Archives for posts with tag: customers


The hype surrounding Social Media is dying down while the new shiny object everybody talks about is Social Business.

Just google the term and you get a million different definitions, descriptions and explanations. Add a layer of technology and you create massive confusion.

This is an attempt to make it very basic for anybody to understand, without acronyms or convoluted explanations.

1. Since brands were created, there were always two conversations: internal conversations (“I”) and external conversations (“E”). The internal conversation represents any form of communication that occurs within the company and the majority of the stakeholders (suppliers, dealers, vendors, etc.). The external conversation represents any conversation between customers, prospects and people that are tangentially interested in your brand.

2. What separates the external and internal conversation used to be a massive wall (“W”). Emerging and social technologies have poked holes in this wall. Some of the corporate walls have come down almost completely, others are still sturdy, constantly in repair. The state of the wall depends on cultural, technical and organizational factors.

3. In a perfect world, you want “I” and “E” to be as much in sync as possible. Nike is an example: The employees think their brand is cool, delivers awesome products, and so do their customers.

4. When “I” and “E” are not in sync, that’s when a brand is in deep trouble. When “I” says Product A is the best thing in the world, while “E” complains about the same product, you have a problem at hand. It’s hard to sell a bad product with good advertising. The same is true when the internal conversation (traditional US airlines are a good example) is full of negativity, the advertising is filled with unicorns and the plane occupied by extremely unhappy customers.

5. How can you sync up all these conversations? That’s where Social Business comes in.

6. Social Business pokes massive holes in the wall (“W”), with the ultimate goal to eliminate the wall altogether or provide as many openings as possible. When two unsynched conversations happen at the same, they are likely to get more out of sync over time. To adjust and sync both conversations, you have to make it easy for “I” to engage with “E”, and vice versa.

7. Ultimately, Social Business is about subverting and re-aligning hierarchies. We heard so many times that the customers are in control. To have a fruitful conversation, customers and companies have to be in control. Companies want to avoid a Twitterstorm or other social/main media/PR disasters and customers want to be able to have some control over the relationship. These control mechanisms are different for every company and service model.

8. Getting started in Social Business is not about technologies or social platforms. It’s about aligning conversations to help customers to get what they want and businesses to prosper in a social ecosystem.

Was that helpful?


The marketing world is filled with words like fans, followers, likes, fans, loyalty, engagement, commitment, participation, community, and so on and on and on and on, giving every marketer the false hope and idea what marketing should be about.

It would be beneficial for all stakeholders (clients, agencies and customers) to start with the assumption that nobody cares about what we do. This might make us feel depressed, less important and kind of useless. Still, at least we’re starting from the right point and it helps us focus on our work in the right way.

Don’t be sad: Nobody cares what anybody does.

Nobody cares about the 500+ TV channels, the thousands of magazines and radio stations, the millions of podcasts and gazillions of websites. There’s so much stuff out there, we don’t even have a tiny chance to consume 0,0001% of it. All this media is like the Atlantic, engulfing people with content wave after wave, competing with anything else that’s interesting, useful, or entertaining. With so many temptations surrounding us, seeping out of millions of screens, we should never assume anybody will notice anything we do. Oh, and don’t even assume anybody does care. Don’t kid yourself.

It gets worse: People don’t care about brands.

As a brand, you don’t want people to think about your brand too much. A strong brand will help people make quick, easy and gut-driven purchase decisions. If you’re an Apple fanboy, you don’t think about Dell or HP. It’s going to be Apple, no matter what. Strong brands solve problems. When your favorite beer is Guiness, you don’t have a beer problem. When Acura is your car brand, you don’t have a car problem. No thinking required, no decisions. No worries about price, quality or reviews.

The myth of brand loyalists

Another marketing myth is that the ultimate goal is to create brand loyalists and permanent relationships. People might ‘like’ your brand but they ‘like’ their dog 10,000 times more. For sure, people don’t love brands. They love their favorite pillow 10 million times more than your brand. Using the language of deep human emotions for brands trivializes those feelings. Brands are desperately looking for those lovers, those special ones. If you base your brand on loyalists, you will have a small party in a studio apartment in Manhattan. Brands are built by millions of light customers who buy the brand once in a while.

It’s easy to market to people who actively seek you out and use your product/services frequently. It’s hard to market to people who don’t know you, who don’t care about you, see you frequently. And, don’t get me started with the new buzzword “audience”. An audience goes to a Coldplay concert or watches the latest Spiderman movie. Advertising doesn’t have an audience, waiting for the show to start.

