Lead generation and social marketing key for marketers, says Forrester

Forrester has published a detailed research report comparing the marketing approaches of over 200 organizations across a wide variety of industries including software, electronics, media, publishing and professional services (e.g. marketing, agencies, business consulting, etc.).

There were five key recommendations from Forrester in the report, which dug into the marketing approaches of organizations with between 50 and 2500 employees. These recommendations were:

  • Take lead generation as seriously as lead management – There was a significant opportunity for marketers to contribute to their business by focusing on “top of the funnel” lead generation activities. In most cases, conversion rates on leads were within expected norms, so focusing on getting more leads into the pipeline could significantly “move the needle” according to Forrester.
  • Get serious about social marketing – The Forrester quote on this one was spot on: “Social is not just an abstract and immeasurable buzz-generating tool. It’s an integral part of the lead-to-revenue management process – an engagement strategy that can have a measurable impact on lead generation.”
  • Get online and start using digital marketing techniques – The chart below shows that SMBs, in particular, keep going back to the well with “what they know” with respect to marketing approaches. Unfortunately, these approaches don’t scale. Digital is critical and organizations that want to survive need to get moving.
  • Use marketing automation to complement your CRM – Get leads, nurture them, ruthlessly qualify the leads and get them to sales. Process leads to success.
  • Don’t reactively cut the marketing budget in a down economy – The companies that outperform their peers continue to invest, and sometimes even double-down, during recessionary times.

One final bit of interest from the report was the set of tactics that organizations in the study were using to acquire new customers, as alluded to in the point above. All of the top tactics being employed by the marketers in this study were inherently not scalable, as they relied heavily on face-to-face channels.

marketing_techniques_customer_acquisition

What’s working in your organization for lead generation and customer acquisition?

You can download the report from the report sponsor Act-on.

Most customer service tweets still go unanswered

Some good data and info from the folks over at CRM Magazine on how brands are starting to integrate social customer support workflows into their processes. Here’s the link: Most Customer Service Tweets Go Unanswered

The problem is that a majority of companies are still letting these opportunities fall on the floor.

In total, the study involved 1,125 tweets delivered between April 1 and May 15 to the following retailers: Amazon.com, Zappos.com, Staples, Dell, Office Depot, Wal-Mart Stores, Sears Holdings, QVC, Office Max, Best Buy, Newegg, Sony, Costco Wholesale, Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret Direct, Hewlett-Packard, J.C. Penney, L.L. Bean, Target, Systemax (TigerDirect.com), Gap, Williams-Sonoma, HSN, Overstock.com, and Toys ‘R’ Us.

All told, among the top 25 retailers, an average of only 44 percent of customer tweets were answered at all.

However, a number of companies are starting to get it. On the good side, the article does note:

Of all those companies, Zappos and L.L. Bean—replied to every single tweet within 24 hours. Rounding out the top five most reliable Twitter performers were Overstock.com (replying to 98 percent of all tweets within 24 hours), Dell (98 percent), and Best Buy (89 percent).

“Better targeting” is not the panacea to customer loyalty

Trending worldwide on Twitter right now: “Two ways to fix customer loyalty programs.”

The lede:

Consumers aren’t as loyal to loyalty programs as they used to be.

Since 2008, the number of consumers who feel that such initiatives don’t offer any real value jumped by 50%,according to a study by Forrester Research. The same study also found that almost one-third of consumers say that loyalty programs don’t influence their purchase — that’s up from 22% in 2008.

Why the dissatisfaction? Let’s call it the Groupon factor. Since 2008, there have been a flood of daily dealmerchants, like Groupon and LivingSocial, that have filled customers inboxes with irrelevant offers. (Groupon itself has recently employed a Pandora-like “thumbs up, thumbs down” rating system to tackle this problem, which is best illustrated by the example of middle-aged men getting offers for bikini waxes.)”

The answers they propose are crap, however. The answer is not “better targeting” of customers. The answer is not “mobile payments.”

The answer is making the customer a full participant in the process. Start here.

Counting “Fans” And “Followers” Is The HFCS Of Social Engagement

Earlier this month, the NYTimes took a deeper dive into the idea of “good attention vs. bad attention.” I wanted to keep the ball rolling on this idea, as it’s fundamental to thinking about social engagement with (and as) customers.

Although many of us are working in or with enterprises in a role related to connecting with customers, we need to do a shift in perspective. For right now, put on your “customer” hat; we all are customers, in addition to trying to connect with them. Through that lens, “good attention” is the type of attention you pay when something connects with you. It’s the type of attention to things you find interesting or engaging or intelligent or emotional. Conversely, “bad attention” is the attention that you pay, but you wouldn’t choose to if you had a better (or any) option.

