• 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.
  • 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.
  • LPope
    Leah Pope on September 23, 2014

    Using Social Intelligence to Build the Sales Pipeline

    The social web has opened new channels for consumers to discuss products and brands, share opinions and ask for recommendations. Brands today must take a more responsive approach focused around interests relevant to the individual consumer. With the right tools in place, brands can uncover these opportunities, engage strategically and directly contribute to trackable lead generation.
  • In social business circles, there is a strong disposition towards inclusivity in decision making. The notion is that when you involve people in decisions that effect them, then it is much more likely that they will be on board with any changes that are required. What’s more, you’re also much more likely to get wide and varied information input into the process.
    In social business circles, there is a strong disposition towards inclusivity in decision making.  The notion is that when you involve people in decisions that effect them, then it is much more likely that they will be on board with any changes that are required.  What’s more, you’re also much more likely to get wide and varied information input into the process.

    A recent paper highlights just how important this is.  It reveals that when leaders fail to either take into account the perceptions of those involved, or indeed give them an avenue to express their opinions, it is much more likely that the change will go wrong.  When the leader can envision things from other peoples perspectives however, it often produces better outcomes.

    “Effective leadership is like a successful car ride. To go places, you need gas and acceleration—power is a psychological accelerator. But you also need a good steering wheel so you don’t crash as you speed down the highway—perspective-taking is that psychological steering wheel,” said the researchers, from Columbia Business School. “When you anchor too heavily onto your own perspective, and don’t take into account the viewpoints of others you are bound to crash.”

    Hobbesian fallacy

    The study explored the Hobbesian fallacy of seeing the world through your own eyes via a number of experiments.  It found that the more power one possesses, the worse one generally becomes at understanding the perspectives of others.  Their opinions become increasingly anchored around their own vantage point.

    What’s more, there is a consistent disconnect between those who have the social skills to understand and appreciate the perspectives of others, and those who actually have the power to initiate change.

    When the perfect combination exists within a leader however, it tends to ensure that challenging situations are managed successfully, whilst also facilitating the kind of information sharing that ensures people feel listened to and valued, and of course ensuring that complex decisions obtain the best possible outcome.

    How good are leaders in your organization at adopting and understanding the perspectives of those outside of their inner circle?

    leadership / shutterstock

    An area of marketing that is often overlooked is how important it is to be mindful when creating a company culture. You don’t build a culture to make a sale.

    An area of marketing that is often overlooked is how important it is to be mindful when creating a company culture. You don’t build a culture to make a sale. But the culture you build, if you’re very clear about your organization’s values and beliefs, can translate your company’s personality and attract right fit prospects. It can also reinforce your current customers’ buying decision.

    Company culture doesn’t just happen. If you want it to really flourish, you need to make it a priority for your business. You need to build/strengthen the foundation of your culture and then nurture its growth from there.

    The challenging aspect of corporate culture, of course, is that culture is shaped by the workforce. Which means it’s an ever-evolving entity. As employees come and go, the culture can be altered in ways that don’t benefit the employees or the organization.

    Your culture is too valuable not to protect. Here are a few ways you can ensure that your culture has a consistent foundation that doesn’t ebb and flow over time. If the core is rock solid, then it’s okay if the details shift a little.  Ready to start creating a company culture? Keep these tips in mind.

    Create a manifesto: Don’t hide your culture. Celebrate it. Capturing the essence of your culture in a statement of beliefs or manifesto will allow you to articulate the key values and behaviors that you want to protect.

    Put it in your employee handbook, create a beautiful framed version and hang it proudly in your corporate office and read it out loud to kick off each year’s first staff meeting. You could even ask new hires to sign a commitment to honoring the manifesto on their first day of work.

    Weave the culture’s core values into your job descriptions and review process: Employees know that if something is important enough to be a part of their annual review, then it must be pretty important to the company. You can reinforce your culture by rewarding your employees for keeping it alive.

    It’s also a built in culture training program for new employees. If they know they’ll be held accountable to their job description when review time comes along, they’re much more likely to adopt those wanted behaviors.

    Make your staff part of the solution: If you teach your employees how your company culture contributes to the success of the organization and then invite them to help you protect it, they’ll gladly accept the challenge.

    Why not a team that is charged with bringing the culture to life through employee events, customer interactions and rewards programs? They’ll probably surprise you with their innovative ideas and enthusiasm.

    Hire for culture, train for skills: Identify the attitudes and behaviors that best support your company’s culture and hire for those traits. You can teach skills but you can’t teach attitude. It’s much easier for a new hire to fit into an environment that aligns with his or her own personal beliefs. Trying to force a square peg into a round hole puts a great deal of stress on both the organization and the new employee.

