5 Notions To Embrace In Your 2011 Marketing Strategy

2011 Is lurking around the corner. Time to reflect on how well you did (or are expected to do) in 2010 and prepare your strategies for next years. If you are in marketing and/or Customer Relationship Management you will probably be looking at how to balance multi-channel (or cross channel) approaches in combination with the rise of online social networks and new technologies to seek new (Customer) relationships and mine both data and Customer feedback. You may even be thinking about how to design Customer experiences that drive word-of-mouth through these social networks.

Whilst all of these approaches may make sense I like to share with you some of my thoughts on the above and provide you with 5 notions I believe you should embrace in your 2011 Marketing Strategy to start driving for real change and get ahead of the ball-game.

Three things you should (have) be(en) doing

  • For starters I believe that preparing your organization for multi/cross-channel interaction with your Customers is deferred maintenance. If you didn’t purposely design for a multi/cross-channel Customer engagement strategy already, you are lagging behind.  And yes, social media should be added to the mix too. And don’t forget: this is not about designing for a one-way highway out of your building. You need to design for incoming traffic too. Or better even, for places you and your Customers can meet and exchange knowledge, ideas and experiences.

  • Secondly: influence in Social Networks is not new. What has changed is that peer trust has increased in importance for Customers and more so that “first hand stories of experience” are accessible for them. Better accessibility and creation of knowledge, in the broadest sense, through (on-line) social networks is the true shift. Enabling your Customers to share their experience with peers and other Customers is an important first step. Make sure your aim is not only to spread the good stories, but that you learn from them and the forces that drive the social networks of your Customers too.
  • Finally: the importance of Customer experience is not new either, nor has it’s importance increased. Like it has been for ages, we just need to getter better at it every day, to keep up with the increasingly rapid pace of change in the market place. More importantly: don’t limit your experience design to the Customer’s journey ending in a sale. Extend into the much richer experience of Customers getting their jobs done.

5 Notions to embrace

Leading companies are doing, or have already adopted the above. More importantly they have adopted a way of thinking and acting that has provided them with access to new insights, new technologies, new market segments, more new and loyal Customers and evidently a better position in the market place to continue to grow. I believe you should not try to copy what they are doing or have done. It is about embracing the “notions” that are feeding their strategies and actions.

These companies have embraced:

  1. the notion that (1 on 1) push-marketing strategies and transaction-based Customer analytics are strategies with diminishing returns;
  2. the notion that Customers are not means to extract value from, but can be, want to be and are, active participators in the process of mutual value co-creation;
  3. the notion that this implies a shift in focus from marketing for value exchange to marketing for value in use;
  4. the notion that opening up their knowledge stocks and continuously tapping into the flows of knowledge both inside and outside their companies provides them with competitive advantage;
  5. the notion that empowering people (and with people I mean Customers, employees and partners all alike) in communities of likeminded and/or shared interests to solve their problems or do their “Customer jobs” better than anyone else, trumps influencing people to sell to their community for you.

There are many great examples out there, which have been described by leaders like John Hagel, Steve Vargo et all, Irene Ng, Frank Piller, Umair Haque, J.K. Prahalad, Venkat Ramaswamy and Francis Gouillart.. And you’ll recognize other examples intuitively around you when you encounter them.. Again: it is not about copying them, but adopting the underlying principles and design your own strategies and actions from there.

Some final words

The above is not Social CRM or Social Marketing. I (naively) want(ed) it to be, as you may have read in some of my previous posts. The market decided otherwise. No hard feelings by the way, it’s not the acronym that’s important, the great people, ideas and innovative practices within the space are.

Some refer to it as “conversational” marketing. Steve Vargo has announced “it” as the arrival of “the age of co-creation and service-dominant marketing“.

The problem may not be so much with what we put in front of it, but how we perceive, interpret or give meaning to words like “marketing” or “customer relationship management” through our designs and actions.

My closing question to you would be: what methods, approaches and/or changes in (service system) design and (marketing and/or crm) actions would be required for a company to be able to say: “we master the capability of social, co-creative, conversational, service-dominant, pull, relationship marketing”?

Share your ideas in the comments!

On The Creation Of Value WITH Social CRM

This post is cross-published at Customer Think. Please take some time to read the extensive and valuable commenting there.

One of the fundamental flaws in thinking about value is based on the persistent logic that value is something you add, or provide. I’ll try to explain, in as simple words as possible, why and how you should think about value creation instead and what, in my humble opinion, the impact on Social CRM is or should be.

Value is not derived from your product, but created with your product

It’s persistence is shown e.g. in the way we think about value chains. It is vested thoroughly in our minds that each step in the production and delivery of goods or services is about adding value, whilst at best it is about adding knowledge, features or capabilities. None of these elements are creating value for the Customer though before they are consumed or used.

As a consequence today’s marketers continue to focus on explaining to (potential) Customers what value they are providing or adding. Firms seem not to understand that the other side of the table is not deriving value FROM the product. The other side is trying to get a job done and your product or service is a means to that end, thus they are creating value WITH the product. And – this is really important – they can’t do that job without themselves.. Indeed, themselves:

Customers can only create value for themselves WITH themselves..

If it weren’t for yourself, how would you be able to make a phone call? How would you be able to make dinner? How would you be able to enjoy it with your friends? How would you be able to use your satellite TV? How would you, well …. basically get anything done? I think you get my drift here. And although it sounds incredibly logical, this is not the logic most companies use when designing experiences or targeting new Customers.

