We have scored a virtual coup. That's right a coup. Here's what I'm talking about.
Next Monday, we are hosting our first boutique event inviting some senior Canadian marketers for a league of their own. They've expressed a need - we're filling it.
Even more exciting is who's appearing, check this roster:
Grant McCracken is making a Toronto appearance - he's been one of my favourite bloggers since 2004 - his postsactually make you think. He is launching his book "Chief Culture Officer" - recommended by Business Week as one of the best books of 2009...and an idea and subject that marketers need to wrap their minds around...NOW.
In our second half, we will have Ted Graham from Interbrand present their Top Brands report - I was invited to an executive breakfast a couple of months ago where they presented the findings and I found the valuation interesting, summary brilliant and implications clear and provocative.
Great influential company, a great venue (the Spoke Club) and a copy of the book and report. If you are a head of a client marketing group, don't pass up the opportunity to get connected, informed and excited about 2010.
If you are a CMO or our a change agent who want to influence their CMO to change their culture and approach to their customers, come join us on Monday, January 11th.
As a follow up to my Un-Agency post back in June, I thought I would provide a scouting report on the 12 different types of firms trying to command the high ground on the social media/community space and what I perceive to be their strengths and weaknesses amongst the 18 competencies an engaged outsourced firm should have.
In part, I've done it to help clients understand the pros and cons to each agency choice they make here. Dial back 5 years, and as a client not living in social media or the grassroots on a daily basis - I would be confused and potentially charmed out of the best decision. Also in part, to make some sense of this "cattle drive" of new firms now entering and multiplying in the space given the media, technology and cultural shifts happening around them.
In full disclosure, two caveats:
- I run a specialist grassroots marketing services firm and likely have some biases that a focused firm with a strong specialization is a favoured method in most scenarios for social media success
- although I have worked with many partner firms and colleagues, I have by no means seen them all - what I am painting is the typical firm in each space, exceptions do exist but are rare
So, the 12 types of firms making a beeline for social media are:
- the Ad Agency
- the Brand/Design Agency
- the Strategic Consultancy
- the Innovation/Research Shop
- The CRM Firm
- the Social Media Hothouse
- the Grassroots Specialist
- the Digital Agency
- the PR Agency
- the Media Firm
- The Technology Vendor
- the Promotion/Sponsorship Firm
Let's tackle the first one - the Ad Agency - and why not, they still own the lion's share of dollars being spent on creative and communications. They are the award-winning All Stars of the communication space. See chart above - legend: the darker the shade - the better the competency and the lighter the shade - the poorer the competency.
As noted by the chart above, their obvious strengths are ideas, creative and content. They are the Mad Men of 2010. When I was head of marketing at Guinness, some of the work that was created by the ad people and their producers made most movies pale and drab by comparison. They had a really special talent to force you to pay attention and feel prouder, more intelligent for consuming the black stuff.
In a world of scoreboard watching and bean counting, it's refreshing they actually think about and produce stuff that is enormously entertaining and creative and thus, when done well, build one of the biggest currencies in this attention-starved marketplace - getting noticed.
What personal rankles me, as well as a number of my colleagues, is their lack of ability to play well in the schoolyard with other partner firms when we're not talking TV, radio, print or billboard.
Historically, they have always sat at the adult's strategy and planning table with the client, allowing other firms to fight over the execution and funding scraps that fell on the floor. Unfortunately, in the social media space, most have been reticent to acknowledge that they don't operate nearly as effectively in the grassroots engagement, dialogue or measurement facets of the business.
In fact, given monetization issues, staffing talent, siloed departments, pace of business and competing priorities, most would acknowledge behind closed doors that they are horrible at the grassroots engagement side of the business. At worst, some are downright hostile to opening up the brand to the customer for content, insight or advocacy purposes.
Despite all the hurdles inside their firms, they are reactionary to letting any other firm drive the social media car. We just had a pitch where one of the competing firms, having no competency or pedigree in the social media space, claimed rightful ownership to execution based on the "Integration of the idea". For our own selfish benefit as well as the client's, hopefully they don't get politicked into this way of thinking.
