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The Big Netflix “Oops”

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Our family loves old movies, so we’ve been long time Netflix fans. Then came the announcement that the company was splitting its streaming and DVD services, requiring customers to conduct two separate searches for movies, have two accounts and two bills. Worse, the market anticipated Netflix would dump the DVD line soon in order to optimize streaming profits. As you have likely already heard, customers—ourselves included–weren’t pleased. Then Netflix went on to look even less user-friendly when fans discovered the Twitter handle Qwikster was already being used by a pot-smoking, foul-mouthed dude who suddenly got 500 new followers he didn’t know. Meanwhile, the tech crowd noticed that the new business had only a placeholder “coming soon” on its website.

Suddenly it wasn’t just bad customer relations, it was a social media calamity. CEO Reed Hastings wrote a mea culpa blog post this past weekend, saying the company may have misjudged in its rush to capitalize on the streaming technology. “Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly,” he wrote.  As of today, his post had more than 23,000 comments. What‘s the saying—“there’s no such thing as bad publicity”?

Oh wait, the ending of that saying is “…except your own obituary.” Let’s hope this isn’t the end of Netflix. Where am I going to get all those classic movies that don’t play on TMC?  Takeaway lesson for other companies: don’t forget to think about how your customers will interface with you, both online and in social networks. And be sure you own all possible social media renditions of your name, including a new Google+ identity, before you launch.

Market Your Brand Like a Food Truck

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By Amy DeLouise and Pam Vinal

This year’s edition of the famed Zagat restaurant guide includes a brand new section titled “Food Truck Reviews.”  Gourmet food trucks that use social media tools like Twitter and Facebook to reach their customers are not new.  But recognition in the world-renowned guide proves these meals on wheels have not only created a new dining experience, but their marketing strategies are garnering even more customers.  Here are a few marketing tips we can all learn from the Food Truck craze.

Create a Customer Experience

“Happy Friday! Today we R serving lobster & shrimp rolls, whoopie pies & cool drinks near Conn & M St NW and Ballston Metro! Both start~11:30.”

This is just an example of a recent Twitter post from Red Hook Lobster DC, a gourmet food truck serving Maine lobster rolls daily to the hungry masses in Washington, DC.  Throughout the day the lobster truck will post similar updates of its whereabouts, even offering a digital map on their website. These digital tools make grabbing lunch an interactive treasure hunt instead of a mundane meal.  Customers are seeking out the food trucks, traveling to new locations, and meeting new and interesting people.  The main draw of social networking component of food truck marketing is the interactivity.  Food Trucks have found a way to use social media to create an entire experience for their customers instead of simply using the medium to push advertising on them.

Encourage Customer Participation

Too many organizations waste the community-building value of Twitter and Facebook by simply posting the same advertisements they use in all other outlets.  Social media is interactive, so make your social media campaigns interactive.  Let your customers participate in something instead of just consuming information.  Throw contests, request feedback, give them a reason to contact you.  Food Trucks have proven that if you give them the map, customers will find you.  And don’t forget to give feedback to those customers:

“Thanks to all the intrepid customers who came out today @GPBFarmMarket.”-LobsterTruckDC

Go Where Your Customers Are

Food Trucks are always on the move, and not just when they drive to different locations.  In the past several years, these traveling restaurants have continued to adopt new technologies and used social media to listen to and act on customer feedback.  One example: Food Truck Festivals.  This new trend is popping up in cities across the country.  Festivals invite all the local food trucks to one place, sell tickets in bulk, and hold contests.  The result of this collective marketing and shared venue is an expanded customer base for all participants.

Team with Other Brands

Even if your current campaign is a successful one, consider opportunities to team with other brands—yes even brands in your own space—to reach more customers collectively. If you are in a service space, offer a workshop or webinar series in which multiple companies offer expertise and share the expense and resources of a Facebook marketing campaign for the event. If you are a nonprofit, combine with related nonprofits to do and integrated fundraiser for a specific community. The goal is to maximize outreach and minimize duplicated efforts.

Excel in Your Niche

You can have a million dollar marketing campaign, but if your product isn’t good then the advertisements are not worth a dime.  The most popular Food Trucks are not your average hot dog and sandwich carts. Each  has a specialty — from crepes to Korean fare and everything in between. Although some have expanded offering a wider range of foods, each started with a niche set of high quality products.

Like the Food Trucks, social marketing is viral and has landed in some part in the customer’s hands.  Sites and Apps like Yelp and Foodspotting are based on customer-to-customer reviews.  If your customer leaves loving your product, and the experience it took to get it, then be sure that they will post that opinion.  In this social media world a happy and satisfied customer is now equal to a quality advertisement.


Help Your Team Support Your Brand

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©2010 B. DeLouiseLast week I conducted a social media workshop at a staff retreat.  Most of the participants were using social media for at least some personal or professional use. A small percentage were very active. A couple abhorred the idea, and thought I was there to force them onto Facebook. Instead, we talked about reaching vital communities of customers and prospects who are using mobile web, various social networks, and  downloadable apps. We discussed how by sharing their expertise and building personal brands in these communities, team members could further the organization’s overall marketing and client retention goals.   Then we did an exercise looking at brands in various unrelated fields to see how they were using social media to engage customers and generate excitement.  Suddenly the room was buzzing with ideas.  The group set aside more time post-workshop for planning and execution.

The takeaway? Staff teams need support–including just plain old brainstorming time–to feel confident in supporting your brand. So, how can you help them do this?

Use the buddy system.

Many executive staff are not digital natives. They’ve heard all the hype about social media. Maybe they are tweeting or on Linked In. But they are not connecting these communities to their day-to-day goals for the company. They need specific, actionable examples of how to use each medium to promote their personal brand, their expertise as it relates to your business, and build their own contacts and communities. After initial training, one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to support this work is by developing an in-house mentoring program, teaming experienced execs with younger staffers. The former understand your brand and customers, but need help leveraging social networks. The latter understand social media but don’t always understand effective networking or customer relations. The two can help each other.

Identify the goalposts.

Everyone loves to talk metrics. I’ve certainly talked about them plenty in other posts on this blog. But the best measurement tools are the ones your own team develops. And good measurement usually starts with good questions. What communications are most valued by current customers? How many contacts does it take to turn a prospect into a client?  What unique expertise can your team offer or curate from other reliable sources? What outcomes will determine your success? If one approach isn’t successful, what’s the next step?

Choose team captains.

To stay with the sports metaphor a moment longer, who will be the key points of contact in the organization for social interactions (and not just online ones)? Are they trained on how to respond to all kinds of feedback and queries? Are they comfortable being the face of your organization in the community? What’s the crisis response plan and what triggers it? These leaders–who by the way aren’t necessarily department heads–can also reward colleagues for innovation and creative thinking (MVP awards).

Review the 50,000 foot objectives.

Key staff are often connected to your organization through only one pathway–their department.  They need to be periodically briefed on new initiatives and the big picture about your brand promise to all of your customers. That includes the experience you promote for your own employees (i.e. the people who report to your key staff).  Everyone on the team needs to be able to easily deliver an “elevator pitch” about your firm and connect it to their own experience–why they like working there, what drew them to the business, etc.  This is where social media really shines, as employees can tweet or post a Facebook update with their own personality and perspectives.

Offer recognition.

Staff need more than their names on the masthead or business cards. They need to be publicly thanked when they do a good job of supporting your mission. When staff receive recognition for bringing their own brand to bear on yours, then others are more inclined to invest more of their time and talents connecting to the wider community.

Helping your team use new tools can sometimes be a challenge, but it’s one worth the effort. When they feel supported, the customer and the company wins.