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Enhance Customer Engagement With Your Own Branded Social Network

If you’re struggling to understand how a social network can enhance customer engagement, you’re not alone. Since the rise of technology-fueled social networks just a few short years ago, marketers have had a struggle finding a model that works but doesn’t leave customer data locked up on someone else’s real estate—like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and the rest. The solution to this dilemma is to create your own social network where you can engage customers and improve marketing results while retaining your customer’s data—and your own—at the same time.

The “Why” and “How” of Creating Your Own Social Network.

Brand Social NetworkIn her recent Quark Big Idea presentation, Constellation Research Vice President and Analyst Natalie Petouhoff spells out why this solution is already proving to be an effective way to enhance customer engagement.

Petouhoff astutely points out that marketers are finding enormous value through collaboration. As marketing has grown in importance, alongside the need for strong customer engagement, marketers are becoming both senior leaders and technology decision-makers. These changes make it critically important that marketers have a way to connect with their own organization, customers, partners, and others so that decisions are well-informed and executed successfully. And social networks are ideal for satisfying this need. Beyond serving the marketer directly, social networks also provide a way for customers to connect with each other to solve problems and increase the sense of brand community.

Setting Up Your Own Social Network

While setting up your own social network may sound hard, it really isn’t. Still, there are some factors to seriously consider:

  • Provide a single, centralized platform – Don’t leave your social network users having to scurry between multiple apps or platforms.
  • Stay flexible in your architecture – New tools and techniques arrive constantly and marketers need a flexible architecture to accommodate them.
  • Think mobile first – Mobile isn’t just trendy—it’s foundational to a modern setup. Mobile is everywhere your customers are, and incorporates key location information.
  • Security is critical – In today’s interconnected world, enterprise and customer data must be kept secure.

Once you set up your own social network, you can expect to have far more data than ever before—information to better cross-sell and up-sell and know what’s working and what’s not. And you’ll be able to share and collaborate on that information with experts across the organization. You’ll know where your customers are pleased and engaged, and where you’re missing the mark. In short, your own social network gives you a way to optimize and enhance customer engagement.

To know more about branded social networks and how they enhance customer engagement, join our webinar with Natalie Petouhoff. Petouhoff will cover the six best practices for empowering marketers to drive enhanced collaboration among customers, fans, employees and partners. We look forward to seeing you there!

Monetize Your Company’s Social Network

Every single business on the planet is a social network—most companies aren’t organized (yet) in a network like Facebook or Twitter, but are nonetheless a network of people, including employees, suppliers, partners, and customers. Every member of these groups communicates constantly across the network in ways that are increasingly digital, increasingly automated, and increasingly valuable. This highly valuable social network is an incredible opportunity for monetization and it’s time to figure out how to do it.

Monetization Demands Our Immediate Attention 

The concept isn’t a new one—those in Sales are a prime example of how we’ve been monetizing social networks forever. Sales reps have been using their network of customers and work associates to drive their business since the dawn of selling.

What’s different about our advantage in this moment is the depth and scale of the opportunity. Every technological advancement, including ubiquitous connectivity, mobile computing, digitized inventories, supply chains, and actual social networking tools, has brought us to the place where monetization of our social network is possible. In fact, it demands our immediate attention and focused effort. Your competitor has the same opportunity and remaining competitive is very likely tied to how quickly companies can shift to a new social paradigm.

Strong Words?

While “immediate” and “focused” may seem like strong words, monetizing a social network is no longer optional. We’re early enough with many of these new technologies that the playing field is still fairly level, but it won’t stay that way for long. Many companies are beginning to realize the untapped value of their social networks. A few are further along on the path and are already connecting their many networks to something that can be analyzed, understood, and most importantly, monetized. As the pace picks up, the winners and losers of the 21st century will be decided by who best utilizes their social network.

Discover how companies are monetizing their social network in our webinar, Loyalty Grows Up: Evolving Your Customer Engagement, hosted by Forrester analyst Emily Collins.

Customer Loyalty Management via the Customer Service Silo

By Ted Rubin

All of your employees work in the marketing department, at least to some extent, and they need to understand the role they play. But to create a strong foundation for customer loyalty management, there are a few departments within your company that absolutely need to sync with marketing. Your customer service department is the most important.

Here are four ways you can leverage your customer service team to effectively manage customer loyalty, build relationships, and turn customers into fans. Think Return on Relationship… because there is no better time than when your customers reach out to you.

Method #1: For relevant content inspiration

You already know how important consistent, creative content is for your inbound marketing strategy. The trouble is consistently coming up with new ideas. Even your best content creators will struggle at times to come up with the type of content your audience craves.

