10 Questions You Must Ask When Hiring a Social Media Consultant (or an agency in general)

Source: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225335

BY  | January 7, 2013|

social media consultant is essentially the eyes, ears and voice of your company online. That means you need someone who can raise your brand awareness, deliver traffic to your website, and boost your bottom line — all while keeping your company’s reputation top-of-mind.

So how do you hire just the right person? Here are 10 key questions you should ask prospective social media consultants:

1. How successful are you in your own social media networks? It’s important to know how actively engaged consultants are in their own personal and professional social media networks, says Michael Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner and host of the Social Media Marketing Podcast. If they can’t effectively market themselves on social media, they probably can’t do it for you either.

Stelzner suggests observing consultants on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to see if they promptly and appropriately reply to people who engage them and regularly share valuable content. Also, look out for red flags: If consultants share offensive tweets, status updates or photos, for example, don’t do business with them.

2. Do you understand my market? Social media consultants should thoroughly understand your industry and your specific target market, Stelzner says. You can quiz them to gauge their general knowledge of your market, as well as determine whether they have written any significant white papers, case studies, articles or blog posts about trends in your industry.

3. How connected are you to influencers in my industry? Ideally, consultants will already be connected to industry influencers, who can help build awareness of your products and services. To find out how well connected consultants are, check out their list of Twitter followers and people they are following. If they have a Facebook Timeline, scan their “likes” and the people who have “liked” them.

4. May I have the names of your clients? Qualified candidates should readily share with you a list of existing and past clients, says Aliza Sherman, co-author of Social Media Engagement for Dummies (Wiley, 2013). “People usually only point you to past clients that they know were happy with their work,” Sherman says. “So, directly calling or emailing their current clients to find out if they’re pleased with their services is paramount.”

5. Where can I find current and past examples of your work? Sara Sutton Fell, founder of telecommuting job site FlexJobs.com, suggests requesting links to current online examples, as well as past portfolio samples, so you can evaluate social media initiatives that the consultant created or played a central role in. Look for engaging campaigns that resulted in quantifiable increases in brand exposure and sales leads and seem suited to you target market.

6. Which tools do you use to measure the ROI of your campaigns? It’s important for social media managers to back up their accomplishments with metrics and analytics that quantify return on investment. You want to go beyond simple tallies of likes, followers and fans and actually analyze lead conversion rates.

Fell suggests asking consultants whether they use their own custom tracking methods or popular tools like Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and Klout. Also ask how they monitor and improve Facebook EdgeRank and Twitter re-tweet rates.

7. What are some social media campaign ideas for my business? Without showing all of their cards for free, candidates should be willing to discuss the types of social media strategies they could develop for you, Fell says. How would they spark social media actions, reactions and interactions on your behalf to benefit your business? What kinds of Facebook ads, Pinterest contests or Twitter hashtag campaigns could they roll out and when?

8. Which social media do you specialize in? It’s important to be as specific as possible during the hiring process if you hope to focus on a certain social network. For example, if you’re especially interested in encouraging Pinterest users to pin memorable images of your products, you don’t want someone who excels mostly at Facebook coupon code promotions.

9. How would you handle a social media crisis? Social marketing campaigns backfire all the time, as was the case with #McDStories and other hijacked promotional Twitter hashtags. It’s crucial to know how consultants would react to a social media disaster, as well as how they would avoid one in the first place, says David Gerzof Richard, a social media and marketing professorat Emerson College in Boston and president of public relations and social media firm BIGfish. He also suggests asking about consultants’ policies for responding to negative tweets and Facebook comments.

10. What are your payment terms and are they negotiable? You need to know whether consultants get paid a retainer or simply charge by the hour or by the project. Other payment-related questions: How often are invoice payments due–every 30, 60 or 90 days? Is there an interest fee for late payments? Do consultants offer a discount for referring additional clients? Do they require a minimum contract period?

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5 bí mật giết chết nội dung tiếp thị

Bài viết sưu tầm.

Source: http://www.bmg.edu.vn/vn/bai-viet-hay/tiep-thi—marketing/5-bi-mat-giet-chet-noi-dung-tiep-thi/668/1

1. “Khách hàng quan tâm tới danh tiếng công ty của tôi!”

