Church of the Customer: Customer evangelism archives
May 06, 2010
School of WOM May 24-26I will be speaking at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association's next conference, the School of WOM, in Chicago on May 24-26. Coni Rechner, from Discovery Communications, and I will be talking about how Discovery built a community of customer evangelists.
Other brands presenting include P&G, Best Buy, PEMCO Insurance, Kraft, McDonalds, Google, Kodak, Coca-Cola, AT&T and others.
Details on the event are here. Use the discount code Friend of WOMMA to get $200 off of the registration cost.
See you in Chi-town!
February 23, 2010
Loyalty lessons from Lady Gaga
UPDATE [12/15/12]: My upcoming book called Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers Into Fanaticsa, based on some of the concepts outlined in this post, will be released in May 2013. Click here to get more information.
There's a lot marketers can learn from artist and musician Lady Gaga.
At age 23, Lady Gaga has rocketed to global fame in less than two years. Playing piano at age 4 and New York nightclubs at 14, she recently broke Billboard's record as the first artist to have her first five six singles reach number one. She's won two Grammys, and has sold 8 million albums and 15 million singles digitally worldwide. While her performance art-style stage shows and bizarre outfits have garnered much buzz, it's her loyalty marketing that may sustain her for years. Gaga is dedicated to her fans and clearly knows the elements of cultivating a community of evangelistic fans.
With that, here are my 5 lessons about building brand loyalty, Lady Gaga-style:
1. Give fans a name. Gaga doesn't like the word "fan" so she calls them her "Little Monsters," named after her album "The Fame Monster." She even tattooed "Little Monsters" on her arm and tweeted the pic to fans professing love for them. Now fans are getting their own Little Monster tattoos. By giving the group a formal name, it gives fans a way to refer to each other. Fans feel like they are joining a special club. (Related business examples: Maker's Mark Ambassadors and Fiskar's Fiskateers.)
2. Make it about something bigger than you. During her concert tour, Gaga recites a "Manifesto of Little Monsters" (text) (video). Although a bit cryptic, most Little Monsters see it as a dedication to them, that her fans have the power to make or break her. (Related business examples: Smoque BBQ (pdf).)
3. Develop shared symbols. The official Little Monster greeting is the outstretched "monster claw" hand. As all Little Monsters know, the clawed hand is part of the choreography in the video of her song "Bad Romance." Gaga tells the story of watching a fan in Boston greet another fan with the claw hand and that's when she knew this was the Little Monster symbol. Even Oprah knows the Little Monster greeting. Shared symbols allow fans to identify each other and connect. (Related business example: LIVESTRONG yellow wristbands.)
4. Make your customers feel like rock stars. One staple of Gaga's "Monster Ball" tour is to call a fan in the audience during the show. She dials the number onstage, the fan screams out, is located and they are put up on a big screen. While the rest of audience goes bananas, she invites the fan to have a drink with her after the show. (Related business example: eBay Live Conference where attendees walk through a gauntlet of applauding eBay staff as they enter the closing gala)
5. Leverage social media. Gaga has the requisite Facebook fan page (over 5 million fans) and Twitter ID (almost 3 million followers) but it's how she uses them that drives loyalty. On Twitter, she tells fans what she is doing, such as tweeting them before she opened the Grammy Awards. She also tweeted to fans that she was buying them pizza for waiting overnight at an album signing.
Some artists are very protective of their image and prohibit recording devices during performances. Gaga doesn't allow professional photographers into her concerts but is ok with fans recording and putting videos on YouTube.
Whether Gaga will have staying power remains to be seen. But she is making waves in the music business and teaching plenty of people the power of fandom.
Wouldn't you like to have fans like these?
UPDATE: To further illustrate Gaga loyalty, watch this fan-created created video card montage of Little Monsters from around the world for Gaga's 24th birthday. Many of the fans get emotional talking about how Gaga has inspired them to be themselves, and not care about what others think.
December 11, 2009
Objectives, goals, strategies and tactics
It's that time: time to create strategic plans for next year.
Most people use some form of objectives, goals, strategies and tactics for their plans, but get a group of 10 people into a room and you might have 10 different definitions of what those terms mean? That's why agreeing on their meaning is vital to your plan. Term agreement is a lubricant to productivity.
