• Russ Fradin
    Russ Fradin on July 29, 2014

    Why Employee Advocacy Matters

    Employee advocacy is an emerging new marketing strategy where companies empower their influential employees to authentically distribute brand approved content, create original content, and in turn earn recognition and rewards for their activity and participation.
  • alexmoffit
    Alex Moffit on September 4, 2014

    John Doerr on OKRs and Goal Setting at Google and Intel [VIDEO]

    “Ideas are precious, but they’re relatively easy. It’s execution that’s everything,” says John Doerr, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and the man who introduced Objective & Key Results (OKRs) to Google. Google widely credits OKRs for helping the company grow from 40 to 40,000 employees. Other businesses including LinkedIn and Twitter have also embraced OKRs.
  • Greg Gerik
    Greg Gerik on September 16, 2014

    Shaking Up Social: Attending the Social Shake-Up in Atlanta

    Last year, the Social Shake-Up was one of the best social conferences to attend and this year promises to be even better. Here are a few of the hottest topics and sessions at the Shake-Up this year that are sure to deliver and drive this industry forward.
  • Customer relationship management is essential for any company. Fortunately, these days, social media has made it easier than ever before. However, this only holds true if you’re using it the right way. Keep the below advice in mind and you’ll marry the two perfectly for better engagement.

    Customer relationship management is essential for any company. Fortunately, these days, social media has made it easier than ever before. However, this only holds true if you’re using it the right way. Keep the below advice in mind and you’ll marry the two perfectly for better engagement.

    Choose Your Primary Platform

    There are too many social media platforms to keep up with at the moment. Obviously, we all know Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, but that’s just a fraction of what’s available and more are definitely on their way. While you may have accounts on the main four and many others, this could actually be doing yourself a huge disservice.

    Instead, it makes more sense to pick one and have that be the primary hub for your customers to keep in touch with you. You might choose this particular CRM interface because it simply works best for getting your message across. Maybe it’s because that’s where your market is already at and active. Whatever the case, pick one and start cultivating conversations there.  

    Still stay active on other sites, though, or at least vigilant. If you pick Facebook for your focal point, you don’t want to be left in the dark if a critical conversation is building about your company on Twitter.

    Whichever one you choose, the important thing is to let your customers know where they can find you when they need support. Every profile should point to the other profiles you use, explain which one is the “primary” account and then provide an email and phone number to use if they need anything.

    Engage, Engage, Engage

    Having a social media account is important, but actually using it is where you have a real chance at improving CRM. In fact, if you don’t leverage your social media presence, you’re probably doing more harm to yourself than good.

    It’s certainly helpful to post updates about sales you may be running and new products you have to offer, but know that people are going to message you with their own concerns. Not responding to them is sometimes the best move. However, never responding to your market is a great way to cast your company in a terrible light. Better to not have an account at all than to use one to make your company look inept or, worse, indifferent to your clientele.

    Develop Best Practices for Responding to Customers

    At some point, it’s possible you’ll need an employee to take over the role of social media manager (or you may have to hire one). That’s a huge win for your CRM campaign as it means so many people are engaging with you that you need someone to take over responding. However, further successes could mean that one person is no longer sufficient.

    While hiring another person may be one option, this is also a good time to develop best practices. You probably already have them for the CRM component of your company, meaning they’ll just need to be massaged a bit until they conform to your new needs.

    For the most part, social media should be looked at the same way you do your inbox for customer support. You’re going to get inquiries about your service or product, praise for it and dissatisfied comments regarding it, for the most part. Put a system into place for organizing these messages and, as much as possible, how you’ll respond to them. Now’s not the time to leave your customer relationship management approach to chance.

    Leverage Software

    Hopefully, you’ve taken advantage of customer relationship management software in order to see better results where this important component of your company is involved. If you haven’t, you should explore what this technology can do.

    However, you should also be doing the same for your social media platforms too. As we just covered, future success will only bring more interactions with it, meaning you could easily be overwhelmed, even if you add staff. Instead, leverage the power of social media software that’s been designed specifically to help customers like yours.