Không. Họ chỉ quan tâm tới những lợi ích sản phẩm hay dịch vụ bạn mang lại khi quyết định móc hầu bao để sở hữu chúng. Họ cũng chẳng thèm quan tâm tới việc bạn là thành viên của phòng thương mại địa phương hơn 20 năm trời hay thành viên ban quản trị của bạn là ai (hãy vui lòng đừng đưa những thông tin này vào các tư liệu tiếp thị). Họ chỉ muốn biết nhu cầu của mình có được đáp ứng đầy đủ hay không. Do đó, mục tiêu của nội dung tiếp thị là thuyết phục khách hàng rằng những sản phẩm hay dịch vụ bạn đang cung cấp sẽ đáp ứng nhu cầu và mong muốn của họ, thậm chí bạn còn phải tạo ra nhu cầu. Nói cách khác, nội dung tiếp thị cần phải lột tả cho họ thấy những lợi ích thiết thực nhất. Nếu bạn đã kinh doanh được trên 10 năm, điều này thật tuyệt, nhưng họ sẽ chẳng thèm quan tâm đâu, họ chỉ muốn biết là bạn có thể làm gì để mang lại cho cuộc sống của họ dễ chịu và thoải mái hơn. Đây là những thông điệp bạn cần nhấn mạnh nếu muốn viết nội dung tiếp thị một cách hiệu quả.

2. “Chỉ cần sử dụng một nội dung duy nhất!”

Không. Nội dung này cần phải được điều chỉnh cho phù hợp với kênh truyền tải thông tin. Ví dụ đối với các biển quảng cáo ngoài trời khi mà người đi đường chỉ có vài giây để nhìn lướt qua chúng, thông điệp cần phải ngắn gọn và đi thẳng vào vấn đề. Tuy nhiên khi bạn gửi thư quảng cáo cho những khách hàng đã có yêu cầu, nội dung cần phải chi tiết và trả lời được những thắc mắc của họ. Đồng thời cần tạo ra sự hối thúc để tăng tỉ lệ phản hồi.

3. “Sử dụng cùng một nội dung cho tất cả mọi người!”

Đây không phải là một ý định hay. Nội dung cần được soạn thảo phù hợp với từng nhóm đối tượng người nhận, việc này phụ thuộc các yếu tố liên quan tới hành vi người nhận, họ đã từng sử dụng sản phẩm hay chưa,… Ví dụ nội dung thư giới thiệu được gửi cho khách hàng đã từng sử dụng sản phẩm, dịch vụ sẽ khác nội dung thư giới thiệu gửi tới nhóm khách hàng tiềm năng. Hai đối tượng này rõ ràng có sự khác nhau: một là đã từng sử dụng sản phẩm, dịch vụ và một thì chưa. Chính vì vậy, 2 nội dung này nên được soạn thảo khác nhau nhằm đặt được tỉ lệ trả lời cao nhất có thể.

4. “Lời lẽ cần phải chuyên nghiệp!”

Không hẳn lúc nào cũng cần. Ngôn ngữ và giọng điệu sử dụng cần phải phù hợp với người đọc. Cụ thể, ngôn từ viết cho tuổi teen sẽ khác với ngôn từ dành cho những người trưởng thành. Hãy xem ví dụ của McDonald’s, gần đây thương hiệu này xuất hiện trên quảng cáo truyền hình với tên gọi là “Mickey D’s” thay vì “McDonald’s” với mục đích là tạo ra sự gần gũi hơn với khách hàng của họ. Cũng cần phải hạn chế sử dụng các thuật ngữ chuyên ngành nếu bạn muốn người đọc hiểu được nội dung cần truyền tải. Tuy nhiên, chúng ta vẫn có thể sử dụng thuật ngữ cho các mẫu quảng cáo khi chúng nhắm tới đối tượng là các doanh nghiệp.

5. “Viết nội dung tiếp thị cũng đơn giản thôi!”

Đừng bao giờ có suy nghĩ như thế. Viết nội dung tiếp thị là một công việc manh tính đặc thù. Nó không tuân theo các quy tắc viết lách mà bạn đã từng học. Nó dựa trên kiến thức về tâm lý, kinh doanh, sự am hiểu về sản phẩm, khách hàng, khả năng sáng tạo và thuyết phục cao. Không phải ai có khả năng viết tốt đều trở thành copy writer giỏi và ngược lại. Khi đã quyết định tự mình viết, bạn cần phải tìm hiểu và phân tích bản nháp trước khi chính thức đặt bút viết. Nếu quyết định thuê một copy writer, hãy nhớ rằng không phải copy writer nào cũng như nhau. Chỉ nên chọn những copy writer có kinh nghiệm và biết dành thời gian tìm hiểu về công việc kinh doanh cũng như khách hàng của bạn.

