Black holes

Many a scientist and theorist have proposed that black holes are in fact gateways to alternate universes. We’ve all heard this theory, and secretly believed in its rationality and plausibility – after all, nobody really knows what a black hole does other than suck.

But here’s the problem in the theory. If black holes were in fact gateways to other universes, it must be assumed that the other universes have black holes and that their destination would be our universe. To date however, I have not heard of a reverse black hole that is spewing celestial matter into its own orbit.

The important lesson here is that you cannot be a black hole of information and value. Without giving value, you are merely consuming it and sucking the life out of every resource within your grasp. We all consume, but the rare find is the one that spews value into orbit. Spew my friends, spew.

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The Extinct Metaphor; The Customer Funnel

The customer purchase funnel has long been the go-to metaphor for marketing teams.  It provides a framework to evaluate your conversion and purchase process of your consumers.  Are you getting enough awareness at the top of your funnel?  How do your consumers review your brand during the consideration phase?  Are you getting enough purchases?  All of which, to the rational professional, can be easily explained, understood and shared with the executive office.  The reality is that this model is fundamentally flawed in today’s social media driven consumer culture.

Fueling the Fire

The reason for this error is that the prototypical consumer funnel does not take into consideration the post-purchase experience for consumers.  Consumers are inundated with brands competing for awareness.  At the top of the “funnel” they’re overwhelmed by the amount of information they need to sift through to get a decent understanding of which brands they should consider – many of them are now using social media or word of mouth to discuss their friends and families experiences with your brand.  At the bottom of the “funnel”, the brand loyalists are no longer passive in their approach, but many are now openly discussing their experience with your brand with their friends and family – creating a much more circular pattern of the customer experience, instead of a funnel.

Courtesy of McKinsey Quarterly

The experience after the consumer forks over their money for their car, computer, or latte is a critical element in fueling what was formerly known as the consideration phase of the customer funnel.  In today’s world, customers are telling everyone they know about their new product via social media.  Everyone posts about their new car, beautiful dress, or slick iPhone 5, and all of those posts have opinions with sentiment and impact on their friends and families.

Awareness is Influenced by Your Network

Consumers spend oodles of time doing their homework on products before purchasing, and the opinions of their networks, review sites, friends and family has more power in dictating the ultimate decision than ever before.  Even in the food and beverage industry, where the Harvard Business School’s case study shows a 5%-9% impact on a restaurant’s sales that’s directly correlated to a half a star increase or decrease on their Yelp rating, people’s post-consumer experience behavior is becoming more critical than ever for an effective marketing approach.

In fact, it can easily be argued that increasing your awareness, or your initial consideration set, is more dependent on your actual customers than ever before.  In order to put your brand or product into this grouping, you must promote your brand advocates and key influencers – a dramatic shift from the traditional marketing approach of building brand awareness.

The following video, from McKinsey Partners, is a great illustration of this shift away from the customer conversion funnel.

Conclusion

While the board room and CMO offices across the digital ecosphere have demanded customer funnel metrics and evaluation, the reality is that their consumers have evolved.  The purchasing behavior has shifted from the traditional approach and now more than ever is driven by the customer experience beyond the antiquated funnel model.

In order to drive awareness and get your brand into the initial consideration set, you have no choice – you have to promote your customers that promote you post-purchase.

 

 

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Head First into Social

The biggest complaint I have working with clients in the social media space is their reluctance to go all-in.  It’s like swimming lessons as a kid – remember those?  The cold fall mornings.  The chilly breeze that cuts through you as you remove your shirt.  A teenage lifeguard yelling at you to get in the pool.

What made that event brutal every morning at swim class, wasn’t the lessons themselves.  It wasn’t the annoying lifeguard or parent making you do something you didn’t want.  It wasn’t even the fact that you had to get up early to get there.

The most brutal part of swim class was actually getting into the water.  A process that was only exacerbated when you stuck your foot or toe in and let the water drive shivers up your leg.  It only got better once you were completely in and you became acclimated.

It’s exactly the metaphor needed for businesses to understand the importance of the all or nothing mentality that is social media.  You can’t pick and choose your battles or conversations, you have to take the good with the bad and be in the pool, swimming with the sharks.

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Ice Cream for Little Leaugers

Social media isn’t changing the way people view companies.  It’s not going to give you hundreds of immediate sales, nor new perspectives, nor get you laid.  What it does do is give you a unique experience that provides a compliment of positive feelings your customers want, but can’t express.

Much like the ice cream parlor after a little league game, Social Media provides a unique opportunity to build irreplaceable value in your customer’s mind.  The parlor is a place  packed with both winners and losers who want nothing more than an opportunity to improve their mood, comfort level, and satisfaction.  Each one wants something different, but will end up with a very similar, positive impression.   You’re not going to change the outcome of their decisions prior to the ice cream experience, but you will create an irreplaceable impression that will make a lasting impression.

It’s not good enough to just give your customers ice cream after they’ve finished their little league game, you have to give them the variety, sprinkles, and toppings to truly reach them on a personal level and have the impact.

 

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