Business, Leadership

Why We Love Barak Obama and Feel So Disconnected from John McCain

On September 25th, 1960 Richard Nixon was leading in the race for President.  His opponent, John Kennedy was young and inexperienced and after several radio broadcast debates Nixon was the clear frontrunner. 

Nixon2_2On September 26th, 1960 everything changed.  That night 70 million U.S. viewers tuned in to watch the first ever televised presidential debate. Even though nothing in the candidates message had changed, extensive polling of the television audience showed Kennedy to be the winner of the debate by a very large margin. 

What was the difference?  Kennedy embraced the new medium of the day, Nixon did not.    Kennedy loved the camera, and the camera loved him.  Nixon refused to wear make-up and the hot lights had him sweating before the debate even began.  One observer noted, ‚ÄúThere was no mistaking the distinction between the ease with which JFK related to the living rooms of America and the sense of desperateness that Nixon's intensity gave off.‚Äù

We‚Äôre seeing the same thing happen today.  Barak Obama has embraced new media.  He announced his VP choice to millions of Americans via text message before he told the traditional media and each and every one of them felt like they got something special, that they were an insider.  Those folks can say they knew before CNN…you can bet he‚Äôs got their vote.  He has more followers on Twitter than any other user (over 70,000).   He takes his message directly to the nation, often completely bypassing the middle-man of traditional media. He‚Äôs even been reported to exchange personal emails and text messages.  ‚ÄúHis people‚Äù feel more connected to him than any other candidate, ever.

Obama gets it.  He understands that new media is a conversation, a tool used for two-way communication.  He‚Äôs a guy we can relate to, that‚Äôs accessible and we‚Äôd feel comfortable having a cup of coffee with (this isn‚Äôt about my personal politics but my observations about who‚Äôs embracing new marketing effectively).

McCain on the other hand seems to miss it completely.  His web site looks like something from a Mad Magazine spoof and he‚Äôs noticeably absent from most of the social networking sites.  I have no idea what McCain is up to these days, but thanks to twitter I know which cities Obama has been visiting.

When it comes to election day the Obama campaign will have built an incredible ‚Äúget out the vote‚Äù machine and I think it will win him the election.  On that day, what would the McCain campaign give to have millions of people who had given their permission for him to drop them a personal note via text message reminding them that it was time to vote?

11/06/2008 – Update: Here's an interesting post election post – Obama vs. McCain Social Media Scorecard

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Business, Leadership

The Two Conversations

New marketing is all about conversations…not the ‚Äúconversation‚Äù where you the marketer shout out your message to as many people as possible, but the conversation where your customers are talking to their contacts about your company.

The first conversation is the conversation that’s happening some place else. 

Right now, if you have any market saturation at all, people are talking about your company.  They may be saying good things…or bad.  The question is do you know where the conversations are happening and, when appropriate, are you taking part in them?

The IT guy for a client of mine (a well known author) recently sent me a report showing all the references he‚Äôd been able to track that referenced my client over a two week period.  This included twitters, blog posts and news reports.  In 14 days there had been over 100 ‚Äúconversations‚Äù that referenced my client or his work.  Now, the question is what, if anything, should they be doing with that information.

My recommendation is whenever possible you should engage in the conversation.  If someone writes a blog posts and mentions your product, why not leave them a comment, thanking them for the mention and give them a coupon for a discount on the their next order (or perhaps a free download).  If someone is complaining about your company (check out the search results on twitter for AT&T), why not take the opportunity to pro-actively engage them and provide excellent customer service before they even ask (the whole world is watching).  Rather than dealing with negative comments once someone gets frustrated enough to reach out to you, why not take part in the conversation where its already happening.

The second conversation is the conversation that probably isn‚Äôt happening yet, but should be.  Its the conversation that you host. 

Who better to connect your customers than you, their point of contact. If your customers naturally gather around your product in the real world why not help facilitate that happening in the virtual world?  Threadless gets this…so does Amazon. 

I make purchasing decisions every day and very seldom, if ever, are they influenced by traditional media.  When I‚Äôm wondering if I should buy a book that‚Äôs been recommended to me, do I go to the New York Times book reviews?  Nope, I‚Äôve never read one.  What I do is look on Amazon at the book reviews to see what their customers have to say. 

You may be thinking, yeah, but Jon you‚Äôre on the bleeding edge of early adopters…true, but think about what influences your buying decisions.  Chances are the number one thing is word of mouth.  The same is true for your customers.  Why not create a place for them to connect with each other and prospective customers?  If you’re in the simple accounting software business, why not create the online destination for people to gather and ask each other their accounting questions?  Don’t try to control the conversation but do take part in it.  What you’ll earn is permission to talk to them about what you have to offer. 

Are you taking part in the two conversations? 

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Business

Twitter as a Customer Service Tool

Those of you who are following me on Twitter know that I recently witnessed an unfortunate interaction between an employee at my local Guitar Center store and another customer.  As I left the store I posted the following on Twitter via my BlackBerry.

jdale

Just finished watching an employee at Guitar center making fun of a
customer who was trying to exchange a cable that had a lifetime
warranty…I guess he doesn’t understand the lifetime value of a customer.

      

Within hours I received an email informing me that @Venezia had started following me on Twitter.  When I looked at @Venezia‘s Twitter page I realized that he is the Chief Marketing Officer and an Executive Vice President at Guitar Center.  I sent him a private Twitter message and asked him if he’d be interested in learning the details of what I’d observed while in the store.  He twittered me back and said he would.  So I sent him an email explaining the details of what I’d observed.  A few hours ago I received this email response from @Venezia.

(Posted here with the author’s permission)

Wow, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the time you took to write this richly detailed account of what you experienced. Twitter continues to make me more of a believer every day in its usefulness as a customer service tool.

First, of course, we deeply regret the scene you witnessed. I read your email aloud to the EVP of Sales, Mark Galster (in charge of the stores), and forwarded it to the Regional and District Manager. I will speak with them as well. So your critique falls on receptive ears. We’re on it.

Second, we have, as of the latest count, 11,249 employees. And we spend millions training them to create the best possible experience for our customers. With so many stores and employees, we conduct research that gives us “report cards” on our customer experience delivery, and we are quite deliberate about becoming stronger where we learn of weakness. The good news is, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the feedback is great. Better than our competitors, in fact. But like all good musicians, we need to have good ears if we want to get better. So I actually actively troll for dissatisfaction on places like Twitter and in the blogosphere. We have an employee that does nothing but look for critiques (and praise) on the net. And we stay out of the ivory tower and self-criticize to learn from missteps.

We take our satisfaction guarantee extremely seriously. I wish it were possible ID the customer you described, though it probably isn’t. But at least we have the feedback from you, and for this we are grateful.

We’re glad you’re our customer, and hope to see you in the stores for years to come. If there is anything you need from me, let me know.

Norman Hajjar
EVP/CMO
Guitar Center Inc.

What could Guitar Center have done differently (other than avoiding the incedent in the first place)?  I appreciate the fact that they are monitoring Twitter for customer service issues…I would have preferred it if they had proactively Twittered me to address the issue rather than just starting to follow me (in Norman’s defense…according to his Twitter posts he is at Disney on Vacation…so I’m impressed that he was even aware of this incedent…and he may usually initiate contact with people). 

If you really want to understand how to use twitter to provide customer service check out @Zappos or @Lijit. These are two companies that understand customer service and understand the internet.  It seems as though Zappos standard operating procudure is to offer a gift certificate or discount to anyone who blogs about them ( 🙂  I guess I’ll find out if that’s true).

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