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customer feedback

Watching some of the new ventures getting funded over the last several months, there’s an interesting trend that’s turning user-generated content into real value for companies and their customers.

One example is Driveway Software, which develops applications that insurance companies offer to their customers.  The apps track driving behavior, and enable the insurer to offer discounts based on good driving habits.  In the healthcare sector, companies like AFrame Digital and Lark are creating devices and apps that enable doctors, care-givers, and individuals to track patient health and provide better, more personalized care.  FlixMaster collects information about how we watch interactive on-line videos so that media companies and advertisers can create more engaging content.

While the content in these instances is “user-generated,” all the work is being done within machine-to-machine interfaces. User devices or apps collect information and communicate with data collection and analytics engines to produce both individual and aggregated intelligence. That intelligence enables companies to offer new and unique products and services.

For each company that collects and uses customer-generated data intelligently, there are scores who collect data but never use it.  That’s not only a waste, but also an unjustified risk – keeping customer information without carefully managing it can have legal ramifications and expose the company to liability.

Bottom Line:   There are countless ways to collect data about your customers.  Before you start, decide exactly why you’re collecting it, how you’ll manage it, and what intelligence and action the data will drive.

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Imagine you have an audience of 350 people. Now imagine you have them captive in a room for several hours. How would you use that time? What if that audience were already your customers?  I am guessing that handing out a catalog of random products and serving water in paper cups would not be the first items on your list.  Unfortunately, they are the ONLY things United Airlines could come up with.

I pick on United because they kept me sitting on a runway for over 4 hours recently, with a cup of water after 3.5 hours being the only concession.  They did actually serve food (liberal interpretation) and show a movie during the 12 hours in the air.  But they could have, among other things,

  • Sold DVDs or downloads of the movies they were showing
  • Sold CDs or downloads of the music they play on various earphone channels
  • Surveyed passengers about travel habits, plans, and airline selection criteria. (Fill out a survey, get extra frequent flier miles.)
  • Gathered data on behalf of a paying third party.
  • Sacrificed one seat in the back to offer in-flight neck or foot massages. I’d pay!
  • Sold neck pillows and other travel-specific items
  • Offered free informational pod-casts (from sponsoring organizations?) or audio books via the audio system (and then sold the audio and ebooks, of course)

These are all revenue-generating for the airline, and valuable to customers. But they weren’t done.  Seems that in a financial crisis, innovation applies only to cost-cutting.   Why not focus on revenue sources in stead?

I see many companies passing up opportunities to add value and generate additional revenue.   In the course of conducting research for one client, we concluded each customer interview with a very simple question: “What will help you get more value from this product?”  Several customers mentioned they wanted our client to offer post-sale services to fine-tune product usage 6 to 12 months after deployment.  This discovery was unexpected, unplanned, and pointed to a completely new revenue and relationship-building opportunity.   To find it, all we did was ask.

To find those hidden, yet in hindsight obvious, revenue opportunities, look in two places:

  • Can you address additional or broader needs for the customers you already serve?
  • Can you meet the same needs you address today, but for new audiences or segments?
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More ideas about how to transform traditional marketing tools into Marketing 2.0 vehicles.

3.    Websites – Don’t hide customer feedback and support in a corner of your site. Place feature request and comment links right on product pages, so that customers can respond immediately to the content they see. Asking a question gets the customer more engaged than downloading a white paper. Involve product management and engineering in responding to the queries. It’s a great way to for them to touch the customers they otherwise rarely or never see. Post the most interesting questions and answers or turn them into additional content.

4.    Press releases – What if your PR people became your customers’ and partners PR people? Lots of stories would best be told by someone other than a vendor. (And would be more likely to get picked up for coverage.)  Build relationships with your customers’ and partners PR departments to understand how and where they want to be seen, and how talking about your relationship can help with that.  Have your PR staff assist partners and customer with replying to PR opportunities.

5.   Webinars – Yes, by now, this is a “traditional” marketing tool. But many companies tend to make webinars too one-directional.  Use all the interactive tools (and the many webinar hosting services that offer them). Polls, chat, and Q&A are the common set. Use surveys both before and after your webinar. And don’t limit the surveys to questions about the webinar like the all too familiar “Did you find this useful?” Instead, ask questions that help you understand customers or that customers will be interested in too. The latter gives you an excuse for a follow-up contact that actually delivers value.

Have you tried these or other ways to engage customers in conversations? Share them in your comment!

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Turn Marketing into Conversations – Part 1
Turn Marketing into Conversations – Part 3

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Social networking channels are not the only way to make your marketing efforts more interactive.   While you experiment with social media, you can make traditional marketing methods conversational too.

Getting customers to contribute to the substance in your marketing content, events, products will raise the value and trust customers place in them.   Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, demonstrates that  “labor enhances affection for its results.”

This week I’ll be posting a series of ideas on adding interaction and soliciting active customer engagement and contribution through traditional marketing tools.   Here are a few to start off.

  1. Value proposition and messaging – Starting with the obvious here: when crafting your claims of benefits, value, and ROI, ask your customers what benefits they’ve actually received.    Use these results to create your messages about benefits and value.  Then go back and ask customers if they “buy” the story you tell about how your product leads to business results. You’ll have messages that really resonate, and your will have created references that back up your story because they ARE the story.
  2. Collateral and White papers – Create a Wiki instead of static product data sheets, brochures, and white papers.  Provide a framework and some base content,  then give customers the ability to contribute.  You can moderate to ensure accuracy, of course.  With customers contributing,  you’ll have more complete, relevant, and trustworthy information.

Have you tried these or other ways to engage customers in conversations? Share them in your comment!

Read More
Turn Marketing into Conversations – Part 2
Turn Marketing into Conversations – Part 3

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