Sunday, October 31, 2010

Basics of Business - Markets, Consumers,Employees and now Social Media

The Cluetrain Manifesto: 10th Anniversary Edition
Some rules,cultures, fashions, trends are atavistic in nature.. But basics of markets, consumers continue to remain the same for many years/decades. This thought got further strengthened while reading this all time classic book The Cluetrain Manifesto: 10th Anniversary Edition.This is a must read book as it does not create any template or framework for success. On the other hand it just wakes the organization from its long hibernation and illusions about markets, marketing, employees, consumers. Any business  leader who wants to:

  • Put an end to "Business as Usual" in the new economy 
  • Focus on Markets and not just marketing
should grab a copy of this book. Some of the most important prophesies includes:

  • Markets are conversations
  • Markets consists of human beings and not demographic sectors
  • In  both internetworked markets and intranetworked markets, people are speaking to each other in a powerful way
  • Markets are getting smarter,more informed and more organized that companies.
  • Companies need to realize that markets are laughing.At them!!
  • Companies need to lighten up  and take them less seriously. Need to get their sense of humor.
  • Companies must ask themselves, where their corporate culture ends. If it ends before the community begins then they will have no market
  • Human communities are based on discourse- on human speech about human concerns
  • Companies use intranets for  top down communications. Employees find ways to avoid it. Healthy intranet organizes workers in many meanings of the word
  • Markets want companies to talk
  • You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention - Consumers
The book has about 95 such prophesies.Companies can no longer afford " Fort Business" - creating a iron walls between consumers, companies and its employees. They have 2 choices.. Continue to lock themselves up in supposedly fortified towers or open up to the radical new world and join the conversations with consumers and employees.

The huge popularity and adoption of social media is making sure that organizations open up to both their consumers and employees.The social media platform lends itself for a paradigm shift in how companies approach consumers and employees: move from "attention seeking" to "understanding intent" and addressing them appropriately.

Internet and Social Media platforms are not just here to stay but will continue to force organizations to break away from the traditional top down "Business as Usual" approach to a much more fundamental approach which involves human conversations to address human concerns.After all human conversation is the true language of commerce..

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Companies that Ignore Social Media - Read on!!!

Lets rewind our clocks by 5 years... Things that were .
Scenario: Strategy to execution
Companies that Ignore Social Media
  • Marketing formulates the  strategy
  • Communicates to all within the organization
  • Sales takes it to market
  • Performance is reviewed 
  • Solicit feedback from customers
  • Review strategy
Lets view this through a microscope. Lot of things are regimented and cast on iron  in the corporate world.
  • Marketing
    • Strategy was shouldered by a select few and usually done within 4 walls
    • Consumer insights were often generated by Market research firms
    • Out of scope: Often execution of project or program was considered less strategic
    • Consumer insights were generated through Market research work on a need basis 
  • People &Collaboration
    • Much was spoken about bottom up communication and nothing more than that...Top down  dominated the scene
    • Collaboration and knowledge management within organization would just be restricted to document sharing and top down information communication
    • Inputs from Sales team or any other team within the organization were used to confirm thoughts or ideas and not to seek information
  • Consumers
    • Consumers were mere statistics on the monthly presentation screens
    • Brands were never approachable for the consumer
    • Consumer feedback were recorded and addressed only if the customers were irate.
    • Surveys and focus groups were the only preferred ways of interacting with consumers
  • No intent/means to get  feedback on strategy at the time of execution
  • Even a flawed strategy will be executed to make it a colossal mistake
  • Customer feedback were best learnt from customer advocacy sites..More time spent on new acquisitions than retaining existing customer
Much has changed in the last 5 years especially due to the explosive penetration and usage of social media platforms like twitter, facebook and the likes of intra-organizational collaboration tools like Yammer... How have these social media platforms acted as a catalyst for change in the corporate world.?

All this starts with the customers!!!!

  • Customers have these platforms for self expression and have started discussing product reviews/brand feedback as one such item in their endless lost of conversations
  •  Either through friends list or fan page  or twitter connections, customers have powerful way of sharing feedback on a real-time basis
  • Consumers, as trust agents, can create positive or negative influence about products/brands experience almost on a real-time basis with their peers or friends
  • No desperate attempts to market the product will help against a strong consumer feedback
Make or break of brands/products happens based on customer perception & experience and the communication gets viral.

This has forced a lot of changes in organizations especially in the mindsets of the top brass.Result:
  • Brands have become very accessible to consumers through the social media platforms.Opening up to listening to customer feedback and solving  issues creates a better perception.. Comcast and South west airlines are  known for their consumer connect using Facebook and twitter
  • Consumer insights from various touch points. Strategy makers have opened up new ways to connect with employers at various touch points to get real-time feedback/opinions about programs/product rollout and consumer feedback... We use Yammer within our company ,, to get feedack from Sales, implementation and support to get a feel of the market on a real time basis
  • This bottom up approach has ensured that strategy is no longer a standalone exercise but strategy is more of co-creation
Change is imminent. The rules of the game have changed..

  • Connect with the consumer on a regular basis
  • Keep your ears close to the ground
  • Strategy and execution are two sides of the coin. Dare not delegate it
  • Connect with every touch point in the organization. Innovative ideas can come from any corner

If all this looks too good to believe, here is an interesting case study of Parle's Hippo Chips innovative way of tracking their product stocks at various outlets... Guess what, they used consumers to track it using Twitter....

On March 17th 2010, the @HelloMeHippo twitter account sent out this message: “Hippo ask you tell to hippo when you not find Hippo in shop. Hippo come there at once and fight hunger.” That’s what they call ‘Hippo English,’ ostensibly straight from the mouth of the mascot itself. As people followed the Hippo’s call, Parle Agro became beneficiaries of the first Twitter-based real-time nationwide stock checker. Then they acted on it, sending word to local distribution partners to get snacks onto the newly empty shelves. Thanks to their popularity, Hippo crisps flew off the shelves; thanks to social media, they flew back on them.
In a country where 92% of the snack market is unorganised retail, any entrant into the $1.5bn industry faces a tough job in tracking their inventory. At zero cost Parle Agro have managed to leverage tweeters, ‘mostly… in cities where Hippo is present but maybe temporarily unavailable,’ as an essential part of their supply lines. Let’s review the raw numbers: the number of people tracking Hippo stock has eclipsed 400, which is around 50% of its paid sales and distribution network itself. Due to the constant stream of supply, they also managed to up their sales by 76%."

Consumer generated secondary sale... Awesome work at no cost....Social Media is all set to make all conventional ways/systems redundant. Dare not ignore it