In partnership with The CMO Club, The CMO of the Week series profiles CMOs who are shaping, changing and challenging the world of modern marketing. For Drew Neisser's complete interview with CMO Award Winner Kieran Hannon, click here.
As marketers, we've all clocked time at our fair share of professional mixers, and I think everyone would agree with me here that nothing is worse than the dreaded one-sided conversation. Someone we'd never find pinned to a corner (or talking his way into one), however, is Kieran Hannon, CMO of Belkin. Hannon is a pro at the ebb and flow of a good dialogue, which is lucky for the many consumers who interact with Belkin and its tech products every day. Listen and learn as Hannon (a Customer Experience Award winner at The CMO Awards) imparts some wisdom below about how, with tenets of good conversation, your marketing team can actually positively affect the customer experience.
In Conversation 101 with Professor Hannon, I learn (or rather re-learn) something in which we could all use a refresher. In marketing and in life, above all else: listen. According to Hannon, when you talk to Belkin, you can be sure that someone is taking note-and more. "The voice of the customer is always front and center, spanning marketing, product, sales and customer care," he says.
The process of gathering feedback at Belkin begins with product development planning and continues throughout the customer experience. It's so important to the company that Belkin houses on-site facilities specifically for in-depth focus group research. Additionally, Hannon says, "We spend a lot of time actively listening to customers across social media and through our customer advocacy (care) teams. We also have communities providing ongoing feedback while highlighting new product features/needs." Hannon says this back-and-forth is responsible for shaping some of Belkin's most successful products, like the much-praised Linksys WRT1990AC router, QODE keyboards and the WeMo Maker launch. It's truly no surprise that the company's slogan is "People Inspired Products."
Tell a Tale or Two
Technology is often a murky subject for the average consumer, and not usually a romantic or gripping one, that's for sure. To pique and hold customer interest, Hannon and his team harness the power of a good narrative, a lost art, in his eyes. "Finally, storytelling is back. Hallelujah!" he proclaims. "That is the power of a brand - how its story resonates and is shared amongst its customers." Take a look at a Belkin product and you'll likely find an interesting backstory to accompany it, one that inspires and might even push you over the purchase tipping point (which is the whole idea, of course). "We are telling stories with [home automation series] WeMo in how people can use the products in ways they never even thought possible," says Hannon. "There's such a joy in illuminating how technology can help make people's lives better and more engaging."
Contribute to the Chatter
One great way to hone your storytelling chops? Copious use of social media. Perhaps no one is a bigger advocate for being active on social-even at the C-level-than Hannon, whom Forbes named among its most influential executives on Twitter in 2014. "Social media lets you be front and center-with customers, partners and other industry peers," Hannon says. "I love it."
He and his team have used social to ramp up Belkin's communications and campaigns, and Hannon is a proponent of getting the whole team involved, not just the community managers and customer service reps. "For instance," he says, "Hudson News is a big partner and we have done some interesting promotions together amplified via social media." But it's the inclusion of the marketing team that pushes their efforts even further. "All of [Hudson News'] team, from the CEO across the board, are completely engaged. It's allows for that real time feedback loop," he says.
While Hannon and his team have used the power of meticulous communication to improve the customer experience, impacting user interaction with a product or service is often elusive for today's CMO. His advice to the rest of us: "You must have total empathy for your customers, understand their needs and wants and how your brand(s) fit into their worlds." That listening thing, again!
"More importantly," he says, "engage with them in multiple ways for a better rounded experience. Whether in-store, online or via other research methods, keeping constant tabs on the sentiment is a must." In other words, make sure your team's feelers are alert in the places where you and your target intersect. And as CMO, you're entitled to play favorites with your personal medium of choice, as long as you have one. "I personally enjoy engaging with customers on Twitter," Hannon says. "I get such a kick out of it. Can't believe more CMOs aren't on Twitter."
CMO of the Week is an exclusive Social Media Today Column published every Thursday.