How Companies Must Adapt to Survive

THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES OF SOCIAL MEDIA

In A World Gone Social, social media entrepreneurs Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt lay out the growing impact of social media on our lives and our businesses.

They begin by exploring how social media has shifted the power away from corporations and into the hands of their customers and their frontline employees. The power that social media has given customers is fast becoming legendary, as stories spread of how one unhappy customer is able to bring a corporation to its knees — well, at least send it scurrying for cover — by creating a maelstrom of discontent and bad publicity.

For example, the ill-advised Bank of America fees for services typically offered for free — such as having a debit card — created a social media-based firestorm of protest from customers, causing the financial services giant to reverse its position. The authors note that BoA’s initial reluctance to respond made the situation much worse than it had to be. The authors describe, in contrast, the response of Verizon, which made a similar ill-advised decision to put in a small fee on a traditionally free service. Unlike BoA, however, Verizon retreated as soon as resistance began to build.

Empowered Employees

Social media has also empowered employees. The authors tell the story of a minimum-wage Target worker who resisted a call to work on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Her respectful open letter on social media to Target’s CEO went viral, and Target was put on the defensive. The retail giant crafted a careful response, noting that rather than resistance to the holiday work, there were more volunteers than shifts open for those who wanted to work on Thanksgiving. However, the response also stated that there was no corporate mandate to work on Thanksgiving, which clearly left open the opportunity for local Target managers to make Thanksgiving mandatory.

Another damaging threat comes from insulting or insensitive comments on social media from high-ranking employees, leading to what the authors call a “virtual lynch mob.” In one case described by the authors, one manager tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get Aids. Just kidding. I’m white!” before boarding a plane to Africa. When the manager got off the plane, she learned that she had been fired — and that her dismissal had been publicly announced.

The transparency of social media puts the spotlight on corporations in ways that had never been possible, and corporations must respond accordingly, the authors write. For example, employee engagement is more vital than ever. An unhappy workforce has myriad options for venting their disapproval. (In one example, employees described in bloody detail — through the company’s own communications channel — the massive layoffs sweeping through the company and the impact on those who were being laid off. The marketing director finally became aware of the posts and eliminated them from the platforms, but the damage had been done.)

Going Flat

Social media presents challenges for corporations, but it also presents new opportunities, the authors write — although perhaps not necessarily or exclusively for corporations. In fact, one of the first rules of the social media age, according to the authors, is “the death of large.” Large, rigid corporations don’t have the agility to compete in today’s dynamic marketplaces.

Companies must go flat, the authors write. It’s time to lose the layers of middle managers. Communication must be direct, open and easy — which means it’s time to lose the old useless meetings that, according to the authors, “serve only the grandstanders and bureaucrats.” Going flat also means greater accountability from everyone. A case study of America’s largest tomato processing company shows that going flat is possible in even the most traditional industries far removed from the “knowledge” economy.

The effectiveness of crowdsourcing for solutions, the top priority that must be given to the customer experience and the requirement for leaders to be “social” — to know how to be a true and engaging presence on social media (tweets “from” the CEO actually created by PR employees don’t count) — are some of the other topics covered in this wake-up call to companies and leaders who are slow to embrace social.

How to Create Strong Relationships with Consumers

Romancing the Brand. It sounds like the sequel to Romancing the Stone, the movie. But actually it’s a new book by author Tim Halloran. Here is how he begins the book.

“It wasn’t a particularly dramatic moment. The eight women sat around the overflowing table of colored cans and bottles of soft drinks. They has just completed what we call a ‘sorting’ exercise, in which participants arranged soft drink brands in groups based on some organizing principle that they were to develop themselves. I don’t remember how they organized the forty-plus brands that day, but what happened next stuck with me. A petite woman in her late twenties, picked up one of the cans and said to the focus group moderator, ‘I drink eight of these a day. It is always with me, no matter what happens. I was there when my boss gave me my promotion last week. It was at my side two months ago when my cat died. It got me through it. I start and end my day with it. It’s never let me down. I can always count on it. To sum it up, it’s my boyfriend . . . Diet Coke.’”

Wouldn’t we all like to have this kind of loyalty from our customers? They are engaging in a rich, complex, ever-changing relationship, and they’ll stay loyal, resisting marketing gimmicks from competitors and influencing others to try the brand they love.

