blog: In the News

5 things I learned at the CMA National Convention 2013

  1. Failure is just one step back from success
  2. Bad habits feel good until good habits feel better
  3. Strange is the new normal
  4. There is such a thing as the “Accidental Entrepreneur”
  5. One idea shared is one idea squared

 

I also learned that Canadians love Sillicons. This promo drew 25% of show traffic to the Hydrogen booth and gave us a great opportunity to engage with serious people over some serious fun. Thank you CMA & The Art of Marketing for giving me that net takeaway.

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A Report on the Customer Experience Conference, CMA – 11-04-2013

Overall: an uplifting event demonstrating that customer-centric marketing has come of age, albeit rushed through teen adolescence at light-speed, by the power of social media.

Some very strong presentations and some surprises:

GO Transit wins the award for a Public Agency teaching private enterprise how to go about their business: for putting customer experience at the front of the line and driving up commuter volumes. Their customer research, segmentation and designing their brand promise entirely around the customer’s values of ‘easy’ rather than a transportation value of ‘efficient’ is as customer-centric as can be. How far apart are easy and efficient? We usually separate them with a comma − easy, efficient − it rolls off the tongue. Go-Transit learned the hard way, that when you separate ‘efficient’ from ‘easy’ an entire customer base can fall through the cracks. Great job learning that and fixing it in such a comprehensive and successful way!

1-800-Got-Junk? also rates top marks for walking the walk in customer-centric marketing. Compensating your franchisees based on the degree of positive customer feedback is a brilliant incentive, and immediately measurable through use of the net promoter score service. And then turning each high-score customer into a brand ambassador for lead-generation −very slick. If only all business models were so simple.

Other key ambassadors of integrated customer-centric business models, Porter Airlines and Miele Canada were very powerful reinforcements of the core value of the strategy.

It was very exciting to learn how Microsoft, Samsung and Canadian Tire have re-focused their energies on customer experience. If these Mega-brands in their respective markets have taken this on board, it is very encouraging to contemplate how customer-centric marketing will start to influence all aspects of delivering on the brand promise for marketers.

Most encouragingly, the conference was packed. Well done CMA for planning and hosting.

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Customer Experience: a Roadmap for Marketers

Please take a look at the Canadian Marketing Association’s most-recently published whitepaper Customer Experience: a Roadmap for Marketers. It aligns very closely to our own publications on customer-centric marketing and many of the blog posts in this site.

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Stop gazing at your own corporate reflection

New research out of the Zeno Research Group suggests that more than one-third of CEOs ignore their company’s social media reputation when making important business decisions.

Strong language

On another note, almost two-thirds of CEOs do pay attention to their company’s social media reputation when making important business decisions. Reputation measurement is still a fairly new science given that the majority of customer opinions are still not recorded online in many demographics. Two-thirds is a pretty good sign to me that the immediacy of social media feedback is making enough waves to turn the tide of brand-centric marketing towards a more customer-centric model.

All research is skewed in some way, but let’s presume that these results are absolute, that 34% of CEOs will never pay attention to their social media reputation. Why not?

– The Gratification of Self-Image –

It is a human flaw that we cannot see our own failings as clearly as others see them. It is not just related to self-esteem. It is also related to the monumental effort required to make a fundamental change. So we manage to overlook our bulges, emotional reflexes, proportional misalignments and project a demeanour that masks the flaws that lurk beneath.

This is also true of businesses that are, in many cases, extensions of their decision-makers’ persona. Ego hides what it doesn’t like to see because change is hard.

CEOs are emperors of their enterprise. It takes a huge amount of ego to rise to such a position – ego that can fight even its own intelligence to justify its decisions.

– Adjusting to Reality –

Social media conversations are immediate, blunt, and have no regard for ego. It is the classic case of the Emperor vs. The Mob. We see in the Middle East, imperial models crashing, proportionate to the rising use of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook in those countries. Social media coalesces one person’s opinion into millions of shared values.

The CEO model is imperial. The Social Media model is democratic. With the proliferation of conversations and their influence on market performance, an Emperor who doesn’t know how to listen will be replaced by a republic. In commercial terms, that means your customers will defect or your Board will take you out.

Social media helps to inform a CEO of a failure to execute properly within the ranks of the organization. This is a huge benefit. Self-policing an organization can be oppressive and de-motivating to the workforce. Embracing social media as your source for checks and balances is a relatively cost-efficient monitoring tool for the Enterprise and justifies to all parts of the organization the need for training and improvement.

Zappos has a good model to show how an organization empowers its employees to make key decisions at the time of customer engagement. It is an effective, self-policing model where the employee defines their own career satisfaction through dynamic engagement with customers. Its online reputation score is very high. The Twelpforce from Best Buy is another great example of empowering dynamic response at the lowest level of customer engagement.

– Change by Osmosis –

The one-third will change, or die. There are very few businesses that are immune to public opinion, unless they are a legislative monopoly. This time next year the Zeno Group will have to find something more pertinent to research.

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Social Media and other bubbles

Read Social Media Skeptic (MM 11/30/12), for the commentary on BJ Mendelson’s new book “Is Social Media Bull#*%!?”. It reads like a wail of dashed hopes and dreams. Once a social media neophyte, the author became jaded after a miserably-failed campaign in the cause of something great and beautiful. He calls a ‘crime’ the hoopla that surrounds any ‘next big thing’. There is a smack in his words of: “The more things change the more they remain the same”.

Yes, he may have a perspective, but the big question is: “Why do we have to pay money to read a book about a truth that has remained constant throughout human history?”

