But not from the usual Vegas reasons: staying up late, losing money and drinking too much. I did none of those during the three day WOMMA 2009 Summit in sin city. My excuse is too much information and so many great conversations with little down time to process. So now, I’m in the air heading home with a little time to reflect.
Summit 2009 content was heavily focused on case studies, social marketing techniques and measurement. In fact, WOMMA debuted it’s newly published “Measurement and Metrics Guidebook”, a collaboration of some of the best thinkers in social metrics. Check out ComBlu’s chapter by Jennifer Voisard on cost deflection. I moderated a session on “Community: An Important Driver of WOM” with panelists Dawn Lacallade , chief community strategist at Solar Winds and Bill Johnston chief community officer at Forum One.
And, Steve Hershberger helped lead the live “Socializing Media” podcast which featured a conversation with some of the best thinkers in word-of-mouth. In between hallway chat and keeping up with crucial projects, I attended a half dozen sessions. Here’s some of my favorite take aways.
Measurment Keynote. WOMMA’s chair of the Measurement Council, Walter Carl, PhD, presented highlights of the above cited tome of best practices in measurement. One interesting factoid was the impact of word of mouth marketing (WOM) on revenue vs. traditional marketing communications channels. Turns out the latter does a much better job of generating short term customer acquisition and revenue generation, while WOM yields higher customer lifetime value through longer, deeper customer relationships and a significantly higher referral rate for new customers. (1.7 per traditional channels vs. 3.8 for WOM).
Anatomy of Buzz Revisted. Author Emanual Rosen gave an address on what not-for-profits can teach commercial enterprises about generating buzz. Core to his examples is the concept that human beings want to share what they create. If you give them an opportunity to co-create with you and other stakeholders, they will spread their interpretation of the activity. I think this basic tenet of self-expression as an engagement model has been forgotten in the gold rush of social media and the bright shiny object syndrome.
The View, only with academics. Keller Fay principal, Brad Fay deftly led a panel of academics who all study various aspects of engagement, influencer identification, measurement, etc. You’re thinking this was deadly, right? They were great. Here’s the line-up.
Socializing Customer Service. Sue Sunday, Microsoft, Ed Billmaier, The Scotts Company and Marie Shubin The Gallo Winery, talked customer support. These were from wildly different industries: software, wine and fertilizer yet offered a common thread: the use of customer service professionals to become the voice of the company in social platforms. The rationale: many companies that start listening programs or solicit comments through online forums and communities often get quickly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of conversations. The solutions: repurpose customer service representatives from call centers or email support. Not only will they be able to handle a larger volume of customer support episodes through the online platform, but they typically can offer marketing three magic things: human resources who already have deep product knowledge and are steeped in the legal, privacy and compliance imperatives of their organizations.
Cognitive Science. Another potentially deadly topic that turned out to be the absolutely best presentation I heard. This one was lead by Steve Knox of P&G’s Tremor Group. He laid out how human’s think and a process for disrupting normal perceptions that serves to get people’s attention. Using this disruption model or combining two unrelated schemas can lead to the magic that we all seek: cutting through the clutter and getting consumers to notice, buy and tell others. This is highly over simplified, and definitely worth digging deeper. Who knew 45 minutes about schemas could mesmerize!
I’ll provide more learning about some of these sessions in upcoming posts. ComBlu also previewed our research report, “The State of Online Branded Communities” which we’ll also dive into in the weeks ahead. Now that I’ve gotten these ideas out of my head, the seat is going back and I’m snoozing the rest of the way home.
I have been thinking about the best way to open this blog post now for over a week. Frankly, I struggled. Every example I came up with was flat as week old Coke. Until 3:27am this morning, when I awoke with the perfect lead in.
Prior to this brilliant lead in, let me give you the gist of why this was so important. This last week I was speaking at the Word of Mouth Marketing conference in Vegas. The subject of the conference was ‘Talkable Brands’. Throughout the conference I listened for insight on what makes brands talkable. Moreover, I had more conversations than I can count with smart brand leaders and marketing professionals on the topic. On the flight home I was able to recall more than 30 such conversations that touched on this topic, as well as, seeing a few presentations that paid this question off.
In reviewing my three days in Vegas, here’s what I came up with as the big ah-ha. Oddly, it has very little to do with social media, viral marketing or any such thing.
Brad Fay, COO of the Keller Fay Group stated it best. I am going to try and summarize what he said here as best I can. Seventy seven percent of all word of mouth occurs offline. Brand discussions fill the gaps in conversations. Starting a conversation around a brand is an easy way to engage or move the topic of a conversation.
Couple this with the presentation made by Kathy Baughman (ComBlu), Bill Johnson (Forum One) and Dawn Lacallade (Solarwinds) where the topic was essentially be honest, be engaged and be consistent.
As I hope we all know, brands are most talkable when they deliver on a promise, which should be tied to a need. Today, there is a huge chasm between the marketing departments who create the messaging and the other departments who are tasked with delivering products and services. Marketing campaigns, while sexy and clever, more often than not, set the rest of the organization to fail. They fail because the hype isn’t aligned with their ability to deliver.
So with my set up done, here is my opening.
In the 5th inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs with two strikes under his belt, Babe Ruth called his shot. He pointed to the outfield and indicated the third pitch would sail into the outfield.
It’s not that he pointed. It’s that he delivered on the promise. He said, then did exactly what he said he’d do. He pointed because he fundamentally believed he could smack the cover off the ball.
What if somebody else promoted Babe calling his shot without asking Babe whether or not he could do it. Imagine, to sell the game out, marketing creates the promotion, ‘Come see the world’s greatest hitter do the impossible….call his shot.’ Yep, people would line up in droves. What if Babe, upon learning this said such an attempt was impossible and refused to do it. Worse, what if he never found out he’d been promoted to do this and went through the game blissfully ignorant of the promotional promise. What would happen?
