Category Archives: Social Media Marketing

Customer Centric Leadership in Action – A lesson from Elon Musk


One of the central tenets of being a customer centric leader is listening to customer feedback and responding with action.

There is no better recent example than Elon Musk’s response to a customer complaining about the Tesla charging stations being used simply as car spaces.

The Tesla customer complaining happens to be Loic Le Meur, a fellow entrepreneur and major tech influencer, with 130k followers on twitter. You could argue that probably holds more weight than just your average customer but clearly the issue was one bubbling up and on Elon’s mind.

Here is the interchange from the two on twitter below:


Loic’s tweet was responded to within 20 minutes and within 7 days the press announced “Tesla to begin charging idle fees to those remaining on the charger beyond a full charge”

As the team at OfficeChai reported:

“Tesla was going to charge $0.40 for every minute a fully charged Tesla would stand at its parking stations after a five minute grace period. This simple change would ensure that people wouldn’t leave their cars at parking stations, preventing others from using them.

And what’s incredible is the pace at which the product change was implemented. Tesla might still call itself a startup, but it hardly is one – it has over 30,000 employees, and large engineering teams. To have a product feature conceptualized, implemented and shipped in a week is nothing short of miraculous.”

Now this might not be the perfect solution but Tesla will listen to customers and refine further as needed.

This is what customer centric leadership looks like in action, in this case led from the top. Elon’s expectation is that everyone in Tesla is listening to customers and responding to continually refine and improve the experience and value being offered.

Are you are customer centric leader? Find out more in our book, the Customer Culture Imperative


4 ways Electronic Arts navigated major Tectonic Shifts impacting their Customers


Many industries today are experiencing market and technology shifts in their marketplaces that are somewhat like the clashing of tectonic plates that cause earthquakes and tsunamis. Industries including publishing and printing, education, telecommunications, media, advertising, health and retail are all facing massive change. How does an organization navigate a techtonic shift?

Electronic Arts Labels (EA), the world’s leading developer and publisher of interactive entertainment  faced a techtonic shift in 2007 with the rapid change occurring from retail packaged goods products to new digital delivery platforms. The new CEO at that time, John Riccitello, presented his vision as a burning platform – you are in the middle of the ocean on an oil platform that is on fire. You either hold on and ride it down or you jump off and face the unknowns of a swirling ocean.

In his article titled “Getting into your customers’ heads”, Krish Krishnakanthan finds out what EA had to do to navigate this techtonic shift. To transform from a retail products business to a digital supplier using new platforms such as social networks, mobile phones and tablets.

The key success factors:

1)   Measuring and tracking customer usage of games, external gaming-publication reviews (critical review success is linked with sales performance). For that part of the business with direct sales to consumers, they use technology to measure customer interactions and the lifetime value of each customer.

2)   Changes in the competitive landscape with low entry barriers and the emergence of small game developers has required  EA to restructure its business to give decentralized profit and loss control to product line/brand managers to enable them to compete with specific identified competitors.

3)   Enhanced communication and collaboration between development teams and marketing teams to co-ordinate go-to-market strategies.

4)   Scanning the external environment through consumer blogs and social media to identify new shifts in consumer opinion, competitive plays, new technology impacts on customers and economic forces affecting the market. This has required a culture change by EA. One which centers their whole business around the customer. An adaptive, future focused customer culture has enabled EA to cross the chasm created by the techtonic shift they faced.

Staying on the “oil platform’ would have meant riding the business to the bottom – out of business. Is your industry facing a techtonic shift? If so, check where you stand on “customer culture”. Is it strong enough to be adaptive and resilient to the storm ahead?

Why social media matters to customer centric businesses: Death by a thousand cuts

Much has been written about the impact of social media on corporations and yet many still dismiss it as a distraction.

The “United Break Guitars” video has now been viewed more than 12 million times. For those not familiar with this story, United Airlines passenger Dave Carroll had his guitar destroyed by the airline’s baggage handlers during a flight. After a battle with United for reimbursement and repeated rejections, he wrote a song decrying their poor customer service. (See video below)

So what?

I have heard a number of commentators suggest this incident has really not made a blip on the radar screen of United’s business. While others have argued it actually cost them a fortune.