Here are some examples of “good attention”

  • The attention you pay to any experience that you eventually tell a friend about
  • Ads that you want to watch more than once
  • Blog posts that makes you smile
  • Thoughtful Twitter followers
  • Thoughtful comments
  • Fiero!

Here are some examples of “bad attention”

  • Unsolicited email newsletters
  • Popup and pop-under ads
  • Any “interruptive” ads
  • Most display ads
  • Impressions
  • Page views
  • Spam

I struggled where to put the attention acts of “becoming a Fan” and “becoming a Follower” on this list. If you become a fan of a brand on Facebook because you like the brand, I think it’s at best a neutral. On the other hand, if you are forced to click “Like” in order to see a page’s content or to enter a one-shot contest as part of a campaign, that’s bad attention. It distorts and overloads the meaning of the word “Like” in such as way that is ultimately detrimental to an enterprise. The focus on “counting metrics” is almost always used as the starting point at measuring the impact of social engagement. But it can’t stop there.

Counting metrics are frequently used by enterprises at Stage 2 on the Social Engagement Journey. This is normal. Unfortunately, like high fructose corn syrup, counting fans and followers are the empty calories of customer engagement. They taste great at the time, but in the long run have a strong likelihood of causing damage. A focus on fan and follower counts ultimately leads to being caught in a bad attention trap.

So what can you do to move along the Journey?

  1. Think about whether you are attracting good attention or bad attention from your engagement activities
  2. Begin the transition from counting metrics to metrics that matter to both customers and your brand (like NPS)
  3. Don’t be complacent, thinking that having two million fans on your Facebook page means that you’re doing a good job at building long-lasting customer relationships with those two million individuals. It doesn’t. (Do you know how many of those two million fans are current customers of your brand? If the answer is “no, we don’t know,” then recognize that you’re likely falling into the trap of bad attention.)

2007 Social Media & CRM 2.0 Professional Certification Seminar

Drumroll, please…announcing:

What: 2007 Social Media & CRM 2.0 Professional Certification Seminar
Where: San Francisco, CA
When: March 27-28, 2007
Learn more: http://www.bptpartners.com/socialmedia_agenda.aspx

On March 27th and March 28th, I’ll be co-hosting a two-day professional seminar, “Social Media & CRM 2.0″ along with Paul Greenberg (Author, “CRM at the Speed of Light” and principal at BPT Partners). This event will be held at the offices of our friends Fleishman-Hillard here in San Francisco. (Thanks, Fleishman!)

The 2007 Social Media & CRM 2.0 Professional Certification Seminar is endorsed by Rutgers University Center for CRM Research, CRMGuru.com, the National CRM Association, Greater China CRM and CRMA Japan.


Topics include:

Why the new social media: Communications and the era of the social customer — Traditional means of doing this through messaging marketing campaigns are no longer adequate. The new social media, blogging, user communities, podcasting and social networking are increasingly become tools of choice for businesses. Learn the why’s, where’s, and what’s in the segment on the strategic framework.

The Business Blog Field Guide — Every publication from Business Week, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal to online white papers warn businesses the blogging is not an optional endeavour. Those that don’t will not survive, so we are going to give you what you need to not just survive the on rush but prosper. This module will explain how to produce a blog, what the benefits are, and what conditions you need to make it a success.

Components of Blogging — You have the framework with the first 2 modules, now we’re going to get down. You’ve created the environment, time for you to get what you need to know to actually write the business blog in a consistent and timely way.

Customer Communities and Social Network Analysis — In this session, you will learn about the value of social networks, customer communities and the tools and practices to facilitate their creation and maintenance. If you do it right, your customers will be the advocates you desire and the business lifeblood you need for sustaining the kind of growth you’ve dreamed about – in collaboration with those customers you know to be important to your present and future.

The Theory and Practice of Podcasting – This module will not only explain what a podcast is, why it’s important to you as a business person, but how to actually produce a podcast. It will also bust some of the myths of podcasting that have already grown up around its young, explosive life. There is no form of social media that promises to meet the needs of the new generations of customers as well as this one – especially for those on the move. Imagine, having a good time creating something that can benefit your business – anytime, anywhere, any way you like? This module will give you the tools to do that.

Defining Your High Value Opportunities Using Social Media — Now, we get down and well, sorta dirty. How does this directly apply to your business? What industry you’re in, who your target markets are, will make a genuine difference in the approaches and applications of the social media tools. If you’re a B2B business v. a B2C business, there will be differences in approach. If you want to use the tools for co-creation of value with your customers or for feedback retrieval and customer conversations it will make a difference. The final module will examine what those specific applications can be for specific business situations and models.

