Thursday, November 20, 2014

Creating a new brand? Start with what it stands for

Open Business: File under business strategy...
Brands are what people say they are. The classic example here is Kelloggs CornFlakes; developed and conceived as a sexual suppresent, the way people used it (as a breakfast cereal) changed how they talked about it and, after that initial hic-cup, how it was branded.

If you want them to agree with what you think your brand is about you have to behave in a way consistent with that position - and that is driven by purpose. Know your purpose and the rest becomes easy. (Chapter One of The 10 Principles of Open Business is dedicated to exactly this).

This sometimes gets lost in the life of a brand. But when one is starting out it has to be the very start point. And that's what last night's broadcast of BBC1's The Apprentice entirely missed.

To create a brand from scratch FIRST you must decide what it is for; what is its purpose - what does it stand for?

Neither of the teams last night started there - and that's why they struggled to align a name, a label, a billboard and a TV ad in any kind of coherent way. This was something Lord Sugar didn't bother pointing out (banging on about product first as if had one of the teams  created something that tasted really nice it would have done its own branding and sold itself to the room of ad execs).

It's simple really:
1. Choose purpose: (eg Helps you tackle life's adventures head on)
2. Come up with a name to reflect that: (eg Red Bull)
3. Give it a taste and colour to reflect that (Caffeine boosted, natural zingy stuff, you get the idea)
4. Do things that reflect the message (jump from balloons in space)
5. Now story board that TV ad...

There are lessons in this for anyone tackling something new - whether it be products and services or developing a brand. I only wish 'business TV' like The Apprentice would do a better job of keeping up.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Communication: The art of sharing with others

Communication. The act of communion with another soul. Isn't it?

Yes, I know there are other definitions. But this is the oldest. It precedes the broadcast age.

Interesting too that the term communication comes from the Latin "Communicare" which literally means, To Share. (I'd be fascinated to learn the root in other languages via your comments, please)

I'm interested because I'm wondering if communication in business needs calling out as the 'sharing with others' it actually is rather than the 'broadcasting a pov to others' it regularly defaults to.

Communication as a term has been so misused and abused by an industry bent on getting its message into your brain (doing something to you, rather than with you) that the true meaning has been lost to the point where we have to use terms such as  'collaboration' to define what we mean by genuine communication.

When we connect, we lower the cost of action. This is because we talk to each other and talking to each other enables us to share in the act of making new things.

Those things are new products, new services, new ideas or new processes. Each is an output of what we call collaboration. But perhaps once we get over and out of our broadcast habits we'll be able to call it plain and simple communication once again.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

To the head of customer experience, Marks & Spencer

There's work to be done on Customer Experience here...
Marks & Spencer were once known as the no quibble returns people. Got a problem, you could take it back. In the land of physical stores that was just fine.
But the game changed. And Marks & Spencer didn't.
They left their customer experience back in the 20th century while the rest of us (their customers included) came to expect more. They came to expect customer-led experiences - those that seek to resolve a customer's issue, that understand the value of that customer, that know who that customer is at each touch point.
I hadn't had a good run with M&S. Three successive fails across different parts of their business (poor flowers, dodgy suit, terrible food) had led me to making a make or break call with their executive office. It was very difficult to raise a complaint in the first place because I tried to do it on an iPad. Their model is still PC first. oh dear.
But I don't want to bang on about that. When I told them this was their last chance to retain me (after multiple calls and channel switches) they sent me a £50 gift voucher.
It worked.
I went back to shopping in my nearest store for food on a Saturday.
And then I made the mistake of ordering some clothes online.
The first package came. On time. Trouble was a pair of jeans among the items had the security tag still attached - you know, the sort that covers your world in dye if you try to remove it with the wrong equipment.
So I fired off a complaint (via a pc, lesson learned) and pointed out that the reason I shopped online is that I don't have time to visit the nearest clothes store (30 miles from my home) so can you please try to resolve this without me having to attend? Maybe you could send someone round when doing deliveries with a security tag remover, I reasoned?
The computer said no. They offered me (seriously) a £5 gift token. I told them this is not about money, this is about serving customer need. By not bothering to check that they had removed the security tag, no doubt their deliveries were a tiny bit more efficient. The cost of that 'improvement' had been passed on to me. The cost of fixing their failing (my time and travel) was entirely to be borne by the customer (sans £5 gift voucher).
I'm lucky enough to be paid a tad more than £5 an hour (which is the minimum my resolving the issue would cost) so I didn't think this a good trade off.
Scarily, I had also ordered a new suit from M&S (yes I know...) and said in my last comms to M&S customer service that I was seriously worried about how the suit may turn up now...
You know what I'm going to say next, right? The suit arrived the next day, complete with... you've guessed it... security tag on the jacket!
I started the inevitable and painful complaint process again... They were sorry. This time a £10 gift voucher.