I think the answer lies somewhere in between these positions. I did not stop flying United after seeing the clip but at the same time it did further diminish my opinion of them and how they run their business. As competition enters the market such as Virgin America I am more interested in considering these alternatives and what they have to offer.  The social media impact of hearing about negative experiences reinforces my perception United really does not care about retaining my custom and makes me open to hear about alternatives.

So while bad experiences like these shared on social media don’t necessarily change short term behavior they do reinforce a negative brand position for companies that is very difficult to reverse. They are constantly swimming upstream against waves of customer dissatisfaction.

For me I see negative social media as more like a “death by a thousand cuts”, it creates a slow but consistent erosion of a Brand’s reputation that increases its costs to acquire new customers and puts at risk its existing customer relationships.

Essentially it is amplified “negative word of mouth” so while the impact and influence of this will vary across the customer base, it is hard to argue it will not have an impact.

The bottom line

It does not have to cost more to do the right thing for your customers. Avoid the slow death of negative sentiment and instead give customers something positive to talk about, it will be like floating downstream…

What do you think the impact of social media has been on business?

Gaining customer insight through pain point mapping

Today’s technology is enabling increasing opportunities to gain insight into how consumers use products and where they can run into problems or “pain points”.

One of the finalists in a recent contest by Knowledge@Wharton has developed a tool that allows consumers to register their pain points online. An excerpt from the article is below:

“With their module, consumers can log entries around the clock, 365 days a year on a website about what their “pain points” are. The site is organized by sectors and sub-sectors, such as retail banking or mobile phone services. A site administrator filters all the pain points, which are then tagged and mapped to identify trends in customer dissatisfaction. Only the consumer and site administrator have access to this information and eliminates the bias inherent in conventional, time-consuming methods used to gauge customer satisfaction, such as surveys or focus groups, says Dhargalkar.

The software’s inventors tested the module for more than two years with a group of 500 students. They collected 54,561 pain points and tagged 229 unique ones.

Some pain points are already being addressed as a result of the module, says Dhargalkar. For example, a student has invented a software patch for mobile phones that magnifies fonts for senior citizens. Another has thought up an insurance product to cover unborn children, which some insurers are considering.”

Social media and new technologies are enabling customer insights to be developed in ever faster more efficient ways. Many leading companies have quickly switched on to similar methods for gaining insight more to come next post…..

Why authenticity matters

We had another great SVAMA program last night, with a very interesting keynote by Rohit Bhargava and an outstanding panel comprised of Michael Brito from Intel, Glenna Patton HP’s VP of Brand Strategy and Mario Sundar the Community Evangelist and Chief Blogger at LinkedIn.

Rohit made a compelling case for bringing back the humanity to large organizations many of which appear faceless to customers. He gave great examples of companies like Dole with bananas, “innocent” fruit smoothies from the UK and my favorite the new Intel ad that lets us inside intel with a fun take on their culture:

Each of the panelists spoke with passion about what it means to really connect with customers and also some insights into the challenges at making this happen in very large organizations. Intel with 85,000 and HP with 300,000 employees!

To summarize: social media is amplifing word of mouth and providing opportunities for businesses to put a real face on their companies in a way that is different, unique and valuable. By thinking more deeply about how to connect more meaningfully with customers, companies can build stronger and more profitable ongoing connections that are hard to replicate.

Why the future of marketing is digital

I found an interesting video today made by the Best Buy CMO, Barry Judge:

The primary advantage of the digital space is it allows businesses to really understand what customers think. It is a platform that gives a voice to customers of large and small brands and has the potential to shape the customer experience, service levels and even the strategies of the world’s largest companies.

This is great for marketers. Those that invest the time listening, engaging and learning will gain the deeper insights necessary to provide better value.

We measure the level of customer insight an organization has in a survey we recently validated and it is clear that companies that effectively execute in this area have greater customer satisfaction, more success in new product development and high levels of innovation. Isn’t that something all businesses are interested in?

#ims09 Inbound Marketing Summit Highlights – San Francisco April 28-29 2009

I was lucky enough to have some time to attend a number of the sessions at the Inbound Marketing Summit run by Chris Brogan . I did not get to every session due to some client commitments but I was impressed by the sessions I did attend.

Here are my key takeaways organized into several themes:

Content Marketing: David Guarnaccia from Sitecore presented on persuasion in content marketing, my takeaways were:

  1. The website is part of your sales force and should be treated that way (we can do some more work on that…)
  2. A reason for advertising ineffectiveness is a lack of consistency and continuity – there is a disconnect with what’s offered and the reality of what people get from a business
  3. There are some advanced techniques that allow you to use rules based on web behavior to provide a more customized web experience for users, one example is Tom’s hardware which can direct users to useful content based on how they arrived at the site.