3 Easy Steps to Engaging Your Customers

By 

Published November 29, 2012

Source: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/engagement-marketing-book-review/

 

Are your customers spreading a good word about your business?

Are you happy with your volume of referral business?

If not, it could be that your “engagement marketing engine” is not revved up.

 

What is Engagement?

Engagement is not just about unending, feel-good conversations on your blog orFacebook page.

According to Gail Goodman, author of Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins in a Socially Connected Worldengagement is when people qualify themselves – when a prospect raises her hand and says, “Yes, I’m interested in your company. Help me to get to know you a little more.”

Invariably people who have engaged with you online become customers at higher rates, and they in turn tell their friends about you, revving up your marketing engine over and over again.

If you’re a small business owner who wants to strengthen engagement with existing customers, get more repeat sales and even more referrals,Engagement Marketing is exactly the book for you.

Here are a few things you should know about it.

Author’s Purpose

gail goodmanGail Goodman, author of Engagement Marketing.

Gail Goodman wrote this book for small business owners who understand what it’s like to struggle to find new customers, retain old ones and get the biggest bang for your marketing buck.

As a small business expert, she knows firsthand that word-of-mouth and social media marketing can be game-changers for small organizations looking to achieve more success.

This book is about making your company so interesting and providing so much value that people will want to stay connected and maintain a relationship with you.

What to Expect

At 185 pages, Engagement Marketing is an inspiring book with relevant ideas for small business owners. In a down economy where small business has borne the brunt of the recession, Gail’s book points to a silver lining that will have you feeling more confident about the future.

She shows how small organizations across the country (Gourmet Coffee, Maas Nursery, Currier Museum of Art, The Beantown Sound and many others) are using creative engagement tactics (despite the fierce competition) to find new customers, win back old ones and make more money.

Here are some useful things you will learn:

  • The engagement marketing cycle – the idea of getting new customers through existing ones.
  • How social visibility happens – when your social network shares your content, your business is exposed to new prospects whom you can subsequently convert.
  • Engagement marketing tips and tricks – 5 additional insider tips that further increase your social visibility and ultimately bring in new customers.
  • And much more!

Highlights

The gist of Engagement Marketing is that when you delight your customers by serving them well, and then deepen your relationship with them via social media, they will give you more repeat business and even lead others to you.

Engagement marketing is a three-step process.

the engagement marketing cycleThe Engagement Marketing Cycle – experience, entice, engage!

#1: Deliver a WOW! Experience

One of the best ways to figure out whether you’re delivering a great customer experience is to look at your business from the outside inAsk yourself the following:

  • When people call your office, are they put on hold for 5 minutes, stuck listening to “Your call is very important to us” every 10 seconds?
  • What happens when you try to access your website from a mobile phone?
  • Is your website built on Flash?
  • When a customer complains about your service, does someone from your office respond immediately or are these comments ignored?

Here’s what a WOW! experience looks likeGourmet Coffee Service delivers office refreshment products to companies in the greater Los Angeles area.

Following their slogan ”We’re going to spoil you,” they send a driver out to the customer’s workplace every four weeks. When the driver arrives, he doesn’t just drop off the products (and an invoice). He straightens up and restocks the pantry, and then he cleans and maintains the coffee brewer. That in itself helps to keep costs down for the customer. The company also sends out nice, easy-to-read invoices.

Remember, when you deliver a WOW! experience, customers will be interested and open to keeping in touch with you.

#2: Entice Customers to Keep in Touch

Now that you’ve wowed your customers, the next thing you’ll want to do is entice them to keep in touch via email or social media. It’s important to keep in touch with customers for two reasons.

  • It drives repeat sales because it helps draw them back to your business.
  • It keeps you top-of-mind. Even if they delete your emails, your name stays on their radar and the next time they need your product again, they’ll be more likely to call you.
reception bell with hand isolated on whiteRepeat business is more likely to happen when you’ve kept in touch with customers. Image source: iStockphoto

Gourmet Coffee Service knows how to entice customers to stay in touch.

First they use their email newsletter to feature new tea and coffee products, biscotti or eco-friendly cups and napkins. Customers choose whatever they want to sample and email their requests back to the company. Dedicated reps then handle the orders and ensure that customers get their “goody bags” when their driver visits next.

