but they do not represent management training. What leads to fantasy league success, regularly changing your roster to leverage match-ups and hot new players, is not the way to build your team or company. Unfortunately, I have seen many cases where managers and companies treat their employees as if they are in a fantasy league. Interestingly, some of the best leaders I have worked with have fallen into this trap.
Playing “Fantasy League Company”
I sometimes see managers trading employees. One manager may need someone with a particular skill set, another manager may need to cut their head count and they agree to “trade” the first employee for a lower-cost employee.
Sometimes managers play fantasy league within their own organization. They will move people into different positions because it improves their chances to “win.” It will not be based on the employee’s performance or career path but there is a short-term opportunity to solve an issue by taking a person from one role to a potentially completely unrelated role.
Another problem arises when a company closes a division or unit. While planning the closure, management often decides where members of the team will end up. Although it is great that the team members are not losing their jobs, they are often moved to positions inconsistent with their existing position, working on products they do not believe in or forced to work with people they do not want to work with. Continue reading
One channel largely neglected in social media marketing conversations is the growing importance of podcasts. While not as sexy as SnapChat or Secret, this relatively old channel is becoming a critical component of effective social media marketing. Podcasts were originally built for the iPod (hence the name) but are now listened to not only via iTunes but also multiple IOS and Android apps and even via the good old Internet.
Why podcasts now?
Looking at the numbers, the growth of consumer interests in podcasts is clear. A Washington Post story reported that podcast subscriptions on iTunes reached 1 billion. An Edison Research report shows that over 39 million people listen to a podcast last monthly and that 20 percent of podcast users consumer six or more podcasts weekly.
The accessibility of podcasts has led to their growth. As the Washington Post writes, “despite some early enthusiasm, podcasts faded in popularity in the early 2000s, partly because of the many steps required to download them and play them in a vehicle. The introduction of the iPhone in 2007 changed that, making podcasts as convenient to access as a Netflix show. It’s easier to play them in cars, too, as automakers build wireless media functions into more and more models. And faster WiFi and mobile data speeds have made podcasts a snap to stream.”
Podcasting increase retention
There are multiple benefits for integrating podcasting into your social media marketing mix. First, they increase engagement. Rather than a few seconds to share a message with your customer or player, you have minutes or more to share your narrative. Rather than a superficial message, you can go in-depth on the value your product has to the user, how to get the most out of your product, the background of how it was made, etc. These messages can have a strong impact on users, if they get more value out of the features they are more likely to keep using it. Continue reading
Most business schools based their marketing teachings on the 4 P’s (Product, Place, Price and Promotion) but they have not adjusted these pillars for the current reality. An article in the Harvard Business Review, “Rethinking the 4 P’s,” provides a great framework for building your marketing strategy going forward. Rather than the 4 P’s, they suggest a SAVE methodology. Although developed as a B2B marketing framework, SAVE is also relevant for consumer marketing and growth.
Rather than the traditional focus on “Product,” either a good or service, the SAVE approach has you focus your offerings on the needs they meet. Do not concentrate on features or technology, but focus on what your customers want and then build your offering to meet their needs.
Instead of “Place,” retail locations (online or physical) or distribution channels, you should develop an integrated cross-channel presence that considers users’ entire customer journey. The point here is that it is less important to be available through a specific channel or a device but to understand your customer and be available when, where and how they would want it. Continue reading
One lazy and ineffective way to keep customers happy is to lower prices or give them more things for free. Companies that do not know their customers well, or do not want to, often respond to the question of how to increase customer satisfaction or retention by lowering prices. In free-to-play products, this tactic involves giving users more virtual currency.
The lazy answer
This response is often a knee-jerk reaction to the question of “How do we improve our customer relationships?” It demonstrates that the person/company does not want to address the true dynamics of the relationships. Everybody would rather pay less for a product or get bigger free bonuses and rewards. It does not reflect any understanding of your users, their motivations or why they use your product.