With that in mind, here's how we define the intention, purpose and usage of "objectives, goals, strategies and tactics" when assembling a strategic plan.
An objective is a high-level achievement. The simpler the better, like "Improve customer loyalty" or "Grow our market share." They can also be mountain-tops of company success: "Make our brand a word of mouth success story." They could be trying to solve a nagging, systemic problem or doing something big, like entering a new market. Objectives are a rally point for leaders who manage day-to-day efforts: "Will the idea being pitched to me help us reduce our churn?" or "Will this project help us develop a new market?" For us, objectives sit at the top of the strategic plan, and an ideal plan has no more than a handful of them. Anything more can be overload -- for leaders and the people who work for them.
In our framework, a goal is anything that's measured. Goals can be revenue, profit margin, members in a community, certifications delivered, a Net Promoter Score number, etc. Goals determine how you fulfill an objective. Multiple goals can, and should, support a single objective. A goal of "Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 59" can support multiple objectives like "become a word of mouth success story" and "deliver best-in-class service." Just like in sports, a goal is based on numbers.
A strategy is a way to describe a series of tactics, or very specific actions. In sports or war, strategy is often described as an action: Increase troop levels in a region. Do man-to-man coverage. The commonality is action performed by a team or group of people. Each strategy description begins with a verb to signify that something is being done. Example verbs include: create, hire, develop, launch, etc. Each strategy is supported, typically, by a series of specific tactics that may or may not be linear in execution or time. Every item in our strategic planning framework begins with a verb.
A tactic is a very specific action, like creating a new program or improving an existing one. In our framework, a tactic might be "Launch a online listening program" or "Form a customer advisory board for the manufacturing group." Each tactic has an owner who may rely on the work of multiple people in direct or dotted-line reporting relationships to make the tactic work. Each tactic typically has its own plan, too, whether laid out in a spreadsheet or a Gantt chart. Tactics are best, too, when they are preceded with a verb. Specificity is the driver to improvement.
Later: Afterward, Beth Harte raised this point: Who should own the definition of terms like objectives, goals, strategies and tactics? If you believe language is a reflection of culture, and that culture is largely driven from the top, then I would suggest definitions come from office of the CEO and/or COO. It's from there that planning terminology, and even the planning process, should be taught clearly, succinctly and repeatedly. Beth thinks definitions could be owned by an outside association. If you have an opinion, hop into the comments.
November 18, 2009
New company, new history
When Jackie Huba and I decided eight years ago to start a company, we envisioned it as a consulting firm that would help clients create customer evangelists.
It was March 2001. We'd both just left the web development company we had worked at for three years. Online advertising was king then, but we wanted to explore why some brands experienced strong word of mouth while others didn't. We wanted to understand what fueled the evangelism, how it happened, and how could we help others do the same.
We started with a website and an email newsletter in an era that could only be described as Before Blogs. A few months later, Fast Company did a short write-up on us, which led to a call from a publisher, which led to a book contract, which led to a year's worth of work, which led to the book "Creating Customer Evangelists" and a regular schedule of speaking engagements and workshops. Instead of focusing on building a company, we focused on spreading a philosophy.
Eight years later, there's a wide range of belief systems to choose from: evangelists, influencers, agents, advocates, mavens or sneezers. Social media fuels all of them at remarkable speed; some companies have adapted well while many others do nothing -- not because they're resistant to change, but because they're unsure of what to do. We think it's a good time to help with that.
So today we're announcing that Ant's Eye View, a management consulting company led by our friends Sean O'Driscoll and Jake McKee, is acquiring us and our company that's home to all of our work. We're very excited to be part of a group that helps business get smart about being social. We'll keep blogging here, and we'll continue to speak at conferences like we have for years, but we'll do that while helping grow a management consulting firm.
Ant's Eye View isn't even a year old yet, but it's already growing like some freaky kid prodigy. Sean was the guy behind Microsoft's MVP program, a community that brings knowledgeable Microsoft product users together with others who have questions or problems to solve. Jake was the guy at LEGO who changed the way that company thought about and engaged with loyal fans and customers through community relations (the subject of a Wired cover story in 2006).
