Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Charles I.. Father of Direct Mail

A likely story..but in fact the Royal Mail was made available to the public by Charles I in 1635 with postage being paid by the recipient. Of course the recipient doesn't normally pay the postage these days..well, not unless you are receiving a direct mail piece from Alfa Romeo. Can you believe that I actually trotted off to the Royal Mail Sorting Office to retrieve an item for which the postage had been overpaid and it turned out to be a direct mail piece trying to sell me an Alfa Romeo Brera. Now, I was less than pleased that I had made a trip just for this..but what made it worse was that I actually already own the said car !! So not only did someone get the postage wrong..they can't even seem to run a database properly!

I believe Charles ended up losing his head......

Saturday, 3 October 2009

600 Words (or so) on CRM

I’m often asked why Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) is important, followed closely by what is it all about?

If we start with the premise that marketing messages of one sort or another are still used to convince customers to buy good and services, then we need to remember that today’s customer is constantly bombarded with messages. It is estimated that in 1985 consumers experienced 650 marketing messages per day, today it is closer to 3000. Combine this with the proliferation of entertainment / news / education sources and the various demands on our hard earned disposable income; then it is obvious that there is much more competition for customers share of wallet, time and attention resources.

As marketers we are faced with more fickle and demanding customers where even in today’s economic climate, choice is no longer a privilege of the wealthy.

In many fields today the only sustainable points of differentiation are corporate branding, customer-friendly business processes and the right level of intimacy in relationships

These 3 areas are important in their own right, but when combined actually define the experience that customers have with a brand. In reality, it is this experience that actually best reflects what CRM is all about. CRM has often been seen from the comms perspective…talking to the right customers at the right time with the right message.

But relationships are much more than that. The relationship we have in our daily lives are not just based on the other person says, but also how they say it, how their actions reflect their words and how we perceive them.

The relationship brands have with customers is an amalgamation of the brand, how it interacts with them at the point of sale / call centre / online shopping basket and what it says to them at various points in that relationship.

If we look at what the real benefits of CRM are, then an Aberdeen Group Report in 2006 highlights them:

Top performing companies using CRM and Precision Marketing Techniques:

> Are three times more likely to proactively prevent customer churn though precision marketing techniques
> Have been able to capitalize on and exploit ‘ intelligence’ gathered from multiple touch-points and interactions in order to influence purchasing decisions
> Have enhanced levels of customer satisfaction
> Enjoy a greater share of each customer’s wallet
> Are able to seller a wider portfolio of products to their customer base

These benefits are based on fundamental virtues of common sense ‘knowing your customer’ marketing

One thing for certain is that CRM is not just about implementing expensive software. It’s about Customer Strategy not IT Strategy.

It identifies all touch points between company and customer and then changes the company to ensure intelligent customer management that develops profitable relationships

There are perils in implementing CRM, and these have been summarized below from Avoid the Four Perils of CRM, Rigby, Reichheld & Schefter, HBR Feb 2002

The Perils are:

Ø Implementing CRM before Creating a Customer Strategy
Ø Rolling out CRM Before Changing the Organisation to Match
Ø Assuming that more CRM Technology is Better
Ø Stalking not Wooing Customers

Now I do seem to use the word ‘relationship’ an awful lot in this piece – about 8 times already. The use of that word would seem to imply a relationship that is of equal importance to both the brand and the customer. I would stick my neck out and suggest that in most cases the brands needs that relationship more than the customer does.
So perhaps we should look at Customer Interaction Management, or perhaps the much more friendly, Customer Experience Management as the real successor to CRM

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Loyalty Cards

The discussion about the role and effectiveness of Loyalty Schemes has resurfaced in the last few weeks, what with Tesco's double up offer and the advertising by Nectar. The recent article in Marketing seems to talk about issues I wrote about in an article ..well, it must 10 years ago now on ''Relationship Marketing and Loyalty - What we actually mean.''.

Even then I talked about the fact these schemes are not the be all and end all of a Customer Relationship Strategy. There is no doubt that Tesco have used the data collected to really understand their customers in such a way that the opportunities to cross and up sell products and services are never ending. And does such insight make the customer any loyal? Well, if Tescos are able to promote relevant products then I am more likely to buy them. But that doesn't make me a loyal customer.