They also have a “Refer a friend” campaign whereby customers who refer a friend via email receive gift certificates for more delicious treats.

There’s one thing that you have to be careful about with email newsletters and social media content, however. “You have to walk a fine line between content that benefits your customers and content that is self-serving,” cautions Bob Tullio, owner of Gourmet Coffee.

#3: Engage People

Once your customers opt into your social content, you have to make sure they stay by engaging them on a regular basis.

Engaging people means delivering interesting, relevant content that gets them to take an action. Engagement includes everything from likes, comments and shares to downloads, event registrations and online purchases.

Keep in mind that online participation often translates into offline engagement.

Gourmet Coffee engages fans on their Facebook page with exciting giveaways and contests such as their “Driver Contest.” Customers were invited to post comments about why they love their drivers. (Editor’s note: All Facebook competitions are subject to Facebook’s guidelines. You can find out more here.)

The company also committed to giving away valuable prizes (e.g., Bose SoundDock Digital Music Systems) by entering people who liked their page in a weekly drawing. Winners were announced each week through videos posted on Facebook.

In just 11 months after implementing these easy engagement tactics, Gourmet Coffee earned more than $100,000 in additional revenue, and the “Refer a friend” campaign netted dozens of referrals, with 7 of them turning into $5000-a-month accounts!

If you put yourself in customers’ shoes, you can see why it would be easy for them to keep in touch with a company that delights them with sample goody bags, clean pantries, dedicated reps and drivers, interesting newsletters and amazing content.

Key Takeaways

  • Figure out how you can provide a WOW! experience to your customers. It doesn’t have to break the bank, it just needs to be delightful (being on time, nice packaging, thank-you notes, customer rep phone calls to ensure everything is OK and so on).
  • Start with one initial connection method (e.g., email newsletter or a blog) for enticing customers to keep in touch. Remember engagement marketing is an opt-in strategy, so give customers a reason (i.e., a benefit) to keep in touch with you.
  • Once you have that piece gaining traction, add a social media platform(where your customers hang out) and experiment with different types of content to see what your potential customers like. Be sure to measure results and repeat what works.

Personal Impression

Gail’s book offers a practical, hands-on approach to using social media for customer engagement. I especially enjoyed her case studies because she used ordinary small businesses that were easy to relate to.

I also liked many of her budget-friendly content marketing tips. For example, when creating incentives for your email newsletter, do something simple and cheap such as bundling your five most popular blog posts into a special “toolkit” report.

On the downside though, I felt that the whole idea of “engagement marketing” is nothing new. Most business owners know that they must provide a great customer experience if they want to stay in business.

It’s true that social media has created new opportunities to entice and engage customers (and the book gives many good examples), but even that has been in place for a long time.

That said, I highly recommend the book because it delivers very important yet achievable strategies for using social media to attract repeat and referral business.

Social Media Examiner gives this perceptive book a 4-star rating.

9 Facebook Marketing Tips From Top Experts

9 Facebook Marketing Tips From Top Experts

By 
Published August 21, 2012

Are you looking for creative ways to improve your Facebook marketing?

Facebook continues to be the social media platform of choice for many businesses.

So we spoke with top Facebook experts to find out the hottest marketing tips businesses need to know today.

#1: LEVERAGE VIDEOS MORE EFFECTIVELY ON FACEBOOK WITH OPEN GRAPH

Emeric Ernoult

My hottest tip is for those who sell products or services on their websites and have Like buttons attached to them: Share videos, not just still images!

Let me explain. When someone likes a product or service on your website, a story will be displayed on Facebook with a title, a description and an image.

A story will be displayed on Facebook with a title, description and image.

But if you have a video of this specific product or service, you can make the stories published a lot more appealing!

Imagine that every time someone likes a product, it will share a video showing that product in an attractive way or a demo of how to benefit from it—or if it’s a service, an interview of a client saying how he benefited from your service. The possibilities are limitless.

In the example below, when you like a vacation club of this travel company, you will share a video tour of that club. A lot more appealing than a 150-pixel–wide image:

ou can make the stories published a lot more appealing with video.

