Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Brand Advocates: How can they help your business?

How can brands cut out through the noise and be genuine at lower cost with their messaging? It's a question that is troubling marketeers in the current scenario where most customers are being pushed through various touch-points. Brand advocacy is the answer. A brand advocate is simply a highly satisfied customer who is willing to speak officially for the brand without any compensation in return. 

Spriklr - a company that builds social media management systems for enterprises released some interesting data. To quote them "Our data platform, which tracks the social activity of 30,000 brands and 248,000 advocates, shows that while advocates make up only .001% of a brand’s social subscribers, they’re responsible for 5.3% of a brand’s total signal and for starting 8.3% of all company related discussions." While those numbers may look smaller as compared to other paid media initiatives, one must note that all of this is mostly organic. Moreover the impact that brand advocates make is that of a positive recommendation which is likely to persuade the end customer to make that buying decision. More often than not, satisfied customers may already be talking about their experience on social media already hence it only helps the brand to propel the messaging further. Another study by BzzAgent & the University of Rhode Island showed that brand advocates are 75% likely to share a positive experience and nearly 3X times likely to share it with someone they don't know.

'Oh, but we are a brand stuck in a boring category' quip some marketeers. Research however proves that brand advocacy can happen anywhere. Ogilvy had mentioned in one of their studies that they looked across 22 brands and the categories with most active advocates were from 2 hotels, 2 skin care brands and one fashion retailer. So customers are not just talking about the new movie / restaurant / music album. Here is a breakdown of what truly drove advocates across the most active countries for brand advocacy:

There are several examples that can showcase the impact of brand advocacy. Three examples that i really liked are the mommy bloggers from Walmart, Westjet's Christmas Miracle and the Red Bull Stratos experiment that had real high engagement levels. 

Given that customers these days increasingly want to listen to true stories, marketeers would need to identify and reach out to their most satisfied customers and turn them to brand advocates. While this is a long term strategy, it for sure is bound to pay off for your brand rather than just dispersing marketing messages through different channels in the hopes of reaching the target customer.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Social CRM for your Business

How do you identify relevant messages for your brand from the universe of conversations online? That's where Social CRM comes in to picture. As a marketeer, you are trying your best to get the right message in front of the target customer at the right time. This could be over traditional forms of marketing through newspapers, billboards, TV etc or even through digital channels. However when your customers (existing / potential) are feeding inputs back to you in the form or queries, appreciation or even complaints over different social media platforms, you would need a tool to sift through all that data.

What typically started out as social media management with brands sharing updates or promoting products has now been taken to a different level. With an increasing number of people being active online on various social media platforms, the customer has one additional channel to post their experiences with any product / service. Now social media platforms are where a significant number of your customers are actively trying to engage with your brand. Social CRM is where the next level is.There will be a lot of noise that one needs to filter out and this is where the tool will come handy. 

How do you start out and make the most of it? Firstly you need to select a platform that will talk to different functions such as campaigns, sales and marketing to help you track the customer across several touchpoints. Be human and while responding back to customers, ensure that you're not being didactic. This particular point will call for resources that are trained to be hands on with customer service. Response times also need to be taken care of. According to a study, 42% customers expect a reply within 1 hour on social media. Using the tool, marketeers can also identify key influencers for their brand and develop tactics to engage with them though blogger outreach, guest blogging on partner on articles. Sentiment analysis will also provide a plethora of insight when it comes to customer experience. Should you have a large percentage of negative sentiment, then the product / service would need some tweaks or updates soon. In some cases, brands can also reward customers to build loyalty. The vast expanse of social media conversations offer a fertile ground to reap benefits for brands as compared to just generating sales and that's where marketeers need to be listening.

*Image sourced is labelled for reuse.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Does Marketing need to tell Stories?

Any traditional marketeer would be guided by the spray & pray methodology. However the average customer is being bombarded by nearly 5000 messages a day as they watch the telly, drive to work, surf across different website or read the morning paper. In this scenario, how can one guarantee that the messages are getting through? Marketeers need a hook to get the customer latched on and that is going to be the story.