It pays to have an open communication line between your content creation team and your customer service team. Content marketers are always looking for new ways to solve problems, and write about them.

Effective customer loyalty management starts with contextual content your audience values.  Who better than customer service representatives to provide firsthand feedback of the primary questions and issues your they hear about every day?

Consider regular meetings between your content and customer service teams to keep up with the problems and hot-button issues your customers currently care about. An immediate added bonus will be real-life case studies and success stories. Also consider using an internal wiki to allow team members from customer service, sales, etc. to share article ideas based on interactions with your customers and prospects in real-time.

Even if you only use a fraction of the suggestions, you never know which one will lead to a piece of content that change the image of your company, not to mention the impact all this listening can have on contextual social messaging creation.

Method #2: For delivering on customer expectations

If your customers don’t feel they’re getting what is promised from the outset, your customer loyalty management efforts, and relationship building, will almost certainly be an uphill battle. Marketing works best when your leads, prospects and most importantly, customers, have a clear, accurate expectation for how your solution will help them.

How can your customer service department help?

When deliverables don’t align with expectations, your customer service department will be the first to know. They can quickly alert marketing when customers feel misled or misunderstood. Marketers will then be able to alter campaigns, and deliverables, to set more accurate expectations for potential customers. Now you have another great opportunity to turn those customers into fans, fans into advocates, and create long-term trust and loyalty.

Method #3: For social media support done right

Most of you already provide customer service via social media. But are you putting the right person on the job? Are you connecting the social team and the customer service team so they understand how best to work together? Your social media account manager may seem like a natural choice, however when it comes to helping and resolving issues, your customer service team likely has the training and on-the-job experience to satisfy customer needs more efficiently.

Creating a customer loyalty management program that allows your customer service team to help with inquiries from social channels can deliver a much better experience for your customers and get issues resolved more efficiently.

Method #4: For consistent, contextual messaging

If your marketing team is doing it, your customer service team should know about it.

Why?

Who is a prospect or customer going to call if they have questions about an event, a promotion, or a product? That’s right, customer service – often because it’s the easiest contact number to find.

Think of your customer service rep as your target audience’s concierge. Why are they calling? What are they trying to accomplish? How can you give customers and prospects the exact help they need and then naturally direct them to the most logical point in your sales cycle?

A simple shared document with login information for events and links to helpful content can eliminate wasted resources and save valuable time. And when your prospects and customers get the help they need immediately, they’re well on their way to becoming fans, and advocates, of your brand.

Building a bridge between your marketing and customer service silos is a great way to stay on top of what matters most to your prospects and customers. After all, how can you be sure you’re offering contextual content to your audience unless you are listening to what they want?

Nobody listens and hears more, if they are doing their job correctly, than your customer service department. Make them a key cog in your approach to social marketing, customer loyalty management, and Return on Relationship.

Learn more about how to build a well-rounded customer loyalty management program in this webinar and whitepaper by TIBCO Loyalty Lab. And learn about Return on Relationship by reading Ted’s book released January 29th.

Ted Rubin is a leading Social Marketing Strategist, Keynote Speaker and Brand Evangelist. In March 2009 he started using and evangelizing the term ROR, Return on Relationship, hashtag #RonR.  As many may have heard, Ted recently left his position as Chief Social Marketing Officer of Collective Bias.

Many people in the social media world know Ted for his enthusiastic, energetic and undeniably personal connection to people. Ted is the most followed CMO on Twitter according to Social Media Marketing Magazine; one of the most interesting CMOs on Twitter according to Say Media, #13 on Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers, 2013, and number #2 on the Leadtail August 2013 list of Top 25 People Most Mentioned by digital marketers.

ROR is the basis of his philosophy…It’s All About Relationships! His book, Return on Relationship was released January 29th. Connect with Ted… http://TedRubin.com or @TedRubin

 

 

4 Secrets of Killer Loyalty Programs

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

Few things hold more promise right now than Big Data, mobility, social platforms, and cloud computing. Their impact on brand loyalty and customer engagement management is enormous.

The reasons aren’t that hard to figure out and look like this:

  • Big Data brings a rich tapestry of information together at the perfect moments for customer engagement. Both brand and consumer are sharing information at a remarkable rate.
  • Mobility finds the customer where they are in a moment, whether they’re in the store or thinking about a purchase somewhere else. Mobility gives a brand a constant presence.
  • Social platforms have become the way we share our thoughts and passions, and a way for brands to define themselves.
  • Cloud has quickly become the model for seeking and capturing data and for providing technology capabilities that can evolve remarkably quickly.