The latest Mintel report states that

Nearly three in ten adults state that cards have no influence on where they shop, they simply collect points on offer. Only 7% of adults aim to spend as much as they can in stores they have cards for, and only 2% stated that they would stop using a store if it stopped its loyalty scheme

The last comment would seem to suggest that its not the schemes that make them shop there.

The 'Loyalty' schemes need to be seen as part of the bigger Customer Strategy.

''It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it. It ain't what you say, it's the way that you say it''

Twitter or The Critics - who you going to believe?

A couple of articles in the Daily Telegraph highlight the power and speed with which Twitter can operate . Twitter killing Hollywood movies? shows the power of Twitter in slating a movie or indeed promoting it despite what the critics say. This is true in the piece that talks about the success of Inglourious Basterds.

But its the speed that is really scary. A few years ago we would wait for the critics review or indeed what our friends said the next time we bumped into them at the pub. But the use of Twitter now suggests that I can cancel this evenings planned trip to the cinema because I'm getting Tweets from people watching that movie right now!!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Reputation gives you attention, gains you time, gives you a chance

The Nobel Prize Economist Herbert Simon claimed that ''What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.''

Of course this attention depletion is partly due to the fact that we are now a time poor society. We have so many demands on our time and hence our valuable attention that it's a wonder that brands can make the cut through required to make an impact.

Of course that's the power of Reputation. It gives a brand the level of attention from consumers that translates into time, and ultimately market share. That's all well and good if you are an established brand with large market share and a budget big enough to have a present you with a large share of voice in the market place.

But what of the challenger brands?

The recent IPA/Nielsen study 'How Share of Voice Wins Market Share' highlights the plight of these challenger brands

Brands with over 10% market share achieved on average around two and a half times the level of share growth per point of Excess Share Of Voice (ESOV*) that brands with market share levels of under 10%. Smaller brands therefore face an uphill battle to grow their market share through share of voice alone.

Seems like the challenger brands need to come up with some pretty effective campaigns to get the cut through they need.

(*ESOV being defined as as share of voice (SOV) minus share of market (SOM))

Twitter?...Sounds more like Babble!!

A recent US study showed that about 41% of Twitter is meaningless babble, such as “I am eating a sandwich now”. Very little of the content is actually worth passing on.

Up there with the babble, however, is a large percentage of conversational content( 38%) , whether that be between individuals or the response to surveys and polls.

I'd hate to have been the person that needed to draw the line between conversation and babble!!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Conversation Prism

Came across this interesting Conversation Prism visual today, mapping out the various online conversation delivery vehicles a Brand has to choose from as well as the way consumers can interact between themselves, forcing Brands to at the very least to listen in.

I know, I know, it doesn't exactly look like a prism

The Conversation Prism by Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas

Twitter - All for One or One for All

A recent Harvard Business Review shows how Pareto applies to the number of Twitter users who are actually generating Tweets. It suggests that 90% of all Tweets are generated by only 10% of users.

This would seem to suggest that Twitter displays the failures of traditional 'broadcast' media where the there was a 'let's see how much of it sticks' approach to messaging.

Where are the examples of Twitter really making an impact as contributor to Social CRM? Surely being social is about having conversations with many people...not using a loudspeaker to convey a message into the ether ?

Thursday, 6 August 2009

One Way Conversations

It beggars belief, but I still get charts like these from clients about one way conversations, ignoring the opportunities to have proper conversations, not monologues, going between them and their customers..let alone between the customers themselves!!

Monday, 3 August 2009

It's all about influencing the conversation

It's no real surprise that Nielsen's latest global research on trust in media highlights the importance of the personal recommendation.

What is surprising is how often brands ignore this fact when thinking about B2B audiences, in particular in the SME and Micro segments. Of all the B2B audiences, these are probably the ones that act more like normal consumers looking to peer recommendations and personal experiences for help in purchase decisions.

The Nielsen article can be seen here

Monday, 20 July 2009

One Small Step...

I can't imagine the number of conversations this event sparked..

