What is Collaboration Marketing: Community, Communication and Collaboration

It was an honor to be able to present to many executives in NYC a few weeks ago and thought I would take the next few posts to share some of the slides and talking points. So, what is collaboration marketing? In it’s most basic form I see it as the intersection of connecting the consumer/buyer via community content, engaging in transparent communication in order to feed into the “builder” of the product to deliver an improved customer experience.

Collaboration Marketing

Community, Communication and Collaboration Marketing

Ultimately, driving more sales via brand advocacy.

However, as we shared our stories with each other I saw an opportunity and potential convergence of front line customer experience and online collaboration. It seems that many companies still keep these two functions very separate when they both share the same objective. One, is customer engagement via traditional call center engagement and two is the advocacy and digital marketing of customer experience. The goal for both is to deliver a quality customer experience and build brand advocacy but the functions themselves usually reside in two different departments with separate strategies and operating budgets. Imagine if you were able to connect the entire end-to-end experience from the customers first touch point with a full cycle of engagement.

It is pretty simple but much more complex to rollout to an organization because it touches and requires the engagement of multiple departments. It was interesting to see the nodding heads of those that could relate as I was telling the story. And it became pretty clear that we all start at the same place at some point in time. For me it was almost 4 years ago. I had no budget, two resources and confusion on where engagement marketing belongs. Was it part of communications, digital, customer service? This isn’t uncommon and in hindsight it really doesn’t matter where the function is located. The only thing that matters is if you can bring the stakeholders together and deliver. So, we started executing on what we had control over. And it all started with clearly defining three simple objectives and getting everyone’s buy in on just those three.

 

Bunn: An American Customer Experience

This is an off cycle post for me but after speaking at the Argyle Customer Care Leadership Forum last week I thought it would be appropriate to share an American customer experience. It was 2008 when I was in the market for a new coffee maker and with the economy in the tank I was determined to buy American made. However, it wasn’t as easy as I thought. So, I went to my local hardware store and started looking at coffee makers. I didn’t need anything fancy just wanted to make a pot of coffee and something that I wouldn’t have to replace after a few years.

 

What I found out was there is only one coffee maker made in America, Bunn. When I struggled to find a coffee maker at the store I asked a clerk and he said “Mr. Coffee”. Nope. Not even the iconic Mr. Coffee with the all American icon Joe DiMaggio as a spokesperson wasn’t made in America anymore. The clerk and I were both shocked so I settled on the Bunn. Bunn is normally known as an industrial coffee maker and if you have ever gone through a Dunkin Donuts you will notice that is all they use to make their coffee. It was more expensive than the others but it was made in Springfield, Il and I couldn’t help but support a business near where I grew up.

 

So, three years have passed and we have enjoyed the fact that an entire pot of coffee is brewed to perfection within 3 minutes. But as with anything, things break. And to be honest I think I may have contributed to the thermostat shorting out by pouring water in and then remembering to turn it on to heat up the water. So, I called Bunn. I got right through to an actual human being and the warrantee process was about as simple as it gets. No sending in the warrantee card, just read the number off the bottom of the coffee maker. I could have sworn it had been more than three years but the customer service professional said. “Yep, it is under warrantee and we will ship you a new one in 5-10 days. All I ask is you pack up the other and ship it back.” I was amazed and graciously agreed to ship back the old one in exchange for a brand new Bunn coffee maker. Try doing that with a coffee maker made in China.

 

5 Days later I received the new coffee maker. I went through the steps to setup, filling the reservoir with water, rinsing the carafe and plugged it in to begin heating the water. It is this type of simple service that creates loyal and brand advocates and it all starts with the front line. And the fact that Bunn actually wanted the broken maker back to be recycled was even more impressive. In this disposable age where we throw items out and replace it with the next one for $29.99 it was refreshing to see the benefits of buying American. I don’t know about you but I will gladly spend more for a quality product, superior customer service with a company that is passionate about recycling versus disposing any time.

 

Most consumers are more likely to write negative comments then they are positive so I felt I owed it to Bunn to let them know they got it right. Congratulations Bunn! You delivered an amazing American customer experience and return earned my loyal advocacy. I will never own another coffee maker. Thank you for delivering a quality product, excellent customer service and more importantly keeping the fine folks in Springfield, Il employed.

 

At The End Of The Day:

All that matters is: Can you deliver? I have run into several challenges over my career from jealous territorial co-workers, political positioning and the only advice I can provide is to persevere because at the end of the day all the matters is who can deliver.

Every time I have been asked to build out a team it is usually because there are no funds, no strategy, and resources that may not be motivated or appropriately aligned. One time I came into a position and found myself sitting across a table with two senior professionals and an overworked IT manager discussing in excruciating detail the most minor of issues for 90 minutes. I could tell from the look on their faces that they had been beaten down, had no direction and exhausted from not being able to get anywhere. At the end of that meeting I just looked at them and said. “At the end of the day. ”It doesn’t matter how big our team is, how much money we have or how important our jobs are to this company.” “The only thing anyone cares about is if you can get shit done.” If you can’t deliver then nothing else matters. Plus starting in a new role, I wanted to have fun. “And the way that I have fun is feeling a sense of accomplishment by getting shit done.”

I didn’t realize what impact that statement had on these people at the time but months later I found they had adopted the phrase “Get Shit Done” and would often repeat it back to me as if it were a proud war cry. It even go abbreviated to the point where we would just say “GSD” and get to work.