Integration is an over-used word by any large firms including ad agencies, particularly when there is an absence of any other substance there. Convergence didn't work in the media world, nor does the "everything under one roof" concept fly in agency land. The truth is most agencies have a competing fiefdoms that operate just as dysfunctionally, if not more then two different organizations would.
Usually there is a hierarchy of creative talent that based on history, the money trail and awards, looks at broadcast first before looking at how an idea travels in social media, word of mouth and community . One only needs to look at the turnover of online creative directors at large agencies to understand the web frustration from within.
From my point of view, here's the Ad Agency Scouting Report :
1) Creative Ideas - ad agencies can legitimately lay claim to owning a brand idea that needs to then be parsed out in a number of different directions- within social media, they have a role in defining and providing colour to the brand idea and positioning so other people can then get excited and execute against it
2) Program Execution - what clients are craving, is somebody to take all the execution off their hands, a good ad agency director and team can be an extremely valued integrating force amongst a number of partner firms that deliver a "whole campaign/community" that is greater than the sum of its parts
3) Brand Positioning, Identity and Design - establishing a parent look and feel to any brand initiative is a key need to ensure initiatives don't look like orphan children from a different parent - being the brand cop and counsellor could be a valued ad agency role
4) Content Development - ad agencies forte is producing extremely good looking stuff on video and print, harnessing those elements and pieces to work on the web can be a lynchpin to social media success
5) Media Awareness - usually the ad agency is in the best position to integrate the efforts with their partner media houses and deliver scalable conversations through paid media - they can act as effective middleman and solution brokers with the media planning/buying firms
1) Technical Infrastructure - one look at most flash-based agency websites will quickly tell you that integrating web platforms, database architecture, information security and privacy, and hosting is nearly the last thing on large agency agendas - they would be wise to seek third party managed host vendors with customer service capabilities
2) Research/Analytics - a weak link with ad agencies and one now under scrutiny given the need for ROI - ad agencies do not have the talent or the motivation to equip a truly helpful and now just-in-time system of monitoring and evaluating performance - they would be wise to work with a dedicated research house that understands the social media space or at minimum, work with an outsourced vendor like Radian6 or Visible than outfit it themselves
3) Influencer Outreach - I've asked agencies before who they're top 10, top 50, top 150 social media influencers are - most haven't an idea nor really care on a day-to-day basis - involving a firm like ourselves, or a seeding firm or media partner would alleviate most concerns here for agency and client
4) Social Media/Community Development - many agencies can pull off an iPhone app. or Facebook page - some are very clever and creative - unfortunately, this is not "living in the social media space" and create very little longevity of impact - the web is littered with these experiments that launched with great fanfare may have got initial traction and then traffic fell off a cliff when people realized their enthusiasm wasn't being rewarded, curated or responded to - community management is the key here, whether it be inside an agency, the client or an outsourced firm, somebody needs to keep the light on as the account executive tries to traffic the print ad that's two days late for Vogue
5) Customer Experience Focus - how people are using online properties on an ongoing basis?, how different marketing touchpoints are affecting the brand delivery of a positive customer experience? how customer insight may informs how a company runs their business better? Although agencies certainly have special access to a client and their executive, they rarely believe that the customer experience is their area of concern in these forums. Companies would be wise to hire online analytics specialists to dive deep on how their web stuff is being used and researchers/anthropologists to understand how this is being reflected and used in the real world.
What are your thoughts? Is this consistent with your experience, or do you have a different point of view. Let's discuss.
Next week - we'll cover off a much different scouting report - the PR Firms.
It was refreshing to see ourselves back on the world leaderboard with regards to digital appetites.
For years, it seemed like the Canuck webheads were the most broadband connected nation and then we became the nation that really embraced Facebook first.
After seeing Canada drop to as low as 11th on certain digital behaviors, now we have reclaimed our seat as world e-leaders, this time as being the world's most socially connected nation.
According to Forresters, 57% of online Canadians jump on social networks at least once a month while U.S. landed in 2nd place at 51% and the UK taking bronze at 38%. 80% of online Canadians had participated at some point in social networks.
