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Social CRM and your customers’ conversations

November 16th, 2009 No comments

Since the beginning of commerce (i.e. barter) consumers have been talking to each other about their likes and dislikes of their purchases, but most importantly, making recommendations about them. In other words an important part of business was, is and will be social communication.

Various communication technologies have helped marketers to join this conversation (or at least try), with the most effective being web technologies such as forums, blogs, social networks and micro blogging (like Facebook and Twitter). They all have given access to online customer communities and their conversations helping companies to build stronger relationships with their customers.

But what is Social CRM?

Filiberto Selvas, on his blog post “Social CRM: Let’s not dilute the term to death” defines Social CRM as “the systems and business processes / strategies that allow enterprises, customers (and partners that may be part of the value ecosystem) to establish, guide, operate, track, identify, act on, react to the inter relationships that enable all of the multiple dimensions of value”

You can read more about this on his blog: http://www.socialcrm.net/

Why is it important for your digital strategy?

It’s simple actually, because it is an effective way to build deeper customer relationships, engage customers and partners online and create new revenue opportunities, and better manage brand perception.

Filiberto is Product Director at Crowdfactory, a SaaS Platform that allows you to create scalable and sophisticated social network experiences while at the same time leveraging the scale of the major Social Networks such as Facebook.

Domain names revolution

November 3rd, 2009 No comments

Soon people will be able to type domain names in non-Latin characters, for example Hebrew, Mandarin or Thai.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), will allow the creation of domain names in different native languages that don’t use the Latin alphabet and will start receiving applications in November 16, 2009. Currently, people who’s language uses non-Latin characters have to switch their typing mode to enter a web address because the only way to do so is in the Latin alphabet , but this will no longer ought to be.

The ICANN was formed in 1998 and is dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers.

“Over half of the 1.6 billion users of the Internet today are born in a language group that does not use Latin scripts,” says Rod Beckstrom, the president and CEO of the not-for-profit public-benefit corporation.

If you live in a western country you may think this is not important nor relevant, but could you imaging typing a web address in a language that you are totally unfamiliar with? This can be a problem specially if you don’t spell the word correctly because you could easily be a victim of “phishing” scam.

Moreover this will help the internet to become more accessible for everyone regardless of their language.

For the official press release follow this link, ICANN Bringing the Languages of the World to the Global Internet.

Can you see more of what is out there?

September 22nd, 2009 No comments

Few days ago someone I talked to reminded me about a business analogy I haven’t heard in a while and I thought about putting it in writing for two reasons, because I think it’s a good analogy and because I want to see if anyone out there knows the original author to give him or her a deserved credit for it.

The story goes like this:

A shoe manufacturer wanted to increase sales and decided to go abroad. He hired two market researchers (business developer, sales rep, or any title you prefer), because as a wise man he never trusted on just one opinion. Both of them spent a month on a far far away country without talking to each other and upon their arrival, they reported their results. One of them said “There is no market whatsoever, don’t go there. No need for shoes” and the second one said “What are you waiting for! There is plenty of market there, we should start tomorrow.”

The shoe manufacturer was bewildered by the results and inquired both. The first one said: “Since I stepped down from the plain all I saw was barefoot people, no one in this country use shoes; hence no market.” The second one said, since I stepped down from the plain I saw the opportunity, we could sell at least a pair of shoes per capita, that’s a huge market, we just need some marketing”

The morale of the story, from my personal point of view is that we need to break our paradigms to see and go beyond our usual appreciation of the world around us, we might be losing a big opportunity. Think for while in your business or job or even your life, are you seeing more or the same? Are you using all you can on your different channels, markets, processes or resources.

By the way, I think the second guy was a Babson alumni 😉

If you can draw any other morale, please share it in the comments section. Thanks for reading and thank you Margarita for reminding me this analogy.

PS. Also let me know if you know who the author is.

Fernando

The importance of colors in usability

September 14th, 2009 No comments

Have you tried the following visual exercise:

Say out loud the color of the words below (not the actual words) as fast as you can:
It is difficult because the left and right parts of your brain are telling you different things, one is trying to read the color and the other is actually reading the word.

You may think this is just an optical illusion and that it has no real application whatsoever. Well, think again.
Our brains are wired to perceive several colors with an inherit significance such as red for danger or stop, green for “ok” or go, and yellow for caution. It’s everywhere.

This must be taken in consideration when you are designing for usability and here is an example of how not to do it:

In the Roku website, they make your brain hesitate over which option is better for you. Obviously for them the best option is if you buy the device with cables, more business for them right? But if you see a red button and a red button together, what does your brain think or read? It is the same as the exercise above: conflict. Which button do you think is your brain most likely to click on?

The bottom line is, when you are designing for usability and conversion is all you care about, be sure you don’t confuse your customer,don’t make them think.

Have you seen this somewhere else? Post it in the comments area.

F.