Learn more: http://www.bptpartners.com/socialmedia_agenda.aspx

Enterprise Web 2.0 Efforts: How To Get To Critical Mass

In an earlier post, I put forth a checklist of things to think about before launching a business-oriented Web 2.0 effort (thanks, everyone).  Going to continue that discussion here and get down to some tactics.  In particular, going to look at a number of the things that one can do to help get a community on the path to critical mass and, more importantly, ongoing sustainability.

Readysetgo

Like offline communities, online business-oriented communities grow over time based on the interactions of their members. As such, growing an online community takes time and dedication; there’s no “just add water” silver bullet. (We’re people, not sea-monkeys.) That said, there are a few things that can be done to get things off on the right foot. These are host graciously, act as a catalyst, and help community participants to achieve their goals.

Host Graciously: This means exactly what it sounds like. The job of hosting any interactive effort does not end when the site goes “live.” Quite the contrary, actually. Some things that can be done:

  • Welcome newcomers

  • Make “virtual” introductions between members of the community
  • Start conversations
  • Keep things (relatively) on track (a little drift is actually good, however)
  • Highlight commonalities between members
  • Keep the dialog going
  • Thank others

Act as a catalyst: A host’s job is not to “be” the show. Instead, the host should start snowballs rolling and enable others to engage with each other. Particular things that can be done include:

  • Promoting others in the group

  • Posing questions to the group (can be open-ended, or polls)
  • Starting conversations by asking others “Why did you join?” — This is key to ensuring the group meets the needs of its members
  • Commenting on contributions that others have made

As anyone who has ever started any online group can tell you, getting things rolling can take a fair amount of effort. Some groups by their nature seems to have a sort of shyness with respect to individual contributions. While it’s easy to attribute this reticence to personality, it’s equally likely that it’s due to other factors. That’s why “ease of contribution” needs to be considered — the less friction there is in the participation process, the easier it is to engage. Augmenting online efforts with regular face-to-face interactions also makes it easier for folks to contribute online, since there is a certain je ne sais quoi to that first face-to-face meeting that seems to catalyze later online interactions. Regular, outbound reminders such as newsletters and mailers also aid in bringing participants into the fold.

Help community participants to achieve their goals: Kathy calls this “helping users to kick ass.” What this means is it’s all about the customer.

  • Enabling participants to connect with others working on similar problems

  • Connecting with others who do business in similar ways, and are going down similar roads
  • Facilitiating person-to-person information exchange

Especially in the business-oriented world, it’s critical to note that, while an online connection may initiate the interaction between individuals, the final exchanges of information are not always electronically mediated by the system. While forums and bulletin boards and comment threads make be the common means of interaction on Slashdot and Digg, many exchanges of business information already have well established paths, including email, phone and in-person conversation.

A Look Back At 2006 – The Customer Really Is In Charge

This is my look back at 2006 from the current issue of CRMGuru.



Companies Are Actually Engaging in Conversations With Customers

By Christopher Carfi, Cerado Inc.

In 2004, there were a few odd shakes. Some organizations noticed them, but most ignored them, perhaps attributing them to the distant passing of large truck.

In 2005, a few small, but noticeable, cracks appeared in the fortifications that separated The Corporation from its customers.

In 2006, the cracks widened. For some organizations, portions of the fortifications began to crumble and crash to the ground, casting away long-held beliefs and practices as they fell. It was the year the reliance on one-way “control” of the customer began to give way to “conversations” in earnest.

While viewing the world through the three-sided prism of “sales,” marketing” and “service” still holds as a reasonable way to characterize the breadth of CRM, these changes in customer relations affected all three areas very differently.

Sales

For some in sales, “CRM” is synonymous with Sales Force Automation (SFA). The problem is, very few customers want to be “managed” by their sales representatives. In 2006, those customers who “weren’t going to take it anymore” started taking up arms.

We’ve entered an era rich with cheap, easy, accessible of online tools to publish in nearly any format. Consequently, 2006 saw an explosion of words, photos and videos of customers documenting their experiences with products of nearly every stripe. Did you see the photos of the exploding Dell laptop in Osaka? If you didn’t, search on “dell laptop fire.” Those pictures sparked Dell to recall more than 4 million laptop batteries, and the incident ultimately may cost Sony, which manufactured the batteries, hundreds of millions of dollars. Millions of customers shared their experiences with companies with the world via their personal blogs, as well as through online communities such as TripAdvisor. Consequently, salespeople have been put in the unenviable position of competing in a world where the customer is, in many cases, better-informed than they are.

