marketing and sales executives from Silicon Valley

Friday, January 27, 2012

Social media explained and the next phase of #socialmedia

While people debate social media and what all the services do, I found an elegant, yet tongue-in-cheek, image from Adverblog that does the job admirably.

From a clarity and classification standpoint, this image  delineates a complementary ecosystem owned by the major companies shown. Nearly every social media company who currently or hopes to compete with one of the leaders would overlay one or more of the companies listed.

If you agree with not only the implied classification but also the market dominance suggested by the image, then you may also agree that any competitor in that space has a low probability of success due to the ownership of each social media category by an incumbent 800lb gorilla.

New entrants, may attempt to introduce product suites, integrated features, or better differentiated features, however the problem is not one of a better product, but one of category ownership. A new entrant with a suite or integrated product must be more than just better with some feature advantage. They need to overcome thought leadership of each of the major competitors that they overlap. I would argue that direct competition for those major segments is over, unless one of those leaders grossly pisses off their user base.

The implication for me is that a new entrant must follow a narrower vertical strategy where they can capture both the pain and imagination of a niche market and own it. Yes, the whole of social media will likely follow the path of social networks - products for businesses in narrow verticals where the open access and unsecure information of the current leaders creates social media demand that lacks the privacy, security, and narrow market knowledge that practitioners in a narrow field of focus require.

This is not new, of course, as this parallels the growth and segmentation of enterprise software. Where once there was ERP, CRM, and Supply Chain, etc, there are now those software (and SassS) in specific verticals such as government, human resources, finance, automotive, energy, bioscience, medical etc. The only thing that prevents or delays the next wave of vertically focused social media, is the process and structure of demonstrating consistent and repeatable results and ROI in the same way that CRM analytics enabled the creation of pretty charts showing how to identify, cull, and optimize that sales funnel.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Where did my review go? Social Media Fail.

I believe in the power of social media and the power of crowds. Specifically, I rarely questioned if review systems were good things designed to help and inform consumers. I also believed that reviews were a way for product marketers to gain insight into the values and shortcomings of products.

Unfortunately, one of my favorite stores, Brookstone, has fallen short on providing reviews that would benefit customers, and especially myself.

The issue at hand is not one, but two disappearing reviews (out of 8 for the product) that I had submitted following two product returns and several calls to customer support.  The real problem is that the two reviews were posted months apart for a product that lacked a key feature that the retail store confirmed was not in the product. The product is linked at the end of this post, if you're interested.

So to sum it up - I paid $400+ for a product online with ship to store (Brookstone retail). I Tested it in store, where it was clear that the “Foot rollers” did not work, and I confirmed with customer support that the product was supposed to have the feature. I returned it and wrote a review about the product failure, but great in-store customer service. I read it on the site, thinking that I was helping them correct the product mis-listing or boost quality control. A few months later, after a hard day on my feet, I tried again. I looked for my older review, and it was missing, so I assumed that there was some system glitch, and/or that the product was somehow improved or different. So I ordered again.

As they say, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. I might have to check my mental reasoning skills, as the same thing and more happened. Not only did the product not have the feature, but service again claimed that it was supposed to have rollers. This time, however, the sales person confirmed that he had not seen the product EVER have working foot rollers. My new review included a suggestion that the customer service or marketing department verify the product features as it would help other customers make an informed decision and reduce return costs.

This time, my review was gone in less than a day.

6 months later, after another aching foot day, I went to check and the product that I wanted earlier. There the product was, claiming to have the missing, but key feature, -- but neither of my reviews were there.

Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me - but more than that, Brookstone. I can’t trust your online rating system, and will never order from you online again. This time, however, the review won’t be removed, and this note can hopefully serve to shine a light on customer service and review systems.

I have continued looking for a better foot massager (notice that it still claims to have foot rollers). If you know of a comparable one with foot rollers at the same price or better, let me know.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The limits of crowd-sourced marketing

I met with a few people today and ended up in a "crowd-sourced marketing" discussion. I enjoy the live sharing and discussion, but especially the banter back and forth around an idea. While I do enjoy it, I have colleagues who are dead set against that type of activity - unless they are paid for it.

I completely understand where they're coming from, and they bring up a number of good points. Here are a few:

  • You could give them an idea that could save their business
  • You should be paid for the good ideas you provide to others
  • They may never hire you - "Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free"
  • You cheapen your brand by giving so much away

I don't disagree that those points could be true, however I have my own response based upon my experience:

  • Ideas are cheap. Without the details and careful thought about implementation, it's very rare that an idea could save a business
  • Ideas are only the first of many steps. If you want my details and help with strategy and implementation (the hard part), then I deserve to be paid.
  • If someone takes my idea and doesn't hire me, the odds are that they can only implement part of what I've verbalized. There's more to an idea than what you can share in quick meeting.
  • My ability to create, position a product or service, or provide valuable ideation comes grows from past experiences including collaboration. Part of my brand is idea generation, then finding a way (scrappy or full blown) to make it happen. 
Do you agree or disagree?

I've heard a number of good ideas which have been followed by poor implementation, poor messaging, or poor positioning, and that has lead me to believe that the details and the implementation matter as much or more than the idea itself.

The more I see the more I believe the statement attributed to Edison holds true "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration" (source WikiQuote).

So the next time you worry about someone stealing your idea, think about the time, effort, and energy needed to make steal or copy that idea. If they really did implement your entire concept that you gave them - then yes, the person is a douche-bag, but if you just had the idea and never followed up on it, what ownership do you really have?

Disclosure: This discussion is about marketing ideas and does not apply to patents created or owned by me or my employers. Just sayin 8-).