It gets worse.

The vast majority of advertising produced is horrendous. Go to some sad cable channel and try to stick around for the commercial breaks. Try not to change the channel within seconds. Good luck. It’s mental and creative pollution. Another proof point for people not to care about advertising.

That’s a good starting point.

At the bottom of enmity between strangers lies indifference – Soren Kierkegaard.

It’s easy to be loved, even easier to be hated. But it’s really hard to overcome indifference. You can get 1% of potential customers engaged and create participatory communities for them. It doesn’t help you when it comes to the bottom line. The real goal should be to engage the remaining 99% and that means fighting indifference.

The majority of efforts on social platforms is now limited to activating the 1% and going to church afterwards, praying the 1% will spread and amplify the word. It’s good, but not good enough. It’ll earn you brownie points but doesn’t improve business results. Unless you’re happy talking to a minority, we need to focus mainly on the 99%.

You will be judged how you engage the indifferent masses, the ones that don’t care. It starts with answering the most important questions: Why should they care more about you than all the other gazillion options they have? What’s the point? What’s in it for them?


I’m attending the premier credit union conference in the United States, in one of the premier resorts in Florida. When I asked for an umbrella during a massive storm, they said, “We have umbrellas. Just not enough.” And he walked away.


Just about every organization has front-line staff. Sometimes, they are merely used to keep the riffraff out of the organization.

Most of the times, they determine the tone of the organization. If you have someone answering your phone, interacting with your clients – people that took a lot of time to come to your place – you should do a basic cost/benefit analysis.

If your receptionist greets 100 people a day, that’s 20,000 people yearly. Should you invest money to transform all of those interactions into something spectacular? Why hiring the cheapest person when you can invest in a truly remarkable experience? And transforming customers into ambassadors.


Let’s be honest here: Customers suck. They always want more, demand things you never thought about and expect too much. And it gets even worse: Those silly customers now have tools to connect with us directly. They expect you to explain flight delays of 2 minutes, share with their friends that the coffee they ordered was 2 degrees hotter than expected or just create sites that bitch about your hard work. Life would be so much better without any customers, wouldn’t it? No complain letters, no legal threats – just doing your job.

Your dream just came true: I’ll show you ways customers will hate you. And leave you for good.

No, it’s not a pipe dream, not some fantasy. Below are ways to make sure you never have to deal with customers again. Let’s get going, I want to make sure your dream comes true as soon as you desire.

1. When you develop communication for your company, make sure to include images like this.


It communicates clearly that you’re lying. You don’t respect the intelligence of your customers. Listen, we all know meetings like that never happen. But you claim your company is that haven of collaboration, creativity and empathy. Communicating to your customers you are a liar.


A bunch of customers will never come back. Saving you a lot of money for marketing and loyalty efforts.

2. Force people to watch your videos.

Don’t you hate it when you go to sites and you have to sit through 30 seconds of video before you can go to the real content? Your customers feel the same way. To lose customers by the thousands, make sure to increase the length of the video to 60 seconds, add a sign-up form and hide the “close’ button. You are a champ.

3. Upsell. Everywhere. Anywhere. All the time.

So, that silly customer of yours decided to buy your product. They researched, they filled the shopping cart and now they want to check out. Why would you make it easy for them by asking for minimum information to finalize the deal? Let them jump through hoops: Ask them if they want to bundle that product with something unrelated, force them to sign up for newsletters, gift wraps – anything to slow them down. Anything to make sure they’ll never complete the purchasing process. One less customer to deal with.

4. Make sure your keyword buys are not relevant.

Let’s say you’re selling expensive candles. They smell nice, they illuminate the room. You could buy relevant keywords like “emotional candles” or “beautiful candles” or “anniversary gifts”. Why bother? Just buy “cheap candles” and “lights”. Your bounce rate will go through the roof, your effectiveness drop and your sales vanish. Added benefit: You can proclaim “SEM doesn’t work” and fire that pesky SEM/SEO dude.

5. Work with ad networks that allow you to use pop-ups

You get a guaranteed impression that doesn’t work and annoy the customer for sure. Bingo. Oh, added benefit: You can proclaim: “Display advertising doesn’t work” and finally fire your agency. Thank me later.

