Brain Vibe

marketing muses to stay engaged

Engage Customers Online or Offline? Microsoft Goes Brick-and-Mortar

It struck me as ironic that a leading technology company puts in motion an engagement strategy that hinges on a brick-and-mortar foundation.  Microsoft opened it’s first store in Scottsdale, AZ today specifically as a way to better connect to customers.  While it may be an attempt to be on a level playing field with Apple (I hear the Microsft store has a similar format), the fact remains that in each case, these two companies founded on technological innovations feel the need to invest in direct connections with consumers.

What about the promise of social media?  This is where the customers are, online.  This is where and how you need to engage with them.  Blog, create fan pages, converse on Twitter.  Brick-and-mortar is dead as is TV, print, and all other traditional marketing efforts.

The fact is, if you want to grow and maintain your business, you need to offer multiple communication and connection points to your customer.  You need to be where customers are regardless if it is digital or tangible.  Some of your connection points are highly scalable, some are more intimate.  Each serves a purpose in your marketing arsenal.  Each can compliment each other.

I don’t know that Microsoft stores will be successful in the long run.  Gateway, Dell, and other technology companies have tried the brick and mortar model and failed or at least haven’t done well.  I think it depends on how Microsoft defines success of the stores.  If the over-riding strategy is truly to create customer connections over stellar store sales, then the storefront may well prove its usefulness and ROI.  Staying on that course though will be challenging when sales may be low and operating costs are not balanced out.  If sales are important, the coming holiday season may be an indicator if Microsoft made the wise investment.

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Filed under: CMO seat, communication, customer relationship, social media marketing, , , ,

Social Media Allows Solution Improvisation

A fear of B2B marketers of leveraging social media is the loss of control over the conversation and content.  In fact, by relinquishing control, you open up the conversation with your customers and can improve your relationship, improve your offers, and strengthen your position in the market.  Social media allows you to improvise to improve, evolve, and innovate.

During an interview, Conan O’Brien talked about what he learned from improvisation.

“… people respond to something that happens in the moment, much more than they will respond to the most brilliant thing that was thought of ahead of time and prepared.  Improv teaches you not to fear those moments.  That is where the gold is.”

While Conan O’Brien is talking about comedy, and stand-up in particular, the same holds true with your customer conversations.  You already have your value proposition, positioning statements, messaging, and connection in place.  Allowing yourself to open up to the customer not only to tell them about you, but to listen to them and improvise how you meet their needs will get you farther.  

You become the solution, not the cost.

Filed under: communication, customer relationship, marketing/advertising, social media, social media marketing, , , , ,

The Meaning of Engaged

Everyone is trying it, getting engaged.  No, this is not diamond rings, white dresses, and planning the party of the century.  We’re talking about customer engagement.  If the point of social media is to be ‘social’ with your customers, how is this working for you.

Much is being written on how social media is being used inappropriately as just another direct marketing outlet to hurl messages and content at the market.  In fact, you should check out the article by Jacob Morgan on SmartDataCollective regarding just this.  So, I’m not going to focus on that.  The point is really to understand what the meaning of ‘engaged’ really is.

People like to use the analogy of a party in how to engage with customers.  I’ve even used this.  However, to be fair, party conversation is usually banal and lacking in substance.  Most of the time, people are still talking at each other.  What is more interesting is how people move from talking at each other to listening to each other and forming a bond.  Bond = Engaged

As soon as you say you want to engage customers, here are some things to ask:

  • What does engagement look like to you?  
  • What does engagement look like to the customer?  
  • Is the engagement positive or negative? (happy revenue generating marriage or costly bitter divorce?)

What engagement looks like has as much to do about the mechanism and topic as it does the timing.  Social media can support various points in a customer life cycle from prospect to entrenched customer.  Each point will offer different ways and topics to bond with customers.  Positioning your social media marketing efforts only to focus on the front end of a marketing funnel is most likely going to result on a narrow lift as discussion is more focused around, “Hey, let’s get to know each other!”  Great if you are acquiring customers, not so great if you have an established market and looking to drive deeper relationships with existing customers.  

How the customer perceives engagement needs to be taken into account.  Its time to move your tried and true marketing strategies to the back burner now and listen to how customers want to engage.  Put on your product and offer hats and think about social media marketing as an offer or service.  See how they interact with other brands.  Get to know their preferences and personalities.  Identify what they experience.  Provide a venue that encourages participation and interaction in a way that they themselves would find appealing.  Much goes into the development of online retail sites to make finding, researching, and purchasing products easy and intuitive. Using this same approach for social media will make your customers feel at home and open them up to engagement.