It really isn't about the money. I just want the product I have paid for in a fit-for-purpose-state without the need for me to expend any additional time and money of my own in resolving what is properly the company's issue to fix, not mine!

Isn't that how we all feel now? Isn't that what we all expect?
A series of further exchanges have followed with offers of next day delivery but a continued insistence that I must send the items back before they will send replacements. Well (I have pointed out) I'm sorry but I need the suit for a wedding next Saturday. If I keep hold of it I can (as a last resort) drive to my nearest store and get them to remove the tag). If I send it back I have absolutely zero evidence that M&S is capable of sending me the item in time - and crucially - without a bloody security tag attached. In fact, all my personal experience points to the fact that at least one item per package will have a security tag attached.
The bottom line here is that M&S is using cash to pay off annoyed customers rather than investing in building a customer-centric and device agnostic approach to customer experience.
Now - let me go seek out the head of customer experience and point them this way...

UPDATE October 23, 2014: Tracked down the relevant person on Linkedin who responded swiftly to tell me they'd be picking this up at work.

Given how short I was on time now, I drove 30 miles to my nearest clothing store on Sunday to get the tags removed. This I felt compelled to do despite it being the day of my daughter's birthday party. Parents will understand how little time I had to spare - but thanks to M&S fails I had to spend 90 minutes of the little I had fixing their screw up.
The people in the store were kind and listened. They couldn't understand how the items came to be tagged. Indeed in the case of the jeans, they don't tag them in store, let alone in distribution warehouses.
They wanted to offer me something (yes, vouchers) but I declined because I have now raised this with someone at HQ...
However, I have still not heard anything further from M&S, three business days on.

I will keep you all posted.

BTW - a general rule I think customer experience should apply - Resolution at the point of transaction should always be offered. If it was delivered to my home, you should resolve the issue at my home.

UPDATE October 24, 2014. A letter arrives from M&S Head of Customer Services. It is detailed and lengthy. It accepts there were failings that should not have happened and which were inexcusable. It promises better inter-departmental communications and to consider enabling the online team to send out replacements in advance of receiving unfit for purpose products back. The letter thanks me for bringing all this to their attention.

All in all a very reasonable response. If only it had actually included a resolution of my issue...

I'm left feeling like I've done M&S a number of favours - from resolving the issue myself to giving them big clues about how to improve their offering and reduce their fail rate.

I am left assuming that karma will provide my reward...




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Antifragile: my contribution to a networkshop

Antifragility consultant and long term supporter of Open Business Sinar Si Alhir was asked to host a workshop at the Center for Technology Innovation at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.
Rather than go it alone, he turned to his network to create a more antifragile response.
I was among those he chose to reach out to and you can see the output of the whole here: (Demystifying Antifragility).
The concept, if you aren't aware, comes from Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book Antifragile - Things That Gain From Disorder (which I thoroughly recommend).

Here's the full text of what I shared with the networkshop:

For me antifragility is about networks (and as is my interest) primarily about the relationships in those networks.

Networked organisations are antifragile. The Mob, Al Queda, these are difficult to destroy because the idea resides not in a boss at the top but in everyone everywhere.

Facebook is fragile. It's fixed networks can be severely damaged by the removal of prime nodes - or superconnectors. Twitter is antifragile - made of nodes where the ability to organise and re-organise around interest in adhoc ways means the loss of one node has less impact on the whole.


The internet is antifragile. Indeed if the web historians are to be believed it emerged as a military application designed to outlive more formally structured communications channels.


Hierarchical companies are fragile. Take out Steve Jobs and...

Familes outlive the oldest companies and will continue to do so; they are networks of connections with both close and weak ties creating a fluidity and adaptability that is essential to be antifragile. They are tied by something which connects them all to each other, not each node to a leader.


The key test of the antifragile is that it has stood the test of time; the weather is antifragile, evolution is antifragile (hence life in aggregate rather than in particular).


Designing for antifragility requires us to think about the survival and continued flourishing of the whole, of the web, rather than of the individual, or the node.



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Getting advocacy on to the balance sheet

If you've read many of my previous posts you'll know of my views about the role and value of social media - its effectiveness as an exercise in relationship building and therefore its value as a one-to-one relationship marketing tool (which you'll find emphasised in my book The 10 Principles of Open Business).

Its job is to create advocates. But what does advocacy mean on the spreadsheet?

To make such a calculation you need five things:


  1. A clear and measurable definition of advocacy
  2. A behaviour change which can reasonably be defined as identifying a shift from standard customer to advocate.
  3. A cash value which can be reasonably attributed to that behaviour change
  4. A robust 'number of friends' each of us could influence.
  5. A mathematically robust formulation of transmission of positive influence in networks.