Sean and Jake joined forces early in 2009 to launch Ant's Eye View. After that, they brought in Sean McDonald; he'd led the social media efforts at Dell to rebuild the company's image after "Dell Hell" scorched it. That included the company’s first corporate blog and pioneering efforts like Ideastorm.com.
We like Ant's Eye View because its people have led complex, customer-driven projects at big brands. They understand and believe in customer participation -- the fifth P of marketing -- our core marketing philosophy. They're focused, too; in less time than it takes some companies to decide on a name and a logo, Ant's Eye View has built an impressive roster of clients like Cisco, Apple, Intuit and a bunch of others. Word is just beginning to spread.
It's fitting that our announcement happens on the first day of the 2009 WOMMA Summit in Las Vegas. Five years ago, myself, Jackie and a handful of others met with Pete Blackshaw, Dave Balter and Jonathan Carson to hear their idea for an association focused on word of mouth. We're glad they eventually founded the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, which promotes the importance of word of mouth among all industries; Jackie was even named a founding board member. A bit rocky at times in its early years, WOMMA has filled its shoes well lately, especially by partnering with smarties like John Moore.
In fact, tonight at 7:30 pm (Wednesday), Ant's Eye View is throwing a celebration party at WOMMA. We'll be at the Risque club inside the Paris hotel, and the drinks are on us.
October 30, 2009
Kicking out unwanted customers
"Don't talk during the movie or we will take your ass out."
If you've been to an Alamo Drafthouse, the movie theater chain in Austin, Texas, then you've seen that semi-serious warning couched in a fun "public service announcement" before a movie showing. Theater founder Tim League knows that talkers mar the movie-watching experience for everyone else, and he does not tolerate them -- even if they punch the windshield of his car.
See, Tim was a customer recently at one of his theaters. A nearby loud-talker was asked by a theater waiter to keep it down. The customer protested, loudly, demanding to know who was offended by his talking. The waiter pointed to Tim.
Then it gets better... OK, worse.
After the the movie, the incensed customer followed Tim to his car, badgering him with anger. It climaxed with the customer punching the windshield of Tim's car, vowing never to return to an Alamo theater again.
To which Tim wrote on his blog:
"Fabulous.You sir are exactly the type of patron that I never want to see at an Alamo Drafthouse ever again. People who continue to talk when the movie has started are impolite, self-absorbed losers who were never taught common decency by their parents. WE DON’T EVER WANT YOU AT THE ALAMO. Please take your business elsewhere for the rest of your life....To our friendly customers, stay vigilant, report talkers and keep our theater safe from the raging hemorrhoids of cinematic society."
This happens all the time inside stores, movie theaters, sporting events, airline flights; an obnoxious customer makes everyone uncomfortable, and everyone in charge is oblivious.
Commenters on Tim's blog post love that he is standing up for them. If you stand with your best customers at the expense of the bad ones, you'll win bigger. The customer is always right -- if it's the right customer.
BONUS: Here's a years-ago example of an Alamo no talking "public service" video. This one stars the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards.
October 16, 2009
4 questions with author Jeanne BlissWhat makes the difference between having customers who like you and customers who love you?
Many businesses are admired, but only an elite few have passionate, loyal, vocal fans. The kind of customers who not only come back time and time again, but rave to friends, family, and even strangers.
Jeanne Bliss has been the Chief Customer Officer for Lands End, Coldwell Banker, and Allstate, to name a few. Her new book, "I Love You More Than My Dog": Five Decisions That Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad,
Q: You describe five types of decisions companies make; is one more difficult or easier than the rest, and how do they happen?
A: The foundation of every beloved company is their purposeful decision to believe. They believe in their employees. This frees them from rules, regulations and processes that take away ingenuity and inventiveness and spirit. And they believe their customers. This creates a level playing field between company and customer, where no one has the upper hand. By believing customers, companies remove the fine print, the unpublished rules and the just plain old stupid rules that make customers struggle to do business with them. This belief fuels the prosperity of human spirit common to all of the beloved companies. It is the underpinning of what draws customers to them and makes employees want to stay. There's no sequence to how companies become proficient at deciding to be there. It’s a funny way of saying this, but the act of believing is an essential core competency of beloved companies.