Podcasts – Turning them into Conversations

I was asked for a few tips on making a B2B Podcast. Obviously not being a creative, or indeed a content expert, I had some thoughts on the part they could play in creating a conversation with customers

Be Relevant . Obviously audience understanding is key, but you need to make sure that the content is not only relevant but also adds value to the customer. Relevancy also means matching content to the sales cycle. Is it a thought Leadership piece to promote awareness, preference in the early stages of the purchase cycle? Or is it more technical that focuses on the product itself during its life in your customer’s hands, and so promotes loyalty and advocacy?

Post new podcasts on a regular basis. Decide on a schedule — twice a week, every week, every two weeks and stick to it. Listeners look forward to new material on a consistent basis. Consistency helps you gain and maintain an audience.

Infotainment. Content is important, but so is the delivery. It needs to engage perhaps by the way that it is presented, its particular style etc. But never forget that content wins at the end of the day

Delivery. Content is wasted if the delivery mechanism isn’t thought out. Think about how the first impact of a Podcast can cut though the other stuff that lands on your target audiences desk/inbox. Why not send them the iPod to start with?

Keep podcasts short. Probably about 20 mins . If the topic takes longer, break it into two or more podcasts and let listeners know this podcast is the first of a two- or three-part series.

It’s an opportunity to start a conversation. Provide an opportunity for listener interaction. Podcasts are Web 2.0 technology and listeners want to interact. These podcasts should be linked to a perhaps a blog or other social network so listeners can make a comment or ask a question.

Build a community . Use whatever channels you currently have to promote the podcast, but use your customers to act as advocates in promoting them. Getting listeners to comment and sharing those comments will boost this community building

Is it working? Measurement and evaluation are important in creating the budget for podcasts. Simple measures such as downloads, customer engagement are key statistics to measure. Oh, and why not ask your customers what they think of them ( now there’s a thought), and if they were used in the decision making process?

Don’t for get that this is part of a value exchange mechanism between you and your customers..their time in exchange for added value from you

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Who Owns Social Media?

When deciding where Social Media belongs in the client and in the agency world, a number of questions need to be answered.

My point of view is that Social Media is another media channel in the same way that press, or DM or the web are - therefore it comes down to what you are trying to achieve.

When brands step into social media they have to provide real benefit to the users. Who is best equipped to make these relationships and deliver positive outcomes for both parties? I’d say the client and agencies who have a deep understanding of the user base and their motivation, need, aspirations. This has to be coupled with an understanding of why the interaction takes place and the drivers or user need for social interaction about a subject/area etc. So who in the client and in the agency has that insight?

If we see the purpose of Social Media to be a lead generator, then it should come out of that area of the business that is responsible for generating those leads and is accountable for the ongoing measurement and evaluation.
A social platform is a channel that will forever build your brand, encourage engagement, and drive site traffic, leads, and commerce. So the maintaining, managing, tracking, and optimizing of the online channels and technologies is key. So who in the in client manages the relationships with the agencies that perform those tasks?
By having search, online media, creative, development and tracking technology under one roof qualifies an agency to deploy and manage a robust social media channel alive with good content, creative and interactive applications

And who will be responsible for governance from the client end to ensure that there is no conflict between any PR/awareness strategy and the lead generation strategy. So again, it depends on what you are trying to achieve.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Not Free at all!

Just as I thought..and indeed as did others. There is no real Free Lunch

Social CRM ?

Social Media, it's everywhere!!. At its simplest level I guess its a way of creating and hopefully continuing conversations with customers, but obviously also embracing the conversations that are already happening out there.

One of the most important conversations we have with our customers is through Customer Service - a key touchpoint of any CRM Strategy.

So does Social Media translate into Social CRM? Is there a need to split out the strands of CRM... Social CRM, Store CRM, Telephone CRM?

This debate on Social CRM is interesting but only the start of the debate.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Free for all..

Old Chris Anderson seems to be getting some mixed press on his latest idealogical handbook, Free: The Future of a Radical Price. John Naughton's The Networker column in the Observer..There's no such thing as free, picks up in particular on the writings of the journalist of the moment Malcom Gladwell who goes for the jugular in his New Yorker column.

