Thursday, 25 October 2007

What is it like to be one of your customers?

Sometimes I make potential clients feel uneasy. Hopefully in a good way :o)

One of the first questions we pose to any potential client that needs help to "mend a broken/ineffective reference programme" is "What is it like to be one of your customers?"

There is no shortage of advocates for great companies that constantly delight their customers; the trick is in making it an easy rewarding experience for them to discuss their experiences with like-minded souls.

It's not about control and payment of nameless customers that happen to work for a brand with which you wish to be associated; it's about people and (almost) impartial facilitation.

People are talking about you and your company anyway; decent companies that can handle and use the truth to improve are creating true reference communities that shorten sales cycles facilitate long-term business.

Better than being stuck in the short-term 'payment-for-spin cycle'.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Can advocacy programmes create terrorists?

One-way relationships. Not fulfilling and certainly not sustainable long term.

So why do some companies view their reference customers as a resource to be sucked dry, with no thought for the hows and whys advocates devote so much energy on a company's behalf in the first place?

These are real relationships; throwing a few treats is not going to cut it. Value exchange has to happen on many levels; mutual respect for mutual advantage.

We all know about the detractors and terrorists; ex-customers hell-bent on destroying a company they believe has slighted them.

Have you ever wondered how many detractors started off as advocates?

Monday, 8 October 2007

Newer/faster/bigger is not always better

How long should companies support yesterday's products and what happens when support is removed?

You expect at least ten years support from a car manufacturer and (really) depend on twenty from an aircraft company, but what about less expensive purchases?

Take software; not everyone wants the latest software, nor will all hardware support it but what if the PC/Console game you love depends on servers provided by its creators?

EA Sports have been switching off servers supporting 49 last-generation games, some of which were only brought out in 2006.

A smart move? Not from what I have read on gaming blogs or seen in the gaming press.
Newer/faster/bigger is not always better, nor is it always affordable.

I am pleased to see that, following a luke-warm reception for Vista from business users, Microsoft seems to have listened; extending the lifespan of XP.

This make sense; No-one has a wish to go back to windows 2000 (make a cup of tea and some scones while it boots-up) but XP is now a stable business tool.

So will there be a day when something in the digital domain becomes a classic and worthy of protection/preservation?

Maybe; it's surely not going to be Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 for Xbox either but companies such as EA would do well to remember that those that cannot afford to play the 'faster hardware/ bigger software/ faster hardware 18-month redundancy game' are advocates and detractors too.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

The new dawn chorus

It's a sleepy Saturday morning; Catriona, Peter and Andrew are up and slowly moving around the house in preparation for the day ahead.

It just struck me that, rather than birdsong or the background noise from a radio, the new dawn chorus at Hamilton mansions is the noise three windows PCs make when they boot up.

Catriona is checking the weather (very British) and bus timetables while Peter and Andrew simultaneously manage to draw, instant message, maim and destroy in some wargame and check their email before they can even string a sentence together (teenagers, I rest my case).

Broadband is now a utility like electriciy, gas and water, not thought of as remarkable until it's not there.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Small but important worlds in a big-process Solar System

Seth Godin talks about being the No1 in the world at whatever you do; it's just a matter of finding the 'world' that applies to people for whom you can meet their exact needs, then exceed their expectations to make you the clear leader.

We can all be No1 at something and if your selected world is big enough to sustain a business then this = success and a creative and rewarding experience for all concerned. Count me me.
It then follows that every large organisation is a solar system comprising separate worlds of people, each with their own requirements and definition of who would be their No1 provider in their world based upon ability to meet these.

So how do you become No1 for a Solar System, or even better still, a Universe?

Relevance is always the answer but how can this be possible across an entire solar system?

It can't.

Relevance for Mars is not going to be the same as relevance for Jupiter yet these worlds still revolve around, and are bound by, the same central point of influence (Think large organisation HQ, brand and processes as the Sun).

I guess that you have to design your team to carry the Sun's overall philosophy across the Solar System but sub-divide and customise what you do to become No1 to Mars and Jupiter simultaneously, maybe ignoring Saturn altogether or being No2 to all worlds.

An analogy stretched too far? probably. This is rocket science after all.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

How far does brand loyalty go?

I've always thought of the Mac vs. PC conversation as something bordering on religion.
I used to work with a team of graphic designers that had a picture of Bill Gates on the wall with added horns and black teeth and had major hissy-fits when asked to open MS Word documents; they saw this as a betrayal of everything Mac.

Likewise PC owners have traditionally viewed Mac supporters as weirdy-beardy muesli-eating creative/geography teacher types.

Take the recent adverts from Apple. this did nothing to ease the situation.

Now lets talk iPod vs. Zune. Apple has 80% of the mp3 player market and MS has just under 4.5%; it's the David and Goliath ratio flipped on it's head.

Buying an iPod is completely acceptable to a PC owner because Apple has got it right. By all accounts the newest of Zune players are merely equal to last-generation iPods so I can't see any Mac owners making the switch just yet.

Brand loyalty only goes so far...