Q: Online communities and social media have helped create a sense of transparency. Have these been the drivers of a customer driven community or are they merely the byproduct?
A: What’s different about companies that people are drawn to is that they aren’t afraid to show up as who they are, foibles and all. This means earning the rave when they do things well. But it also means fessing up when things go wrong. These businesses allow people to bring the best version of themselves to work with them. They are nurtured and encouraged to apply their personal business decision making in their business decision making. It’s what enables companies such as Lush Cosmetics to have the open volley and exchange of ideas with employees and customers who debate and defend decisions on which 100 products they cut out each year. They enjoy family talk, not corporate talk. Griffin Hospital, for example, saw a 40% reduction in malpractice lawsuits when they decided to suspend the cynicism and trust families and patients by opening up complete records to them. A lot of companies want to “get” the rave. My take is that they’ve got that backwards. Companies need to earn the right to have customers tell their story.
Q: Do companies need to be customer-driven to grow?
A: Companies forget that customers keep them in business. Customers who love companies grow them. To understand this, think of customer math -- a rigorous way to track incoming customers by volume and value and then reconcile that number with the lost customers in that same period, comparing incoming and outgoing customer volume and value. The ‘aha moment’ comes when the math reveals that company marketing dollars are spent replacing customers lost rather than growing the business with the addition of new customers. In essence, many companies are running in place. I believe in elevating customers as the asset of the business. That means creating a competency for rigor around a) identifying and getting rid of those things driving customers away; and then b) getting really great at specific things that create a distinct memory and impression about a company and its people. We forget the fact that it’s the creation of those memories that we make on purpose or accidentally through our operations decisions or policy choices that connect or repel us from customers.
Q: What’s the biggest obstacle companies face in making them beloved?
A: Always looking at what each decision will get them. In a world where products and services are available in a hundred variations, these companies get a disproportionate piece of the pie because of how they treat their customers and employees. Acutely aware of how their every action impacts how customers feel and respond to them, they take the time to make purposeful decisions about the contacts they have with customers. So I’d say that the two biggest things in the way of companies adopting these decisions, is first, time: The rush of the deadline, of the quarter, and of making the quarterly sales goals. The second is silos. The inability of coming together as a unified operation to work together, fail and learn together and win together.
October 09, 2009
How to create a killer conference
At the start of 2009, 7% of business meetings scheduled for the year had already been canceled. As the year wore on, it seems as if things only got worse for the conference industry. Thanks, Great Recession!
Since I was invited to keynote at the conference, I found out first-hand:
- Provide killer content. This one-day event had 5 tracks with enough variety for everyone: Fundamentals, Strategy, Tactical, Trends and Technical tracks. Sessions tackled key issues such as legal problems in online marketing, diversity in the interactive industry, and job strategies for a sucky economy.
- Its members are fiercely loyal. Five years ago, MIMA had 200 members. Two years ago, it had 700. Now it has 1,200. By focusing on a long-term loyalty strategy of membership growth, plus great content, attending the annual conference was a no-brainer for many members.
- Technology was everywhere. MIMA set up home bases on Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, and YouTube. They live-streamed the conference over the web. They created an iPhone app for attendees to browse the schedule and manage their conference experience. They encouraged attendees to download Bump, an iPhone app that allows people to exchange contact info by "bumping" their phones together.
- Best customer service ever. Whacked out customer service isn't usually part of most conferences, but it was here. Masseuses gave neck massages in the speaker green room and in the press room. A hospitality station offered laptop and phone charging. There was hand sanitizer galore to combat H1N1 flu fears. There were private breast pump rooms for moms. My favorite: Snuggies for those who were too cold (why are conferences forever freezing cold?)
- An event coordinator brimming with imagination. MIMA smartly put Jennifer Kane from Kane Consulting in charge of event management. Brimming with energy. Always smiling, even under stress. Always focused on the attendee's experience. It was her idea to do the hospitality station. The conference was managed like a fun, bustling restaurant with great service. There was even an official MIMA cupcake in conference bags.
- They were bold. In tough times, it's tempting to be conservative. Bare-bones everything. MIMA wasn't. It secured Seth Godin as the luncheon keynote speaker to drive attendance. They were right. The conference sold out 2 weeks before it happened.
