Marketers are striving to become more socially savvy about connecting with customers. Even in conversations with other marketers, no one’s talking about selling stuff. Instead, they’re consumed with observing human behavior and acting human. They’re also obsessed with tracking what customers are saying about their products and services and deciphering the meaning of those conversations on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and elsewhere.
Problem is, marketers still aren’t really listening to customers. “Ninety percent of companies are listening, but only 17 percent do anything with the information. So they’re not listening,” said Frank Eliason, SVP, social media at Citibank, at the RealTime NY 11 conference this week.
“Listening is the easy part. It’s actually getting collaboration across organizations, having one vision – getting insights from [social analytics and customer] data – that’s the challenge,” agreed Jeff Cole, senior manager, global social media operations at Kellogg’s, during the same conference.
So how are some innovative marketers listening to customers and interacting? To be sure, effective marketers have always assumed an assortment of responsibilities. But emerging platforms are changing those roles even more. After listening and chatting with marketers during Internet Week New York and BMO Capital Markets conferences the prior week, here are a few that I came across. Please send me your thoughts on what others should be included in this assessment.
Marketer as Consumer Advocate
Before joining Citi, Eliason worked at Comcast where he and his team at @comcastcares proved that Twitter is a viable platform to connect with customers. He also served as an advocate to improve internal operations – and continues to champion that approach. “A lot of companies listen to the PR realm. They listen for PR nightmares, not process improvement,” he said, adding that efforts must focus on the latter.
And when he is hiring for a position, Eliason said he’s not necessarily seeking someone with social media experience. “I hire extraordinary passionate people – passionate for the people, for the brand,” he said.
Marketer as Facilitator
“As marketers have gotten more and more experience with new and emerging channels, they’ve become more interested in and see the power of building community, conversation, and content,” Starcom MediaVest Group CEO Laura Desmond observed during CM Summit.
“[Marketers] are much more willing to embrace the role of facilitation.” She sees the growth rate of online display advertising starting to plateau because of that trend. “Display advertising was digital’s answer to print ads, TV ads. The Internet is amazingly capable of so much more…pushing more and more into relevancy and connections in a deeper, more meaningful way.”
Marketer as Audience Developer
Marketers insist that social media should not be a numbers game. They contend that the quality of conversations you have with customers and prospects is far more important than the number of Twitter followers and Facebook friends you amass.
Still, the numbers are stunning if you compare social channels to “traditional” ones.
Reggie Bradford, CEO of Vitrue, a social marketing platform, pointed to one brand that has 15 million Facebook fans and one million Twitter followers. (He declined to identify the brand by name, but I’m guessing it’s Apple’s iTunes.)
“Fifteen million. That rivals the size of a cable program,” he said during the BMO Capital Markets advertising and marketing services conference. “You’ve got brands establishing audiences able to reach through a 30-second commercial run on Bravo or Lifetime.”
Marketer as Collaborator
Gatorade aims to take what it hears from consumers and share it with employees across the company, including those working in its research and development, customer service, finance, and marketing organizations.
“We’ve brought listening to the core of our business. It’s mission control for us,” explained Randall Brown, global director, digital strategy at Gatorade. (Mission Control is also the name of Gatorade’s social media unit.) “At Gatorade, we’re driven by science and the consumer’s physical needs for performance,” he said.
Social media enables Gatorade’s research and development team to learn what athletes are talking about – such as soreness during marathon training – and look into whether it can solve or otherwise address those issues.
Marketer as Concierge
The Domino’s Pizza turnaround story has been well-documented. Back in 2008, it took negative comments (“tastes like cardboard”) and rallied to improve its recipe for making pies.
Fast forward to 2010-2011: the Domino’s team, working with Crispin Porter + Bogusky, updated the online order tracking system, letting customers select one of seven audio themes for the tracker (heavy metal, baseball, romance). Click on the “romance” theme and a man straight out of a soap opera purrs: “There is only one thing that compares to the beauty of this order – you.” When the pizza is about to be delivered, the romantic man returns: “We’re on our way my love and we’ll stop at nothing until you can taste this passionate pizza with your own lips.”
In designing the pizza tracker, Domino’s prominently displays a customer satisfaction survey that’s easy to fill out. Its placement suggests that Domino’s really does care about its customers.
The tool is designed to be fun, provide engagement, and offer a little bit of surprise to the process of ordering a pizza, said Tony Calcao, VP group creative director.
The tracker also attempts to humanize the process of ordering and delivering pizzas. Khosru custom made my order, while Syed was identified as my “delivery expert.” In real life, the man who delivered the pizza to my office at 55 Broad Street, New York, was Huymayer.
And what about the pizza itself? As a pizza snob, I’m the wrong person to ask. I’m a fan of Pepe’s and Modern Apizza in New Haven, CT, and my mom’s. Enough said.
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