January 12th, 2012
My apologies for the title. I do not want to insult anyone in particular, but as I sat down to finalize part two of my 2012 “predictions” (Part I focused on Social Media Players), I couldn’t help but think back to the barrage of articles on Social Media “marketing” (the term has never been used so loosely before) focusing on unimpressive technology FEATURES (not even benefits) or on the need to waste time setting up pages in a new, user-participation lacking “social network,” so that you can help improve “THEIR” search market position. Where is the sound strategy in all these articles? Where is the consideration of the end Customer’s needs and preferences?. Like anything Kardashian, I wish I could blink them away. By the way, my Censors recommended “Silly” instead of Stupid – but seriously – would you have wanted to read it?
For 2012, let’s start investing more in customer driven SUBSTANCE and VALUE ADD instead of HYPE – I have said it before and I will say it again: Let’s benefit from the opportunity this thing called the Internet gives us – the ability to have immediate feedback and direct communication with our Customers so that we can develop those 4P’s that will WOW your customer and the whole wide world.
Enough said: Let’s now focus on what I consider the top 3 Customer Insights that you should take into consideration when planning in 2012 and beyond.
1. Customers are Fed up.
Fed up is putting it mildly. The current feeling is that those that are supposed to lead and prevent crises are doing nothing for them so they will start taking matters into their own hands. The Occupy Wall Street Movement is nothing compared to what may be in store – I would call OWS an appetizer of what is yet to come if consumers continue to feel unheard and ignored. And it is human nature to maintain a very short fuse under this emotional state. Never before have empathy or putting ourselves in the shoes of our customers have been as important as now.
As reported by the NYT, the occupation may be over but the 99% versus 1% lives on, and there’s a lot of implied power in those numbers.
Do you rather be perceived in the “US camp” or the “THEM camp”?
You have any doubts? Here’s a couple of recent examples of how consumers have demonstrated that they have more power to rein in abuses than ever before:
Heard about Bank of America reversal to charge a $5 fee for debit card usage (which did not include any new service)? Many consumers moved their accounts elsewhere, others threatened to do so and thousands of others bombarded the bank with emails and online petitions, and they twitted and twitted and twitted to their hearts content.
How about Verizon? the nation’s largest provider of wireless service, dropping its plan to charge customers a “convenience fee” of $2 for the convenience of paying their bills by phone or online. A petition against the fees on Change.org accumulated more than 95,000 signatures in just 24 hours after their announcement.
How about Daimler AG? – in their presentation in the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) they used the picture of Che Guevara with a Mercedes logo in the beret during their presentation – within 48 hours, they were apologizing for this after an influential and well networked group found it in extreme bad taste to use the image of a mass murderer in promotional material and quickly mobilized all social networks (click here for details).
The question is not if this is going to happen again, it is how soon and how often.
Why Should I Care?
In the Pre-Internet, Networked Social Media days these occurrences/sentiments could have been dismissed, they could have been easily contained within a household (ever mailed a Free coupon to a complaining customer)?, a town, maybe even a city (It was so easy to merchandise a localized value promotion when there was only two, at most, three major retailers in a region). Today, people realize there is power in numbers, and yes is true that misery loves company – and it has never been easier to find multiple “twin miserable souls” and these souls will use the power of the network to make or break organizations, regardless of size (be it a corner deli, Brand, Company or even a Government).
What Should I do?
For starters try to internalize what these insights may mean for your business/organization. Confirm via listening/monitoring tools how customers feel about you and then, identify what changes you need to do in your organization to meet the needs of the new enlightened customer (think value and transparency for starters) and then and only then (because a hypocrite will be smelled a mile away) develop or adjust your Social Media engagement strategy.
One last piece of information to share – ignore it at your own peril:
A recent study by Conversocial (as reported by MediaPost) shows that more than 60% of complaints and questions about retailers posted online on social media are ignored, in part because of the sheer volume of content created on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Worse, 30% of the retail chains surveyed don’t respond to any questions or complaints posted on social media, effectively choosing to ignore issues mentioned in these forums. What’s more damaging, is that 88.3% of respondents said they’d be somewhat or far less likely to do business with a company that has visibly ignored other customers’ questions or complaints on social media.
Do you really want to ignore your customer? Only if you live in a self sustained Island populated by the 1%, but you know as well as I do that we are all in this together.
Please share your thoughts below; I appreciate each and every one of your insightful comments, and I promise to pay extra attention to any opposing point of view. Feel free to reach me if you would like to review my thoughts in a more quantitative and practical manner. You can contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @zeusofmarketing and Facebook: Zeus of Marketing. You can also find additional contact information via LinkedIn:http://www.linkedin.com/in/jrgrana.
* While I do not believe I am breaking any trademark or copyright laws (and I feel strongly about the title) I want to give credit to Ralph Crosby who owns the site http://www.its-the-customer-stupid.com/ and is the author of “It’s The Customer, Stupid! Lessons Learned in a Lifetime of Marketing,” where he documents his education as a marketer and explains the critical nature of the customer-centric approach in today’s unique marketing environment. You can learn about his work and purchase his book by clicking here. I plan on reading it, seems very complementary to my plight.