MORE, BETTER, FASTER ISN’T A GOAL IT IS A PROCESS. 

The goal is perfection. Perfection is unattainable. So the bubble is created out of human expectation.

I like expectation bubbles. They drive change. The reason they burst is because the expectation is either flawed in logic, or beyond the reach of achievement with the resources currently in place. Nobody likes a bubble to burst, but they do, eventually. Flawed logic can create a devastating burst (housing market in US, .com meltdown etc.)

BJ Mendelson saw his expectations pop when he followed the rules laid down for success and it did not work. He is pointing to a ‘flawed logic’ within the Social Media bubble. Does anybody really see Social Media so rosily-coloured? I hope not.

Social Media has created a dynamic platform of communication that can scale easily and rapidly. Exactly what content will scale is as predictable as rain in the Sahara. It is also more subject to the whim of influencers than to content creators. And what scales could equally be trivia or significant; of commercial value or zero value.

If your expectation is a guarantee of success then it is your individual logic that is flawed. If you can make money selling a book about it, good luck. You might save someone with logic as flawed as your own from investing in Social Media.

I don’t participate in Social Media much, because I personally don’t enjoy the interface. But I understand the genre of user that does. As humanity continues to bond with Digital Interfaces then Social Media platforms and their like will remain essential hubs of human interaction.

If the bubble bursts, it will be because something else evolves to create a higher expectation, not because the logic is flawed, as BJ Mendelson implies.

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How does customer service fit into your marketing mix?

This question was asked by Marketing Magazine to Longo’s Grocery Chain (see the November Special Issue on Customer Service).

I didn’t get to the answer. The question short-circuited my frontal lobe so I stopped reading. Let me explain.

I have, for the past 16 years, had a mania about customer-centric marketing. I have also been a critic of brand-centric marketing. I have never had a problem selling the strategy, but I have sometimes been a bit disappointed by the casual observation that “It doesn’t look much different”.

It has been a splinter in my brain to characterize the contrast between the science of customer-centric marketing and brand marketing without reaming off thousands of words.

Don’t breathe!  I may have found a solution. I am going to reword Marketing Magazine’s question:

HOW DOES MARKETING MIX FIT INTO YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE?

(I feel a bit dizzy. Need to take a moment.)

Customer-centric marketing takes brand ego out of the equation and replaces it with brand empathy, at every touch-point. It focuses your value proposition, media execution, product delivery, customer service and relationship management on the customer’s values.

“How does Customer Service Fit into your Marketing Mix?” vs. “How does Marketing Mix fit into your Customer Service?” It is an 180 degree flip. And it is a mind-set. Perhaps you can’t see the difference until you feel the difference.

Is it easy to make the transition?
No.

Is it so obvious when you have?
It may not be so noticeable to the casual observer, but it is very significant to the target audience and to your customer retention, share of wallet, marginal cost of marketing and all those other important variables.

So, how does your marketing mix fit into your customer service?

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Selling the Environment With Customer-Centric Values

Since Canada’s political balance of power may weigh in on the environment in the near future, how does this monumental issue affect the day-to-day choices of Canadians?

Politics is all about customer-centric marketing. What the voter won’t buy, the politician won’t sell. The marketing of environmental issues and products has to factor a number of different perspectives that reside within voters and customers and bring conflicting values when making personal choices:

The pendulum swings back and forth:

– “It is the nature of humanity to turn land into garbage and garbage into land.” (Jon Sherrington, 2006). Not a pretty idea, but the drive for consumption does just that. Do we feel remorse? Yes and no. Consider a growing forest that chokes the land of sunlight and lives off its own decay. It creates an environment ideal for its living conditions and all other organisms adapt or die. Is the forest a problem or a solution? It is no different with humans. Humans expand and change the environment to suit themselves and in the process all other organisms adapt or die. Environmentalists want to limit this impact of change, and the general population focuses on the consumption it needs to sustain itself, regardless.

– Within the three constants: the sun, gravity and geothermal energy, our atmosphere is a contained bio-system in which whatever exists will return to its original state at some point in the future. Carboniferous trees can reproduce, crystallize, liquify or gasify. As implausible as it appears on the surface, the earth’s bio-system will not fail under any circumstances outside of sun, gravity and geothermal energy. This constancy insulates the human conscience from reacting to changes in the environment influenced by specific human intervention. Whatever we are doing is a pin-prick in the earth’s history. But that doesn’t mean it won’t change.

In a recent consumer poll conducted by a non-profit organization sponsored by IPSOS-Reid in 2006, the greatest number of Canadians cited the Environment as the biggest issue that will face Canadians 20 years from now. Why are we not seeing this survey response impact politically and in terms of consumer behavior today? Because the environmentalist lobby is not very good at customer-centric marketing. It has become associated with left-spectrum politics. This is strange. How can climate change and ecosystems be valued within a political spectrum when it affects us all?

The answer is because they don’t know how to sell it. In the macro-political view, the majority of consumer-voters really care more about growth than its consequences. This includes even those polled in the survey. Yet the influence we exert on our environment shapes the immediate aspect of our lives, not just the future.

If the politics could sell the environment better we wouldn’t see it pushed behind considerations of growth. But don’t expect politicians to be influenced by anything other than what people are buying – and people are still turning more land into garbage and more garbage into land. If marketers could sell the environment better, consumers would make environmental choices because these reflect their own values.

So it is a marketing challenge that speaks to the heart of customer-centric marketing – how to align products and services to those values that enable customers to achieve the growth they desire without consequence to the environment. As long as the majority of marketers are concerned with growth more than its consequences, customers will side with the majority and politicians likewise.

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