I’ll take Biz Stone for $1000

jeopardyThere’s no question that social media is here to stay. Technology has given us a voice, and all signs point to us wanting to be heard. Twitter, the poster child for social media, has recently been valuated at $1 Billion, but so far we haven’t seen much evidence of how Twitter will actually make money. I can’t help but think that the route to riches for Twitter, in some form, lies in traditional media, like television.

So here’s a thought for you, Mr. Stone:

Create a game show.

Frankly, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened already. Twitter and one of the TV networks should create a trivia-oriented game show where the contestants are all sitting at home on the couch. I mean, we’re all sitting there with our laptops anyway. We could answer questions by tweeting as quickly as possible.

Hey NBC, you sit in last in the ratings now. Why don’t you put the Seinfeld or Friends reunions on hold for a bit and concentrate on creating perhaps the world’s biggest and most prolific game show? I mean, if we’re willing to watch Howie Mandell counsel brave-hearted dimwits on opening briefcases, this ought to be a sight better.

And to you Twitter users out there. Would you be willing to log into your account at 8pm on Thursday nights if it meant you could win a few thousand/million dollars? And if you’re worried about compromising your social media integrity by participating, I’m sure you could still update your status during the commercial break:

Playing @twittertrivia right now – trying to win $ to invest in twitter stock

9 Reasons why your CRM sucks

Thumbs downI have been working with clients and their CRM programs for some time, and I have always been pretty amazed at how lousy so many of them are. Not that these companies aren’t interested in having more loyal customers (after all, loyalty = increased share of wallet), it’s just that other factors seem to come into play that impede that progress, or they just break some simple rules. So here are some issues with CRM I have come across, and a few suggestions how companies can improve their programs.

Oh, and before I begin, for the record, I want to be clear about what I believe CRM is for – it’s to build advocacy for your brand. In essence, it’s communicating with your 10,000 customers in a way that makes them feel like you’ve only got 10.

Okay, with that said, here we go.

9 Reasons why your CRM sucks:

mailbox1. You think CRM is a just direct mail program. How many times, as a consumer, have you received a direct mail offer from a company that ‘knows’ you, but they’ve sent you something ill timed (like a limited time, 15% off oil change coupon, the week after you got your oil changed) or offering you something you don’t want or need (like a product you’ve already bought)? The reason why this happens is that many companies believe that CRM is just a database for addresses, and to cut down on the cost of developing several communications, they use the entire list to blast out blanket offers.

I’ve been told several times to send out a direct mail offer with multiple offers to the entire list, because at least one of the offers applies to everyone on the list.

This doesn’t create customer loyalty. It’s an inauthentic offer that makes us feel like customer number 9,872.

garbage-can2. Garbage in = Garbage out. Many companies don’t do a good job of purging customers after they have bought a certain product or service. Generally because this is a manual process and some one just didn’t get to it. As a result, customers get offers for things they already have. What’s worse, the offers they receive generally offer a better deal than they originally received. This is a good example of how a company can actually pay money to piss their customers off. So always make sure that you have a quality assurance mechanism in place for data entry or find a way to automate it.

woman shouting3. You communicate too much. I hate to call a company out, but Amazon, if you’re listening, stop with the emails already. I probably receive an email offer once every two days from Amazon. I’m sorry, but I don’t read books that fast. If I did, I’d be much smarter. All this extra communication does is annoy me and makes me immediately delete your emails. Good thing for Amazon is that they’re too big to care. But if you’re not a monopoly, please heed this advice: Unless you’re my best friend (which you’re not), don’t talk to me all the time.

salesman4. Everything is an offer. If you want to build loyalty with me, offer me something that isn’t an offer. I wrote a post about this a while ago about the power of ‘Thank You’. If you want me to like you more, next time you speak with me, try giving me helpful advice on what I have just bought (reinforce my good decision to go with you), or give me something I’m not expecting, or, better yet, connect me to others who have bought the same thing. Perhaps we can build a community of brand advocates for you.

Win5. You use contests to collect addresses. Not good. More often than not people will enter your contest to win the contest. They have no interest in your products or services. That whole “No Purchase Necessary” thing is hard to distinguish between who is interested and who isn’t. But if you have to run a contest, here’s a good tip, start your list with with the people who actually bought something.