Halloran reveals what it takes to make consumers fall in love with your brand. Drawing on exclusive, in-depth interviews with managers of some of the world’s most iconic brands, he arms you with an arsenal of classic and emerging marketing tools—such as benefit laddering and word-of-mouth marketing—that make best-in-class brands so successful.

We’ve invited Tim Halloran to join us on April 30th to reveal to us How to Create Strong Relationships with Consumers. This Soundview Live webinar with give you the chance to learn first-hand about these emerging marketing tools, and to ask your most challenging questions. Join us for the sequel and bring your popcorn.

The Importance of Relationships

Relationships are key to business success. On a personal level, who we know really does make a difference in our career and personal life. But on the business level relationships are becoming more critical as well. Companies and brands are being built and destroyed through the power of word of mouth, especially via social media. So our relationship to our customers must be nourished just like our personal connections.

In the coming week we will have the privilege of hosting two webinars with experts in the area of personal and business relationships.

Transforming Your Business Contacts into Success with David Nour

David Nour has been a recognized strategist and thought leader on the topic of business relationships for more than 25 years. He delivers over fifty keynotes annually at leading industry associations, universities and Fortune 500 companies, has several top selling books and pioneered the phenomenon that relationships are the greatest off-balance sheet asset any organization possesses. He shares strategies and insight on The Nour Group’s blog, e-mail newsletters and social media assets reaching hundreds of thousands of executives and entrepreneurs across a broad base of industries and geographic markets.

In this Soundview Live webinar David Nour will take you beyond just getting and giving business cards, working a room, or getting the most out of a conference. His focus is how to strategically invest in relationships as your most valuable asset for an extraordinary return. Nour will introduce new concepts in relationship management, including the exchange of Relationship Currency, the accumulation of Reputation Capital, and the building of Professional Net Worth. These are the fundamental measures of business relationship, and once you understand them, you’ll be able to turn your contacts into better executions, performance, and results.

Harnessing the Power of Word of Mouth with Paul Rand

Paul M. Rand is the founder, president and CEO of Zócalo Group — a leading digital, social media and word-of-mouth marketing agency focused on making its client’s brands the most discovered, talked about and recommended in their category.  In addition to his role at Zócalo Group, Paul serves on the national board of directors for the Council of the Better Business Bureau is a past president and board member of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and Vice Chairman of the Dean’s Advisory Board for DePaul University’s Driehaus College of Business and Kellstadt Graduate School of Business.

In this Soundview Live webinar, Paul Rand, the founder of one of today’s most successful digital and social marketing firms, will reveal how customer recommendations in the digital space have radically transformed the way people buy–which means you need to come up with new methods to reach customers and improve your products. Apply the lessons of one of the pioneers of word of mouth marketing to ensure that your brand is Highly Recommended.

Please join us for these two excellent events, and if you can’t make the particular dates, register anyway and you can watch the replay whenever you want. Put the power of recommendations to work in your career and business.

Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype

YOUTILITY

MAKE THE MOVE FROM HYPE TO HELP

Marketing depends on being able to command your customers’ attention. Historically, the strategy for marketing rested on “top-of-mind awareness,” explains marketing consultant Jay Baer in his new book, Youtility. Top-of-mind awareness is predicated on companies putting their brand names in front of the consumer as much as possible.

A more recent marketing strategy is the concept of “frame-of-mind awareness.” In this case, the brand appears when the consumer is in the right frame of mind — that is, when he or she is ready to buy. Search engine optimization and a presence on specialized sites is key.

Inbound marketing, as this type of marketing is called, is important, Baer writes, but it’s only half the story. As social media starts to compete with websites and search engines, companies cannot rely only on frame-of-mind marketing to sustain them in the information age. Today, instead of using a search engine, someone with a new dog might ask for a vet recommendation from his or her Facebook friends. As a result, companies need to engage in what Baer calls “friend of mine” awareness; instead of saying, “I’m here,” they need to ask, “How can I help?”

Baer calls this helpfulness, Youtility. He writes, “Instead of marketing that’s needed by companies, Youtility is marketing that’s wanted by customers.”

Three Facets of Youtility

How do you translate the attitude of helping your customers into action? The first step, according to Baer, is to understand the three facets of Youtility:

  • Self-serve information. Unlike in the past, people today are used to researching the information they need rather than depending on the advice of professionals. To build loyalty, companies must help customers and prospects in their quest for self-serve information.
  • Radical transparency. Companies shouldn’t try to hide or distort information; prospects want to know the unfiltered details. Make it easier, not harder, for them to find information.
  • Real time relevancy. The information must be useful — not only today but, in the age of apps, useful at this very minute.