    Options like HootSuite, Zendesk, Desk.com, Buffe, and TweetDeck are just a handful of possibilities that can help you organize your posts, track your followers and generally keep you on top of what’s happening in the sometimes confusing world of social media.

    Measure the Data

    When you have best practices in place, sufficient staff and the right tools, measuring data should be fairly easy. However, this should be a part of your CRM strategy since day one. While social media sometimes gets a reputation for being a vague science at best, understand that it is every bit as important as your marketing campaigns. Treat it as an integral part of your company’s CRM by constantly analyzing related data and you’ll see equally impressive results. Neglect to do so and your competition will appreciate the opportunity.

    Social media can be the most important tool where your company’s customer relationship management is concerned. However, if you aren’t applying the above advice, this revolutionary technology won’t amount to much.

    Sources:

    http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/4-steps-social-crm-strategy/

    Connection is important in a community. However, for it to exist, you must first generate trust. Trust arises from your community’s engagement. Unless you give rise to such engagement on the basis of the credibility you earn, there is no community. These are a few ways you can increase engagement of your online community.

    Connection is important in a community. However, for it to exist, you must first generate trust. Trust arises from your community’s engagement. Unless you give rise to such engagement on the basis of the credibility you earn with what you do and say, then there is no community. You have nothing.

    Engagement is everything

    These are a few ways you can increase engagement of your online community:

    • Offer content that is of real value to your audience, not to you. To achieve this, listen to your audience and try to understand how they think and what they need. If your community is based on fitness, a daily food regimen with low-calorie intake and great energy content will be especially interesting to them, for example. As well, it will continue to be popular over time.
    • Follow your community. Find out where they shop, what their tastes are, what their favourite places are, what music they like, what activities they undertake, who they interact with, what other communities they’re involved in, what they’re saying about you or what happens once they have bought your product. All of this information is too useful to let slip.
    • Work tirelessly to improve your platform, website or blog: your community might stay on your platform longer if you improve their user experience with records per social platform (Facebook Oauth), social comments, real-time chats or personal profiles.
    • Ongoing social activity: your community isn’t on Facebook only. They are spread across the social media universe. Use LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Google + or Foursquare to connect with them in the different ways enabled by each of these platforms.
    • Involve your team to improve scope and feeling: involve your team members using word of mouth in regard to what your brand, company or agency does. Let them create, build and interact. Allow them to create dynamics between them, without you necessarily being the visible person. This can be very attractive and can really grab people’s attention.
    • Task distribution and review: for a community platform to work optimally, it is necessary for the work carried out to be coherent and well-structured across the team, with the entire team complying with their duties accordingly.
    • Online actions: the aim isn’t only to carry out promotions, offers or discounts but, rather, to involve your audience, letting them know that you’re there because of them. Actions also encompass the efficiency of your processes, the speed of your service delivery, the quality of your packaging or your reaction when someone posts a question on Twitter or complains on your Facebook timeline. This type of management is crucial in increasing your community’s engagement.
    • The community will seek you out: being anxious to increase your community fast may make you forget the care you need to have with your current community, regardless of whether they’re only 5 or 10, or 10,000. Don’t do like Movistar. Rather, focus on satisfying, growing and connecting with your current audience. You will create a more solid relationship with your community in that way, increasing their engagement. More people will probably come to you as a result of those brand ambassadors you’re creating now.

    These are concepts that you should apply daily, not only once in a while. Engagement is the result of keeping your promises. There’s no better marketing than that.

    What other ideas do you implement to increase engagement in your online community?

    Photo credit: Choconancy.

    Customers today are in a much better position to get better and more in-depth information before they buy a product. And that is what they do, not just as consumers. Around 60% of the traditional sales process in B2B sales has simply disappeared.