In the end, you and your customer need to bond, and hopefully around a positive experience.  As much as the goal today may be to build stronger relationships by engaging customers, ultimately your efforts should directly or indirectly drive revenue or lock in loyalty.  Failing to meet expectations and continually charm customers in traditional communication and service models is also a real possibility in social media.  Additionally, social media is only a single component of the customer experience, failing in other areas is not going to be fixed merely through social media engagement.

If you are going to ask your customer for their hand in holy matrimony, make sure the diamond ring isn’t just a token, engagement should lead to a committed and collaborative marriage.

Filed under: social media, , , , , ,

Translating Awareness to Consideration Set in B2B

Want to improve lead quality?  Focus on knowing when a customer includes you in their consideration set.marketing timing

It is one thing to get someone to notice you, it is quite another to get them to think of you when getting ready to make a purchase.  B2B marketing works to tie these aspects of a customer purchase cycle together through a strong call to action.  In the end, the holy grail when targeting the campaign is reaching the customers that are truly at the beginning of the purchase cycle.  The relevancy of a campaign isn’t just that you provide valuable content to someone that is the subject matter expert (SME) in their company, it is that it is relevant when the SME is ready to become engaged.

Right message, right person, RIGHT TIME.  Timing is everything.

Judging when a customer is ready to engage is not as allusive as you might think.  The key is to recognize behavioral aspects within you customer and contact base.  Opportunity segmentation has typically focused on financial transactions due to its availability and consistency.  It is effective when determining customer value and staying on top of purchase cycles.  Although, this fails to account for the “who” that acts with in high opportunity customers as key influencers and decision makers.  In addition, it fails to account for prospects you’ve brought in and engaged.

The other piece of opportunity identification through behavior analysis is recognizing how contacts are interacting with content on your website, responding to campaigns, support inquiries, and, if available, social media venues.  There are a several ways to leverage this type of information from the simple to more sophisticated predictive analysis.  It will depend on your level of ability to identify behavioral aspects of contacts and linking behavior information across various marketing venues.

  1. RFE Analysis (Recency, Frequency, Engagement) – A modified version of RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) which focused orders, replace M with E (Engagement), you can begin to identify behavioral aspects for simple segment selection.  E is the point when sales recognizes the opportunity and includes in a pipeline and confirmation that the customer includes you in the consideration set.  E can also be another type of event that the outcome is a face-to-face meeting, for example trade show attendence or in-person seminar.
  2. Reference/Word-of-Mouth – There are two aspects of this.  The first is that the contact will be a reference or unrequested acts on your behalf to influence others.  However, the other side is that they are actively seeking out other customer perspectives by reading other’s opinions and asking for opions.  Tying together campaign interactions with a transition to reference/word-of-mouth activity can provide insight that they are ready to engage.
  3. Predictive Analysis – The previous two approaches can be easily done through simple segmentation techniques.  Taking them a step further, you can apply predictive analytics to solidify benchmarks and KPIs.  Indexing of contacts’ behavior and mapping that to scorecards identifies pre-engagement contacts and customers.  The values can be dynamically set so that as contacts and customer reach thresholds they move into campaigns that are targeted to move them into sales engagements and support the sales engagement.

Are you tracking the transition from awareness to consideration?  What do you look at?

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Filed under: Awareness, Consideration, crm, Decision Cycle, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s Not About You, It’s About Me!

B2B marketing tends to be very company focused.   Companies care only about their objectives.  Look at my product and solution.  Come to see me at my event.  Purchase the solution before midnight so that I can make my quota.  Look what analysts are saying about me.

It’s not about you.  It’s about your customer.  IBM created a brilliant commercial that illustrates what happens when you stop thinking about what you think is great (you) and listen to what the customer cares about (them).

We are all passionate about what we are selling.  We want that passion to be contagious.  But, it still has to resonate with the customer.  You can call it relevency of content.  I tend to think about it in terms of, “What’s in it for me, the customer?”

The customer doesn’t care that if they buy your solution you make money.  They want to know you are solving their issue.  They want to know that you will be there support them in doing so.

So, listen carefully to what they have to say.  Help them and yo help yourself.

Filed under: customer relationship, sales, , , , , , , ,

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