6. Use your social media platforms as push marketing tools

So, your little Social Media boy worked hard to get you thousands of followers. The fool that he is. He’s all happy and full of himself. Kick him in the knee caps by enforcing the following policy: We will post sales messages every hour on the hour. We don’t answer any questions. We just use these platforms as another megaphone.

See your followers/fans count drop by the hour. Take that, Social Media boy. Added benefit: Well, you know.

7. Make sure to implement animated buttons

They will certainly be the most hated part of your customer experience. And make them pray to be blind. Make sure to use as many animated buttons as possible and you won’t have any customers left.

8. Make sure to force customers to register

To be really efficient in your customer-deletion tactic, make sure to force them to fill out a form before they purchase your product. Even better: before they can go to any content. As you know, customers can’t wait to be part of your CRM system, they want to be contacted based on your agenda. Not based on their desires and needs.

9. Advertise on a site that makes you sit through loading of ads until the real content appears

Some sites have more than 10 display ads. It takes time to call all these ad servers and load the ads. Make sure you’re the last in line because customers were waiting for content and now you made them wait for your silly ad. Perfect. Another customer lost.

10. Ensure that your customers become the slave of your media strategy

Your customers live in the mobile world but you force them to go through your site? Perfect. Make it even better by forcing your customers to have Flash on their mobile device: Awesome, all your iPhone customers will disappear. You’re the man.

When you followed all these steps, you should be left with no customers. You executed the plan flawlessly. Congratulations!

You’re on your own now. Good luck.


There are indications that use of Social Media is declining.People are still on Facebook and Twitter all day but they are getting savvy and more effective in their use of the tools. For brands, it’s getting harder to form a connection with customers; they are becoming very selective.

We caused that problem.

Social Media pundits, marketing experts and most of the agencies have encouraged brands to create Facebook and Twitter pages: “You need to join the conversation” was the mantra of the last few years. Many companies followed that lead. Problem is, people have only that much time and space in their life for brands to engage with. Typically, people have space for  2-3 brands they are very passionate about: an airline, an automotive brands, a restaurant. The majority of customers don’t want to hear from 98% of the brands on Facebook and Twitter.

Why? Because most companies continue to focus on themselves.

It’s the marketing comfort zone: Just like marketers want to engage people with their newsletters, campaign site, display ads and other marketing tactics, they regard social platforms as another way to message prospects regularly. The brand voice has become more social, the intent has remained the same.

People go to Facebook to connect with friends, not to connect with brands. If you provide them content that excites them (entertains them, inspires them, etc.), they might connect with their friends through your content. People have started to get annoyed by irrelevant contests, questions or content that doesn’t excite them, just considers them as extras in a brand play.

Instead, find valuable and entertaining ways to serve your customers.

Stop being brand-centric and start focus on your customers. How can you serve your customers? What would be valuable/entertaining/inspiring/exciting for your customers? Don’t focus on numbers, identify the customer of value and deliver something they want to talk about. Enrich people and they will enrich you.


The signs are everywhere:

Fly any domestic airline and you feel hated the moment you walk into the plane. (The feeling is mutual, as you can see from this Twitter search.)

Phone trees are a clear sign that a company hates their customers. They don’t even want to hear from them, they just want them to consume and be quiet.

    Banks really hate their customers. Fees, hidden fees, hidden fees behind hidden fees.

      Telco’s? Oy.

        When was the last time you stood in line at the post office? There are some exceptions but most employees despise each and everyone in the line. They feel entitled to yell at people not standing behind some imaginary line and don’t even bother to look up when talking to you.

          One word: DMV.

            How can you expect your customer to love you when you hate them?

            Just watch commercials.

            Dopey men.

            Women getting excited about a new laundry detergent.

            More dopey men.

            Kids who want nothing in the world more than a crappy plastic toy that accompanies their crappy meal.

            Even more dopey men.

            Did I mention dopey men?

            Since Roseanne left the building, the working class has become the laughing stock of the entertainment and advertising industry. They just want to sit in front of the TV, drink beer, eat fattening food and stare at skirts. That’s how we portray our customers.

            While we glorify people like Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton: empty heads that never contributed anything to society besides conveying the message that being famous is more important than doing something good and valuable.

            You need to love your customers.

            They deserve it.

            They have been through hell.

            Most of them are still in hell.

            They live in daily fear because one more little disaster might cause their personal, financial apocalypse. They are the 15% of unemployed/underemployed people that don’t see a future. They are the employed that fear they might join the 15% very soon. They have given up on wanting something, they just focus on surviving.

            We are all responsible to create a new culture.