    Share the vision: The purpose of a company culture is to support the organization as it marches towards its future. One way to help the employees understand the importance of protecting and building the culture is by sharing the desired end result.

    Once they share the vision, they’ll be inspired to guard everything that will help you all achieve that vision. If anything, they will strengthen your culture to help you get there even faster.

    Your culture matters every day. Purposefully creating a company culture will help you recruit and retain your best talent. It supports how you deliver excellence to your customers and it is a compass that guides you towards even greater successes. Be sure you protect it like the valuable asset that it is.

    Most small business owners will tell you that their #1 source of new customers is word of mouth marketing. Why then are these same business owners reluctant to try online word of mouth marketing?

    We recently discussed the eight items that go into your Digital Dialtone. Today we’re going to talk specifically about Word of Mouth Marketing. I find this topic to be the most interesting and surprisingly, controversial. Most small business owners put word-of-mouth marketing at the very top of their most effective marketing strategies. Many small businesses get more than 75% of their business from referrals. Ironically, many of these same people do very little online to increase their referral reach.

    I had a conversation with a small business owner about this that went something like this:

    Q: What percentage of your new business comes from referrals?

    A: Probably more than 75%, but I’m not sure.

    Q: When you satisfy a customer, how many people do you think she tells about you?

    A: I have no idea. Let’s say 20

    Q: Great. Of that 20, how many do you think need the product/service you supply?

    A: I have no idea. Let’s say 5

    Q: And of the 5, how many do you think become customers of yours

    A: I have no idea. Maybe 1 or 2.

    There are two really outstanding data points that come from this conversation. The first is that this small business owner really doesn’t have any idea how effective his word-of-mouth marketing is working for him. That means he can’t effectively increase it, since he doesn’t know where to focus. The second is that assuming his numbers are close to correct, he’s batting anywhere between .050 and .100 (1/20 or 2/20) in terms of results from his word of mouth marketing, his #1 marketing strategy!

    My next question to him was “what do you think would happen if you leveraged on-line channels so this person could effectively reach 200 people instead of 20?” His immediate reaction was “it won’t be nearly as effective as in-person word of mouth”. Given that this is likely true, we did some quick math and determined that his effectiveness could drop to .010 and still generate the same number of new customers that his current strategy gives him.

    Marketing is nothing more than a numbers game. You have a bunch of potential customers come in at the “top” of your sales funnel and as they go through the sales process, some percentage of those will come out the “bottom” as paying customers. Your job is to (a) maximize how many go into the top, and (b) increase the likelihood that the ones that come into the top get all the way to the bottom. By duplicating your word-of-mouth efforts online, you are guaranteeing (a), and with tools such as Bizyhood and other Marketing tools you can increase (b) as well.

    Our last point of discussion had to do with negative word-of-mouth. This is where a customer has a bad experience and bad mouths your business to many people. My small business friend made two observations that were prescient:

    1. That person will tell a LOT more people about their negative experience than the person who had a positive one.
    2. He will likely never know that the person had a negative experience, so there’s very little he can do to address her concern or to communicate with the people she’s complaining to.

    My suggestion is to allow those customers to give public feedback as well so that the business knows about it and can respond to it. Customers that have a bad experience want to be heard. Ironically, your most loyal customers are often those that had a problem early on in the relationship that you effectively addressed. People like being taken care of. So, why not let those people tell you what they were unhappy about? Now you have a chance to address it AND tell the people that heard about their issues why they should still consider your business.

    Bottom line – expanding your word-of-mouth efforts online will allow your current customers to spread the word to many more people – which increases the size of your funnel at a minimum. And what’s the downside of that?

    Customers control the conversation, and the service you provide can no longer be an unsatisfactory or merely an acceptable experience. It’s not even enough to provide unique products or services. Customers have shown that due to bad service, they are willing to change and will let their friends, family, and fans know about it.

    Social media has fundamentally changed the world of customer service and marketing. Customers control the conversation, and the service you provide can no longer be an unsatisfactory or merely an acceptable experience. It’s not even enough to provide unique products or services. Customers have shown that due to bad service, they are willing to change and will let their friends, family, and fans know about it. An America Express study shows an astounding 83 percent of customers left the purchase due to bad service.