Oh and my copy just arrived from Amazon with Free delivery... see you later

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Twittering all the way to the bank

Despite my earlier protestations that Twitter was for the birds, Dell have kindly put the cat amongst my pigeons.

The recent declaration that their use of Twitter had racked up $2 million from directing customers to its online outlet store, plus a further $1 million generated from sales elsewhere on its site seems to show the way for the use of 140 characters

The tweeting began in June 2007 and has since accumulated over 600,000 followers.

The company uses the social networking to update followers on company news, as well as promoting Twitter-exclusive offers.

Dell claim that "Deal-hunters are especially attracted to Dell's Twitter presence. Dell Outlet sells refurbished Dell products at great prices, but inventories fluctuate, making it difficult to know when products are available or on sale,"

Dell Outlet uses Twitter as a way to communicate coupons, clearance events and new arrival information to those looking for Dell technology at a discounted price.

The growth in followers seems have really taken off recently, with just over a year ago there being less than 12,000 getting regular tweets.

Actually, let me rewind a second

''Dell Outlet uses Twitter as a way to communicate coupons, clearance events and new arrival information to those looking for Dell technology at a discounted price.'' I may sound like I've been around a bit (and obviously I have), but I'm sure that was a role employed by vehicles such as direct mail and door drops. In fact, quite a few of those pieces were delivered by Dell themselves from what I remember.

I must start following the tweets for my local Dominos Pizza!

Friday, 5 June 2009

How to engage the target audience

''Talk to people about themselves and they will listen for hours''.  

Words of wisdom from no less than Benjamin Disraeli

Thursday, 4 June 2009

It's not what you do...

Let me start with the question ' Do Loyalty schemes bring in customers?'

Want the simple answer?. Well, the simple answer is, probably not on their own. In markets where there is little to choose from in terms of product differentiation and where there are no dominant brands whose name on their own makes things taste better, loyalty schemes can sometimes influence the customer's choice. And when we remember the conventional wisdom that it is far cheaper to keep an existing customer than to secure new ones, loyalty is even more important.

Driving up loyalty is seen as the main way of retaining an organisations valuable customers. This does not mean treating them well to the detriment of the remaining customers but actually means - treating all customers better - treating the most valuable customers even better!!

But in the loyalty crazy environment of today, the ease with which customers switch from scheme to scheme is highlighted by the number of loyalty cards available and the variety held by individuals. Research shows that the big supermarkets have a loyalty card swipe attached to 80% of sales. So despite some of the cynicism that revolves around what really can be redeemed from a consumers point of view, we do make use of these schemes. But a 1% discount can easily be matched or beaten by a competitor. I do not use my local Tesco because of my Clubcard but because its the closest supermarket. Loyaly doesn't register when the petrol light on my dashboard lights up. So how do we really keep customers loyal?

Well, what does being loyal mean? Is it a regular customer? Or is that just as a result of habit? Is it one who gives us a large part of their weekly spend? In the latter, what happens if they become of the competition, or more importantly if the competition become aware of them?! Surely a loyal customer is one who stays with us despite the attentions of the competition or at least tells us that they are considering moving. Now we are talking of a scenario where we have relationship with that customer.

So what is a relationship?

One thing that it is not is a one way bombardment of direct mail, telephone calls, emails, special offers on unrelated products or services. How we define the relationship and subsequently manage it can be based on how we establish and nurture relationships in our own personal lives. Relationships have a set of ground rules:

- There would seem to be the need for some empathy between the parties. An appreciation and understanding of each others needs.

- An understanding that what you show each other is what is inside, there are no secret agendas or requirements. To aid this, a certain amount of transparency is required. You want to speak to them, they need to be able to speak to you

- An acceptance of how the relationship may evolve. People change their minds, or their needs change. Real choices are made in relationships every day

- Relationships are made all the better if there are pleasant surprises or unexpected rewards every now and again. - Some old fashioned good manners are required.

Remember always that in relationship marketing it should be what you can do FOR the customer as opposed to the shorter term view of what you can do TO the customer!