Why? There could be many reasons - here are my top 10:
#5 - high levels of urbanization - social networks take root first in urban areas - My Space started in L.A. with Facebook getting rooted in university towns first followed by city areas, to the uninformed, Canada may seem like an idyllic nordic landscape with people living in log cabins and igloos - in fact, Canada is a highly urbanized nation - 44.6% of its people are in it's top 6 cities
#7 - world view - unlike a majority of Americans, we tend to take a larger world view and draw inspiration from a wider circle of people and cultures - it's why Canadians are known as the most lovable backpackers and Canada is viewed as the #2 country brand in the world - we love to connect with far-reaching others
#8 - shunning media influence - in Canada, we have become used to US media dominant influence for the last 40 years - social networking finally allows us to share amongst our own - its why our country's Facebook page has 346,000 fans and the USA's has only 297,000
So we punch far more powerfully than our numbers online, even though we have the 36th ranked in terms of population but are ranked 11th in online population. Why the heck do our businesses adopt social web culture and technologies so much later than their counterparts?
One addendum, here's Forrester's technographics ladder for Canada too -
Forrester's tool has some limitations and for the life of me, I'll never understand the math, but the intriguing part is Canada has a fairly engaged online population and the participation by age declines over time, it never really falls off a cliff.
It's prediction season again and we've pulled together our best prognostications for the 2010 social media season.
Here they are:
1) Attention overload and filtering - Twitter , spammers and aggregated content engines have finally shortened our attention window to a nanosecond - it is beginning to be tough to separate the good stuff on the web vs. the bad - A-listing, really smart SEO and SMO and private huddle spaces will become popular in 2010 social media as a result.
2) Brand Community building - strong companies that have used internal collaboration start extending their tentacles out into their customer and partner networks - the ones doing it already will do more (apparently 93% of them) and new players will enter the branded network ring (estimated to be 60% of them according to Gartner) - some will fail, others will succeed.
3) Local & Grassroots - with the number of context relevant iPhone apps, the advancement of mashups in mapping and the intriguing business model of geo-tagged news and promotion, as it once was so it is again - the world is local. 50% of a person's Facebook network is local - wo whereas we might want to have people think Global, when it comes to social, they act local.
4) Monetization - newspapers have reversed course and are charging money for premium content as a survival play, Hulu is doing it - will Youtube be next?, Twitter will start introducing revenue generating options in their 2010 year...even though we've had 5 years to the contrary, money truly does make the world go round, this time it needs to be real money not just that VC and takeover stuff
5) Radical Reinvention of Agencies - 50 questions asked and the number 1 thing that marketers can agree on is that agencies need to reinvent themselves to stay competitive - consultant specialization, new compensation schemes, customer experience owners, industrial, product and brand design, representing customers as an alliance, somebody needs to reinvent this colossus to ensure its future survival
6) Employee Social Media - what used to be a hindrance - a large, bureaucratic/disconnected culture, might now be a boost to fight off smaller more nimbler adversaries. Big iconic companies have not been able to marshal its scale in social media until now - we will see many more big companies dive into the social web in a well-coordinated fashion like Zappos, Direct to Dell and Best Buy's Twelpforce (now over 14,000 deep) with more bodies and resources
7) Brandividuals - borrowing the term from David Armano that suggests personal brands = corporate brands - the myth that you can have a personal life and a professional life in social media simultaneously continues to wither away - it may be sad for many,but transparency and open relationships is the new mantra = we don't want to know who you are targeting, we want to know who was involved...and we will in 2010 - as a related development, we will see personal online brands link up more closely with companies as Scott Monty has done with Ford
8) Content Syndication - those with the ability to connect and extend out their social media footprint will win in the future of the internet - sure, use your community site as a headquarters but establish some sentry posts, patrol stations and love bunkers on the perimeter of the web - with 70% of what's on the web expected to be user generated or social by 2013 - you need to be everywhere
9) Community Managers/Evangelists - community efforts are notoriously underfunded but yet staffed by these brilliantly talented individuals - expect companies to add resources here and industries that have stayed away to start recruiting for these Renaissance frontline people that operate between social media and the company
10) Collaborative Real Time Communication - with Google Wave, never again will you be stuck in an email back and forth, think about WebEx for consumers, think BaseCamp for parent user groups - old user unfriendly, techy-loved wikis are now being pushed aside for content rich, seamless-to-use collaborative areas that Aunt Ethel, cousin Bob and tech-illiterate CEO can now use
11) Joint Ventures - if you are in the business of satisfying customer wants and maxing out their experience, then you are in the business of collaborating with other companies sometimes equals - as was the case with the Nike+/Apple jogging community - expect to see some of that spirit of collaboration end up as brand alliances online
12) Portability of Social Media - whether it's Mobifests,interactive signage, Pico projectors, roll up TVs - the hardware we're using has become so small and smart that a lot of live events don't require staging anymore - smart mobs, instant film fests and social media-driven live games are the new live entertainment and sports, given the whole idea of augmented reality enabled by these advancements, we may hear more of the term "Transocialmedia Play" in the future
14) Word of Mouth Marketing - despite all form of exciting new tech and media advancements, the power of the human voice still ranks #1 ...and rising. Engaged word of mouth still drives decision-making (about 2/3rds of it if you're an average category) and is expected to grow faster than any other form of marketing spend. With the crushing weight of new media and product choice, the only way to keep things straight for people seems to be to follow the advice of a trusted friend.