Blueprints to Create Youtility

Having established the three facets of Youtility as guiding principles, Baer then offers a step-by-step blueprint for “creating” Youtility. The first step, not surprisingly, is understanding customers’ needs. Baer urges companies to use the technology available today — including social chatter and web analytics — to determine exactly what needs customers are looking to fulfill through their purchases. Mapping customer needs to useful marketing is the next step and involves how to best convey the information. “Determining the optimal conveyance mechanism requires a level of research beyond understanding customer needs,” Baer writes.

The third step in creating Youtility is to market your marketing. In other words, promote the useful information your company is pulling together. If you have an app, make sure the app is promoted on your website, describe the app in your email marketing and even create a related YouTube video. The fourth step is to insource Youtility, which refers to getting a wide variety of employees involved in the “useful information” effort. Whether this involvement is voluntary, assisted, mandatory or even circumstantial depends on the situation.

A Process, Not a Project

Baer also urges companies to “make Youtility a process, not a project.” Youtility must be an ongoing program for a number of reasons, including shifting customer needs as well as technology advances, he writes. Finally, companies need to keep score; they should use different categories of measurement — including consumption and sales metrics — to gauge the effectiveness of the effort. Admittedly, the return on investment may not always be easy to calculate.

Baer’s book is a detailed, very well-organized manual for adapting marketing to the parameters of today’s world of information avalanche. At the beginning of the book, Baer writes, “If you sell something, you make a customer today. If you help someone, you make a customer for life.” Youtility will help guide you in making more customers for life.

How Lady Gaga Turns Followers into Fanatics

MONSTER LOYALTY

WHY YOU NEED TO GO GAGA FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS

Pop stars will always have their die-hard fans, and superstar Lady Gaga (real name Stefani Germanotta) is no different. Lady Gaga calls her fans “little monsters,” and in Monster Loyalty, marketing and social media author and speaker Jackie Huba shows why the singer known for her outrageous costumes and mega-hits can serve as a model for developing sustained customer loyalty. Huba, whose previous books are Creating Customer Evangelists and Citizen Marketers, draws seven key business lessons from Gaga’s career: focus on your one percenters, lead with values, build community, give fans a name, embrace shared symbols, make them feel like rock stars, and generate something to talk about.

Focus On Your One Percenters

In her 2007 book Citizen Marketers, Huba dismissed the argument that 20 percent of customers create 80 percent of a company’s value. In truth, according to Huba, most of the value that customers bring to the company comes from just one percent of the customer base. These one percenters are fully engaged customers who, among other characteristics, believe in the company and feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves.

Gaga and her manager, Troy Carter, clearly understand and embrace the importance of the one percenters, Huba writes. Despite her 33 million followers on Twitter and 55 million likes on Facebook, Gaga and Carter decided that they needed to create a private space for the most die-hard superfans. Gaga and Carter created Littlemonsters.com, a website in which Gaga communicates with her fans. There is, of course, a high level of interaction among the fans, but it is the direct communication between Gaga and the fans that makes this site unique. As one superfan explained, “Lady Gaga seems to go on [the site] on a regular basis. She’s updating all the time. A couple of weeks ago, she tweeted some fan art that she found on the site.”

Lead With Values

Gaga’s engagement goes further than simply interacting on social media. Gaga is passionate about helping young people feel worthy. She does this not just through her songs but also through her Born This Way foundation, “the mission of which,” Huba writes, “is to empower youth by offering mentoring and career development, and focusing on issues like self-confidence, well-being and anti-bullying.” Gaga thus exemplifies another lesson for business: Lead With Values.

With each business lesson, Huba ties Lady Gaga’s examples to one or two business case studies. One of the most interesting juxtapositions is between Gaga and Finnish housewares company Fiskars, which was founded in 1649. As Huba demonstrates, both the outrageous rock star and the centuries-old company understand how to build a community around their “products” by understanding customers’ passions.

Readers will quickly understand that Huba is no pop fan who decided to stretch her love for her favorite singer into a business case; the lessons in Monster Loyalty are insightful and practical. Nor is Lady Gaga just a young singer who happened to hit it big. From her classical music training to her careful study of Andy Warhol’s iconoclastic life to the deliberate decisions she makes in her causes and career choices (even the infamous meat dress achieved its political aim), Gaga is a savvy marketer and shrewd businessperson.