            Whatever you do in advertising, it influences our culture.

            It changes how people feel about themselves.

            This goes way beyond being empathetic.

            It’s is about taking off your Madison Avenue shoes and walk in Main Street shoes.

            It’s about stop pleasing your ad friends and start pleasing real people.

            It’s about making a difference.

            It’s about love.

            A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge – Thomas Carlyle.


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            1. The strategy includes the fragment “we will drive traffic to the micro-site”

            Micro-sites had their time but it’s a time long past. Building brand experiences totally removed from the platforms people use daily and share content with their Social Graph is a strategy destined to fail. And cost you a lot of money to “drive” people to that solitary microsite.

            2. Customers are considered an audience

            The majority of your customers have transformed from passive consumers to active producers. They review, link, share, write, create. Marketing is about behavior change. In this age, it’s almost impossible to turn passive consumption into active participation/behavior change. Instead, focus on digital initiatives that allow people to participate: polls, question, interactions, and co-creation.

            3. A reliance on buying attention

            Buying disruptive advertising to get attention is not as effective as earning attention through interesting content or collaborative efforts. Good marketing earns attention. It draws you in, it makes people give away their precious time to engage with the marketing product. It’s a story well told. It’s an insight revealed.

            4. The strategy includes the word ‘viral’

            The viral metaphor has been abused and misquoted until it lost all its meaning. You can’t create something that just self-propagates. People pass things around in the digital world for their own social reasons. Tap into those social reasons and you will be able to create a piece of content people want to share with others.

            5. Social Media is regarded as another channel

            All your traditional media (offline and online) has to be social: Feeding the social platforms you chose and feeding off them. Social is not everything but everything is social.

            6. They talk all day long about brand positioning

            We learned a long time ago that brands can’t be everything to everybody. Brand positioning was born. In an age where brands are defined by people, brand positioning has lost its value. Modern brands have a point of view. A very strong point of view that will turn off many people and turn on your customers.

            7. The majority of objectives and goals are about media metrics, not your business goals

            Would you rather have an advertising campaign with an engagement rate of 20% and sales increase of 0.2% or a marketing campaign with an engagement rate of 4% and sales increase of 12%? Real brand-agency partnerships look at the business holistically, not judge the performance by the media spreadsheet.

            And a bonus sign:

            It’s just about you and them. Not the customer.

            Take your marketing hat off for a second: As a customer, would you like to get spammed 532 Foursquare offers when you walk around a mall? Or do you want something useful, something that improves your life? It’s so easy to fall into the trap of bright, shiny objects and squeeze everything out of them until they’ve become another spam bot. It might be beneficial for the short-term but it doesn’t do anything for long-term brand equity. Customers are not a walking wallet, they are a key stakeholder in the success of your company.


            My first impression: It’s still early in the game. Very early. We’re still wrapping our head around the whole concept of VRM. Since the idea was to bring together visionaries/practitioners of VRM and CRM, the discussion often reverted back to CRM and how to monetize the customer/data. Clearly, all of us have problems transitioning from the old marketing/advertising paradigm into a new world where advertising is pure demand creation, driven by the attention economy, and relationships between brands and people fall under the VRM umbrella, purely intention driven.

            CRM was designed to control customers even better. VRM is an added layer to provide customers with controls. To create an ecosystem that delivers value to all parties. Value doesn’t necessarily mean monetary value. To build all these systems to get $1 off on a deal doesn’t seem worth all the effort. The value is in creating real relationships between people and brands. By collaborating and co-creating value with customers. The future of business is in creating something more valuable and meaningful than just pure shareholder value.

            As Umair Haque says in his “Smart Growth Manifesto”,

            21st century economies will be powered by smart growth. Not all growth is created equal. Some kinds of growth are more valuable than others. Where dumb growth is unsustainable, unfair, and brittle, smart growth is sustainable, equitable, and resilient.

            Here are the four pillars of smart growth – for economies, communities, and corporations:

            1. Outcomes, not income. Dumb growth is about incomes – are we richer today than we were yesterday? Smart growth is about people, and how much better or worse off they are – not merely how much junk an economy can churn out. Smart growth measures people’s outcomes – not just their incomes. Are people healthier, fitter, smarter, happier? Economics that measure financial numbers, we’ve learned the hard way, often fail to be meaningful, except to the quants among us. It is tangible human outcomes that are the arbiters of authentic value creation.