The Changing Marketing Landscape: Brian Halligan from Hubspot gave a interesting presentation on why outbound marketing is dead. Key takeways:

  1. Outbound marketing is dead..well not completely but certainly the mass media model is far less effective for marketers than ever before
  2. Being found is more critical than ever
  3. Drawing customers in by providing valuable content that addressed their pain points – be “remark” able to coin Seth Godin

Online Product Launch: Loic Le Meur from Seesmic presented on his learning’s from launch many online products over the years (the link is his story on funded Seesmic worth reading). Key Takeaways:

  1. Get to market as fast as possible – launch, listen and watch behavior then move forward fast
  2. Look especially for negative feedback as this can drive improvements and highlight weak spots
  3. If you are not being talked about (good or bad) there is a problem…

New ways to develop customer insight: Justin Levy led a great panel discussion on how social media can provide companies with deeper customer insights, my takeaways:

  1. Millions of conversations are happening that relate to you or what you offer, that is a source of information you cannot risk not working out how to harvest
  2. It really is a marketers dream, most marketers are sitting in their offices wondering what customers are thinking or how they will behave, the social media landscape provides the answers. A simple ROI is the cost savings in market research…..
  3. Insights are being used across the business not just marketing and PR but also to deal with customer service issues (think Frank at comcast) as well as internal collaboration and networking

The Changing Media Landscape: Paul Gillin gave a great presentation on how the print and TV media are continuing to lose control, my takeaways:

  1. Daily Newspaper reader demographics in the US – ave age 57yrs
  2. Media does not control the message anymore and looks to the web for story ideas and sources, journalists google rather than go to their blackbooks
  3. Customers need be listened to and allowed to shape strategy – Is twitter the new newspaper?
  • Implications – media is in the hands of individuals, customers will speak up, companies will be forced to listen

World’s Best Viral Video?

I have been reflecting recently on viral marketing and it’s capacity to build global awareness almost instantly…

Like every great marketing technique there is a formula:

It has to be interesting and in a way that really stands out whether its wacky, creative, controversial, unexpected or inspirational.

This is one of my favorites (maybe the world’s best? – that probably depends on your criteria…..), it connects with viewers emotionally with a simple powerful idea that connects people around the globe…enjoy!

Why culture inhibits social media success in big business


There was some great discussion last week at the Web 2.0 conference on “Why social media fails and how to fix it”. The panel included Charlene Li, Peter Kim and Jeremiah Owyang all noted thought leaders in this area.

The component that stood out for me was the inhibitor of organizational culture. We do a lot of work in this area and it comes up time and time again in relation to many changes that affect companies and large companies particularly struggle to change quickly because of embedded cultural traits.

Gary Hamel adds a different dimension to this conversation in a great post on the WSJ Management Web 2.0 called “The Facebook Generation Vs Fortune 500” where he outlines the differences between the online culture of generation f (and I think X and Y) and the traditional corporate culture which are almost polar opposites. I think this goes some way to explaining the cultural resistance, to summarize some of the best ones:

  • Ideas compete equally
  • Contribution trumps credentials
  • Hierarchies develop are not dictated
  • Leaders serve rather than preside
  • Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
  • Groups are self-defining and organizing.
  • Resources get attracted, not allocated.
  • Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it.
  • Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed.
  • Intrinsic rewards matter most.

If you combine Gary’s observations with the inherent values of the social web which are being reinforced as key influencers (See Eric Brantner on social media etiquette and Chris Brogan on Etiquette in the Age of Social Media ) propose ways to approach social media you end up with values like:

Transparency, Share and Collaborate, Respect others, Always add value…. or even better put them into practice like Tony from Zappos has done here.

Many of these values seem to disappear in the politics of large organizations. I see social media as a real change agent that forces management to reflect on the way they treat employees, customers and suppliers. Are they holding customer’s hostage? or are they trying to create value for them?

Its not all bad for big business, in fact we think its great for big business and some of the greatest corporates are embracing social media, see this presentation by Adam Christiensen of IBM because ultimately social media will help organizations become more innovative.

What do you think, will corporate cultures be positively changed by social media? How?