In my final post about marketing priorities for 2010, I add to the long standing priorities of adding value and listening a relatively new charge: foster community among customers and other interested people. The capability to create a community around a brand has been enhanced greatly through social media networking tools. Actually, communities have formed around brands long before a Facebook fan page or Twitter account made it possible for people to digitally connect with companies. The difference is the ease with which one can signal his or her relationship with a brand by making the decision to join a community.
Fostering community is related to the other two priorities I identified previously, adding value and listening. Marketer-created brand communities is a vehicle for adding value. It enables consumers to extend their relationship with a brand and interact with people who have shared interests. Community makes it possible for marketers to have more listening opportunities. Whether it be customers talking with company representatives directly or listening to communities in the broader social media space, a brand that works to build brand community will be better off than brands that operate in a reactive communication mode with their customers.
The three priorities I have discussed in recent posts share a common recognition: companies might legally own brands, but in reality they are caretakers of brands. Customers and other stakeholders shape brands through their perceptions, attitudes, and actions toward a brand. I hope 2010 is the best year ever for your brand!
In my last post, I identified the ongoing quest to add value for customers as one of three priorities on which marketers should focus in 2010. Today’s post is Part 2 of 2010 marketing priorities, and it, too, takes us back to basics: listen to customers.
I can see eyeballs rolling now. Of course marketers should be listening to customers, why should listening be held as a priority for the year? The answer is that tools available for listening are more numerous today. It is vital that marketers use them to not only know what is being said about them and their products, but more importantly, to respond to what they learn from listening to customers. When customers and bloggers talk about brands on Facebook, Twitter, or other channels, companies must be listening so that they can engage in conversations as warranted.
According to a study by Econsultancy and bigmouthmedia, nearly one-half of companies that monitor social media conversations about their brands respond to negative comments by attempting to directly engage the person posting the negative comment. Instead of attempting to quash comments, these companies embrace them as a means to have dialogue with customers and influentials. Another positive response to listening to comments in social media is using the feedback to make improvements to products and services- 33% of the companies surveyed indicated they monitor social media brand conversations for this purpose. These marketers are using social media as a form of marketing research and are reacting to what they glean from unsolicited comments about their products and services.
The practice of listening to customers is not new; how we can listen to customers is changing. Also, the expectation that marketers listen to customers is higher than ever given that there are many channels to interact with customers. Have you ever sent a company an e-mail only to receive a canned response (or worse yet, no response at all)? Your expectations of how the company should have listened and responded to you were not met. Interacting with customers and others in meaningful, ongoing conversations is possible on an unprecedented level. Make listening to customers one of your priorities in 2010.
As 2009 goes down in the books and we usher in 2010, I reflected on what I see as marketers’ priorities should be in the coming year. I will share three focal points in the next three posts. I begin with the priority that should have been a priority in 2009, should be in 2010, and frankly should be a top priority as long as marketing is practiced.
Add Value for Customers
I know, this directive seems like a given. Marketers have been obsessed with the value proposition for decades. The challenge, and therefore the priority, resides in developing an understanding of how consumers define value today. An oversimplification of value is price of the product or service. A more balanced view of value is benefits delivered for the price paid. In the boom years leading up to the recession of 2008, marketers were able to shift the definition of value in a way that consumers equated brand image as well added product benefits as justification for premium pricing (i.e., expensive but worth it).
The effects of the recession on personal incomes and household spending patterns has significantly reshaped many consumers’ views on consumption and how value is assigned to products and services. Focusing on price as the driver of value is a mistake even in a weak economy. Relevance of brands to consumers is still important. A sensitivity to consumers’ financial state is not exhibited merely by a low price. One reason Hyundai won accolades for its Hyundai Assurance program is that it demonstrated the company understood consumers felt vulnerable because of the recession. Hyundai was in effect saying “we understand.”
The quest to add value for customers should never end. If it does, we no longer need marketing! What changes periodically is how consumers conceptualize value. Now more than ever, marketers must be in tune with what their customers are thinking and feeling. It is this focus on customers that will enable marketers to deliver greater value in 2010.
Two annual rituals in our culture are identifying the top events or trends of the past year and predicting events or trends for the upcoming year. The marketing industry gets in on these rituals, too. One effort to predict future marketing trends was undertaken by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. In a survey of Chief Marketing Officers in August of this year, CMOs identified areas in which they planned to increase marketing spending in 2010.
Findings from the Duke survey reveal CMOs will focus spending in areas that will strengthen customer relationships and deliver measurable results. The area with the highest growth will be spending for online marketing programs, with an average increase of 9.5% expected. The second and third areas are new product and new service introductions, with spending growth expected to be around 9.3% and 6.7%, respectively. Spending on customer relationship management (up 6.4%) and brand building (up 4.5%) round out the top five areas for marketing expenditure growth.
Two implications arise from the survey of CMOs. First, the projected increases for new products and new services suggest companies are willing to take risks in rolling out new offerings. This trend could be a signal of a stronger economy. Second, spending on traditional media advertising continues to have a diminished role in many marketing programs. The desire for customer engagement and performance tracking has led marketing spending into areas such as social media, search engine advertising, and customer relationship management. Mass media advertising will not go away, but for many brands it has been unseated as the primary marketing channel.
eMarketer – “Seven Predictions for 2010 from eMarketer’s CEO”