    It is no longer possible to ignore the fact that there has been a dramatic change in the way people buy products today due to the Internet, the social web and the wide range of mobile devices with which everyone is always connected. Customers can use the Internet not just to get information about products, but also to see what other people say about a product or a service, both the positive and the negative opinions. It is true that customers have always listened to the recommendations of friends and acquaintances: this restaurant is good, that holiday hotel is great.

    But while in the past, customers got such recommendations by talking to other people, today they are passed on through the social web on TripAdvisor, Facebook or in other networks and channels.

    Customers today are in a much better position to get better and more in-depth information before they buy a product. And that is what they do, not just as consumers. According to Google and CEB, around 60% of the traditional sales process in B2B sales has simply disappeared. Analysts such as Forrester think that buyers have completed 90% of their decision-making process before they even get in touch with the vendor. And then it is often only a matter of negotiating the price.

    This should make people involved in sales and marketing think long and hard and overhaul their strategies. The trend clearly seems to be moving away from traditional mass marketing to a more targeted, personalized and personal customer approach. Instead of reaching out to customers using the old megaphone approach with promotional letters, mass emails, telesales and, more recently, trite promotional messages via Facebook and Twitter, marketers now have to stop and think about how to best approach their customers in future.

    The latest research shows that customers are tired of receiving dull, irrelevant promotional messages addressed to everyone and no one in particular. What’s more, data protection regulations are getting tighter. In Germany a company may only send e-mails and e-mail newsletters to customers who actively register for them. And many mailings are picked up by the SPAM filter or are manually put in the trash can (either the digital or the real one in the case of letters sent by post). There are more restrictions on calls from telemarketing agencies too. Germany has become a country where the customer has to explicitly “opt-in.”

    Let me make one thing clear: I am not opposed to traditional marketing and certainly believe that mailings, e-mail newsletters and, where applicable, TV commercials and print ads and “real” events still have their place and can make sense. They are still part of a sound marketing mix. But this marketing mix has to be adapted to the demands of the 21st century. We are moving away from the mass-marketing approach, towards direct engagement with customers. Geoffrey Moore has coined the term “systems of engagement” for systems that directly affect people and give them added value. The German word “engagement” also has a positive association, meaning commitment, in this case to the customer, and this is where we need to head in marketing. Other people talk in terms of “outbound and inbound marketing.

    Marketers now need to focus on delivering the right information and incentives to the customer at the right time and the right point in their decision-making process. And that is definitely easier said than done. However, a range of surveys and studies are available that analyze which information and contacts the buyer uses at what point. Text100 recently surveyed around 1,900 people on how they make their B2B technology decisions. The results were put into a matrix showing which mechanisms and information are used the most and have the most influence at which point in the decision-making process.

    Here are my 10 ingredients for creating an attractive “system of engagement”:

    (1) Integrate your company’s owned, paid, earned and social channels

    The concept of paid, owned, earned and social channels is no longer new. You have your own sources of information – the classic one here is your own website – you pay for advertisements or advertorials, you hope to earn positive feedback on products, and social channels are having an even increasing impact on decisions. The trick is to make sure that all these aspects of marketing fit together so that, ideally, they complement each other. Every marketing campaign today should include a checklist of what to do, when, and in which area, in order for it to be successful. This should go without saying but, in my experience, it doesn’t.

    (2) Make your website THE focus of content, interaction and engagement

    A few years ago, the question of whether companies actually still need to have their own website was hotly debated. Surely it could all just be put on Facebook. That’s hokum though: you cannot and should not rely on an external platform. A company needs to have its own website that it actually owns. Of course, this website will not be the same as it was ten years ago. It’s no longer about having a high-gloss brochure online but a platform where customers can find all the information they need without filling out endless registration forms for a download. The website must be continuously analyzed and optimized. It is no longer acceptable for several months to pass before a relaunch project is completed and a new website is rolled out. And, of course, it should be really easy for customers to get in touch with the company.