Of course another way to build up your list is to offer a discount on a future purchase, and don’t just make it a blanket offer. If possible, make the discount relevant to their purchase. For example, if you’re a cable provider, offer a free on demand movie or discount on a specialty channel. Don’t offer a 25% discount on your phone service.

stopwatch6. You think short term. Many companies make the mistake of believing that CRM is something that migrates customers from interested to engaged to advocacy in 6 months. It doesn’t work like that. How long do you date someone before asking them to marry you? CRM takes time. And remember the goal – advocacy. It may not mean an increase in share of wallet, but it could mean an increase in WOM and new customers. So don’t be pushy. Customers are a skeptical lot to start out with.

not-listening7. You didn’t talk to actual customers before offering them something. When you get together with friends and talk about companies, you either praise them or kill them with respect to their: customer service, call center, product, locations, parking, price, etc. Everyone’s got an opinion. So why is it that so many companies embark on CRM programs without talking to a single soul first? If you want to know how to improve your relationships with your customers, try talking to them. And here, qualitative trumps quantitative results. Get to know what your customers really want before you begin.

And don’t just use tools like Twitter Search, Google Alerts or BingTweets to eavesdrop on them. You can use those tools to find out if you’re doing a good job or not. But don’t use them as the foundation of your CRM program.

trespass_sign8. Your CRM program doesn’t include other inbound/outbound areas. Cardinal sin. If your call centers do not have access to customer information or if your direct mail agency doesn’t have access to what transpired on your Twitter feed, you stand a very good chance of making yourself look like you don’t listen. Make sure any time there is a communication with a customer that his/her record is updated (if it is relevant). If something was solved in the call center, but the customer’s record isn’t de-duped for it, they can receive a communication about the same thing, thereby eliminating the two-way conversation we’re all trying to create.

Life_Ring9. You’re not really listening or helping. This is my last point, but it’s pretty significant. One of the ways to build loyalty through CRM is to create a dialogue with your customers. If they feel like you’re listening, that makes them feel like they are important to you. Do not make the critical mistake of giving them avenues to reach you, like a call center, then putting them on hold for 30 minutes, making them listen to the pre-recorded message “You call is important to us…”. If you want to build some loyalty, you have to give them a reason to be loyal. And being helpful helps. Perhaps one of the benefits of your CRM program could be immediate access to a representative when they call, or anticipating problems they may have and delivering solutions to them proactively. Don’t make them come to you. Show them that you care.

In any event, what’s important to realize about CRM is this:

CRM is time consuming, frustrating to implement, and it costs money.

That’s why it’s so easy to do it badly or dump it when times get bad. But if Frederick Reichheld, the loyalty expert, is correct by saying, “the one thing successful companies have in common are customers who would recommend their company to others”, my question to you is, how can you not afford to do CRM, and do it well?

How the NFL should use Behavioral Targeting

NFL POPCORNThis past weekend the NFL offered free access to their new ‘all access’ channel RedZone, which is a football lover/ADD sufferer’s dream channel. It jumps around to every game where there is something significant happening (i.e. touchdown, turnover, team driving for a score, etc.). The allure of this channel is that there are no commercials, just action.

nfl-redzone-logoBut in the NFL’s ever continuing quest to make more money, I wonder how long it will take before they start interrupting play with advertising. They’ve sold RedZone by telling viewers there are no commercials, but that wouldn’t preclude them from putting sponsorship information on screen, would it?

Which made me think – based on situational events in football games, could they behaviorally target sponsorship information to viewers based on the action on the field? I call it ‘Situational Sponsorship’.

Here’s how it would work. In the NFL there are always things you can count on happening: Hard tackles, touchdown/victory celebrations, and gratuitous food/crowd shots among others (see: T.O. eating popcorn at top of post). So, the NFL could sell these ‘situations’ as media placements during games. Here are a few more ideas:

The NFL always has its share of injuries. The bigger the star (or injury) the longer they stay on the action. The viewer can’t help but think health at the time, so why not sell a portion of the screen to insurance companies?
NFL INJURY

The NFL can leverage some of its bigger-than-life personalities. You can’t tell me that every time you see Michael Vick, you don’t still think of his arrest for dog fighting. Some celebrities are more famous for their off-the-field behavior, so why not take advantage of what we’re all thinking in the first place?
NFL PETS

When your team doesn’t win, it’s natural to feel a little down. The NFL provides fans with a full range of emotions. And I don’t think fans are looking for a bridge to jump off of when their team loses, but some people don’t exactly take bad news well. And with the shocking rate that people are turning to prescription drugs, it provides a great opportunity for companies like Pfizer to remain top-of-mind.
NFL DEPRESSED

Come to think of it, in this new era of TIVO and PVRs, I’m surprised this isn’t already being done with regular programming. Forget product placement, where is situational sponsorship?