Ignoring the Customer’s role

Most companies (their marketing departments in particular) are stuck in telling Customers what value for their money they get, based on the flawed thinking that the Customer derives value from the product itself. Yet, they are completely ignoring the Customer’s role in the process of value creation.

When they should be thinking how to further enable the Customer’s value creating capabilities, they are thinking of how to capture value from the Customer. Which in essence they ask in return prior to the value being created. (yes, most purchases are actually pre-payments). Why?

Because value only comes to life when Customers are using the product or service.

Once you understand that the Customer has an important, even decisive, role in the process of value creation, and that value is only created in use, it is not a quantum leap to the next stage: asking yourself what Customers need to do, in order to be able to create the value they are after. Asking yourself: What do they need to know, understand, be able to? (and I’m not even touching upon the contextual and emotional side of value creation here). Or taken from the opposite angle: what is hindering them? what don’t they have? what don’t they understand? what can’t they do? and how come?

Many in the area of marketing, Customer experience or even Service design, try to answer similar questions, yes. But dominantly in the context of selling goods or services (how can we make buying easier?). Too few ask themselves these questions in relation to the Customer’s experience when consuming the goods or services.

What could be, if you would truly understand?

Imagine if you would understand what “resources” Customers bring to the table to create value, beyond the product or service you provide? How powerful would that understanding be? What if you would understand that better than your Customer’s alternative suppliers? What would happen if you could support your Customers creating value in a more easy, better or quicker way, not just make them buy in a more easy, better or quicker way? Would that not provide you with the competitive advantage you want? Would that not create the advocates you want? Would that not allow you to capture higher margins over a longer Customer lifetime? I think so..

Why this is important to Social CRM?

Here’s my take on it: Lot’s of companies are starting their Social CRM efforts with listening. The first thing they do, is turning their brand new ears towards the conversation about their brand, being worried mostly about the threat of negative word of mouth. Many are also “listening” to identify influencers and analytics of social data seems to be focused mostly on understanding how messages travel, through which nodes, from which nodes and to which nodes in the social network. And it’s focused on what the sentiment is. Although I believe there is certainly value to be created for the Company in understanding all this I think it is as important that you listen to understand how your Customers create value..

Don’t wait for the feedback to come to you!

It is likely that the current chatter on Social Media does not provide you with that actionable insight. As a consequence Marketing should think about sparking conversations amongs Customers and in their social networks about their way of creating value, in order for you to have something worth listening to.. something that is worth analyzing.

Actionable insights are not only derived from good analytics, you need to understand what it is you want your Customers to talk about too, and then see if you can get them to do so.. Don’t wait for the feedback to come to you, but actively seek the feedback you need.

Once you have them talking then you can think about how integrating social data and actionable insights in your experience (platforms) and/or crm systems can help your Customer create more value with your product or service..

What is your company doing? Waiting for the conversation to take place by accident or do you have something better to do with your time? Any other applications of the above you can think of?

Counting down…

In the spirit of my personal discoveries on Twitter, I would also like to share with you my top-posts of 2009, by number of reads that is. I say “in the spirit of” not only because Twitter seems to be an important way to distribute the posts, but also because most of the people I engage with through Twitter have played significant roles in the development of my thinking. Most of the posts in the Top 5 mark a turning point or personal tipping point in thinking and connecting different topics with regard to Customer centric strategy. Most of them are also received some extensive comments and discussions. So, I can say that I am proud of this top 5.

Here they are, counting down:

#5: Co-creation comes in different shades and is used these days in marketing-concepts, innovation, customer services, product development etcetera. I now think that Co-creation is at the center of Social CRM and Social Business, since in essence it is about collaboration. Lot’s of people brought in some very valuable viewpoints in the comments.

My Personal Definition of Value Co-Creation

#4 is a rant on the current widely used measurement practice in Customer Services and Customer Contact Centers, based on the dogma that What Gets Measured gets Managed. Nothing shocking for most, yet recognizable I guess, based on the number of reads and the comments.

Are your Customer Service Metrics Aligned with Customer Needs

#3 is about how to tackle decision making when there are lot’s of uncertainties. When this is the case, like it is in implementing a Social CRM Strategy, I think it makes sense to develop a portfolio of so-called real-options. What that means, can be read in this post.

The Path to Social CRM: Do you have a Portfolio of Real-Options

#2 post came before the #3 post, chronologically that is. I have been discussion this year mostly about the impact of Social Media and the underlying paradigm shift on Customer Relationship Management. Writing down a strategy framework statement, based on answering three basic “W”-questions helped me tremendously in wrapping my head around things. Also a post with more than significant value in the comments.

What A Social CRM Strategy is All About

#1 has a very poor title, but still it came in number one. I’m specifically happy that this post turned number one, since it was posted only a little over a month ago. Moreover it is combining and connecting topics such as Value Co-Creation, Social CRM and Service Dominant Logic. Last but not least: it also contains an updated version of the Social CRM Strategy Framework Statement of the previous post.

Service Logic and the Implications for a New Social CRM Logic

That’s it. Thx for reading and please let me know what you think by leaving me a comment.

Wim Rampen

Independent Thinking with a Passion for Customers