Another trend that affects sales is the rise of a new type of corporate customer: the “bizsumer.” These are individuals within large organizations who are making buying decisions at an individual level, oftentimes as a means to “get things done” in their groups without having to deal with the bureaucracy of their own organization.

The bizsumer is purchasing tools for project management, collaboration, business social networking and other systems at a price point that is often below the radar of centralized organizational planning—and usually delivered as an online service. (Joe Kraus, CEO of collaboration provider Jot, calls this purchasing things that are “expensable,” rather than “approvable.”) As such, sales has needed to embrace tactics that are much more common in the mass-market realm, such as online ordering and payment by credit card, which is a marked shift in the customer engagement process.

Marketing and PR

Of the three primary CRM areas, the areas of marketing and public relations made the most strides with respect to customer engagement. Not only startups but also behemoths such as General Motors, Microsoft, IBM and Sun Microsystems have embraced social technologies such as blogs and podcasts in a big way, as a method of getting their message out and engaging customers in the conversation about their products. These processes of engagement with customers through social media, however, need to be done correctly, and with unassailable ethics and transparency. As an example, Wal-Mart and Edelman, a PR firm, found themselves in significant hot water in October 2006, when it came to light that a blog framed as a “grassroots” effort of regular, everyday folk (“Jim and Laura,” who were driving their RV across the country, from Wal-Mart to Wal-Mart and documenting it) was actually a planned marketing campaign, paid for by Wal-Mart and supported by Edelman.

It turned out that “Jim” and “Laura” were professional journalists on assignment. (“Jim” was Jim Thresher, a photojournalist for The Washington Post, and “Laura” was Laura St. Claire, a professional freelancer.) With incredible research tools at their fingertips, customers now can ferret out the truth about products and companies in only a few clicks. Despite such missteps, through social networking, other companies began to put a more human face on their organizations. An increasing number of companies are engaging with their customers directly online; answering their questions in the public square; and moving away from “marketingspeak” and toward developing deeper relationships with their customers based on actual interpersonal trust.

Beacons

And then came “support tagging.” Stowe Boyd and Greg Narain, of the social application firm Blue Whale Labs, call these tags “beacons.” A beacon is a post in a public place, such as a personal blog, meant to draw the attention of a service provider to an issue the customer is having with the company’s products. In essence, beacons turn the service model upside down, drawing companies to the customer’s site to help them, rather than forcing the customers to go through the often onerous support process prescribed by the vendor organization. (The vendor organizations respond to such beacons through diligent, often automated, monitoring of search engine results for new items containing their company name, their products or relevant phrases.)

When it works, a representative from the vendor organization, or even an individual who may be part of a larger enthusiast community, will connect with the customer in the customer’s space and resolve the issue.

So I would call 2006 a sea-change year for CRM. Sales faced an ever-more-vigilant buyer. Marketing engaged with customers—and was called to task when it went overboard. Support is actually—surprise—supporting the customer, as opposed to purely being a cost center. The customer really is in charge.

(link)

Self-Inflicted Trademark Dilution

Selling a house is always an activity frought with the possibility of customer service peril. This is especially true when, in addition the buyer and seller, thirteen other organizations are involved (4 different mortgage companies, a title company, lawyers, three different banks, one brokerage, one utility, one airline and one phone company). The whole story from Shannon Clark spans three thousand plus words, but one particular vignette to share here.

Shannon writes:

“A national bank, Bank of America, told me that internally they can’t deal with customers of their bank from any state for any state. Instead if you want to, say deposit almost the FDIC limit into a new account, but happen to be doing that NOT in your (new) home state, you are just out of luck – they can’t figure out how to handle their divisions (all with the SAME branding mind you) as one, merged entity. Needless to say, I didn’t take them up on this rather shocking display of completely horrible service.”

This leads me to my new favorite quote, from Wendy Seltzer, regarding what happens to brands and organizations after an ad infinitum series of M&A activities and corporate roll-ups. Seltzer:

“I call it ‘self-inflicted trademark dilution.’ Companies get so big they have nothing but brands and trademarks holding them together, then they treat customers with so little regard that they make the trademark stand for haphazard indifference, rather than goodwill. I think after a certain amount of this, the customers should be free to reappropriate the brand for their own uses — perhaps making those mergers somewhat less attractive to the investors.”

Nicely put.

I Want To Have A Say

Dawn Rivers Baker: “Here’s the bottom line: this is my computer. I’m not going to use anybody’s software that take control of my machine away from me. If you, Mr. Software Producer, can’t write software without taking over my computer, then I’ll have to go find somebody who is a better programmer than you. I want to have a say. If you aren’t going to give me a say, I’ll go find somebody who will.”

Right on.