Take any one of these four trends and you have significant marketplace disruption that creates opportunities for some brands and risk for others. When you have all four, you have significantly more serious opportunities and challenges.

The Four Secrets

Bringing together these trends is, as they say, the whole enchilada. Here are the four secrets to making that happen.

  1. Think loyalty platform: Implement customer engagement management through a loyalty platform. Trying to tie together so much information across so many technology elements is far too difficult and slow.
  2. Sign up for SaaS: Forget about monolithic on-premise marketing applications. By the time those behemoths are created and tested, the market has already moved. Software as a Service is the only practical solution for staying in front of so much change.
  3. Connect to everything: Unless your choices allow you to connect to any and all data, you’re limited to what a loyalty application vendor decides is important. Only you know your personal needs and opportunities.
  4. Think real time, respond at the right time: The technology trends above are all about contextual information that offers brands the chance to know in a moment, but respond at the best moment.

You can’t take away any one of these secrets any more than you can take away the four technology trends that define today’s customer engagement management. Are you ready to be on the right side of disruption?

The Intersection of Marketing and Big Data

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

There are few topics hotter than Big Data. There are few professions being transformed by Big Data more than marketing, with the conversation rapidly shifting to customer engagement through loyalty programs; these include mobile, social, and other channel data as part of an omni-channel loyalty platform. Just as quickly as we digitize our world, we figure out how to use newly liberated data to find and keep more of our customers. At least that’s what we need to be doing.

Spy vs. Spy?

We don’t really have a choice. As data gets bigger, our ability to make use of it better than our competitor is core to our survival. Adaptation is the new black.

It may sound like one of MAD Magazine’s Spy vs. Spy scenarios, but it isn’t about having a bigger weapon. Instead, it is about an ability to adapt to the challenges and opportunities found in Big Data—whatever they are today and also tomorrow—faster than the competitor. Success won’t come from a bigger, monolithic chunk of engineered software sitting on pre-canned scenarios suitable for yesterday, when it was developed.

Successful Big Data Marketing

Instead, successful marketing in the Big Data age comes with the ability to see data as it arrives and being able to use it when most appropriate. This isn’t always real-time marketing, though that’s a common term, and is best expressed as right-time marketing—the ability to respond at the right moment based on the customer’s characteristics, the channel of communication, and the contextual situation. The platforms that can best manage right-time marketing and all of its fast-moving changes are data source agnostic and very easy to integrate with other software and processes.

Platforms in many industries, including and perhaps especially in marketing, are in effect becoming Big Data applications; they’re able to connect to many sources to give unified analytics, predictive capabilities, and a way to execute anytime, anywhere.

When We Say, “The Customer is in Charge,” What Do We Mean?

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

We hear those words constantly in conversations about customer engagement.  There’s a broad perception that changes in technology, and buying patterns have upset any previous balance in brand loyalty.  Nowhere is this greater than in retail loyalty marketing, where an explosion of mobility and the growth of social media have blown away any short-lived retail loyalty equilibrium that might have formed between online and brick and mortar retail.

retail loyalty strengthening customer

What Makes Mobile Different?

Mobility changes the dynamics of when and where a customer shops, and also how and why a brand would engage in ways that could deepen customer loyalty.  While online retail changed the “where” of buying decisions, mobile devices change the entire engagement model by adding geolocation, events, proximity, accessibility, and a host of subtle changes.

Having more choices for engaging with a brand—including the choice to participate in retail loyalty programs while engaged in the store, on the mountain, or any other circumstance—means the customer chooses the moment. That moment may not coincide with the Weekend Sale, customer service hours, a new campaign, or any other timing the retailer attempts to establish and measure.

Mobile loyalty has become a key component of creating brand loyalty.

How Social Changes Things

Social media also gives customers the benefit of mass communication and wrestles for control of brand image. Social media is now a channel for the customer to be the brands biggest critic or advocate. Brands need to find ways to execute social loyalty programs or face enormous perception risk or loss of customer advocacy.

This is the meaning behind “always-on,” “omni-channel,” “customer first,” and other ways of describing that we’re in a new world.  This new world heavily favors the brands that see retail loyalty programs as a holistic approach to understanding the customer characteristics in all of their environments and contexts, and across any engagement channel (learn more in this whitepaper on Right-Time Marketing).

That’s a very tall order, especially for companies with existing programs that need to be recharged and remodeled. Most are finding that the way to manage characteristics, context, and channel is through a loyalty platform that provides the technical means to put the customer in charge, while also meeting the brand’s goals.