Understanding this simple linkage between the brand and the business enterprise is more important than anything else marketing can create or do; more important than pity new ads, sexy new websites, shiny new apps and widgets.
The magic bullet for customer engagement is consistency. Only then will customers want to engage with you….consistently (see the connection?).
Consistency in performance across the enterprise that balances the marketing promise, whatever it might be and the businesses ability to deliver drives customers to return the favor creates talkable brands.
Doing it is harder than it sounds, I know. Which is why I am still shocked to see so few people attending WOMMA who are responsible for activities beyond marketing and communications. Why no cross-functional teams working to learn how to do this? Customer engagement and word of mouth is NOT something owned by marketing alone contrary to popular belief.
Here’s an example. Recently, I was to attend my YPO’s forum group retreat in Miami. We were leaving on Friday and coming back on Monday. We booked through Orbitz during our forum group meeting. One person joked that we all needed a little TLC. So we selected Orbitz to book.
Later, several of us needed to move our Monday flights up until Sunday. After 2 hours on the phone throughout the week trying to get this done (ok, it was a complex transaction…booked by one YPO member with 8 tickets paid for with another YPO member’s credit card). One of us ended up simply abandoning the ticket and repurchasing a new $500 seat after only 20 minutes of hell. I kept waiting on the TLC, which never came. I ended up, tweeting the blow by blows to, partially to see what happened and partially as a frustration valve.
Sure enough, Orbitz sent me a tweet offering to help. I sent them my email address in the clear. Got another tweet that they had found my record but that was it. Nothing else. In the end the CRM team transferred me around, getting my problem out of their cue and eventually dumped me onto Delta and ran fast. Yep, things got worse from there but hey, no longer Orbitz problem! I now belonged to Deltaaaaa.
I ended up so frustrated that I canceled the trip and forfeited my tickets and hotel deposit. That’s how chaotic, unorganized and disjointed the experience was.
Turns out that the Orbitz TLC tagline doesn’t mean ‘Tender Loving Care’. Instead, it seems to stand for ‘The Lowest Cost’.
If you do a Google search for Orbitz TLC, what comes up first is a paid link. Orbitz states that with their TLC program, every customer is a VIP! However, if you audit their materials (from ads to their on hold recording to twitter to their online properties, things get confusing. Twitter, the call center on hold and some of their branding is about a better experience (TLC) and a VIP experience. Elsewhere it is ALL about price. Lowest, lowest, lowest.
Either value proposition or even both is ok. But deliver on what you CONSISTENTLY promise. Either VIP service, low price or the best service possible at the lowest price available.
Hey folks, coach is still coach. Don’t spin the threadbare seats in the back of the plane as luxurious. A confusing and at-odds marketing program will ensure a bunch of people have their expectations missed. Say what you mean, mean what you say, be truthful and be consistent. Southwest does a masterful job at delivering this promise. Take a lesson.
I decided to provide a set of tips to get started, one that if tried I bet would yield greater results than any 50 million dollar ad campaign at 1/100th the cost.
Here it is:
I am picking on Orbitz not because of a bad experience. No company can deliver everything flawlessly or meet every customer’s wacky demands. I am picking on them because they are not consistent in what they say and what they do.
In fairness, Orbitz recently removed the TLC branding from their online venues (I can see why) but the phrase still prevalent through many touch points from paid search to on-hold recordings.
In the end, it doesn’t matter whether, like Babe Ruth, you step into the batter’s box and point to the outfield fence; only that you step into the batter’s box and follow through.
Our firm, ComBlu, hosted the Midwest regional judging of the WOMMy Awards a few weeks ago, which are sponsored by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). A group of judges from agencies, not-for-profit and big brands got to determine the bronze, silver and gold winners in the engagement category. It was very interesting to see the state of the art of word-of-mouth engagement programs. The entries ran the gambit from internal stakeholder engagement to big brand extravaganzas. The winners will be announced at WOMMA’s Summit in Los Vegas in mid-November so I can’t say much more about the entries or the winners.
One of the best parts of the day was meeting our fellow judges and hearing their perspectives and different takes on the entries, the industry and their own campaigns and programs. One judge was from a local university and mentioned that they had launched a community for parents a few years ago. She relayed how much they had learned over the past few years and talked about how their skills and point of view had morphed to meet the needs of this new social medium. She told a story that occurred early-on when a colleague commented, “There’s no activity in the community this week; isn’t that great?” We laughed because in this instance, of course, “no news is bad news.”
The whole point of the community is engagement with the parents, helping them have a great experience with the university and to feel secure that their children are in good hands. A great mission for a university-sponsored community. Her colleague was applying old school thinking to a new media solution. In the past, no interaction with the parents was equated with no complaints! In the community model, however, they want action and reaction. They want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly. They want to improve parent/university relations and learn from these constituents in real time. It’s a smart strategy; these parents will have a great story to tell other parents in their networks whose kids are considering this choice for higher ed.
This judge’s story was interesting; more so than some of the entries! Not all of them really had a lesson to teach, which I think is at the essence of what an award winning program must do. Award winners should model best practices against a defined business challenge as well as demonstrate exceptional ROI. They also need to be strategically brilliant and stun us with their creativity. Not necessarily their creative, but their creative execution of a well thought through strategy.
Many of the entries did just that while others are still representative of early efforts to give social marketing a whirl. Nothing wrong with that, but I was heartened to see how far the industry has come. Many of the entries demonstrated solid business results and used some tried and true techniques in unusual or new ways. That we have tried and true techniques alone speaks volumes of the growth and evolution of this marketing discipline. I can’t wait to hear about the winners in the other categories. I’ll share more insights from our group after the awards ceremony on November 18th.