- Humor. Maybe it's Minnesota, but humor was rich in its abundance at the conference. Weeks earlier, MIMA showed how by using the Seth Godin action figure to create a YouTube video called "Little Seth Godin at the Minnesota State Fair." In it, Little Seth gets rolled into a lefse. (It's a Scandinavian Minnesota thing.)
- Absolutely nutty creative. I asked Jen Kane if a TV would be at the reception party on Sunday, the night before the event, because my Steelers were playing the Chargers. (Yeah, I'm a fanatic.) Sure enough, they had a TV and, to my utter shock, they assembled a "Steelers lounge" just for me. They called it Jackie's Joint, and it came with VIP Reserved Chair, popcorn machine, gold pom poms and large screen TV. It was sick, and I loved it. (More pics here.)
October 08, 2009
Facebook fan pages are the future
Facebook fan pages are the future for three reasons: They're free, easy to create and build a nearly instantaneous pathway to evangelists, prospects or the curious.
When fans interact with a fan page on Facebook, that interaction is sent through the fan's news feed, which goes to all their friends, practically daring a chunk of them to see what the page is about.
Compared to Twitter, Facebook fan pages rule. You're not limited by Twitter's 140-character posts, plus it's far easier for fan page members to preview a photo, video or weblink than what Twitter offers.
What more could a brand manager want?
Finally, a Facebook fan page can be a strong leading indicator of how well a brand is doing at any one time with buzz-spreaders, some of whom could represent connected, influential customers. Its feedback is all qualitative, but a Facebook fan page could help guide a brand in 3 ways:
- It immediately surfaces questions, problems or issues. A fan page can create an immediate fix-it list.
- It tells you how well you're connecting with fans through Facebook's free "Insights" feature that graphs subscribes, unsubscribes, post quality and total interactions. Plus, you get some tasty demographic stats about your fans -- won't get that from Google Analytics or Twitter.
- It tells you what resonates with fans by the number of comments and "likes" people give each post.
With a little bit of imagination, it shouldn't be too hard for a brand manager to devise a spreadsheet filled with marketing tactics that emerge from a vibrant Facebook fan page.
P.P.S. You should friend me on Facebook here.
September 01, 2009
IKEA's font fury
After 50 years of using the iconic Futura font for its catalog design, it has switched to Verdana. Hard-core IKEA fans, who love the brand for its design sensibility are upset. Their rallying cry: Verdana was invented by Microsoft for the computer screen, not paper. Verdana is just plain ugly. See the difference here:
IKEA made the switch because it's cheaper to use one font that works in digital and print media. They didn't anticipate a backlash; a spokeswoman for the company said:
"We're surprised. But I think it's mainly experts who have expressed their views, people who are interested in fonts. I don't think the broad public is that interested."
The uprising may have begun with people who know fonts but thanks to Facebook and Twitter, a broader audience knows, especially if you include the 300+ articles in the mainstream media.
Ultimately, is this important to IKEA? It depends on scale, of course, but also something that's not quantifiable: the depth of emotional attachment.
When a company has evangelists, it's often because it has core values. For IKEA, core values are style, chic design, and affordability. In that context, a typeface isn't just a typeface: it's an emotional catalyst. When Walmart changed its logo recently, no one complained. Walmart had nowhere to go but up since its core value is low prices, not reflect contemporary style or design. When Coke changed its formula in 1985, the outrage wasn't about its sugared water tasting worse, it was about the betrayal of an established core value. A psychologist who listened to complaints in the call center described the calls as the equivalent of the death of a family member.
For IKEA, the Futura font is (or was) the emotional subtext to IKEA's contemporary yet familiar vibe. For the purists and evangelists, switching to Verdana is a sign of something worse than a new font.
IKEA's next move is a big one. What do you think it should do?
(Image courtesy of the isdgn blog)
July 17, 2009
SEC complaint against Cuban dismissed
Today, a federal judge dismissed the complaint, giving the SEC 30 days to file an amended version, but overall striking a blow to the SEC's action. The judge also rejected some of Cuban's claims about his fiduciary relationship with the company.
Cuban hates to lose, and the judge's decision is definitely one for Cuban's win column.