Elevator pitch in 140 characters or less

September 9th, 2009 No comments

We live in a fast world that threatens to become even faster. The way we communicate with each other has dramatically changed in the last 10 years with a common denominator: attention spans are shrinking. ADHD seems to be a popular self-diagnosed disease for those who can’t concentrate and multitask as a way of living (myself included).

As a result, the way we communicate our business’ value must change too, be more succinct. Recently I heard Guy Kawasaki comment on a company’s value proposition saying: “Really? You can’t tell me what you do on 140 characters or less?” with an obvious allusion to Twitter and a very interesting one…

So I tried to give it shot and this is the result:
Dextra Media is a digital production company for marketing agencies specializing in Adobe Technologies (Flash, Flex, Photoshop and more)

Let me know if it’s clear…
Have you tried yours? Feel free to post it on the comments

We no longer have 30 seconds for a full elevator pitch, and if you do, you should say a lot since, for today standards, it is a lot of time.

By the way is good to be back after 6 months…

Fernando.

Marketing yourself, karma, networking and other topics

February 10th, 2009 No comments

I recently attended to the SDForum regarding the Ten Rules for Marketing yourself (twelve actually on the presentation) and it was quite interesting.

You can download the presentation at SDForum webpage so I won’t spoil it.

However I would like to comment on some points the presenters Sue Connelly and Gretchen Sand mentioned that I think are interesting. One of them is karma, and certainly I could pass the opportunity of writing about it in my blog. I totally agree with their point of view that helping people to get what they are looking for, or at least pointing in the right direction, will have repercussions in one’s life (good ones I hope) if you are honest about giving a hand to someone in need. But, sometimes it seems to me a little too “romantic” approach and I believe that sometimes you have to put your own interest first (without stepping in others people heads of course). I guess a good balance between both is ideal.

Now I will jump to a different topic: Networking. Sue and Gretchen corroborated what I have practiced since I arrived to the Silicon Valley thanks to an advice from a close friend: networking should be done looking for a relationship rather than a immediate benefit, moreover it should focus on quality as opposed to quantity. And it makes a lot of sense to me, just think about it, if you go to a networking session and you try to build a relationship with 10+ different people you will probably won’t make it and will end up burned, but if you focus your attention in two or three people and get to understand their interest and motivations this could end up in a more fructiferous relationship.

So stop going to networking events to collect 50+ business cards!

Well at least that is my recommendation

Thanks for reading!

Poor design begets cheap customers

October 13th, 2008 No comments

We all have heard sayings such as “Love at first sight,” “The first impression will never be forgotten” or “You’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

It shouldn’t come to a surprise that these sayings apply to your marketing communications as well, specially where the customer is going to buy the final product, like a store, a catalog and of course your website.
With an overwhelming number of offerings in the market, customers tend to make snap or gut decisions, usually determined by what they see and their reaction to it. This doesn’t mean, of course, that there are no educated buyers that do an exhaustive research before buying, because there are; however it will depend on what are you selling and how the benefits of your product (or service) are evaluated by your customers.

If you portray a poor image of your product or service, especially during the first impression, that doesn’t match your desired positioning you are in big trouble because you will be losing an important time to connect with your customers. I have seen countless websites that sell computer security and the look sketchy. How the hell are you going to trust someone that doesn’t look trustable?

Well, some people may not like the following statement but the vast majorities of humans are superficial and tend to judge based on appearance (maybe not all, but be honest, you have done so at least once in your life). Therefore if you are selling based on the image or brand your product begets then make sure you are sending a compatible message between not only your brand strategy and your product, but also your customer. You have to make that connection in order to excel on perceptions and expectations.

This is why design is an important part of marketing communications and should be carefully guarded. It should be a tool to reinforce your product or service benefits and if you get it right, it will contribute to consumer’s good will and loyalty. But here is a tipping point on this especially for designers and marketers: Your opinion is irrelevant; it is your customers’ what matters… but I’ll leave that for another post in which I’ll talk about it and about customer-centric organizations.

If this is the first time you read my blog, I hope I’ve made a positive first impression.

I’m a PC, and I forget to update my blog periodically

September 24th, 2008 No comments

I know it has been a while since my last post, a month or so. I will dedicate this one to Microsoft and their 300 million dollar advertising campaign called I’m a PC. http://imapc.lifewithoutwalls.com/watch/

As most of you already know, this campaign is a counterattack to Apple’s campaign comparing the Macs and PCs portraying the latter as a nerdy office guy. I’m not going to discuss which computer is better or “cooler”, I will leave that decision to you. What I like to talk about is how Microsoft is fighting Apple’s campaign which basic intentions are to make us feel “less cool” if we don’t use a Mac.

In the advertising you can see all sorts of people not just the typical American white boy, who uses a Mac. I think this ad demonstrate Apple’s lack of global vision (don’t get me started with iTunes Latino which actually stereotypes all people speaking Spanish).