 

Unwanted Adventures in Poor Customer Loyalty

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

Recently, I had a great bad experience in brand social media use. It was great as a timely reminder of the danger of impersonal customer engagement, especially for someone who works in customer loyalty. It was bad because that lesson came at the expense of hours wasted at the airport.

customer loyalty - empty baggage claim carousal

The Impersonal Customer Loyalty Story

My husband and I flew back from overseas and waited with a large crowd for nearly an hour and half for the first pieces of luggage to appear.

While waiting, I tweeted to the airline:

“@XXXXX, passengers have waited over an hour for their bags.”

Within a minute, the airline tweeted back:

“This is not what we like to hear. Thanks for all of your patience.”

We then found ourselves among the unlucky few to be standing at the baggage carousel when the belt stopped moving.  (Anyone who’s been in this situation knows that’s the time to hurry to the airline office to start filling out forms.)

When the bags didn’t show, I tweeted:

“@XXXXX, waited for nearly two hours and bags never arrived.”

Again, within a minute, a reply came:

“We’re sorry that your bags didn’t arrive to you. We hope you’re reunited soon. We’re here if you need us.”

Where Was Customer Loyalty Management in This?

What the airline didn’t know was the most important piece of customer service: They didn’t know my status, my purchasing patterns, and, most telling, they didn’t even ask which flight I was on. That made their responses impersonal and didn’t strengthen our relationship in any way. They missed an excellent opportunity to serve my needs with more than, “We’re here if you need us.” (Hint: I needed you…)

It could be that, like many brands, their social media presence is primarily a defense for negative comments and not a way to engage. They can do so much better than that to create more effective customer loyalty.

Savvy Customers

Having an impersonal experience with a brand can be worse than having no interaction at all, especially when the experience comes across as automated and/or stiff. Customers are savvy when it comes to spotting manipulation and very unforgiving as well.

Making the experience more personal, which would have been as easy as asking a question, determining my customer loyalty status, and offering a call or follow up, would have gone an enormous distance in how I saw the situation. Ultimately, it would save work for the airline in following up to service complaints and increase revenue by earning my trust.

But let’s be fair—I doubt the airline had a customer loyalty system in place that could have made their response any better than it was. Without a way to engage customers across the channels of their choice, including Twitter, companies are blind to the sentiments of their biggest spending customers. They are, at best, a simple points-and-card program that serves its customers in transactional ways rather than emotionally.

Customer loyalty management requires a holistic view of the customer characteristics, their preferred channels of communication, and the context of each interaction. Putting this together in pieces is expensive and risky, and unnecessary when you have loyalty platforms that can blend historical interaction with what’s happening in the moment. Learn more in this webinar and whitepaper.

Are you ready to personally serve your customers?

Know It in Real Time, Respond at the Right Time

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

Learn more on right-time vs. real-time marketing in this webinar and whitepaper

The customer loyalty marketing industry is under enormous pressure to react to changing customer preferences and behaviors and the speed at which data about both is accumulating. It’s becoming a customer-driven world, making that data ever more important to follow and understand. Customers shop whenever and wherever using Web, mobile and brick and mortar, and this inevitably leads to a conversation about “real-time” marketing data and response.

real time marketing clocks

It’s hard to talk about real time marketing without getting into a debate about what real time marketing really means. Even more, there’s a strong sentiment among software types and their customers that real time marketing isn’t necessarily the only timing that matters.

A Simple Definition

Let’s make it simple then, and say that real time marketing is about knowing what happens—as it happens—and the most appropriate time to respond to customers is best called “right time.” That’s not to say that right time isn’t sometimes real time. It just isn’t necessarily real time.

So if real time isn’t always right time, what decides what right time should be?

Right Time is About Context

Marketers shouldn’t act on every impulse to communicate with the customer, no matter how much speed might seem to be an advantage. Instead, the time for response needs to be decided by the context of the customer’s interaction with the brand. Responding too quickly can be creepy and feel like stalking, and making offers at times that aren’t convenient for the customer can create frustration. Context decides when the value of the interaction is high and aligned with both the customer and the brand’s goals.

Real Time Marketing Has Its Value

Context can also mean that real time is the best time, like when providing customer service, interacting via social media, engaged in gamification, or when a customer is about to cancel the relationship. These are the moments when having the tools to respond in real time increases relationship and provides revenue lift.

The best marketers have the information they need when they need it, be it real time or otherwise, and are able to determine the context that decides the best time for a response.