It’s pretty easy to make this happen. Just add the following meta tags to your existing Facebook Open Graph meta data:

<meta property=”og:image” content=”image url” />
<meta property=”og:video” content=”video url” />
(if your video is on YouTube, the link should entered as follows: http://www.youtube.com/v/the-ID-of-your -video. The ID of your video appears in its original URL right after “watch?v=”)
<meta property=”og:video:type” content=”application/x-shockwave-flash” />
<meta property=”og:video:width” content=”width of your video” />
<meta property=”og:video:height” content=”height of your video” />

Emeric Ernoult, founder of AgoraPulse Facebook CRM Platform

#2: EXPERIMENT WITH POSTING OUTSIDE BUSINESS HOURS

Mari Smith

You have a fan page for your business, so it stands to reason you’ll want to publish your posts during business hours, right? That’s partially true. However, you may be missing out on reaching a huge portion of your fans by not posting outside business hours!

So experiment with posting during early morning periods (4 am-7 am ET), late evenings (10 pm-12 am ET) and on weekends. Thentrack what type of response you get. Don’t just try it one time and stop; mix it up each week. For example, let’s say you currently post on your fan page twice a day—make one post during business hours and the other post either early morning or late evening.

A recent study of 20 popular brands by Yesmail revealed that “campaigns deployed between 10 pm-12 am ET were an engagement goldmine. Based on volume, however, this timeslot was the least utilized for deployment.” And, “The most popular time of day to deploy campaigns was between 11 am-1 pm ET, while paradoxically, this timeslot was in the bottom 30% in terms of engagement.”

Another study based on 200 fan pages by Buddy Media shows that “ engagement is highest at 4 am, 7 am, and 11 pm, but that brands post the most during business hours.”

By the way, be sure to keep an eye on the location of your fans in your Facebook Page Insights. This is critical to know in which global time zones most of your fans reside.

#3: FIND CREATIVE WAYS TO ADD MORE PHOTOS

Andrea Vahl

Visual marketing is winning.  Sharing photos is still the best way to get interaction.  Photos are more visible than sharing a link and take up more space in the newsfeed than any other type of post.

Think of different ways you can incorporate more photos.  If you are linking to a blog post, upload an image from the post as a photo and then share the link within the status update.

Upload an image from the post as a photo and then share the link within the status update.

If you have a quote, find a good royalty-free image and add the quote to it.

If you need something created to illustrate a particular point, find a good graphic artist to help you.  If you are sharing a large infographic, create a smaller picture of it, and then link to the entire post in the status update.

When people comment on or like photos, they can show up in the newsfeed of their friends and are more noticeable than a link or plain text status update.

If people share the photo, your Facebook page name travels with that photo even if a friend of a fan then shares it.  So your page is becoming more viral.  Try incorporating more photos into your posts for a week and measure your results!

Andrea Vahl, co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies

#4: USE SPONSORED POSTS

Dave Kerpen

You want content from your page to reach your fans. However, because your content is competing not only with other businesses, but also with all of your fans’ friends, most of your content won’t likely be seen in your fans’ newsfeeds.

Only 16% of brand content organically reaches your fans on average.

Page Post ads allow you to have increased reach for content you want to ensure is seen by more people. For as little as $10, or as much as you’d like, you can reach a greater percentage of your fans through a Facebook ad. The content will show up in your fans’ newsfeeds as a Sponsored Post, and is an excellent way to get more impressions, likes and clicks!

We’ve used Sponsored Post ads successfully for dozens of clients and for our own Likeable Media page (see image below).

Sponsored Post ads are best for already-compelling content, such as videos, free whitepapers or webinar offers, or special deals. Plus, you can test Sponsored Post ads at really small budgets with little risk and then scale up based on your success.

Page Post ads are best for already-compelling content.

Dave Kerpen, author of Likeable Social Media

#5: INVOLVE YOUR FANS IN PRODUCT DECISIONS

PJ Jonas

It’s always great to have a big response when rolling out a new product.  Whether that product is an information product or a physical product, involve your fans in designing an element of it.

As close to the product launch as possible, ask your fans for their input.  Create a sense of urgency by sharing that you are making a final decision shortly and need their input now.  If appropriate, include photos of the possible choices.

When you launch the product, thank them for their input and share what you decided on.

Recently we wanted to highlight and sell a bunch of soy candles.  I asked on Facebook what scents our customers wanted me to make that day and got 72 responses.

Ask your customers what they want.

We made most of what was asked for and later that day, we posted a photo of the candles.

Share pictures of your product.

Our post stated that they were available on the website, and we sold a majority of the candles within an hour.  By getting your customers’ input into the products you offer, they feel a sense of ownership and are more likely to purchase and share your product with others.

