Recently, I got a call from a friend of mine. He’s a pretty smart guy, but he began our call like this. “Hey, I may be an idiot because I don’t understand something that seems so mind-numbingly simple. Can you help me?” I asked him what was bothering him. He said that over the last couple of days he’s responded to a couple of surveys. One he got in the mail, another came as part of a sales receipt where he dialed into an 888 number. The third survey he had just finished and they had called him. In each instance he had been asked a question that made no sense from his point of view.
My friend owns a successful manufacturing company and has undergraduate and graduate degrees in finance, so he sees things pretty black and white. He has been a loyal customer to each of the brands to whom he’d responded to the survey information, so he was happy to take the time to complete each survey. In each survey, they asked how likely he would be to recommend their brand to others. He responded that he’d be likely to do so.
Seems simple enough, right?
In reality, as he said, he is very uncomfortable in imposing his point of view on others, unless they specifically ask him what he thinks; which is a rare occurrence, since he doesn’t tend to talk about such things regularly. Moreover, currently he isn’t recommending any of these brands to anyone. Not that he doesn’t love them; he said that he did. He just doesn’t go out of his way to do it, isn’t doing it and can’t remember the last time he did. This concept really bothered him.
He said to me, “Steve, the survey is worthless because it is going to report something that isn’t happening. They should have asked me if I was recommending them. Right?”
He continued, “It reminds me of a former salesman I had. He’d put into his sales forecasts projects he thought would close when he had no data to prove they would. He just felt good about the opportunity. In the end, he was trying to create a reality that really wasn’t there.
When I got rid of him, I personally went out and met with all our key customers and asked them for their honest appraisal of us. What I heard wasn’t all pleasant but it was what was keeping us from winning all of their business, so we went away and acted on what they told us.
Knowing that information was critical, it wasn’t pleasant but it was necessary. Since then, we’ve doubled our profitability and have not lost one customer. Our prices are 20% higher than our competitors. We couldn’t do this without customer advocates and we would have customer advocates without meeting their needs. We can’t meet their needs unless we know what they think.”
He’s right again. Being likely to recommend doesn’t mean you are or will. But it sure makes it easy to say “yes” and marketers feel better about reporting the fact that 85% of their customers are likely to recommend their products and services.
Sounds a lot better than currently 18% of our customers actively recommend us on a regular basis, doesn’t it? So his question to me on why this was is a good one, as was his point. What do you think?
Why is the phrase ‘are you likely to recommend’ used instead of ‘are you currently recommending’?
The answer might lie in the fact that if not enough people are recommending the brand.
Might it be because the experience falls short and that would require real and meaningful change? Perhaps it is because the brand does little to engage them as advocates? I couldn’t give him a good answer why there wasn’t (to use his terms) more of a ‘concrete present value’ to most of marketing.
In the past, I had given this friend Fred Reichheld’s book, ‘The Ultimate Question’ as well as, a couple of others such as ‘Wisdom of the Crowd’ and ‘Return on Customer’.
He liked each very much but in the end, his opinion was that it easier for marketers to keep creating TV commercials with good looking actors portraying happy customers and asking if consumers might possibly be willing to do something sometime in the unspecified future than truly engaging the customer, asking tough questions and instituting real change to meet their needs and requirements. That was my friend’s point of view. I thought that this story was worth sharing.
Here is mine: The one word you need to know to grow is ‘are’ (as in are you recommending).
It is time to stop talking about customer engagement and do it.
It is time to stop thinking we know what is in the minds of our customers and invite them into the process.
It is time to treat our best customers better than our next customer.
It is time to stop worrying about politics of making change and act.
It’s time to stop organizing focus groups that include people who have never bought our products and probably never will.
It is time to stop talking to our customers and start talking with them.
In the November 2007 issue of CRM magazine I recently read an article titled 'Have You Caught It?' The premise of this article was that Viral Marketing is striking out…but viral isn't to blame.
The article starts out like this. "Disappointing numbers have convinced many marketers to decrease their viral marketing (spend) by 55% next year, but viral isn't to blame. Viral marketing is exciting, and understandably so-it's a marketer's dream that by simply planting a video, consumers will not only find it, but also spread it far and wide."
The reality is that what I quote above isn't happening. According to the article and the underlying research conducted by JupiterResearch, only 15% of viral marketers succeeded in getting consumers to promote their message. Why is this?
Ready-Fire-Aim. I have begun to call this phenomenon 'The You Tube Methodology'. Now there is nothing wrong with You Tube. On the contrary, it is a powerful and very engaging tool, when used appropriately (and there are a lot of ways to use it). I instead refer to using the venue, which is a tactical tool as a strategy and avoiding a process altogether. Bad idea.
So why do certain viral videos work? Two reasons really; they resonate with their audience because they are made expressly for their audience (and many times members of the audience have a say in it or come up with the idea for the video themselves) or they are so far off the mark they are embarrassingly bad.
The first example is like throwing the impossible pass to win the Super Bowl with one second left on the clock. Your team's fans go, "Wow, did you see that?!" They get the video snippit off You Tube and pass it around for days. They talk about it for days and share it with people just like them. I got a video from a friend of mine which illustrates this point. See the video here.
Different sport but same idea. Actually, it is the third time I had seen it in as many weeks. As a competitive cyclist, I belong to a community of riders just like me, as well as a sub set of that community that are fans of single speed mountain bikes. A very passionate group who talks about and recommends everything from nutritional aids to vacations to restaurants to you name it. This social network is spread across the country and is made up of CEO's, attorneys, doctors, airline pilots, graduate students, plumbers and even a state senator. Last week, one member of the group made a recommendation that resulted in another choosing to fly to Europe to take possession of a new Audi sports car, along with an included trip to the factory, a short vacation and a chance to drive his car on Audi's test track. Purchase value? $46,000.00. What had he had originally planned to do? Buy a used one locally. Big difference and talk about influence. How this video is spread is viral and it works. Although it is not a product focused video, it easily could be and it resonates with a specific group (are you listening Giro Helmets?).
The second example is the train wreck that doesn't resonate with anybody but it is so bad that people feel the need to share it in order to make fun of it. Any publicity is not always good publicity. There are lots of examples of these 'corporate videos' that well, just plain suck. So why do they, um, suck? Most of all, they totally miss their demographic mark and there is no call to action for feedback, voting or to get involved. There are other reasons but these two are enough for now.
So what's the purpose of this post? To compel my fellow marketers to have a reason for doing something. Take a page from Seinfeld. The show about nothing. The reason it was so funny was that it resonated with people for a specific reason (we all saw part of our lives there and could relate to it), plus it was scripted! Planned out! There was a reason for a joke. It was tried out in advance!
Keep using viral tools but dump the You Tube Methodology. You'll be a lot better of and a heck of a lot more successful (and popular with your customer base).