It’s All Relevant in Event-Driven Marketing

by Jeanne Roué-Taylor

Marketers have a challenge on their hands: the public that they need to reach and convince to buy is increasingly using PCs and laptops, mobile devices, and social platforms to decide when and where to shop. That puts enormous pressure on brands to understand the changing nature of exactly why, where, and how customers make buying decisions.

Event-driven marketing customer segments

And it isn’t just the changing nature of customer loyalty. With the arrival of smartphones and Big Data technologies, the amount of data available is increasing. As the data grows, it is becoming more diverse in source and structure, and accumulating faster than ever before.

Data Carries Events

Smart brands realize data isn’t just discreet bits of information. Data carries a series of occurrences (and non-occurrences) that technologists call “events.” These events are more than transactions and include anything that has meaning to the brand.  Events can be historical or immediate, one-at-a-time, or in correlated occurrences (as this event-driven marketing whitepaper and webinar explain).

Analyzing events in aggregate reveals patterns that are equally meaningful and were previously invisible to the naked eye.

Events are Relevance

It has never been more promising or challenging at the same time to pay attention to events. There is relevance “gold” in events, including the ability to understand very specific factors relating to event-driven marketing:

  • The customer’s immediate context – Is it daytime or nighttime? Where are they? Is there an open retail store nearby? How is the weather?
  • The brand’s immediate context – What inventory do I need to move? Where are my hottest items located? What is my competitor offering?
  • The customer’s historical contextWhat level of fan is the customer? What do they typically buy? When do they buy?
  • The brand’s historical context – What are my sales patterns for this type of customer? What do I normally sell in this weather or time of the year?

Relevance is Everything

Understanding the customer comes down to the ability to follow the precursors to a buying decision and understand the sequence of events as they happen. Event-driven marketing is the ability to know each discreet thing that leads up to a purchase and to be able to anticipate when and how to react as those events play out.  The ability to anticipate and react at just the right time is the true meaning of marketing relevance. (Learn more on right-time marketing in this webinar coming up on 7/18.)

These are exciting times to be a brand in a fast-evolving customer and technology landscape. Are you ready to be relevant?

Customer Loyalty: Time to Earn a Return On Relationship™

by Jeanne Roué-Taylor

These days, customer loyalty is far more than points and rewards. In fact, true customer loyalty is about earning trust in a way that allows that customer relationship to be managed toward greater value like any other business asset. Author and Forbes Top Social Media Influencer Ted Rubin champions this idea in his book Return on Relationship:
Customer Loyalty to Customer Relationship Management
“Return on Relationship™ (ROR), simply put, is the value that is accrued by a person or brand due to nurturing a relationship, whereas ROI is simple dollars and cents. ROR is the value (both perceived and real) that will accrue over time through loyalty, recommendations and sharing, and is used to define and educate companies, brands, and people about the importance of creating authentic connection, interaction, and engagement.”

We take Ted’s expertise in customer relationship management and the return on relationship very seriously. Customer loyalty programs need to have tangible business outcomes that require a deep understanding of the customer. Those outcomes include:

•    Efficiency – Loyal customers cost far less to recapture and form a conduit to access the loyalty of their network through brand advocacy. The value of customer loyalty is not just in higher sales but also in the ripple effect they have on others.

•    Forgiveness – No one is perfect 100% of the time, and a loyal customer is far more likely to forgive minor missteps and support a brand through thick and thin.

•    Greater Lifetime Value – Customers loyal to a brand are worth 10 times the value of a customer who shops for convenience or price.

•    Social Insurance – In Ted’s words, this is “a band of ‘dynamic advocates’, always ready, willing and able to come to your defense in time of crisis or simply when you’re in need of support.” He is always quick to point out that this outcome has incredible ROI.

•    Energized Workforce – Stirring your customers to brand loyalty has a powerful effect on your own people, as that customer loyalty becomes powerful positive feedback that energizes your staff and makes their jobs more meaningful.

Gaining that deep understanding means having a 360-degree view of the customer’s history with the brand, their personal preferences for how and when to engage, and the contextual circumstances of when they interact with the brand. As consumers become more mobile and social, and demand control of the moments of their engagement, the challenge is synthesizing widening event-streams in real-time (learn more in this whitepaper on event-driven marketing). Is your brand up to the test?

Along with Loyalty Lab’s Matt Elders, Ted is presenting on Tuesday, June 18th at the CRMC Conference in Chicago, where they will discuss customer loyalty management. Learn more in this webinar and whitepaper.

Learn more about Ted Rubin’s book, Return on Relationship, and more about him on his blog and at CollectiveBias.com. You can follow him on Twitter @tedrubin and @R_onR.