What we did next was put together some plans of items we thought were needed and then started executing against those plans to deliver. Rather than having endless debates about a column widget wasn’t formatting with a particular font we stepped back and focused our energies on upgrading the entire platform that resolved over 2000 bugs and provided additional features that were more valuable than that one widget.

Six months with $132,000 later we upgraded the community platform, fixed over 2000 bugs, implemented a totally new design with new navigation and dozens of new features. Our little team of three had done more in six months than had been done in the previous four years combined. And it was all because they believed they could. It was disruptive, it wasn’t without battles but it got attention that I hadn’t originally expected. I now had teams with budgets in the millions and dozens of resourced coming to me and asking how we got so much done with so little. I still don’t know the answer but I think it was because we were having fun. And because we were being successful at completing things it just gave us more motivation to keep going and do more.

The next year we had to continue to fight even though our little teams success had gotten the attention of the entire executive team. But we still didn’t have a budget and or any additional investment to keep up with our plans. With the help of my VP, we just keep pushing and pulled together an roadmap and investment plan that we thought would get us started. It took about 10 months of persistence but we finally got what we asked for and more.

The next year our little team of 3 with a $150K budget exploded to an international team of 10 with a $5.6M investment. I like to think we were the little engine that could. And it was all because we “Got Shit Done” and continue to do so today.

Dear Human Resources: Employees Are Your Customer!

Traditionally human resources and executive management have treated employees as assets. And rightly so employees are extremely valuable if not the most valuable assets. But they shouldn’t be treated like a depreciating line item. One thing I realized this year is that employees are your customer. They should be treated as your customer. If you make a fundamental strategic shift to better listen, engage and assist your employees with their careers, concerns and interests your employee retention should increase not to mention overall work performance.

My experience is most companies are competing with other companies on benefits like healthcare, 401k, stock options, etc… but really need to take a customer experience focus toward employees. What is the on-boarding process like when new hires first join? Do they just show up and get handed a laptop and share a cube like some Southwest Airlines commercial? I hope not, but this is often the case.

There are mountains of information on how to keep employees happy and ironically most of it has nothing to do with money. It is a quality of life, quality of work life and basic ability to succeed at your job. And when I mention success I am not referring to climbing the corporate ladder. It is nice to be recognized for good work but fundamentally the average employee just wants to be able to complete their individual tasks related to their job. This often becomes difficult and frustrating when headcount, budgets and competing priorities are reduced and or frozen. While good for investors and stock prices not so good for moral if you can’t grant your employees the basics of what they need to be successful at their job. Google, Facebook and Linkedin got it right and continue to acquire, retain and innovate the top talent in the industry.

In today’s world if you are looking to compete you not only need to retain your customers but need to provide that same level of attention of customer experience detail to your employees. Providing the workspace, tools and amenities needed to be successful will pay off in dividends with better productivity and more important continuing innovation. Competitive benefits are required to lure talent to organizations but don’t forget the details around an employees workspace and how you can define their customer experience when they first arrive to the job.

I’ll be sharing more details about these topics at the Argyle Customer Care Executive Forum NYC tomorrow, Nov 5th. If you are interested in hearing more register via the link and I’ll see you there.

5 Things a Digital Agency Can’t Do

I have the opportunity to work with quite a few digital marketing/creative design agencies over the years, some good and others not so much. Agencies are good with coming up with creative ideas, provide design concepts and proving an extension of your team but there some things they just can’t do.

Executive Support

An agency can’t help you get support from the executive team that can help secure funding and remove obstacles. They can pull together a pretty creative pitch but ultimately you need to be the one to pull together the support and be able to clearly communicate to the executive the strategy, the objective and impact. Getting executive support will ultimately lead to your success or failure.

Funding

An agency can pull together some elaborate plans but if you don’t have funding then what is the point. I have found over the years if you don’t pull together the strategy and help guide the agency you may end up with a plan that can’t be delivered. Funding for a project depends on your ability to be able to communicate that impact to the executive team if not present the ROI. In the case of rolling out an internal social intranet there wasn’t an ROI as much as the impact of transparent communication and collaboration was huge.

IT Resources and Infrastructure

Again, if you don’t help lay some reasonable expectations for an agency you may find yourself in a situation where you have great plans but no one to implement the infrastructure required. Building a cross collaboration team that includes your IT team, HR and keeping finance included will help improve your ability to deliver.

Communication

An agency will typically provide a project manager and can assist with team project updates but not overall executive or divisional communications. When you are building your team it will be important to keep your stakeholders close and well informed. You may need one or two team members that share this responsibility to ensure stakeholders are aware of the plan, status and more importantly how it benefits them. This will be critical to keeping objections and obstacles to a minimum. It also helps build a grassroots internal marketing awareness campaign through word of mouth and water cooler gossip.

Obstacles

With any project and more specifically when implementing disruptive marketing programs you will have obstacles. Besides the typical, finance, contracts, legal obstacles there is sure to be political obstacles that someone will raise. Politics usually arise when people who aren’t stakeholders, aren’t informed, aren’t educated but may be impacted by the project process. Keeping good transparent communication and some personal attention will help keep the team moving along.

One of the tactics I have used is keeping all project details open to the public so anyone can see what is occurring at anytime. It helps to have a communicate collaboration platform like Jive Software where you can post, manage and keep the team updated with a single portal.

Agencies can add value to any project but there ultimately needs to be a leader of the overall program to address and manage the above items that they can’t. And that leader is you.

I’ll be sharing more details about these topics at the Argyle Customer Care Executive Forum NYC Nov 5th. If you are interested in hearing more register via the link and I’ll see you there.

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