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Is customer-centric business the future?

In the last 12 years, the credo of my business life was “Customer First!”. It surprises and disappoints me when I experience poor customer service. Or when I hear from unhappy friends, colleagues or relatives telling me stories about how companies treat the centre of their business: customers.

Last week, when I was thinking about how to leverage this to a higher level, I came across a modern business strategy vision by Ranjay Gulati, Harvard Business School professor and author of the book “Reorganize for Resilience: Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business“. In the following video Gulati tells us how to deliver what customers really want.

Reorienting vs. Reorganizing
Ranjay Gulati sees the fundamental changes appropriate for some movement in company processes. Customers have more information, more choices on products while companies are facing global competition. So, businesses have to think about their business (not only marketing or sales efforts!) and how it operates.

Redefining vs. Reinventing
The analysis of the customer base might show that the website is designed for male while the majority of the users might be female. So, we need to ask questions like “Who are my customers?”, “How do my customers shop?”, or “What do they really want?”.

Gulati explains with the latest success of Best Buy how women and men shop. At that point, he also hints to the upsale opportunity of recommendations.

Success for businesses, he believes, comes from “Inside-Out-Perspective”. Companies don’t have to produce everything themselves but need to make the client happy like Apple with the iPhone. 90% of the inputs are not made by Apple. The same occurs to the apps in the Apple store where Apple basically just orchestrates the customers wishes.

“Make this identity shift. I am not here to sell what I produce – I am here to solve a set of customer problems (…) and actually acting on that!”

How to get to a customer-centric business…
1. Shifting mindset: the intention to solve customer problems.
2. Sense of curiosity and humility: the wish to understand your customers.
3. Make a creative leap: the will to understand their needs.
4. Align the elements in the organization: the motivation to live the customer-centric business.

Spot On!
Interested to get your view on this modern business strategy. Let us know what you think about customer-centric business. Or do you think the social web will be leading us towards this business process anyway?

The Strategy Web – going mobile on an iphone app

The mobile iphone app trend can be heard all over the bloggosphere. We all know the future is mobile and people want to read their preferred social medians on the go. And some web-experts have launched their own iPhone app lately. The Strategy Web (download in iTunes) went mobile with the start of this year 2010 as well…

Two of my favorite web-experts Jeremiah Owyang and Seth Goddin started their iPhone app more or less at the same time. And they all can be read every day, for free. You just have to download it on your iPhone!

Jeremiah and I have chosen the nice developer guys from MotherApp to get our personal version of a real iphone app. It took the guys just one short week to get the app live on iTunes. And this is not only a mobile version of our blog without heavy graphic load in the back-end. This is a true iPhone app with native Apple interface which includes the integration of all the main relevant social media platforms of my social web strategy (except from Facebook): Blog, Twitter and YouTube.

TSW iPhone App As

Above: screenshot of the app start page and latest blog update

TSW iPhone App Bs

Above: screenshot of a post page, YouTube channel, and the Twitter timeline.

MotherApp offers an interesting way to get your brand and content mobile. Even if there is no internet connection the content can be read as it is downloaded. Good work!

Two further iPhone apps I woul dlike to recommend. Take a look at Guy Kawasaki and Brian Solis (he even has integrated location-based features).

This is still an early stages version. Two negative things that will hopefully improve in the future: Brands need a developer to create the iPhone app and only my comments can be seen – not really social web world, I know. But hey, who is perfect…?!

Let me know what you think. Looking forward to your feedback.

News Update – Best of the Day

daily1Apple is one of the most mentioned brands in the bloggosphere. CNET editor Tim Lieberecht takes a different approach to argue about Apple -as a company- in the social media era – and compares them with another media company: Bloomberg. He asks: “But in the long term, can Apple sustain its community of loyal users without becoming a more transparent organization?” Good question…!

Is your company thinking about social media ROI – This video by Socialnomics author Erik Qualman showcases several social media ROI examples along with other effective social media strategies.

Sometimes, you just cannot decide which commercial is better – both are focusing the difference between men and women…

Ad Effectiveness – Mixing Apples & Eggs?

Sometimes you read a study and think: “Ah, this is interesting information”. So, you write about it in a News Update.