Typical audiences today don't want to know about the benefits of your product. They want to know how it fits in to their daily lives and how it will make it easier for them. So hold on if you're trying to bombard them with brand oriented content. Rather, tell them a story where the product is just an element. The key is not to glorify the product / service but to help the customer understand how its a fit for their needs through a story about a character they can relate to. A report by Nielsen showed the importance of relevance in ads shown to customers. “While brand marketers increasingly seek to deploy more effective advertising strategies, Nielsen’s survey shows that the continued proliferation of media messages may be impacting how well they resonate with their intended audiences on various platforms,” said Randall Beard, global head, Advertiser Solutions at Nielsen. It's important to get that emotional connect with the customer and that can be best told through stories. As per this infographic, 92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story.

This is exactly what an independent fashion and lifestyle site called Refinery29 did on Facebook in close association with Adaptly, a social media advertising firm. They executed two campaigns simultaneously to two sets of lookalike audiences. While one audience was only shown a subscription oriented message, the other set of audience was shown three different messages. The second audience was first shown a brand story followed by the product details to finish up with the subscription call to action. The comparison to indicate the lift in the subscription rate is shown below:

Clearly the story based approach helped in higher subscriptions and it should result in an audience that is more engaged with the brand.This shows that brands that are new need to follow the classic AIDA model as i recall from my marketing days. Create awareness followed by interest and desire to finally lead to action. Stronger brands on the other hand may need to opt for this route, should they want to test and learn what works better. For now, its clear that marketeers would need to build relevant content to engage the customer as he/she moves across different media. That's where they need to be telling the stories.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Making the case for Disruptive Marketing

Harvard professor Clayton Christensen coined the work 'Disruptive Innovation' in his famous book titled 'The Innovator's Dilemma'. This type of innovation typically helps in creating a new market and value network. Usually its done by creating products for a completely different customer segment or by working on a pricing policy that is so unexpected that it helps the company grab market share. While most of the innovation is done to improve the business model, the roots for disruptive innovation lay with the market or the industry associated with the product. Most of the innovation is well, not really innovative in nature. Rather, its the combination of several existing technologies that may be combined in a simpler to provide a competitive advantage.

Then there are different types of disruption. 'Low end disruption' where people don't mind paying lesser price for a cheaper product. In India, Tata Nano was positioned as a disruption for a market where it was assumed people would be ready to pay less for a car which is stripped down of several features. Now, it has become a marketing failure to study. There are other cases where this is working well, for e.g. private label brands that are being sold in big retail chains like Future / EasyDay / Star (by the Tatas). The other type is 'New market disruption' where the focus is on high value business. Cloud services have an entire gamut of solutions catering to B2B / B2C customers.

Given the way the digital marketing landscape is evolving, marketing too has to come to terms with disruption. Technology shifts, changing customer buying patterns and the short attention span have made it increasingly difficult for marketeers to catch the potential customer with their target message. Instead of pushing their own branding messages, marketeers now need to be prudent and cost conscious in utilizing budgets. The key areas for marketeers to focus would center on emerging markets where the likelihood of product adoption are high / in areas where affordability is the focus. Nokia is an example to note. Towards the start of this year they came up with a billboard campaign where the creative changed as per the weather conditions. They are also famous for their tactical tweet 'Thanking' Apple for imitating their form for iPhone 5C last year. Conor Pierce, VP for UK & Ireland said,  “We don’t have all the funds in the world but we have been increasing our use of disruptive marketing to bring to life our brand and cut through.” They have also carried this over from a B2B perspective by sending seeding boxes for phone trials. There's an example of how disruptive marketing worked to their advantage.

Will the metrics prove that this works and how will you measure ROI? These are answers that are best solved by defining the business objective for your campaign. If business feels that a few tweets out there will help in catching customer eyeballs to translate to leads, then besties to them in proving the cost of customer acquisition from the channel. The digital journey is what would need to be tracked with proper conversion funnels to see how the customer is moving across your web properties will help. Calculating the customers lifetime value to go back to business and prove value is what could help make a stronger case. At the end you need to ensure your disruptive marketing strategy is truly a sustainable one.