Many organisations rely on the fact that they have a Relationship Marketing Manager or similarly described individual to ensure that all this happens. This does seem like a strange title as most people in an organisation have more contact with the custoemr than this individual! What we have recognised is that from the customers perspective every contact they have with the organisation forms part of the relationship they have with it. This implies that customers and staff need to be involved in defining what the relationship means to them. Relationship marketing is not an add on, therefore, but is core to the communication strategy of an organisation.

This relationship does not have to rely on giveaways. The next credit card will give away more freebies......but will it match your interest rate offer? The loyalty bit of a relationship has a number of key factors influencing it. They are a distillation of the good old marketing mix ( Product, Price, People, Processes, Place, Promotion and Service) given to us at 'Marketing School'.

We define them simply as the quality of the

- service provided

- product offering

- dialogue offered

This is simply a recognition that quality, customer service and marketing activities need to be brought together. Relationship marketing and customer loyalty cannot be treated as separate entities. They form part of of the same ladder which gets individuals from Prospect to Advocate.

So remember, although Bruce Forsyth was right in saying that ''Points make Prizes'' - it's more important to remember the philosophy of Bananarama, ''It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it. It ain't what you say, it's the way that you say it''




The Undiscovered Country

Well, it would be fair to suggest that in terms of the current economic climate we are certainly venturing where no man has been before…on how boldly or indeed wisely the jury is still out.

But would it not be great to have our brave heroes from the Starship Enterprise plc at the helm?

Captain Kirk as the CEO setting the course for us to follow, determining the Strategy for the foreseeable future – well the next 50 minutes at least!

But of course he needs to have the voice of reason and logic behind him in the guise of CFO Mr Spock, determining what is of value and formulating the risk strategy.

Backing them both up is Dr. McCoy in his role as Head of HR, bringing a touch of humanity to the proceedings, Uhura looking after External Communications. And of course Scotty. Well, we all need a Cassandra telling us that ‘ she’s gonna blow!!’

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Colourful Language

Colour creates standout. 

Research shows that payment of an invoice can be uplifted by as much as 30% if you put the amount and due date in colour. Simple isn't it. The full article on "How to improve cashflow in a recession" for SMEs can be seen on the Royal Mail website

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Rick Astley and CRM

Rick’s CRM Principles…

''Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you
Never gonna make you cry
Never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you''

Thanks Rick

Monday, 13 April 2009

Same Old Recession Conversations?

THE TIME headline seemed to say it all: "The Simple Life: Goodbye to having it all." An excerpt from the article read: "After a 10-year bender of gaudy dreams and godless consumerism, Americans are starting to trade down. They want to reduce their attachments to status symbols, fast-track careers and great expectations of Having It All. Upscale is out; downscale is in."

Advertising Age jumped on the doom-and-gloom bandwagon. Commenting on the recession, one writer commented, "We all have the feeling this time it's not only far worse but also different; consumer buying habits are going to be forever changed."

TIME published its article in 1991.

Thanks to The Australian for this little gem

Friday, 10 April 2009

Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere ?

Had an interesting conversation the other day about Social Media and what conversations could be had in them. The Big 3, LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace were compared to Work, Home and the Pub! I thought a very simple and useful way of deciding where you should be having what conversation with your customers

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Being Provocative

Thanks to Bob Apollo at Revenue Insight for this interesting article on making the conversation more provocative in the Harvard Business Review

Jump Starting the Buying Process

It is must difficult to find a B2B sector that is not suffering at the moment. Budgets have been frozen, removed, delayed, put on hold and even where budgets still exist, the decision making process has changed with more and more buying decisions now having to be ratified at a more senior level.

The traditional way of grading leads using some form of Budget, Authority, Need and Timing (BANT) process would now seem to be useless – mainly as the customers process has stalled

One of the key ways to try and Jump start the process is to make the customer realise that the Need they thought they had is still there! One of the ways organisations try and do this is by sending through the ‘ours is cheaper’ message. But is doesn’t matter how cheap it is if they don’t think they Need it!

A smarter way of re-igniting the Interest in the Need, is to take a much more front foot approach about how important the issue is and in fact how it can perhaps drive a customers organisation out of the recession.

Customers are usually driven by one of two factors: Generating Demand and Decreasing Costs.

Surely the former is a much more engaging and attractive conversation?