Marketing Sense

A discussion of marketing tools and tactics with a common sense attitude

Archive for December, 2009

Departmental Convergence – How Digital is Changing Your Business

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on December 30, 2009

Traditional evolution of business has lead to segmentation by department for many companies. Marketing, sales, customer service, human resources, finance and fulfillment are some of the most common. But digital communications is creating a virtualization and convergence that is dramatically changing the way businesses operate.

How customers engage with companies has changed with the explosion of digital and social networking tools. Customers have wrested power to engage with companies on their own terms and in a fully visible environment. One-to-one conversations have now become open forum, placing greater pressure on companies to be well organized and prompt in response.

Customers can choose to engage on your company website using Google Sidewiki or your own message boards. They can also engage via social media outposts should you have a presence there. And if you don’t have social media outposts, they can still engage your brand in discussion whether you are present or not!

A service question, warranty question, sales question, human resources question, finance question or shipping question or concern can all be directed to the same place in the digital environment. Customers look at your company as one entity, not as a network of departments, and they expect your company to respond as one entity. The lines blur, the departments converge and at the end of the cycle only one thing matters – have you answered the customer’s question?

Your company’s success is based on the brand promise that you communicate to your customers. How well you manage customer expectations through their engagement with your brand, your company, ultimately determines your long-term viability and growth.

Step back and have a look at your organizational structure. Now look at all your customer touch points. Are you prepared to respond to your customers in an efficient, timely manner regardless of question? Do you have a strategy for managing customer interaction in a digital open-forum environment? Are your departments prepared and trained to work cross-functionally?

If not, it is time for digital strategy and social media strategy to integrate with your company’s management and planning process. Your customers are already converging. Are you prepared?

Image courtesy CubeFigures.com

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The Power of “Listening.” A Case of Timely Response.

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on December 4, 2009

The appropriate starting point in any social media strategy is to establish a managed listening program where a brand or company can monitor what is being said about them. Blogs, message boards, comments sections and the myriad of social networking tools all hold potential for word of mouth harm (and good).

In a recent post I discussed the importance of managing misinformation in the digital realm, and I’ve found a wonderful example of effective “listening” to share.

In the post AOL’s SEO “Strategery,” blogger Frank Reed makes the case for why he feels the new AOL strategy will not succeed. He refers to AOL’s intentions for unique content generation and gaining ground through search engine results. Reed recalls this type of approach as creating “craptent” and cites the company Associated Content as “the master of ‘craptent’ generation for search engine gain.”

This is where the value of a “listening” program comes to bear and a perfect case for effective listening. Associated Content President Luke Beatty reviewed the blog and commented the same day, likely within hours (or minutes?) of the post going live. Beatty’s comment appears within the first 3 comments and provides an effective clarification of the Associated Content model and respectful rebuttal to the ‘craptent’ tag. And as any blogger worth his salt should do, author Frank Reed acknowledges Beatty’s comment with a respectful tip of the hat (Read the blog article and related comments here).

The point is not whether the AOL blog article is right or wrong. This point here is that Associated Content was called out in a blog and they felt was it was a misrepresentation of their brand. Quickly and efficiently, Associated Content made their counter-argument for all the world to see – and it was done in a tactful and respectful manner.

Associated Content perfectly demonstrated the importance and value of an effective listening program and the efficiency of an organized and planned approach for response. A case of social media strategy, implemented and executed perfectly.

So, if faced with a similar situation, could your business respond the same way?

(Image: David Allison, Listening Post at Whitney Museum of Art, 2002)

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Managing Misinformation in Resource Development

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on December 3, 2009

I recently attended a conference on resource development. I find these conferences a great opportunity to gauge the pulse of the economy and get a sense for the year ahead. I attended every session over the course of two days and was struck with a recurring theme. When dealing with resource development issues, managing misinformation holds great importance.

At the conference a number of different industries shared their challenges with managing misinformation as they sought to proceed with resource development projects. Examples from tourism, fisheries, mining, oil and gas exploration and timber were all shared. All industries critical to the economic health of the U.S., and all industries facing challenges in managing misinformation in their development efforts.

In recent years misinformation management could be handled through traditional public relations means – a fact-correction press release, a media announcement, an on-air interview or even through paid advertising. But as our digital world has been expanding the power of traditional media has been waning. As a result, the means by which misinformation is being generated and shared has changed greatly. Blogs, message boards, opinion sites, comments sections and all related means of social media have completely changed the way audiences consume information.

So what steps should industries take to manage misinformation in this new, open-source environment? 

1) Develop a formalized, managed “listening program.” You can do it on your own through a combination of Google Reader, Google Blogsearch, Twitter Search and Technorati, but plan on investing time on a daily basis to manage your searches. An alternative, you can engage an organization that can establish, monitor and analyze mentions through use of professional tools that provide dashboarding and reporting functions. If you cannot invest the time on your own or not sure where to begin, consider seeking out the help of a digital strategy firm to get you started. 

2) Leverage the transparency of social media. Assuming your organization has nothing to hide, be proactive in citing research, objectives, permitting processes, progress and delays. Transparency is key to managing misinformation. If you’ve got nothing to hide, prove it by sharing everything and do so in a very public environment. Post updates, blog entries, wins and losses to your web site or blog site. Include presentations and videos, photos and supporting research. Leverage YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare, Twitter, Facebook, Ning and other sites to share your information. In a battle of misinformation make sure your information is through, detailed and accessible through multiple sources across the web.

3) Have a social media crisis plan. In the world of social media you cannot affort to wait to respond to an inflammatory situation. Waiting the weekend for Monday to arrive or even waiting 24 hours to respond to a situation released via the web can be too late. In the case of resource development industries there are often millions at stake with every project. A runaway topic, comment or posting against your project can happen in a matter of hours. Your organization must have a plan in place to monitor, assess, and if necessary, react in 24 hours or less. For those who may have seen the Domino’s Pizza YouTube crisis earlier in the year, this reponse was released by Domino’s corporate within 24 hours. Their crisis plan was implemented quickly and without hesitation.     

Managing misinformation has always been a challenge in resource development industries. There are organizations bent on stifling progress of any sort and their greatest source of power is through public confusion and misinformation. With the expansion of digital communications tools and the unprecendented potential reach of social media networks, organizations are better suited than ever before to provide clear, relevant information before a maliciously intented group has any opportunity to mislead or misinform. Listen, be transparent and be prepared. Use today’s digital tools to your advantage in the battle against misinformation.

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