15) Math Marketing and Data Visualization - not only is there a crushing weight of media and products, we've not hit breaking points on information too. To be able to pull out insight from the excrement of data, smart left brains have teamed up with smart right brains to look at interesting ways to visualize data. Look to advancements that will wend their way into social media and make tag clouds and social graphs look like simple hobby horses in the future.
The Digital Day at Marketing Week in Toronto has just wrapped up and I was reading Head of Google Canada's Jonathan Lister's summary of the 5 points that today's marketer's should be preoccupied with, although self serving, they're good ones:
- the web changes so quickly, what has worked in the past may not work in the future
- online and offline ads should complement, 2/3rds of searches are a result of offline media
- effective search strategy to overcome the now 600 million registered domain names is required
- marketing can be a measurable discipline, courtesy companies like Google, data trumps opinion
- don't be afraid to jump on an emerging trend and stake out space in a new area, his bet was mobile and online video, perhaps not surprising given Google's Android and YouTube stake in the areas
Trust me, I have great respect for what Google does, they have the Midas touch in entering new web areas that their many competitors envy.
I do however take two issues with Jonathan's list above:
The first, his points on #1 and #5 about the unpredictability of the web trump his point #4 about data's preeminence over opinion - if you need to take a leap into the unknown or at best the murky future - it's instinct and insight that is going to get you there, not machinations of data.
If you had straightlined any information or data that existed 5 years ago, most would have missed the social networking trend, the trend to video, the move away from blogging to microblogging by healthy margins. The people that truly tapped into these waves were conceptual geniuses not data junkies. Smart moves in mobile will not likely be data-driven but innovation-driven tapping into a Whole New Mind - moving away from the information age to the conceptual age. Data is great for operations and some sober judgment and guidance, but it can hamstrung people away from envisioning a new, enlightened future.
Marketing needs to get rigorous on all fronts, online data measurement is just one of them.
As I stare out at the landscape of CMOs and VPs of marketing, they are under considerable scrutiny and pressure to perform and have absolutely no spare time. And if there was an act of malice I could lay at their feet, it's their complete adherence to data at the upper levels, and the poor ability to adequately equate risk with reward, balance the future with present reality and use smart intuition with data.
If anything, we have created a generation of marketing "scoreboard watchers". Whether it's Nielsen TV data, PMB print data, Google analytics or Radian social media metrics, marketers are drowning in the vomit of their own data. Data without some type of filtered insight is a negative undertow on a brand owner's aptitude to pivot and move quickly. Data without some type of frontline organizational leadership falls on deaf ears. Data without some type of deep seeded connection to the marketplace and empathy for the customer is blind. So unless Google can magically double the time spent in an average marketer's week, data crunching may need to take a justifiable back seat to these other concerns.
Think about it - if you are truly going to build value in any substantive (and hopefully measurable) way, it's likely because you do at most 3 things well, I mean really well, in one given year (a smart colleague once told me this - I thought he was lazy at the time but he has proved to be right).