            2. Connections, not transactions. Dumb growth looks at what’s flowing through the pipes of the global economy: the volume of trade. Smart growth looks at how pipes are formed, and why some pipes matter more than others: the quality of connections. It doesn’t just look at transactions at the global, regional, or national level — how much world trade has grown, for example — but looks at how local and global relationships power invention and innovation. Without Silicon Valley’s relationships powering the development of personal computing and the internet, for example, the volume of trade between Taiwan, Japan, and China, would be a fraction of what it is. Smart growth seeks to amplify connection and community — because the goal isn’t just to trade, but to co-create and collaborate.

            3. People, not product. The next time you hear an old dude talking about “product”, let him know the 20th century ended a decade ago. Smart growth isn’t driven by pushing product, but by the skill, dedication, and creativity of people. What’s the difference? Everything. Globalization driven by McJobs deskilling the world, versus globalization driven by entrepreneurship, venture economies, and radical innovation. People not product means a renewed focus on labour mobility, human capital investment, labour market standards, and labour market efficiency. Smart growth isn’t powered by capital dully seeking the lowest-cost labour — but by giving labour the power to seek the capital with they can create, invent, and innovate the most.

            4. Creativity, not productivity. Uh-oh: Creativity is an economic four-letter word. Why? Because it’s hard to measure, manage, and model. So economists focus on productivity instead — and the result is dumb growth. Smart growth focuses on economic creativity – because creativity is what let us know that competition is creating new value, instead of just shifting old value around. What is economic creativity? How many new industries, markets, categories, and segments an economy can consistently create. Think China’s gonna save the world? Think again: it’s economically productive, but it’s far from economically creative. Smart growth is creative — not merely productive.”

            While many VRM initiatives will be driven by innovative divisions within enterprises, the real change agent will be customers. They will be the enzyme in the evolution of VRM. We have to help them understand that tools will be soon available that give them equal footing with brands, that give them power to engage with brands on their terms. That’s a powerful message. Especially in this new normal economy, people want to extract more value out of brands than just a coupon or a silly loyalty program.

            And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If done right, VRM tools will revolutionize all aspects of our lives: health care, government, education – you name it.

            From what I gathered from the workshop so far:

            • We’re close to achieve data portability
            • While Doc Searls believes VRM code should be open source, I heard some dissenters
            • The value proposition for people is still too vague to excite people outside of our bubble
            • We’re too focused on transactions. Instead, we should focus on value exchanges
            • We still have to identify the change agents within organizations. Marketing? Customer Service? (Gulp) IT?
            • How can fourth parties create stakeholder value?
            • How can VRM complement legacy VRM systems?

            I don’t think anybody was expecting comprehensive answers for all these questions in a workshop. On the contrary, I hope for more questions to arise on Day 2. My goal for this workshop was not to get all the answers. My goal was not to stop questioning.

            Below a few Twitter highlights from Day 1:

            @jyarmis: 1995: the invention of the cookie. the end.

            @missrogue When we solve problems for individuals, we actually end up solving problems for businesses in the process.

            @mjayliebs Search is really the entire set of activities i perform, including talking to friends, neighbors, trusted sources,oh, and google

            @nitinbadjatia User driven search (VRM search) – control over input, control over output and control over who gets to help you

            @glfceo enterprises trying to predict customers intents will fail

            @joeandrieu John McKean: the real challenge is the behavioral one: will individuals move from a CRM-directed world to a self-directed one?

            @joshuakahn yeah, a lot of the stuff I’m hearing here is early, but actually alot farther along than I thought.

            @missrogue With VRM, I have the opportunity to say, “You earn my trust and I’ll give you the key to all of my information.”

            @kevinmarks Josh Weinberger: who are the best communicators in your org? your support people. Why get them off the phone to customers?

            @mkrisgman Business is based on exchange of value, power, expectation, and degrees of valuation.

            @mjayliebs VRM and CRM are whole lot closer to each other than people think – the gap is culture and understanding as much as principle

            @DeanLand For VRM enterprise level uptake: leverage data, show benefits (aka: enable the information) create a VRM ecosystem.

            @nhbaldwin vrm offers the vendor a b2b relationship, tighter personalization, with the consumer

            @candres this is the confluence of intention and solicitation.

            @joshuakahn cookies; designed to be low level machine ID’s, not useful for human ID’s, no matter how you bake ’em. <- Craig Burton

            @jyarmis privacy is only as good as the number of people you can be confused for

            Looking forward to Day 2