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Society - Written by on Monday, April 19, 2010 10:34 - 3 Comments

Tim Bevins
Right values

I opt in to way more email notifications than I can keep up with. It’s a default attitude: “I might need to know something about this, so I’d better get this stuff sent to me.” It leans toward lazy, but I do find nuggets that make scrolling though the emails worth it.

This one is worth it: “What is the value of your brand?” by Uwe Hook, co-founder and CEO of BatesHook. He makes so much sense so often, I just kept nodding my head. The essence for me is this: A company’s values motivate, energize, engage, and reward the people that work there. A mismatch of an employee’s and the company’s values make work “work.” People who do something they love every day are not working; they are living. I particularly like these thoughts from Uwe:

“After the multitude of bubbles have burst, shareholder value and making money for the sake of money doesn’t feel that good anymore. And consumers are craving institutions that care and give back. This and the age of product parity lead to an avalanche of brands that suddenly care, that support businesses in making positive change, try to rebrand themselves as green or just transform communities around the world (right after they almost destroyed the whole financial system).

“Most of this comes across as advertising, not as a commitment. Because it’s not rooted in real values, we are starting to deal with caring parity: Suddenly everybody cares for the wrong reason. (emphasis mine) Consumers want us to care, let’s care. Brands purely jumping on the caring bandwagon are missing out on a huge opportunity: Stand for something. Have values. And express yourself as an organization based on these values.”

I can’t help but think of the swarming now to social media by companies not really committed to the value of the relationship with the customer. I read an interesting interview with Magic Johnson, head of Magic Johnson Enterprises, in Knowledge @ Emory. This quote from Johnson stuck with me: “You have to know your customer and you have to speak to that customer every day.” Social media are an excellent way to accomplish this, but, when customers get the sense they are being used or sold to more than listened to, social media are also an excellent way to turn conversations into sales pitches and turn customers and prospects into former customers and disinterested prospects. Johnson’s Magic Johnson Enterprises web site repeats a mantra for the company on the home page: “We Are The Communities We Serve.” The first part of the message is clear; the last word is the message. If social media serve the customer, the company wins.



3 Comments

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Denis Hancock
Apr 22, 2010 8:58

I think there’s a flip side to this story though. I agree that turning conversations into sales pitches can alienate customers and prospects. At the same time, trying to continually have conversations with customers that might ONLY want to buy something can alienate them as well. Companies that focus their social media strategies on only conversations and listening are only serving one of these groups, not their customer base as a whole.

One analogy I like to use is that of a clothing store. Some customers want to talk to the sales person, have them listen to what exactly they’re looking for, and help them make a decision. I’m not one of them – if I (grudgingly) walk into a clothing store, I have a pretty good idea what I want, and if a salesperson tries to keep talking to me I’m more apt to just leave then buy more. But I still need clothes, and if a store has a good product, readily available, and pretty much leaves me alone… I end up being pretty loyal (and I imagine quite profitable for them). The only thing I might want to hear about is a sale – and a sign in the window will do just fine for that purpose.

I think this real world example can be applied to social media. Lots of people are putting a lot of time into thinking about how to use social media to connect with the first type of customer, but my sense is far less attention is being put on how it might be used in relation to the second. And because of that, a lot of brands are risking alienating a decent chunk of their customer base by trying to “talk to them everyday” – and failing to capitalize on a very profitable opportunity in the process.

Tim
Apr 22, 2010 10:12

First, I apologize for the Godzilla type site in the quote.
Good points, Denis. I “shop” online, then buy. I don’t opt in to receive anything from any company whose products are just one-time or once-every-three-year purchases for me, so I don’t get pestered. The second group of just “buyers” – and it is considerable; I think most of my male friends are in this category – do not want a relationship with the store or company, but I think they can avoid it by never subscribing or unsubscribing to any contact email, text messaging, or other service right away. The problem is reaching these folks, who are not easy to find because they are not affiliated with any of the companies they buy from.
There is no substitute for paying attention and listening, IMO. You can choose not to do either but for the first time in history, you can listen in on your customers’ and prospective customers’ conversations about your company, your products, your competitors with little effort other than time and perhaps some monitoring and analytical software AND not annoy or otherwise intrude on your customers’ lives. Not doing this is a mistake, which is what I guess I was trying to say.
Now, if there is someone out there that can tap into the buy-only folks, there is money to be made.

Stuart Berman
Apr 26, 2010 16:04

“…consumers are craving institutions that care and give back”? Really? It may certainly be trendy.

What I really care about is an institution that is competent and can perform their real mission (make the best product/service/etc) and not be hung up in short term gains and corruption.

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