The successful marketers? I guarantee you at least 2 out of 3 of those things were outcomes from really smart bets not really good actuary work.
Data is great for monitoring and managing day to day operations, unfortunately an over-reliance on it to guide strategy and plan in this fast changing marketplace, is a recipe for small ideas and late to market status.
Hate to rain down on Google's parade, I'm sure they'll do well without my advocacy. But what we need, what we really and truly need in marketing in 2010, more than anything else, is truly enlightened souls and passionate customer advocates to lead the way and less detached and formulaic number crunchers.
By my rough estimation, there are about 300,000 people floating around Twitter claiming to be "social media experts".
Good for them. They are riding a wave of popularity rarely seen since the days of the dot.com bubble. If they can monetize or take advantage of this fever, even better for them.
As you can see by the Google Trends graph above , "social media" has rocketed up the popularity charts and took a sharp "hockey stick" turn up in the start of 2009. Some of the other strategies and tactics terms that my company Agent Wildfire has focused on (word of mouth, buzz, community) have taken a popularity backseat to this chart-topping beast called "social media"
As a Warren Buffett contrarian advocate, I believe the fever pitch around "social media" - the term and the tools is short-sighted. Be forewarned, when something moves this fast, this quickly - there usually is a letdown factor on the other side of the ride (file under Alaskan gold rush, backyard nuclear bunkers, zoot suits, disco, Y2K, Enron, Madoff-Ponzie, Avian flu, ethanol as biofuel) .
Why? Businesses continue to struggle to tap into social media as a source of value. The earliest of early adopters have jettisoned Facebook even though it's death star continues to spread. You hear a creeping resistance to the mere mention to the term - similar to the treatment we now give to the haggard terms Web 2.0, social bookmarking and blogging or dare I say, weblogging. Ironically, in some respects, social media has made a contingent of us remarkably less social, more stretched and less embedded in real kinships.
It is a jungle out there - how do you get noticed among millions of groups, billions of news feeds and hundreds of thousands of apps. Fact is - you don't - not in any sustainable way. A goodly percentage of us have placed our faith in "social media" and for most, it has been an experimental and unrequited love. More teenage crush than something palpibly meaningful.
I'll get on the same page for a moment so you don't believe I have lost my lid completely. Let's agree social media has revolutionized the internet and consequently how we spend an increasing amount of our time. It has provided the seed for smart organizations to think differently and early market movers to tap into its value. We have seen enhanced and sometimes surprisingly powerful benefits from social media with our client's programs. It is not a fad, it is here to stay and in a big way. My condolences to newspaper editors, radio producers and magazine publishers everywhere.
But in a very few short years, my prediction - the term will fade into irrelevance - all media will be social - no more need for the distinction.
And here's why the current fixation on social media is a bad thing, not necessarily for people but for business:
- it suggests that engaging customers can be boiled down to a type of media - check out how many company Facebook pages that are barren ghost towns to demonstrate the foolishness of seeing the benefits of a collaborative web through the myopic lenses of social media, be they pages, groups, blogs or feeds - social media is part and only part of an overall business strategy and a good percentage of its practitioners wouldn't know a strategy if it hit him/her on the front hood of a car
- the term "social media" is thrown around as inherently tactical and under-estimates by a healthy margin the strategy, talent and infrastructure required by companies to tap into its real value - it's great if John Smith can acquire a modicum of viralness by attracting 25,000 Twitter followers to his personal brand, what that has to do with Microsoft building an enterprise through social media is tenuous at best?