The reality of customer satisfaction
The reality is that users and players are motivated by many factors and rarely is cost the primary reason they use a product. The exception is companies that are focused solely on being a low cost provider, the Walmarts and Aldis, and for them price is the greatest lever to increase user satisfaction. In other cases people are driven by unique features or experiences that builds a bond with the product.
Does not create competitive advantage
The biggest mistake in throwing free stuff at users or players (or lowering prices) is that it does not create competitive advantage. Your competitors can easily match or beat what you are doing. If you are giving away five dollars worth of product daily and they want to steal your customers, they can give away $10. You end up with a race to the bottom in terms of pricing, and when you reach the bottom nobody has a particularly good business other than the companies built to compete on price (again, the Walmarts and Aldis).
Determining what creates satisfaction for your users
The first step is understanding what about your product or game motivates people to use it. There are several ways to build this understanding (listed in my order of preference): Continue reading
Anyone who reads this blog knows I am a huge fan of Blue Ocean strategy. Not to over-simplify, but blue ocean strategy is a methodology to find non-competitive market opportunities rather than fighting with other companies in an existing space. It is also a tactic popularized by Peter Thiel in his new book, in which he urges companies to find a monopoly opportunity.
Recently, someone from the Insead Blue Ocean Strategy Institute reached out to me and shared an app that they have created. The Blue Ocean Strategy app for the iPad facilitates finding a blue ocean strategy. I have just started playing around with it but if you love blue ocean like I do, you should give it a try.
My first business partner taught me something very valuable: The worth of captains and lieutenants in the military, which you can extend to the business environment. During the Cold War, NATO had a significant disadvantage in the number of forces it had versus the number that the East Bloc possessed. It was a widely held belief, however, not only among NATO leaders but also military academics, that the two sides were very evenly matched and in an actual battle the western forces would hold their own or prevail despite the numbers.
Even now, you see many of the forces that oppose the west (such as ISIS and al-Qaeda) score large successes against much better-equipped opponents. Part of this success can be attributed to the power of local commanders in these forces.
Midlevel officers make the difference
The strength of NATO’s mid-level officers was credited with closing this gap. While Eastern Bloc mid-level officers were taught to blindly follow orders from their superiors, or suffer harsh consequences, Western mid-level officers were given great autonomy to make battlefield decisions without waiting for direction or even contravening standing orders that were overtaken by events. By having strong leaders who had the independence to make decisions, western military forces were at a competitive advantage. (And let’s not forget, Captain Kirk never got into real trouble for crossing into the neutral zone and the Federation regularly beat up on the more militarized Romulans and Klingons.) Continue reading
I have been reading many articles about customer delight and how great customer experiences improve a company’s profitability and growth. I recently came across a trendy concept in business: having a Chief Advocacy Officer (CAO). A CAO is a senior (C-Level) executive who represents the customers interests. While initially appealing and backed by some of the best thinkers in the customer experience universe, the idea of having a C-level position to advocate on behalf of the customers’ interests is flawed.
The fundamental flaw in establishing a CAO position is that it implicitly allows everyone else in the organization not to think about the customer. If a company is going to consistently exceed customer expectations, everybody in the organization must focus on the customer. When there is a CAO, others in the organization feel that since the CAO is serving as the representative of the customer, they do not have to think about the user.
An additional flaw is that a CAO often becomes an adversary to other functions. Finance sees the CAO as somebody who is going to make demands that impact revenue. Design sees the CAO as somebody who is going to conflict with their vision. Marketing tries to avoid the CAO. While all of these functions would benefit from being customer driven, the insertion of a CAO creates a dynamic where the customer becomes an internal competitor.
The key to building a successful business is not putting one person in the role of customer advocate, but making everyone across all functions think as customer advocates. That is when you will truly delight your users and generate great loyalty and retention.
- While the idea of creating a Chief Advocacy Officer is appealing, it is a flawed concept that prevents a company from truly becoming customer driven.
- Rather than having one person or a team represent your customers’ interests, everyone in your organization should be building and marketing products to delight customers.
- A Chief Advocacy Officer also can create tensions between functional areas because they see the the role as a competing interest and not part of their success.