Let's tackle the difficult one first. Number 5. How do we calculate pass-on in networks. Well, it happens that there are some very clever people with massive brains and even larger computers who have been working on this exact problem for many years. And they've come up with their 42 (look up Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy if that's confused you).
Dr Martin Nowak - himself a professor of maths, biology and evolutionary science at Harvard - quotes a very useful ratio (in his book Super-Cooperators) discovered by Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School and James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego. It suggests we are swayed by the good mood of not only friends, but of those indirectly related - through second and third degree iterations.
In the first generation the chance of them displaying a positive response is 34% . In the second (friends of friends) it is 10%. And in the third (friends of friends of friends) it is 6%.
It turns out this is a function of the structure of human social networks - not of the nodes within them... And it dries right up after the third iteration. This seems to me a very reasonable proxy for advocacy. You have to be happy with what you've been provided with in order to advocate it to your friends. Very happy.
This is very useful indeed.
It means that if we know the value of the behaviour change (X) and the number of friends (Y) we can use the transmission formula to understand the network effect - in real cash terms - of creating one advocate. We can put a price on the value of over-delivery - of creating happiness...
Here's the formula:
Pass on to friends (F) = Y * .34 * X
Pass on to friends of friends (FF) = Y * .1 * X
Pass on to friends of friends of friends (FFF) = Y * .06 * X
Add them together (F+FF+FFF) = Value of advocacy in a network.
Still with me?
Now we have to start reducing the number of variables. The most important is the value of Y: number of friends.
Again, we are indebted to the canon on peer-to-peer relationships. The number of friends who could typically be called 'close tie' at each iteration is just six. It's the typical number of people you text, for example; Facebook offers you 'six friends' when looking at someone's profile - based on close ties; in Britain only six friends will last your whole life through. Philosopher's of friendship think you can only maintain 6-12 friends at a time.
Six may sound low when you look at the number of twitter followers and facebook friends you have - but it turns out about right if you take a closer look at the number of people you maintain daily contact with. Remember - we aren't trying to make a case for reach here but for the ability to create behavioural change through advocacy.
Let's bring this to life with an example.
Let's say we can track the value of a group of customers. Let's call them group A.
On average they spend £300 with us. But we take a subset of these, group B, and provide them with exceptional customer service.
We find that group B end up spending £100 more on an average transaction with us than with their peers in group A.
The additional spend is the behaviour change we have identified as a marker of someone who is happy enough with us to advocate us to their peers.
This £100 then is the financial representation of a behaviour change which illustrates someone has changed status from customer to advocate.
Just to be clear, it doesn't matter how many times this person spends more money with us - that isn't their advocacy value, that's repeat business. In other words another impact of treating a customer well may be a rise in that customer's lifetime value, but that's not what we are calculating here; that increase in total spend will be recorded directly in your sales figures.
What we are seeking here is the impact of that person's "happiness with us" on others - their close tie friends, their friends of friends, and their friends of friends of friends.
Ok - so - if you will indulge me - we have numbers 5-2 on my list covered. How will we define advocacy in a way it can be identified and measured?
Advocacy is the act of publishing (posting/tweeting) about a positive customer experience.
Those of you thinking a few steps ahead will already have noted that the formula for calculating the amplifying effect of advocacy in networks must be a consistent number.
We'll work through a simple example taking our formula and using real numbers (in which £100 uplift in spend is the value ascribed to the behaviour change which indicates shift from customer to advocate) to illustrate why:
Here's the formula:
Pass on to friends (F) = (6) * .34 * £100 = 204
Pass on to friends of friends (FF) = (6*6) * .1 * £100 = 360
Pass on to friends of friends of friends (FFF) = (6*6*6) * .06 * £100 = £1296
Add them together (F+FF+FFF) = £1860.
And if we divide by the base behaviour change figure (£100) we end up with 18.6.
So - if you know the value you can ascribe to a behaviour change which indicates a shift from customer to advocate (such as an increase in the amount they are spending with you) you can simply multiply by 18.6 to give you the advocacy value of an advocate.
Calculate the number of instances (as defined by someone publishing their positive experience) and you are able to put a very reasonable number on the value of inspiring advocacy. In my view at least.

I'd be interested in your views on the methodology I've used.

I believe I have erred on the side of conservative assumptions. But they seem reasonable. If I rave to six of my friends about a great customer experience I had with X, the assumption is that the next time (at any time in the next five years) these guys have an option on which brand to choose a third will recall my positivity about X and give it a try... and so on to 2nd and 3rd generation ties.

This is less that perfect I'll grant, but for every challenge that can lower the output (will a third of your peers buy or just think nice thoughts?), there's another to consider to raise it (is six really a big enough number of friends to consider at each iteration?, what about all the advocacy that happens face to face but not online).

My response is this is the best I've got to so far, it ploughs a reasonable and conservative middle course, and it is based on the summation of much of the best of thinking, theory and testing in network science.

Using it allows me to set realistic and accountable KPIs and steer social media and social content strategy in the right direction.

FasterFuture.blogspot.com

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?