- the lifespan of attention on social media is fleeting - for example, the timespan of utility on one of my tweets right now is about 45 seconds given the deluge of activity on people's walls - businesses succeed and thrive based on longevity of benefit and perception - addiction to social media would make them vulnerable to the flights of fancy and inherent novelty and lack of loyalty among social media-ites - if you're comfortable as a business riding the heroin-like highs and lows of social media enthusiasm, great - most of us would like to balance out that rollercoaster ride with some loyalty promoting investment too
- in our rush to embrace the transparent and tentacled world of social media, brands have forgotten the need to embrace the equally powerful aspects of storytelling, influencer and key stakeholder seeding, media integration, smart content and a well-differentiated point of view - what is a business and brand if it isn't an idea or enterprise that stands for something different - open source and socialize all your decisions and watch your business turn the compromise colour of "mauve" not the potentially brilliant individual colours in the spectrum
- how much of social media is really social? Perhaps in the heady days of blogging (2003-2007 RIP) you could make the argument that social media had taken down walls but media evolves and starts to look like the incumbent media before it - bloggers became A-listers and more aloof to real engagement, the pace of content quickened, user acceptance increased to the point that even the best company and/or blogger can't keep up with the volume - social media is simply becoming much more broadcasty and less interactive - for most, this will in time become merely a different channel
- social media loves to eat their own children - there is a culture of "gotcha-ism" in the Twitter and blogging landscape that makes big companies targets - and yet the most vocal social media-ites among them, question why these brands are slow to embrace it (it's kind of like hiring the worst, cantankerous employee over for Sunday night dinner each week to tell you and your family how much they hate you). Reality is, the best engaged companies do not practice the "one voice, one vote" rule - show your commitment, knowledge, investment to get things right and influence companies for the better and scale the ladder of access to corporations; act like a social media troll or curmudgeon and wonder out loud why brands turn tone deaf
So for the smart money, yes - consider social media within the scope of your business plan, but don't, I repeat don't, forget about other important factors in rooting the much more important benefits of engagement with and advocacy by your customers, influencers, employees and fans:
- building and incubating online community
- creating crowdsourced learning and insight
- leveraging word of mouth referrals
- supporting corporate social responsibility and smart grassroots marketing
- seeding and affiliating with key influencers
- getting noticed and talked about through alternative marketing forms - buzz, viral, guerrilla
- hosting customer advisory panels and beta testing groups
- providing a customer-centric brand and user experience
- offering up user generated content promotion and opportunity as avenues into your brand
- collaborating and co-owning assets with your customer base
I guarantee you that as we see the term "social media" bandied about, people are not talking about the above list of important items and if you as a business owner, take their advice as gospel and you will be blindsided by the lack of depth and richness of benefits you get back.
We've been here before. It's the boulevard of broken and inflated web dreams. Why does it feel like 1999 and people praising the virtues of Outpost.com shooting gerbils out of a cannon?
I used to call it the "smell of a place". When you walk into a shop, a corporate head office or a boutique small business, does it appear like people love what they're doing? Are they genuinely involved in their jobs or are they merely going through the motions?
Frontline experience dictates at least half of the total experience many customers have with a company is with .
A lot of times, it's driven by the small things - next time you are at a Four Seasons look at how many of the small things are taken care of - we've come to understand that 82 items are routinely taken care of.
A lot of times, the torture test for the "smell" is what happens when the boss is not around. Take a visit to Westjet airlines for a 6:30am flight to get a handle on great customer experiences before the first coffee.
Sometimes, these experiences shake us out of our daily patterns and make us want to share them with others. Call them "acts of wow", "moments of magic" or "pursuit of excellence" but they make people buzz.
Some experiences of mine that recently to experiences going well beyond or below-the-call and have created conversations in my world:
On the positive:
the outright friendliness of Buffalo airport parking lot shuttle drivers
the lifesaving customer service and first name comfortability of my local UPS store (Sherway Gardens)
the welcoming appeal of my local Starbucks - free coffee when I stand too long in line and the efficiency in finding my power cord (on Kingsway and Bloor West)
the patience of my Netnation server support people - thanks for not thinking I was completely out to lunch on a piece of malicious code we fixed together
On the negative:
the arrogance of a collected series of Visa customer service people
the unbelievable slowness of Staples Business Depot print staff
the tone deafness of my Bell business phone customer service staff
the ineptitude of craft sellers Durie Lane to find a matching urn (perhaps no coincidence the store is now out of business)
My view of each brand has been enlightened or pockmarked by individual employees embrace of their companies and work environment, and in some cases, outright disregard.
We've developed a 100 pt.survey for clients that cesses out a score suggesting top-level front line fanship, above-service standards and customer face-to-face engagement.
Arrive at a score of 85 and you are a fully-committed, Frontline Word of Mouth Evangelist, between 70 and 85 and you are an emotionally connected Frontline Word of Mouth Advocate and between 50 and 70 and you are a satisfied and loyal Frontline Word of Mouth Engaged Soul.
