Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, February 27, 2012

Social Media Checklist 3 Ways to Stay Out of Trouble

CHALLENGE: The potential for error in any social media outreach is unacceptably high ... and the attendant risks to your enterprise are serious.
Social Media UseSOLUTION: Maintain a set of accepted standards and practices that will help keep you and your organization on the right side of your customers …and the law. Update it regularly.
Many social media outreaches are impromptu, “seat of the pants” efforts in which marketers more or less make the rules up as they go along. Unfortunately, that approach leaves the enterprise open to catastrophic market, PR, and legal consequences.
A critical best practice is to adopt this indispensable set of guidelines from socialmedia.org, a self-regulated community for social media leaders. This set of checklists is essential reading for every marketing professional who is using, or considering using, social media.
New Workshop from the DMA and Ernan Roman: Customer Experience Marketing: 5 Steps to Ensure Success Featuring speakers from: Gilt, Semantic, MassMutual, Macy’s. Click here for details.
Three particularly powerful recommendations from this document:
Best Practice #1: Tell the truth; say who is a member of the organization and who isn't. "Disclose who we are, who we work for, and any other relevant affiliations from the very first encounter."
Best Practice #2: Correct misstatements quickly. "Keep a record of advocates contacted by us, as well as the information and incentives provided to them. Attempt to correct any misrepresentations or inaccurate statements that result from our outreach. Attempt to correct any missing disclosure by our advocates or representatives. Keep a record of all attempts to correct errors."
Best Practice #3: Be transparent about compensation. “Instruct advocates to fully disclose the source and nature of any compensation received. Ensure that all disclosure meets the minimum legal standard by being a) clear and conspicuous, b) understandable by the average reader, and c) clearly visible within the relevant content.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Creating an Effective Peer-to-Peer Community

CHALLENGE: Your web site should be the gateway to an engaged online peer-to-peer community. It can be a space where customers and prospects share ideas and insights, troubleshoot common problems, and (you hope) praise your brand.
Meet with your customersSupporting these communities is now an essential marketing responsibility ... but unless the peer-to-peer experience is driven by Voice of the Customer (VoC) based expectations, you risk falling well short of the desired community experience.
ERROR #1: Assuming customers will do all the heavy lifting. Too many organizations imagine that having a peer-to-peer space means that customers will take on most or all of the work when it comes to monitoring discussions, responding to questions, and overall, establishing and maintaining the structure of the community.
Best practice you should follow instead: You and your team members should be active members of the community. Leadership should come from your company in these areas: contributing content, monitoring discussion groups, and if necessary, excluding people who violate the accepted rules of the space.
ERROR #2: Over-reliance on e-surveys. Online surveys are acceptable for some situations, but they should not become your only, or even your main, means of communication with your customer base about what goes on in the peer-to-peer community. Why not? Because one-way surveys don't allow customers to share in-depth insights, challenge priorities, pass along ideas and stories, and offer game-changing suggestions.
New Workshop from the DMA and Ernan Roman: Customer Experience Marketing: 5 Steps to Ensure Success Featuring speakers from: Gilt, Semantic, MassMutual, Macy’s. Click here for details.
Best practice you should follow instead: Invest in in-depth, person to person interviews with select members your target audience. You can do this through face-to-face interviews, phone discussions, Skype calls, and other exchanges. You must not only be able to ask the customer what he or she expects from the peer-to-peer experience, but also able to listen to an extended response. As you design the community, make sure you are following your customers' lead. Don't make them prisoners of a questionnaire.
ERROR #3: Thinking that peers are enough. In addition to contact with fellow users, customers in this space also expect access to content experts with deep understanding of key issues. These should be people who can serve as resources for both short-term problems and long-term growth. Too many peer-to-peer spaces offer no access to true experts.
Best practice you should follow instead: Recruit (and consider compensating) experts who can offer insights, advice, and deep experience on the challenges faced by your community.
For an example of an innovative business built around an engaged peer-to-peer community that has mastered all three of these best practices (with senior graphic artists serving as content experts), visit Threadless.com.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Customer-Focused Websites: 4 Best Practices

THE OPPORTUNITY: Creating customer-focused websites that are more engaging, yield more inquires, and generate more revenue than traditional "corporate" sites, using these 4 Best Practices.