PJ Jonasowner of Goat Milk Stuff, podcaster

#6: UTILIZE THE NEW SCHEDULING TOOL

Ben Pickering

Facebook allows page admins to schedule a post to be published at a later time. This type of functionality has previously been available through third-party publishing platforms, but is now accessible to everyone in the native Facebook environment.

Given the continuing unresolved reports that posts scheduled via third parties sometimes receive lower exposure in the newsfeed, there may be reasons to consider using this tool.

Using the scheduling tool can help ensure your messages are delivered at the optimal time to reach your audience, especially when used in conjunction with the location targeting feature.

Aside from not having to log in to post something at a specific time, you can save time by mapping out your communications plan and scheduling multiple messages in advance.

It’s important that not all communication be premeditated in order to remain timely and genuine, but many messages are appropriate for advance scheduling. And don’t forget to consider promoting your post to gain even greater reach!

Using the scheduling tool can help ensure your messages are delivered at the optimal time.

Ben Pickering, CEO of Strutta, a leading platform for social promotions and a Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer

#7: USE CONTESTS TO GET MORE FANS

Jim Belosic

Every day our users ask us the same question: “How do I get more fans?” Unfortunately, my answer is pretty boring: “It depends.” There are tons of ways to market your Facebook page and some are better than others. It really depends on your audience and your style of managing the page.

However, one method that I’ve seen work across the board is Facebook contests.

Contests have three main benefits: Getting existing fans to join the conversation, encouraging their friends to join in too and collect information from your fans, such as an email address. That information can be useful for bringing your marketing efforts outside of Facebook—with fans’ permission, of course.

Facebook contests are an effective way to market your Facebook page and there are many third-party apps out there that make it really simple and most importantly, compliant with Facebook’s Promotion Guidelines. Best of all, there is a contest app that will fit your budget. Prices for contest apps range from free to five figures a month.

It’s important to remember that not every Facebook contest is the same. Businesses have to test out different types of contests such as photo or video contests and see which resonates with their audience.

Marketing on Facebook is a trial-and-error process and an ever-changing challenge. Understanding your target audience and offering up incentives for existing fans to continue to check in with your business and new fans to follow your business are key to lasting success.

Jim Belosic, CEO of ShortStack, a custom Facebook apps design platform that helps businesses maximize their social media presence and potential

#8: GET ACTIVE ON YOUR PERSONAL PROFILE

John Haydon

Facebook is a friendly network where people connect with people. If you’re not using Facebook for your personal profile, you’ll never really understand user motivations.

It’s like learning to speak French only from a book and then actually visiting France. Those who live there will be able to tell you’re a foreigner in a matter of seconds. You won’t get their jokes, expressions, body language or any other unique characteristics of their local culture.

The same is true for Facebook. You can read all of the various books on Facebook marketing, but eventually you have to become part of the native culture in order to truly understand the language.

Are you interacting as a person with other people? Image: iStockphoto

John Haydon, co-author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies

#9: ALLOCATE THE RESOURCES NEEDED

Mark Schaefer

Most businesses grossly underestimate the amount of work it takes to be successful on Facebook.

Your strategy should start with an honest answer to this question: “Do we have a company that consistently generates content that people will want to share and discuss—or could we become that company?”

Understanding the implications of this answer will help guide your Facebook presence.

Mark W. Schaefer, author of Return on Influence and The Tao of Twitter

How to Create Compelling Brand Experiences

Crafting design strategies that result in truly compelling brand experiences, products and services demands a change from traditional methods. It requires a more creative and iterative design approach, which is optimized towards identifying real human needs and addressing them with meaningful experiences. Paul Noble-Campbell delves deeper into five critical keys to uncovering those true success drivers.

Traditionally the design process had been begun after an organization creates of an exhaustive list of “must have” features and requirements, as means of a design brief. The assumptions used to generate this document are typically based solely on market research data and voice-of-customer (VOC) information.

Starting with a requirements document is a mistake!

Information garnered through market research tends to be based on what has sold in the past, providing only a rear-view mirror perspective of your market. Typically, VOC information consists of survey-generated data and anecdotal stories from ad-hoc customer groups. This data is helpful only for creating incremental improvements, but it does not provide the foundation of knowledge necessary to enable large leaps forward into underserved, differentiated, or “Blue Ocean” spaces (as described in the book “Blue Ocean Strategy” by Kim and Mauborgne).

