A company using social media is nothing new, but more brands are taking online customer listening to the next level. Mountain Dew is one extreme example. They give fans the power to control the brand. Through the site Dew Labs, an exclusive community, enthusiasts help pick new flavors, artwork, and the basic advertising direction.
Mountain Dew’s goal is to constantly reach out to the fans and customers. Here are a few ways they are engaging their audiences.
- In the past, they shipped different flavors of soda to each member for taste testing. Not only was it fun to receive and try the unreleased drinks, but each person had a chance to voice their opinion.
- Dew Labs regularly asks in-depth question through online polls. The most recent poll wanted the community’s opinion on which sites to place Mountain Dew ads. It definitely wasn’t your typical, “pick your favorite” type of question.
- Email and direct mail are also utilized. Dew Labs sends monthly emails with updates on contests and new polls. They also use traditional mail to send Mountain Dew freebies to members.
Not every company can or should implement what Mountain Dew has, but companies should take steps to use social media. It can be a vast resource of customer insights.
I have four kids from eight to two months. We are regular watchers of the Pixar movies, not only because the kids enjoy them, but I do as well. I laugh every time I watch The Incredibles and have probably seen it 10-15 times. We saw Up last year and anytime we see a squirrel in our back yard, we all step and yell, "SQUIRREL!!!!". If you have seen Up, you know what I am talking about.
In my opinion, movies today lack creativity, many rehashing old ideas, updating previously made movies, and just very few, new creative ideas (keep in mind this is coming from the guy who did see Transformers 2 and G.I. Joe last year so take my comments about movies with a grain of salt). That is why I am all the more amazed that Pixar continues to make highly creative and original works.
This article provides a short summary of the culture at Pixar that has helped make it a force in the movie making industry. The article shares three tenets to develop its creative culture:
1. Place the creative authority for product development firmly in the hands of the project leaders (as opposed to corporate executives)
2. Build a culture and processes that encourage people to share their work-in-progress and support one another as peers
3. Dismantle the natural barriers that divide disciplines.
While this article is focused on creating a creative culture, I believe these principles would apply to any organization and are good lessons to incorporate into any organization.
Just to note, as I was working on this over the weekend, Pixar won another Academy Award for Up. Just another long line in a string of successes.
Have you heard that Comcast is changing its name? Starting Friday, they will be known as Xfinity. Most customers will learn about the change through an advertising campaign set to air during the Winter Olympics. Comcast is hoping the name change will emphasize their focus on innovation and new products, as well as better suit them to compete with the likes of Verizon’s FiOS and AT&T’s U-Verse.
Although Comcast emphasizes that the name change aligns with their focus on providing customers with better products, many believe that they are also trying to distance themselves from the Comcast name that is synonymous with poor customer service and high prices. Currently, they are among the bottom in the industry in regards to customer satisfaction.
It seems obvious, but improving your image with customers needs to be more than just a name change. Being customer focused means truly listening to customers and including their perspective when making business and strategy decisions. For a company like Comcast, this can seem like an overwhelming change, and it might just be easier to ditch the baggage associated with Comcast by becoming Xfinity. However, if they don’t address the issues that garnered them the poor customer service image in the first place, then a simple name change won’t help. Domino’s Pizza is a great example of how a company can turn things around by listening to customers.
Time will tell if Xfinity proves to be a smart decision. I, for one, plan on sticking with my U-verse service. In the meantime, if you are interested in reading more about companies who have stumbled with name changes, check out the Top 10 List from Time.
Vice President, Client Service
A new study has been released by The Conference Board showing the lowest levels of employee satisfaction in 20 years. Less than half of employees surveyed are satisfied with their job.
Being a researcher, I want to know why. There are the obvious reasons, layoffs over the past couple of years, the way companies treat employees, and lack of opportunities so employees may be stuck in jobs or in companies they are not happy with. I have read several blogs about this study talking about the economy being the cause, or leaders who still don’t understand the need of taking care of their employees. I get that and I agree with all of that. However, what I continue to wonder is, is there something bigger going on here? Has the recession caused people to evaluate the role jobs and our work has in fulfilling our lives? Are people coming to the conclusion that they are no longer what they do for a living and are struggling with where to find significance from? I have a friend of mine who quit his job and decided to go to Bible college. I have another friend who is debating about quitting his job to work at a family camp in Michigan.
The other thing I am wondering is this drop in satisfaction a byproduct of a loss of passion in general in our lives. Where did the flame go? You can say what you want about Obama’s politics, but I personally believe a big reason he won the election is because he lit a flame in people that they so desperately wanted lit. The past two years have been rough for most, inside and outside of work, people are stressed, tired, and beat down. The flame is now just a flicker.
For 2010, maybe we should focus less on what we do but more on who we are? Less on getting through each day but truly living each day? Are you living your dreams or going through the motions? If not, why not? Don’t tell me there aren’t opportunities available, that is an excuse. Once you find what you want to do, you will find opportunities.
You know that you have witnessed or experienced something remarkable when you say, “Wow!” When you say it aloud when you are the only one in the room, you have experienced something truly special.
This weekend, I saw a story about the latest structure to warrant the moniker of the World’s Tallest Building. The Burj Dubai was just opened in Dubai, The United Arab Emirates. The following chart gives a little perspective to just how tall the Burj Dubai is (follow this link for a list of the tallest buildings in order—The World Trade Center is not on the list, but would have come in at the tenth spot).
The pictures of the building would have made me say, “Wow!” if I were among other people. The chart showing how much taller the Burj Dubai is than other buildings designed to be inhabited made me say it out loud, very loud, when I was alone. By the way, The United Arab Emirates is home to an incredible 13 of the top 100 tallest buildings (33 are in China and 30 are in the USA).
That’s the kind of experience we want to create for our customers. How can we do something or help create an experience for our customers that makes them say, “Wow!” when they are all alone? That’s the kind of experience that creates a commitment that will allow you to power through many challenges and struggles, and achieve many successes together.
There are many things that are simply required in business relationships. And we must do those things really well. But doing the fundamentals flawlessly doesn’t create that moment that really gets your customer’s attention. That requires something else. That requires creating an experience for your customer that they will not forget.
Think about the things that are important to your customers and over-deliver. Surprise them with something that helps them. Do something for them that your competitors would never think of doing. Do something that creates an experience that really sets you apart.
Don’t tell them that you are going to over-deliver, don’t even tell them once you do it. Let them discover it for themselves and experience it. Let them look off in a daze and say to themselves, “Wow.”
Companies spend billions of dollars on acquisitions. They spend millions of dollars with lawyers to make sure that the companies they buy are legally formed and protected from certain legal and business risks. They spend millions of dollars with accountants to make sure that the financial disclosures are a good representation of the target’s financial position and operating results. They spend millions of dollars with engineers to make sure that the products do what they are supposed to do. These millions are well worth it.
And most companies spend and do almost nothing with respect to the single biggest and most valuable asset in most transactions—the customer base.
Before you spend your shareholders’ money on acquiring another business, shouldn’t you know how valuable that single largest asset is?
Wouldn’t you like to know…
· How loyal is the customer base that you are buying? Are they likely to continue to do business with you after the deal?
· What are they loyal to…management? The brand? The product or service? The account team?
· What challenges are customers having with the target?
· What opportunities exist within the customer base to jump start post-deal growth?
· How much of the revenue stream is in high risk of leaving?
· How do customers view the target relative to its competitors?
Due diligence on the customer base—real due diligence, not the standard phone call to 5 pre-wired customers—can dramatically increase and accelerate value accretion. After all, what’s more important than the customers that account for every dollar of revenue that you are buying?