Let's not even go near under 50 as a score, although our belief is 65-75% of frontline staff operate at this level.
Here are 10 components to the survey:
i) Personal Assets (10 pts.) - do you have a natural set of skills that lend themselves well to frontline WOM?
ii) Company/Brand Alignment (10 pts.) - are you living the life and genuinely excited about the corporate/brand and their values?
iii) Customer Focus (10 pts.) - are you driven by trying to understand and satisfy customers?
iv) Experience Building (10 pts.) - are you committed to not only providing a service but an experience?
v) Consistency/Remarkability (10 pts.) - even on "bad days", do you still go the extra mile and get customers to rave about you?
vi) Team/Culture Builder (10 pts.) - do you improve the morale and customer service of the people around you?
vii) Passion/Problem Solving (10 pts.) - are you enthusiastic about customer interactions, even negative ones?
viii) Growth and Development (10 pts.) - are you committed to personal growth and learning?
ix) Story and Surprise Building (10 pts.) - are you creating and sharing things that people will talk about through your creativity, mastery and experimentation in your role?
x) Valued Partnership and Evangelism (10 pts.) - do you feel valued in your company and feel you can leave your personal mark?
So what's your score? more importantly, what's your frontline staff's score?
In fairness, there are a subset of questions under each category and with many companies, we add and tailor specific questions that make sense for their objectives, culture and work styles to give us a fuller view.
Ready to take a Customer Experience Fitness test? Have a spin by Agent Wildfire if you'd like to connect with us on Frontline Customer Experience WOM Audit.
Sometimes we encounter people in life that work so hard to fit in, be accepted, be loved and are willing the put on a "face" or "show" to ingratiate themselves with their newfound social circles or professional milleus....but there language trips them up and reveals likely what rests at the heart of what they think as well.
Here it is, with the case of the traditional economic world (of whom I was a part of for the greater chunk of my career) and the new world of the friendlier, more collaborative marketplace - the community builders (for which I have put my stock and become an entrenched part of).
Beyond philosophical differences between the two groups, there is a cavernous divide in how these tribes see their craft, which makes it difficult for the traditional and new worlds of communication to cooperate, never mind getting past the semantics for discussion.
It shows up in how they dress, who they vote for, what they value, how they socialize, what they covet personally and perhaps, most visibly in what language they use. As in any turf battle, neither side is wholly right (trust me, there are some idioms and words of the new economy that drive me batty - "it is what it is", cloud computing. "just sayin' and usability come to mind ) but establishing some common English-French dictionary of sorts for each group might be important.
So move over Roget and Websters- here is a compendium of the top 50 words and phrases used by traditional business speak (rooted in the capitalist and militaristic language from which it has its roots) and the new community speak (rooted in the more recent, more activist and post-war culture from which it emerged).
Words (traditional then new economy words) 1. Person - consumer/citizen 2. Succeed - conquer/crowdsource 3. Process - capitalize/collaborate 4. Group - database/community 5. Goal - attention/engagement 6. Place we do business - battlefield/playground 7. Management style - command-and-control/leaderless group 8. Secret sauce - proprietary knowledge/open source 9. Price of admission - pay for service/free 10. Vision - mission statement/manifesto 11. Where power comes from - resources/network 12. Key communication outlet - broadcast media/interactive 13. What to do with customer - exploit and tap/embrace and love 14. Intelligence - patentable/collective 15. Content - broadly distributed/viral and interesting 16. Target audience - demographic/behavioural 17. Management focus - competition/cooperation 18. Genius - quarterback/savant 19. Feedback - comment or suggestion box/forum or wiki 20. Governance - rules/guidelines 21. Participants - suits/t-shirts 22. Work structure - organization men & career trajectory/free agent nation and gigonomics 23. Bad characterization of the other side's people - socialists/sheeple 24. Partnership - joint venture/mashup 25. What to call the new social online - Web 2.0 and information superhighway / P2P 26. Group Meeting - conference / camp 27. Bad, dumb and overused words to use in any context - synergy, win-win