    (3) Content is king – supply your customers with content that is of interest to them

    Content marketing” is a term that every marketer should be familiar with by now. That said, it’s surprising how little high-quality content is actually provided most of the time. But white papers, reference reports and videos are just not as easy to produce as mass mailings. Of course, these types of content should not just be found on the company’s own website, but also elsewhere in order to attract more attention. The IBM expert pages in the magazine Computerwoche, for example, try to combine independent, editorial articles with high-quality content and the expert knowledge of IBM, presented in many different forms including videos, surveys and live chats. The focus here is on content and expertise and not bland advertising.

    (4) Tell interesting real-life stories

    The expression “he’s telling tales” has a distinctly negative connotation, but actually, nothing works like a good story. And they certainly don’t have to be made up. True-to-life stories are an excellent way of relating content in an entertaining and authentic manner and an art which is unfortunately not very widespread in the IT industry or in Germany in general. I think the new “Made with IBM” campaign is exactly the right way to go. Customers, partners and IBM staff tell their stories of how they solved a particular problem and the advantages it brought them. But a 30-second video is not going to cut the mustard here. You have to add meat to the stories in the way of content. Ideally this kind of concept will then go viral, become internalized by the entire system and be used and distributed via websites, communities and social channels.

    (5) Offer your customers the most personalized experience possible and understand your customers

    The call for marketing to take a more personalized and personal approach has been around for some time. But “personalized” does not just mean addressing the recipient by name, it’s about addressing their particular needs and interests. This may be difficult to do if you don’t have a full customer profile. For example, you may have the report on the visit to a trade show but you don’t know exactly what they have researched on the website and what other information they already have. That’s why IBM has acquired the behavioral marketing expert Silverpop that provides personalized customer engagements in highly scalable environments via the various channels. These solutions gather Big Data, often analyzed in real-time, which is then used by marketing automation tools to supply customers with the content relevant to then.

    (6) Understand and track your social business network

    Business networks have always played a major role, in the offline world, too. The social web has dramatically increased the power of business networks, making it extremely important for companies to understand the social networks and relationships relevant to their company and their customers. Business partners, competitors, influencers, customers, prospective customers, organizations and associations, your own company and customers are all interacting with one another. From a marketing perspective, this means that you should keep track of the online options available and identify the most relevant sites and communities in which you need to feature.

    (7) Find out who has most influence on your customers

    In the analysis of the network mentioned above, another important aspect is to identify the top influencers of a particular sector or industry. These are no longer only journalists, traditional consultants and analysts. Many other people and groups have become more influential through the social web. Increasingly, influencers are other customers, bloggers and active community managers. A company needs to identify these people and establish a relationship with them. That’s why I prefer to talk about “influencer relations” rather than “influencer marketing”. What makes these influencers so important?

    (8) Understand the influence (and the risks) of recommendations

    Where customers are concerned, negative recommendations have at least as much impact as positive ones on purchasing decisions. According to Nielsen, 79% of people in the US trust the recommendations of personal acquaintances and around 50% trust reviews that are placed online. Based on its survey, Text100 says that recommendations from the prospective buyer’s direct area of influence can make or break a purchasing decision. So companies need to provide the influencers with the right key information. This is why clever companies treat influencers with the same attention and care as they do journalists and analysts. Of course, this also opens up room for abuse, with companies trying to buy themselves recommendations or dubious customers threatening companies with bad online reviews.

    (9) Encourage your customers to be active

    It may be stating the obvious, but it can’t be repeated often enough: nothing beats a satisfied customer. Customer satisfaction surveys and initiatives topped the agenda of every vendor for a long time. I’m not sure this is still the case. So it’s time to refocus: Customers who are satisfied are generally happy to tell other prospective buyers about their positive experience. And, according to the Text100 survey, they often do so on their own initiative, without the company even being aware of it. In my opinion, user groups are among the most effective multipliers. Sure, they can put pressure on a company if they are not happy, but if they are, then they are the best multipliers. So here’s the rule: satisfy your customers first, and then approach them about reference reports and quotes and integrate them in communities. Satisfied customers are the best extended sales arm of your company.