The interesting part of the campaign is that you go to Microsoft’s website and shoot you six seconds video saying “I’m a PC and I {whatever}” When have you seen Apple let users interact with their front page?
Well there is another Microsoft campaign running staring Jerry Seinfeld which I don’t quite understand yet, my best guess is that Gates always wanted to be part of the Seinfeld cast. Serenity now!

Anyways, the fact is that 90% of the operating systems running in the world belong to Microsoft (some of them are piracy, though) whether you like it or not.

By the way, I’m a PC and I’m an entrepreneur.

How to freeze a warm lead

August 27th, 2008 No comments

After the problem I had with Amica (read past blog) I tried to find a new insurance company for my car. I called many agents, filled out thousand forms with my data, driving records and car info to compare different quotes, coverage and reputation . You have no idea how annoying this is.

After several quotes I got curious about how an Amica quote would look like, after all I had been a customer for the last 2 years and that could give me lower rates. So I thought, “Ok, I’ll give this guys a second chance.” I picked up the phone and after 30 minutes I was able to get a quote that was, indeed, lower than the others I got before. Great!

After that, the operator asked me if I wanted to close the deal at that time, and I said: “No, because I would like to see the policy first on my screen to check that I’m not missing anything important. Could you send it to my email?” Of course he replied a yes and proceeded to confirm my email address. Later that day I didn’t received the email, nor that night, nor the end of the week. A week after I sent an email to customer service at Amica to get my policy on the mail for revision, being very clear on my e-mail that I WANTED TO BUY the policy.

No response whatsoever for 48hrs, I decided to search just one more quote from (probably) the only company I haven’t got one yet. To my surprise it was lower than Amica’s with same coverage; moreover, I was looking at my policy on the screen and I felt comfortable to buy it on-line right away, so I did.

One day after I bought my policy with another company, I got a call from Amica’s customer service and they were saying something like now we are ready to take your order… that was two (or more) days ago!, I had to tell them that I wantED to buy… but not anymore, sorry. Moreover, later that day, I got another call from the Online service center to talk about my previous post, alas I wasn’t available but they wanted to hear from any other improvement idea I could have. I think it is great to learn from our own mistakes, I’ll give you that Amica, but learn from others’ as well.

In the end, the answer to the title of the post… how to freeze a warm lead? Waiting. If someone wants to buy from you now, sell now!

Also, if you are one of Amica’s phone/chat operators, don’t feel guilty about these situations; as Edwards Deming said once “The worker is not the problem. The problem is at the top! Management!”

A good idea poorly executed is a bad idea.

August 14th, 2008 1 comment

Sorry for not writing earlier but I’ve been very busy.
Well… lets start again…

All of you must agree with me that the most important part of the business is the customer since without them there is no business at all. Also it is overwhelmingly true that the easiest sell is to you current customer. Based on these two statements, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) has its reason to exists, helping companies to keep their customers happy thus buying more from them. Ways to implement CRMs are for example call centers, rewards programs, etc.
The question is, what if your CRM system is alienating your customer? Let take a closer look based on personal experience:
The great idea: Offer online (real –time) chat support to customers while they are in your webpage, so they don’t have to call, send an email or go the company’s office. Great!
Well folks, let me tell you that the road to hell is built with good intentions, here is an example. I have Amica as insurance company for my car and I recently moved to a different city so I have to change my plates and my type of insurance, so I went to the web page and while I was reviewing my policy a banner caught my attention, it said: “Get help from an online agent. Live chat”, and I thought to myself: sweeeeet!
After rigorous process of confirming your personal information, I painted the picture to the Valeria, girl on the other side of the screen and I asked her to change my plates on the system for the new ones and she replied: “ I can’t do that over chat, you will have to call.” Then I asked for a quote, and he said: I can’t give you a quote over chat.” What???  Then I asked for information regarding cancellation and guess what was the answer… yes… she can’t cancel my insurance over chat.
So I closed the chat window really disappointed. Just imagine, I contacted Amica to give them more business, that is, more money for them… I went to knock on their door to give them cash and they said… NOT NOW, call me later. And this is an insurance company, could you imagine what would happen the day I’m making a claim for some damages? If it’s hard for them to take my cash I can’t imagine how difficult would be to take some from them.
This is not an isolated event, I had a similar problem with Verizon and an airline (don’t remember which one).  Verizon’s guy was funnier, after several I-can’t-help-you answers, he had the silly idea of asking me: “Is there anything else I can help you with?”… I typed: “I can’t reply that over chat, sorry”
This post could not be complete without making some suggestions to Amica, Verizon and to the people who offer these services (because my best guess is that this is an outsourced service):
–    If you can’t help me, call me or ask me how else can you help me, not just push me away.
–    Remember that the agent in contact with your customer is the face, voice or text of the company at that moment, don’t screw that up.
–    If you are there to answer questions about the services, put the live chat offering only on the pages where makes sense, not where you know you can’t help me.
I’ll stop here, if you want to know more about how to fix these little nuances that will give your clients a headache, hire me.
In the meantime I will say bye to Amica and Verizon as soon as possible.
Have a great weekend!