and best-in-class/ scalable, beta and next-generation 28. Better media - mainstream media/rich media 29. Smaller customers - niche markets /the Long Tail 30. Intelligence - integrated /semantic web 31. Aimless web use - surfing / tweeting 32. ROI - return on investment/return on involvement 33. Frontline customer employee - customer service manager / community manager 34. Suffix of choice - -metrics and -assets /onomics and washing 35. Great workplace efficiency - well-oiled machine / frictionless 36. Bad endings - "at the end of the day", "net net" / LOL or IMHO 37. What's your - phone number / PIN or IM 38. Please send - email me / ping me 39. Customer facing people - spokespeople, fans and supporters/ambassadors and evangelists 40. File - index / tag 41. To connect - meet, reach out or link /fave, friend or follow 42. To produce content - author or write / blog or tweet 43. Customer relationship - CRM -customer relationship management, database management and acquisition/ CEM -customer experience management, community building and word of mouth 44. Customer happiness ratings- customer satisfaction, brand equity and page views / interestingness, net promoter scores and brand attention/time spent on site 45. Key players to have on your side - celebrities, lobbyists and journalists/ influencers, grassroots opinion leaders and bloggers 46. Frequently used insider acronym - GAAP / SaaS 47. The corner suite - CEO/COO/CIO/CFO/Directors/President/Chairman / Chief Happiness Officer, Chief People Officer, Chief Evangelist, Head of Spin/Magic, No Titles 48. Security - firewall. lawsuits, protection, privacy /hackability, creative commons, remixing, openness and filtering 49. Trust - trust authority, trust centralized figures, have faith / trust yourself, trust your friends and trust your network 50. Niceness - campaigns, promoting X or Y, fundraising and donation, conforming to regulation / corporate social responsibility, sustainability and greenlining and double or triple bottom lines
"One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
Did you guess which thing was not like the others?
Did you guess which thing just doesn't belong?
If you guessed this one is not like the others,
Then you're absolutely...right! "
As marketers, were we having a "timeout" when other kids were learning this Sesame Street song and life principle? I think yes.
Whether it's the world of automobiles, airlines or retailers, we have so achingly little differentiation in our brands. What happened to the excitement people?
This weekend, I walked into no less than 13 shoe stores in one of local malls. Let me ask you - how many of them had - women's one side, men's the other, a central bank of chairs for sitting, rows of shoes on the side wall - 4-8 rows high, 2-4 awkwardly smiling sales clerks hovering, a clumsy sizing tool and angled stool for fitting and a fenced off register area toward back of store. Check. check. check. check. check. check. check. It was an ode to podiatric conformity.
No digital displays, no innovative store setup, no foot models, no coffee bar, no his & her couches, no running ticker on how many shoes were sold there today, no employee faves wall.
Yawn...if shoes are this boring, how do we make other more staid categories sing....and more importantly why is this happening?
So after testing a battery of 50 attributes linked to brand value, here's Y&R's scoop.
The top 8 attributes linked to brand value are: #1 High Quality #2 -Trustworthy #3 - Good Value #4 - Reliable #5 - Original #6 - Simple #7 - Fun #8 - Leader
A wonderful and noble set of attributes to be sure, however if you put these attributes on a scale of differentiation, these attributes average rank sits at #36 on attributes that make your brand appear different.
Here's the problem - the attributes above are table stakes, the price of admission for getting in the game. Years ago, they may have actually meant something. Nowadays, everybody can claim some title to these attributes and even if you could uniquely, it can be quite tough to prove or raise to the level of consciousness in the customer mind and perception game.
No, here's what your "best practice" consultants aren't telling you. In order to truly drive brand value in a distracted, underwhelmed and over-sensated marketplace (and in my world, to get your brand noticed and talked about), you need to be maxing out on Y&R's top 8 differentiating attributes: #1 Unique #2 Dynamic #3 Different #4 Distinctive #5 Innovative #6 Visionary #7 Daring #8 Progressive
Dyson. Virgin. Westjet. Vespa. Zappos. Calvin Klein. Apple. This is the very DNA of their brand's existence.
So brand owners, please stop playing a game of "me too" and start singing the song we want to hear "one of these things is not like the others..."