Stop asking for something ‘viral’

SprintThere seems to be a misnomer out there, shared in client circles (and exacerbated by the media), that they can ask their agencies to create viral campaigns for them. Mediapost has just written an article about Sprint’s new viral campaign, on the day it launched. They must know something I don’t because to me, viral is a result, not a tactic. Calling something viral before it has launched is like picking the Superbowl winner in March (congratulations Redskins).

If you’d like to see Sprint’s new campaign, click here – it’s geared towards mobile users who are frustrated with their cell phone carrier. You can get Sprint to change you to their network, and then send your mobile carrier a goodbye song. Not exactly a new idea (and not likely to go viral).

So clients: let’s agree on this distinction. Viral is something you see a campaign do, not something you can request, like out-of-home or radio commercials. And if you’d like to see something go viral, you’re going to have to stick your neck out a little and do something edgy or really innovative. A milquetoast campaign like Sprint’s isn’t going to cut it.

And by the way, I get the irony of distributing the link to a supposed viral campaign I am critical of.

How to erode brand trust – by Hyatt

firedI’m a fan of Hyatt Hotels. In fact one of my favorite hotels is the Hyatt Olive 8 in Seattle. As a customer I have always been pleased with their attentive service and care, which are strong pillars of their brand.

However, as a consumer, I was really disturbed to hear about Hyatt’s recent underhanded move to eliminate their housekeeper positions in Boston and replace them with a third party. I won’t go into details (click here for the story), but it hardly smacks of any care. And if any of it is true, how can they not think this erodes my trust in their brand?

In this day and age companies just can’t get away with acting out of brand character. You can’t tell consumers you’re one thing and then be completely opposite to your internal stakeholders. We’ll find out one way or another. And here’s the worst part. Due to social media proliferation this PR gaffe won’t be localized to the Boston area. It has the potential to affect Hyatt globally.

So what may have begun as a cost saving measure, has now become a costly crisis for Hyatt. And all because they didn’t think that their staff was a part of their brand.

Hyatt has responded to the negative press with a statement you can read here.

Google is reading your mail

gmail eyesScores of people use Gmail as their free web-based email provider, myself included. But I’m not sure how many people actually realize that Google is scanning your email content (not just subject lines) to serve up relevant ads in the form of Sponsored Links.

Go ahead and check it out. If you look down the right hand side of your emails and you’ll see ads pertaining to the content of your email.

How do you feel about that? Do you care?

For me, it’s ironic, because I use my work email for work-related communications only, but use a web-based email provider for personal communications (like, to complain about work), because I’m assuming it’s private.

But it isn’t. Someone is watching.

To make us feel better, Google says that no humans will read the content of your email in order to target such advertisements or related information. It’s all an automated process.

But isn’t Google in the information gathering business? And doesn’t Google become more valuable the more it learns? It may seem pretty benign now, but who’s to say a few years from now, every email you send won’t be dropped into a giant database all about you and your online activity, which helps Google know more about you, and therefore assist advertisers in targeting you more accurately.

Does it now make you think twice about sending that off-color joke to a friend, or that topless picture of the celeb-du-jour to your pals? Or do you care?

I wonder what it’s like to apply for a job at Google. Do they call references, or do they just pull your IP address and the Sponsored Link history for your Gmail account? If that’s the case, I think I’m going back to snail mail.

Anyone know where I can buy some stamps?

What ‘real man’ would you choose to front your Alcohol?

mad-men-2Advertising Age has just written an article detailing the new hyper-virile manner with which some spirits brands are now promoting themselves. Billed as the anti-Sex in the City era (in which the Cosmopolitan was the heralded beverage for women in a boom economy), this new phase could be dubbed the Mad Men era, where belts are being tightened in a poor economy, people stay home more and many alcohol pitchmen are emulating the behavior of the characters from the popular Emmy Award winning series. The commercials that I seem to see the most of feature “Sopranos” star Michael Imperioli for 1800 Tequila,

And of course, the Dos Equis commercials, starring the most interesting man in the world (Paula Forbes has a great blog post with all commercials here).

Ad Age’s point, I believe, is that life imitates art, and in unstable times we men are trying to emulate these real men from Mad Men. So, I guess my question is, if you had an alcohol brand to promote, which pitchman/character would you use? I have some suggestions below:

Mark Harmon – Jethro Gibbs (NCIS)
Hugh Laurie – Dr. Gregory House (HOUSE)
David Caruso – Lieutenant Horatio Caine (CSI MIAMI)
Matthew Fox – Jack Shephard (LOST)

For me, the runaway winner has to be Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in IRON MAN.

So, who would be your choice for the ideal front man?