    The Heart of Marketing panel at the The Social Shake-Up 2014 (#tssuheartofmktg) got to the source of the matter: only when customer service is put at the heart of marketing will you reach your marketing and revenue objectives. In fact, Customer 2020 Report shows that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

    Read on to hear why, and what you can do about it, from Dan Gingiss, Digital Customer Experience & Social Media, Discover; Natanya Anderson, Director, Social Media and Digital Marketing, Whole Foods; and Shep Hyken, customer service expert.

    Connect on the Customer Journey

    “You know your audience wants human-to-human interaction,” said Hansen Lieu, Director, CRM Product Marketing, SAP, and moderator of the panel. “It can’t be what we used to do—paint a fantastic image of the content of the product or service, and convince them to spend money on it. Marketing isn’t relevant anymore because people don’t trust it. They want the truth. They don’t want us to tell them what to do. They want us to show them what we said. Customer service is at the heart of interaction. It’s engagement with the customer when they’re on the buying journey. Help the customer and engage and nudge them from one step of the journey to the other. Earn the right to be on the journey like a friend.”

    Gartner and Forrester research predict that by 2020, 80 percent of the buying process will occur without any direct human-to-human interaction. That’s because customers are turning to digital channels to self-educate about products and services, and they are waiting later in the buying process to speak directly with a sales person.

    However, an April 2013 CMO Council and NetLine survey of B2B decision-makers worldwide found the greatest percentage of respondents (58 percent) said content played a role in purchasing decisions when it helped them find new solutions to problems. Plus, eConsultancy showed 83 percent of consumers require some degree of customer support while making an online purchase.
 The bottom line: you need to know your customer and be there when they need help on their journey.

    Seize the Social Opportunity

    Also a New York Times bestselling author, Hyken believes we confuse customer service with customer experience: the new marketing online and in person. He said marketing isn’t telling anymore. It’s doing and proving, and earning the right to do business with the consumer.

    “At Discover, our tagline is, ‘We treat you like you treat you,’ but I’ve always said the core of the TV commercial is saying, ‘Trust us.’ Show beats tell every time. Social is the only channel where you can demonstrate or publicly show this,” Gingiss said. “But you actually have to be good at customer service to be on social. If not, social will destroy you. People who tweet something positive to a brand actually expect a response more than those who tweet something negative.”

    A Search Engine Land article shared “about 49 percent of local consumers are more likely to use a local business having read a positive review online.” Therefore, you must interact with happy and unhappy customers to get more positive reviews and ROI. Positive reviews influence other customer decisions, too, such as 90 percent of consumers online trust recommendations from people that they know, with 70 percent trusting the opinions posted online by unknown users.

    “The way I think about marketing is that it’s not Mad Men any more,” Anderson said. “It’s about supporting the customer through the entire buying cycle. Inspire them how to use your goods. That’s marketing. Provide a fantastic purchase experience. That’s marketing. A customer has an issue or question. That’s marketing. We’re with the customer the whole way, not just in the store. The whole organization has to get involved to be with the customer through their entire journey. Social media isn’t just the responsibility of the ‘social team.’”

    According to an Edison study, 42 percent of consumers expect a response on social media within an hour. Unfortunately, a typical business hears from only 4 percent of its dissatisfied customers, while 96 percent don’t voice their complaints and 91 percent will never come back. If these facts and statistics don’t prove we need to make customer service a key initiative, perhaps others will.

    “Responding to positive feedback is fun, engaging, and builds community,” said Gingiss. “On the negative side, it’s equally important to address the core issue, be empathetic, say you’re sorry, and fix it.”

    He suggested, when appropriate, to also mirror how they ask for help. For instance, a Tweet from a prospective Discover card customer who was tired of receiving mailers from the company tweeted, “Please get the hint, I don’t want a Discover card.” The quick, witty response, “Wow, we must really want you as a customer,” turned the angry tweeter into a customer.

    Talk Table Stakes

    “So what’s the implication for customer service and marketing?” Hansen asked the panel trio.

    “It’s interesting how many companies do customer service so poorly,” Gingiss said. “It should be the table stakes. Customer service can very easily become a differentiator among many competitors.”

    No matter what is your industry, the table stakes are no longer simply the tools you need to be capable in your business. Customer experience is just as important. But are all channels equal in the need to respond?

    “Customer service isn't just for B2C," said Anderson. "Word of mouth is powerful. Table stakes have gotten much broader. It’s not only call centers and the telephone. Social is for real. The issue for business is all channels are equal in terms of the need to respond. Take it seriously when the customer is coming at you at every possible direction. Make customer service good in the first place, and then add the social layer. It’s the easiest place to prove ROI. It’s a wakeup call to businesses.”

