Posted tagged ‘Marketing strategy’

The Changing Face of Marketing and What It Means to Your Company

September 6, 2009

The message has always been the brand and the brand has always been the message.

Marketing and marketing communications have traditionally been about what is conveyed to the public and to a company’s employees but the changing face of customer service may be altering the way we think of this important role.

As more and more small and mid-size companies shift into creating ways for customers to help themselves – see this article on Southwest Airlines, a not so small company – perhaps it is time to reconsider the role of marketing in the development of new programs and IT solutions.

The thinking here is that the customer experience is the brand, as much and if not more than the message. Large companies have known this for a long time. Small and mid-size companies need to recognize this.

Does their web portal reflect the important messages of the brand? Is the IT system that is being deployed throughout the company an extension of how the company wishes its employees to think of it?

One of my clients asked the other day if it’s time for a ne role, one that he called a “Customer Experience Officer.” In these tough economic times, I’m not so sure I would approach this opportunity by adding a new role.

Here’s what I would do…

(1) Insist that Marketing outline the key principles that all new programs and internal and external software solutions must incorporate. If these solutions did not reflect these tenets, they are not rolled out.

(2) Until these principles are second nature, marketing should be a member of all new programs (and I do mean all – not just software programs) and design teams.

(3) All graphical user interface developers on the IT side should have to learn and discuss how they are incorporating these principles into their solutions.

If you share this belief that people are attracted to your brand and what it represents, is there really any other choice?

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Lesson 5: A Brand Community is a Business Strategy

April 2, 2009

As fate would have it, April 2009’s Harvard Business Review presents an article titled “Getting Brand Communities Right.” The article written by Susan Fournier and Lara Lee highlights seven ideas that are important to our analysis. I’ve summarized them here. To purchase this fascinating article so that you can read it in its entirety, click here.

(1)    A brand community is no longer a marketing strategy. It is a business strategy. To be most successful, allow your brand community be a high-level strategy that supports all of your business goals. Communicating with the community allows your business activities to take on new meaning and reflect the needs of those you wish to have as customers.

(2)    A brand community exists to serve the people in it. The authors state that if you meet the needs of the individuals within the community, you will in fact be meeting the needs of the business. Here’s the challenge. All businesses like to control the products they sell, the conversations they have and how they are perceived. Being effective here though means being vulnerable, not all-knowing and committed to addressing a need – rather than building your brand. Now, here’s the payoff. You just might discover an unmet need not related to your opportunity but one that keeps people very related to your business.

(3)    Engineer the community and the brand will follow. There is a science to engineering a community. Typically, people try to build communities around pools. These are individuals united by share values or goals (such as Republicans or Democrats). The authors explain that the relationships these pools form are limited and suggest that Web affiliations based on strong one-to-one connections (the example they use is a Cancer Survivors Network) is the catalyst that creates an engaging energy that sustains the community. The last element is to build a web community around hubs, individuals whom the community admires and is related to. Hooking up with such an individual will again drive passion.

(4)    Smart companies embrace the conflicts that make communities thrive. The natural reaction when one hears a complaint is to address it or squelch it. But in order to be an “in” group you need an “out” group. (Think Apple vs. PC, Coke vs. Pepsi). Strengthen the conflict and you strengthen the community.

(5)    Communities are strongest when everyone plays a role. The best metaphor that I could think of for this principle was the physical neighborhood within which that I live. What gives a neighborhood color, charm and notoriety are the characters within it. Each contributes to the fabric. Allowing people to be diverse in their thinking, types of support and nature makes the community engaging. To see a full list of roles, check out the article.

(6)    Online networks are just one tool, not a community. On-line networks re not enough to create a community. Communities grow from traditional approaches as well. Companies build communities using advertisements, celebrity spokespeople (“hub”), social interaction, entertainment, expert advice, packaging…and on and on.

(7)    Of and by the people, companies defy managerial control. Much like your physical community, to thrive, an on-line community can’t be controlled. Yes, it can be supported and nurtured…but not controlled. Supporting and nurturing may be done with scripts that articulate behavior guidelines  and those that encourage appropriate behavior in a particular setting. In fact, you can create settings that have different rules and allowed behaviors.

The plan for addressing our challenge incorporates these rules. Still there is more analysis to be done.

Stay tuned…


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