So Many WebsitesTo get customers to interact with your enterprise, websites today must provide a multi-dimensional experience. This means abandoning the old and familiar one-dimensional, "corporate brochure" web experience.

Best Practice #1: Help visitors connect with peers. In-depth interviews with customers across all major industries indicate that interaction with peers who have similar questions and issues is just as critical as engaging with your enterprise. If your website is not yet a virtual gathering spot for engaged communities of customers, recommend you change that.
Best Practice #2: Provide access to relevant subject matter experts. In addition to contact with peers, customers want direct contact with experienced experts who can serve as "virtual" mentors and knowledge resources. Your website must serve as a portal for these discussions.
Best Practice #3: Provide easier and faster access to your company. The key words here are “easier” and “faster”. Many of your customers will expect an initial response to a question or problem within a matter of minutes ... and, after querying you, will check to see whether your competition is capable of meeting that standard.
Best Practice #4: Earn trust over time with relevant content. This insightful article from VKI Studios suggests that visitors to your website go through three stages in determining whether your on-line content is trustworthy:
An initial phase in which they quickly decide whether to bail on your message or keep reading.
A second phase in which they scan and evaluate your content to determine its relevance to their world.
And a third phase, in which they move from passive assessment to active contribution of thoughts, ideas, insights, and questions.
Getting your website visitors to that third stage means more engagement, more inquiries, and more revenue ... but it also requires deep familiarity with your target audience and what it considers relevant. Insights from voice of customer research can help.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Komen and the Privacy Act: 3 Takeaways

THE SITUATION: Social media can impact the national and global agenda with astonishing speed ... and it can also put people and institutions on the spot, instantly.
Two Hurricanes: Recently, marketers learned two powerful lessons regarding how empowered, engaged social media communities can form suddenly around an issue and exert intense pressure on political leaders, nonprofits, and corporations. How you prepare for (and respond to) these "social media hurricanes" may well determine your success in the marketplace ... and perhaps even the survival of your organization.
National opposition to the Stop Online Privacy Act, (SOPA), reached its peak at a critical moment.... and stopped the legislation in its tracks, despite a well-financed support campaign from major content providers like the Walt Disney Company and NBC Universal. These numbers tell the story:
Before the social media protests, SOPA votes:
   Senate: 48 supporters and 6 opposed.
   House: 32 supporters and 25 opposed.
After one day of social media protests:
   Senate: 37 supporters and 22 opposed.
   House: 26 supporters and 95 opposed.
Infographic of Congressional Voting
arrow The plans of senior leadership at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation to pull funding from Planned Parenthood suddenly became one of the hottest online topics, generating over 1.3 million Twitter posts in a single week.

Last Friday, in a stunning reversal, the foundation bowed to the pressure and renewed its funding ties to Planned Parenthood.
Komen Tweet Response

TAKEAWAY #1: Do a “Tone Deaf” audit. Otherwise smart companies, such as Netflix and Bank of America made poor decisions recently that hurt their customers and their credibility. How could they have been so out of touch? Be humble and do a “Tone Deaf” audit by consulting your stakeholders and customers about important decisions and announcements so you do not become the next victim.
TAKEAWAY #2: Improve how well you listen to your customers and constituencies. Being out of touch with their customers and how they might react to major decisions was a key factor which contributed to the missteps of the organizations cited above. Make sure you are using multiple “listening posts” to stay close to the voice of your customers and constituencies. Use a combination of the following: depth research, social media: Facebook and Twitter, surveys: on-site, email and phone, customer service and customer feedback and analytics.
TAKEAWAY #3: Stay Flexible. Know when and how to change course if a hurricane descends.It is sometimes better to cut your losses, regroup, and issue a humble apology than to engage in a "debate" whose outcome is already clear ... and that your brand cannot possibly win.