    Hyken added that it’s true for B2B and B2C. “There is always going to be a competitor. It’s rare there’s not someone else doing it, too. Customer service gives the right to bid and shape bids. If the supplier is B2B, it de-commoditizes itself. I’m a buyer of services and tools as someone who manages social tools, for example. We talk more about customer service relationships with partners. Are they there for us? How do they support us? Although it’s hard to talk about it on social, we see it manifest through word of mouth, which is more important for B2B. Service is table stakes. Service provides the right to re-market.”

    If you wanted a question answered in two to three hours, wouldn’t you wait for the question to get there in two to three hours? “When you don't reply to people on social, it's like unplugging the phone,” Gingiss said. “Would your organization ever do that? We call it First Tweet Resolution. We want to provide service to customers on the channel of their choice.”

    Determine Damage Control

    But how can you turn a critic into an advocate? When do you respond to negative comments publicly or solve them offline? When do you get involved or stand back? The audience asked these questions as the panel progressed.

    “Invite the customer to email if it will be easier to solve through that channel,” Anderson said. “Never force them to change channels. Always try to solve the issue where it started. There are some people in the world that you can never make happy. Vegetarians will never be happy with Whole Foods because we sell meat. So be respectful, but at one point disengage.”

    Make Customer Service a Culture

    "Customer service is not a department, it’s a culture,” Hyken said. “There are six Ds to creating a customer-centric culture: Define it. Disseminate it. Deploy it. Demonstrate it. Defend it. Delight in it.”

    Anderson said it’s how you change from doing what it takes to doing what is right. She also offered creative staffing ideas if you have only one person running and monitoring your social channels. One solution is to ask employees from other departments or locations to sign up for a social media shift. This not only offers backup but also helps everyone in your business understand social.

    “Hire the right people,” Gingiss said. “Social is a great place for really good customer service people to show off their personality. Ask 10 people the same question and you don’t get the same answer.”

    Case in point: even if it’s not part of the script, allow employees to show their personality. While a smiley face icon is often used in email at the end of a message, you can express your care for the customer with a heart icon, or <3.

    Customer service is not only the new marketing. It’s also the heart of marketing. Without human-to-human engagement, you’re just another [insert brand, industry, service, or product here]. Authentic communication is everyone's job. Help us spread the love by tweeting from here.

    Last week, Facebook changed its Newsfeed algorithm again. They say the change will surface your friends' posts and pages when they are the most useful and relevant. I doubt it, but okay. And right on cue, Facebook tacticians are looking for ways to recover diminished reach due to the change. Like Google, we have pinned our hopes on a fickle hero. Perhaps it’s time we remind ourselves of the lesson Google taught us.

    I remember waiting for the Google Dance.  Old school SEO experts know what I’m referring to.  Years ago, Google would update its index once a month.  Online marketers would watch their search listings hoping for a jump in rankings.  The next day, forums would fill with the lucky and the damned, those who thought Google was awesome and others that swore it was Satan incarnate.

    Google still dances but its index changes are fine tuned and uneventful.

    Now we watch Facebook like shy geeks at prom.

    Last week, Facebook changed its Newsfeed algorithm again.  They say the change will surface your friends' posts and pages when they are the most useful and relevant.  I doubt it, but okay.

    And right on cue, Facebook tacticians are looking for ways to recover diminished reach due to the change.

    Like Google, we have pinned our hopes on a fickle hero. Perhaps it’s time we remind ourselves of the lesson Google taught us.

    What Google and Facebook Really Wants

    I don’t doubt that Facebook wants to make money by erecting tolls booths on the path to your followers but I don’t believe that profit is their primary goal.

    Their goal is to get every human hooked on Facebook.  They do that by creating an insanely useful and relevant tool to connect with your friends.

    Google already makes billions lining the path to your content with billboards (i.e. Adsense and Adwords). Sure they want to make a pile of cash but I believe their primary goal is what they say – to organize their world’s knowledge.

    Both Google and Facebook need YOU to accomplish their goals.
    They need you to care about your content’s quality and value.
    They want you to attract audiences using innovative approaches and strategies.

    Facebook AND Google cook up new ways to inform, entertain, and educate your audience at a dizzying pace.

    The last thing they want you to do is to parse every change in their algorithm looking for patterns, shortcuts, and other nonsense.  Just create insanely great solutions, options, perspectives, and tools to problems that annoy the piss out of your audience.

    You’ll Sleep Better

    I’ve stopped watching Google and analyzing Facebook.  Its more productive and fun to watch and analyze you.  Afterall the best strategy has always been to give you what you need.

    Perhaps it’s time for you to change your focus too?

    OlegDoroshin / Shutterstock.com