    (10) Activate your employees by making sure they are all “social”

    But top of the list, even before your customers, are your own employees: you should make sure they are your company’s active and positive advocates. That sounds normal. And it certainly used to be normal, but according to employee (non-)satisfaction surveys, that’s no longer the case. Satisfied, motivated staff are key to the success of every company. If you then motivate and reward them for actively being a brand ambassador out in the big wide world, then you will increase the reach and credibility of your company enormously. The sales staff should be integrated in social channels such as LinkedIn or Xing, and the technical staff need to blog and be involved in communities. R&D staff should apply feedback from customers to product development. HR staff can identify the much talked about “high potentials.” And so on. Of course not everyone is equally suited to being a brand ambassador in the same way but, in principle, they can all contribute.

    Marketing in the 21st century, the “social era”, has definitely not got any easier. The traditional channels and measures are still relevant, but the digital and social channels need to be added to the marketing portfolio. The Internet and the social web have radically changed the sales process. Prospective buyers get their information from the web, not by visiting trade shows or events as they did in the past. And they don’t just get information, they also get opinions. This makes it essential for companies to be active on the web. By active I mean listening on the one hand, and being visible and present on the other, providing valuable information from their own experts, in communities or through positive customer statements. The one thing to remember is that the relation to the customer is paramount. The companies that flourish are the ones that listen to their customers properly, online and offline, that take care of them and are dedicated to them.

    Digital marketing has moved beyond the stage of “integral aspect” and is now the soul of many successful marketing campaigns. But neglecting traditional marketing wholly in favor of online marketing means missing chances to integrate both channels in order to establish a pervasive presence.

    Don’t Isolate Your Online and Offline Marketing Strategies

    Social media marketing has moved beyond the stage of “integral aspect” and is now the soul of many successful marketing campaigns. But people still watch television, go to stores and drive in traffic. They still check their mail and attend community events. Neglecting traditional marketing wholly in favor of online marketing means missing chances to integrate both channels in order to establish a pervasive presence.

    Just as brick and mortar businesses can benefit from online marketing, e-commerce companies can benefit from physical advertising and networking events. But integrating your efforts means doing more than using both online and offline channels to market your business— it means treating them as components of a single omnichannel strategy rather than separate entities.

    Don’t Assume Online and Offline Audiences Are Comprised of Different Demographics

    The concept seems simple enough: a much larger percentage of people younger than 65 use the internet than people over 65; therefore it makes sense to use online advertising to appeal to young people and print to appeal to the mature population. Many advertisers operate on this principle without realizing that there is a broad overlap that broadens every day. A growing percentage of older adults use digital tools and hunt down services and products online. Younger populations may be active on social media, but they are inundated with ads and information that they have learned to ignore. And with an increasing number of tools for seamlessly connecting web and physical content, online and offline audiences are blending to make up a single market.

    Never Exclude Web Info from Print Advertising

    Brands with serious recognition can get away with putting nothing but their logo on an ad. Growing businesses, however, must provide audiences with the information they need to engage further. A phone number used to suffice, but nowadays, it’s the standard to put a landing page address on everything from billboards to car magnets. Including social media icons, specific calls to action, and strategic QR codes or other interactive features can make your printed advertisements great tools for leading customers to a wealth of online content.

    Create Mystery with Print Advertising, Solve it with Online Info

    Teaser campaigns are becoming more and more popular. In a cluttered world, simple printed ads with sparse information and a sense of mystery invite viewers to engage further. While brand recognition can be the make or break aspect of an ambiguous or minimalist ad—think True Blood teasers or Nike ads—striking the right balance of simple, eye-catching and informative can allow any business to create a successful teaser campaign. But make sure you have the online content to back up your printed ad. Don’t lure audiences into disappointment. They should be able to follow the URL on the ad to your website and find answers to their questions as well as a source of quality content related to your brand and industry.  