Many user-needs are latent – so it is extremely unlikely that you could uncover any game-changing insights through customer interviews alone. It is unreasonable to expect that typical customers will have the imagination necessary to describe a future that is much different from today’s reality. The classic description of this phenomenon was immortalized by Henry Ford, who said “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.

Many organizations spend enormous effort analyzing and refining the wording of their requirements documents based on customers’ pre-conceptions of what they want. The result of following this process is that they miss what is of fundamental importance to their customers. This is why I believe that many requirements documents are “highly polished but deeply flawed”.

A better way – human needs drive success drivers

Uncovering latent and unmet user needs demands the use of contextual and generative design research techniques optimized for discovering the valuable insights that drive innovation and create brand experiences that delight customers. Such techniques as empathetic immersion, user observation and participatory design serve to provide a deeper understanding of what is truly important to customers.

This knowledge provides the background needed to create product experiences that are authentic, meaningful and engaging. Providing your customers with these types of compelling experiences results in increased customer loyalty and superior long-term business results.

With that in mind, here are the five critical keys to uncovering those true success drivers:

1. Identifying needs and solutions is an iterative process

The insights garnered from the holistic approach outlined here serve as a strong foundation to validate, complement, and challenge existing market research and VOC information.

Synthesize the insights you discover so that needs are described as opposed to solutions. View these as a flexible set of product guidelines that become more definitive as the design process progresses. As conceptual solutions are created based on this flexible “insight-based” framework, validate them with customers. Use this feedback to refine the product guidelines.

2. Provide benefits, not features

The value you provide your customers lives in the quality of the experience you create for them – much more so than in your products & services themselves.

The graphic below pokes fun at how a technology company might promote the features of a healthy product like an apple – rather than considering its health benefits, its natural flavor or the experience of biting into a fresh, juicy apple.

 

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Credit: Smart Design, Femme Den.

3. Understand the context of use

Understanding context is imperative when considering user experience. Observe the moment of use from a range of perspectives with the human experience as your central focus.

An example of one such perspective is the environment in which a product or service is used. Think about who is using your products and services and what physical abilities or limitations they may have. For instance, a product designed for hazardous areas would need to allow for an operator to interact with the device while wearing protective clothing and gloves.

Cultural background also shapes how people perceive their environment and the products and services they interact with. Factors such as the emotional, cultural, social, and physical aspects of the experience are often over-looked but are crucial inputs.

4. Consider the whole customer experience of the brand

Examine the user experience both before and after the moment of use. Think about how your customers research, purchase, setup, learn to use and maintain your products and services. Ask yourself: “What is the environmental impact of my product or service? What happens at the end of its service life?”

Identify the range of customer interactions with your brand (products, services, out-of-box experience, purchasing experience, user interface, customer service, web portals, etc.) and consider how they can be coordinated as a single brand eco-system. Each interaction provides an opportunity to positively impact the overall brand experience.

A holistic view of the entire product experience, including the product’s benefits to each stakeholder, offers valuable insight that may lead to new business opportunities and improve the overall experience.

5. Consider all key stakeholders

An effective brand experience strategy requires consideration of the motivations and aspirations of a range of stakeholders. On the customer side, the stakeholders are those who interact with a product or service such as end users and less obvious groups including purchasing influencers and maintenance providers.

A “Brand Audit” is a valuable exercise to gain a deeper understanding of how your customers respond to your brand and what preconceptions they have of your products and services.

Internal stakeholders, such as executives, marketing, sales, engineering, supply chain management and regulatory teams all have different and sometimes conflicting requirements for future development programs. These needs must be understood and correctly weighted against each other, so that they are always based on what is most important to your customers.

Summary

Constructing design guidelines based on deep insights into customer needs is the most vital step toward creating compelling brand experiences and greater brand loyalty. Get these guidelines wrong and you risk creating products and services that are “highly polished but deeply flawed”

 

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Unfortunately, many organizations fail to correctly prioritize stakeholder desires. These companies end up with inconsistent products and services that are muddled by a lack of coherent vision. In contrast, the few organizations that get it right successfully create a direct and honest statement that differentiates them from competitors.

Great design strategy is as much about saying “no” as it is about trying to be all things to all people. To achieve a unique and valuable market position, clear tradeoffs need to be made. If you want to achieve the highest possible value, you must provide your customers with meaningful experiences, not just a collection of features.

By Paul Noble-Campbell

Source: http://www.innovationmanagement.se/2011/06/27/how-to-create-compelling-brand-experiences/