The influential conversation begins with the customer, of course. But the real question is: what kind of message do you want your customer to convey about your brand?
That’s the question that Lithium Technologies answers for their clients. Katy Keim is CMO at Lithium, where their technology enables client “superfans” to drive the conversation. Their customer set includes Verizon, Google, Sephora, BestBuy and dozens of other international companies.[box type=”bio”]FYI: Lithium Technologies is the owner of Klout.[/box]
“These brands all believed that ‘Company Brand’ = X, and it was all about consistency, frequency and differentiation,” Katy explains, as we talked about some of the common misconceptions in the field of marketing.[box]
An excerpt from BulletProof Branding by Chris Westfall. Find out more about the book here.[/box]
“There are a number of challenges in today’s world, because channels are so fragmented,” Katy says, unapologetically.
So frequency has changed, and branding has become all about reputation. Lithium enables reputation – they help empower others to say things about you. Online, and in forums where everyone looks for information – whether you watch TV on your laptop or Netflix gives you your entertainment feed, there’s one place everyone turns for information and insights:
The customer comments section.
Lithium creates an online review mechanism that goes beyond the comments found on Yelp and the traditional customer reviews (although their cloud-based solutions do enable the kinds of comments and interactivity that you would expect on a site such as BestBuy.com, for example).
But Lithium enables “super fans” to become brand advocates – and, in many cases, take over much of the customer service functions required online.
“The brand is actually a better reflection of truth, in this day and age – truth about the products, truth about the services, truth about what the company actually stands for,” Katy says.
In order to control that conversation online, companies have to make sure that their products, services and interactions are consistent. While the customer conversations can’t be controlled, they can be influenced – influenced with quality across every aspect of the organization.
As Katy explains, “Online comments may not be the exact words that a marketing executive would choose, but the comments are an accurate reflection of the brand.” Within a context of customer-created content, there is a greater trust in the marketplace, and a greater reflection of the true essence of a brand.
And certain customers have a very loud and honest voice. Take Lenovo, for example – an important Lithium reference customer.
At Lenovo, a team of customer volunteers staffs their customer service support site.
That’s right: 100% of their customer support is provided by a worldwide team of volunteers.
These individuals have built the company’s “knowledge base” of online articles, and more.
According to Lithium’s online documents, “we have focused on the management of superfans, because all our experience and data has shown us that if you take care of the most important users, the rest will follow.”
It’s a more sophisticated take on the 80/20 rule, or the “long tail” of customer engagement. Accomplished through a complex gamification algorithm (assigning points for reputation, within the community as a whole as well as within specific areas of expertise) desired input is rewarded and encouraged.
Superfans are identified. Super support is provided.
How are you rewarding your customers for their feedback?
How does that reward system help your organization to facilitate exchange?
“If you’re Canon, for example, and you’re looking at the thousands of interactions online – and you’re a marketing person, looking at the vast amount of information, you’ve got to be thinking, ‘Do you know how much of our community conversation focuses on lenses?’ We should be producing content on lenses, we should be doing promotions on lenses, we should be talking at our trade shows about lenses. The traditional focus group is too slow and too limiting.” But the online community is real-time, and real important, if you want to know what your brand is really doing.
Finding more Superfans:
Working with Lithium, Verizon launched a new product by reaching out to 100 customers and asking them, “How are we going to market this?”
If you are a marketer (and by the way, if you have a job, or you are looking for a job, or require oxygen to keep yourself alive, you are in marketing) consider what Lithium learned from working with Verizon.
What’s the difference between telling the customer how they should feel about your brand, pushing things out to the market, and asking the customer: How can I engender an experience that translates how I want you to feel about me?
In other words, how can you create an experience for your customer that creates exchange? And then: how do you measure that experience? Because, let’s face it, it’s hard to measure how you feel about me. But, as my friend Jeffrey Hayzlett says, “Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a wire transfer.”
Exchange is created where marketing makes money, but engendering a positive conversation is the first step – the first exchange. Feelings lead to revenues, which leads to repeat business, loyalty and other aspects of a bulletproof brand.
Find out more about how Lithium Technologies is reshaping the branding conversation, in BulletProof Branding. Featuring a foreword by Ted Rubin, this is the hold-your-handbook for strategic marketing in the digital age. If you want to create engagement, and be heard beyond the likes, tweets and pokes, you’ve got to understand the new rules for customer engagement. Today, customers on social media are armed and dangerous – that’s why you’ve got to have a bulletproof brand.