    Offer Digital Rewards

    One of the best ways to draw people to your website through a printed advertisement is to offer a digital reward for visiting your site. Whether it’s a free eBook, song, or digital coupon, these rewards incentivize audiences to find out more about your brand, products and services.

    Businesses can also use local search platforms to offer in-store rewards that draw foot traffic: for example, check-in discounts on Yelp or Foursquare that can be redeemed in-store. These rewards could easily prompt customers to write glowing online reviews.

    Give People a Chance to Check out Your Products in Person

    Create a way for customers to experience your products and services before buying them online. Online shoppers are usually forced to rely reviews from people they’ve never met in order to decide if a product is worth the investment. But Warby Parker, a retailer of eyeglasses and sunglasses, has a “home try-on” program that allows customers to pick out five frames they like and try them out for five days for free so that they can choose the glasses that work best for them. Trunk shows, trade shows, fashion shows, free samples and product demonstrations are great tools for showing customers that your online products are of quality.

    Keep Information Uniform

    Your business’s online and offline marketing efforts are part of the same campaign. They represent the same brand. This means that information should be streamlined across social media, web pages, mobile pages, online ads, billboards, posters, direct mail, store signage, etc. Maintaining consistent, up-to-date content across dozens of channels can be challenging, but it’s essential to a seamless marketing campaign. Ultimately, your impact will be much more powerful if every last message relays the same tone of voice, keywords and standards of quality.

    Using Facebook’s own free feature to boost your social media campaigns, branding, and reach is currently very under-utilized. However, it is a built in reminder function that can help your social media department automatically alert both followers and employees to your updates.

    One of the most under-utilized features or functions on Facebook is the ‘Get Notifications’ feature. The average Facebook user likely doesn’t even know it’s there or what it does. What does the ‘Get Notifications’ function do anyway?

    When you click the option, which appears in a drop down menu under the ‘Liked’ button, you simply click it. A check mark will appear to signify that you are signed up to receive notifications when that company page posts to Facebook. This gives businesses with a Facebook page the opportunity to educate their followers about the feature and incentivize them to activate it for their page.

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    Some simple marketing messaging on Facebook and via email communications can educate consumers and clients about Facebook’s ‘Get Notifications’ feature and explain to them what it’s about. Of course, when your followers get those notifications every time you post an update, your company and your brand will remain top of mind with them on a daily basis. However, what’s in it for the consumer? Structuring contests, coupon offers, and other deals you post about on Facebook to require fast action can act as the incentive for followers to get notifications from your page. When they want to be alerted so that they can enter a contest or click to download a coupon or special offer, the ‘Get Notifications’ function begins to work to their benefit.

    Don’t Abuse the Notification Privilege

    You will want to be careful not to over saturate your followers with posts if you do opt to try this type of campaign. Use social media tools to schedule posts throughout the day rather than posting all of your messages at once. If you post to your page very frequently (i.e. more than 5 to 7 times per day), this might not be a good option for your Facebook page. The last thing you want is to inundate users with notifications once they do opt to turn this feature on. For this reason, be sure to include instructions on how to stop notifications easily (with just one click), so that your Facebook fans know that they can turn this off at any time.

    Internal Benefits of the Facebook ‘Get Notifications’ Feature

    How else can your business’ social media efforts benefit from the ‘Get Notifications’ feature? Ask all of the staff, including management, to opt in to ‘Get Notifications’. This way, the staff will be notified automatically when the social media team posts an update. This eliminates the need for internal messaging and reminders for the rest of the company departments to help boost social media by liking and sharing each post. This idea also works well for groups and organizations as well.

    Conclusion

    Using Facebook’s own free feature to boost your social media campaigns, branding, and reach is currently very under-utilized. However, it is a built in reminder function that can help your social media department automatically alert both followers and employees to your updates. Incentivizing followers to opt in for notifications can be a part of a contest, coupon, or daily deal campaign so that they have a reason to want to accept notifications. Once they do, your company will remain top of mind with those followers on a daily basis.