And then, you stumble upon it again, and think twice about the research. This happened to me with the ‘Ad Effectiveness study’ conducted by Forbes. And browsing through it again, my feeling was that the title of this eMarketer article reflected the result, but the study itself mixes apples and eggs in some way…

Still, the main statement of the study remains an important trend in online marketing, and is an even more important praise for the work of online publishers (yes, probably a bit self-referential for Forbes).

“Respondents were by far the least happy with ad networks, with half saying that the results did not meet expectations” (…) “Ad network spending is all about demand fulfillment while direct-to-publisher display is much aligned with the traditional advertising goals of demand creation,” said Forbes.com president and CEO Jim Spanfeller.

However, it has to be said that ‘ad networks’ is not a tactic for generating conversion. It is a supplier that offers ‘cheap space’ by bundling platforms into offers in most cases. Platform owners have a much deeper understanding of their target group and can definitely do a better consulting in terms of converting their target group into potentials for their clients. Absolutely, I agree with that statement, having done this for years…

BUT: Taking my view on the study, the set up of the study is in some way irritating. When the marketing executives were asked on budget allocations the results were these…

…and what they see as most effective tactics for generating conversion? Site or page sponsorship and SEO were considered the most effective ways online.

Thinking about the answering options (and bearing in mind my brand theme ‘tools, tactics, trends’) that were given to the responding marketers though, these options need to be separated from each other…

The question, I was asking myself is… Is viral marketing really an ad tactic? In my eyes it is not. It is a strategic communication tactic which integrates viral ads as some relevant online marketing tool.

So, this study set up seems to be a comparison of apple and eggs. Viral marketing is done in social networks. It is the way in which brand awareness other marketing objectives can be increased. Viral ads is the tool that may be spread like a computer virus by the users. It cannot be influenced like banner or text ads. Nor can it be bought. So, it is a modern marketing trend with little historical definition or proven success.

And, maybe such a study should think about: What can be bought by marketers, and what cannot in our times of social media.

Spot on!
The following summary is meant to make clear what steps have to be done first by marketers to create the conversation results their bosses appreciate… and it is a guideline for the chronology of setting up an online marketing strategy.

1.) Tactics
At first, marketers have to think about the tactics they can choose from…
SEO, e-mail and e-newsletter, site and page sponsorship, corporate web TV or viral marketing.

2.) Tools
Then, they have to decide on the tools that can be used to make these tactics efficient…
good texts (I am missing this most interesting option), banners, or viral ads.

3.) Trends
And finally, we have options that might create powerful conversion…
The use of ad networks, behavioral targeting and pay per ‘x’ models (x=impression, unique user, sales, click etc.)

If the online industry continues to publish studies that mix apples and eggs, it is no wonder that 57% of respondents said they still spend less than 25% of their marketing budgets online.

It is still early days in online marketing, it seems…

Why Apple could buy Twitter

This is just some thoughts creeping up my neck…

Based on …
… the development of technology convergence of markets for a full-fledged digital value chain …
… an imaginary 5-year marketing and media reach spending projection …
… knowing that iphone user love Twitter and offer a great target group …

And then the thoughts are going on to …

Nokia A footwear, tyres and shoe company that suddenly builds mobile phones…
Verisign An IT security company that buys a mobile service provider company called Jamba that is selling downloads like ringtones, screensavers and music…
Apple An IT hardware company that moves to a full-fledged digital value chain company doing transaction, communication and information/entertainment via itunes, a search engine and the most powerful real-time news stream…

… resulting in an amazing infra-structure model supported by a popular hand-held. Times and markets are changing…

Concluding in thoughts: OMG, what happens if Twitter can be used only on iphones for free…?

No, no, no… let’s stop these thoughts!

Twitter Ads: Thoughts on the test

Now, there has been a lot, a lot, a lot of thoughts and talk lately on how Twitter will be making money. Finally, Twitter is experimenting with a new revenue model as Techcrunch tells us…

First, it seemed like a nice idea to promote their own service (i.e. widgets and search), which I thought is the case. This well-placed add-on feature makes it easier to work with Twitter, especially heading towards their search site, when you are not using any of the helpful Twitter apps. And there were also some good thoughts on Twitter becoming a search engine and as how this will be a driver monetizing their business. But Overture (now controlled by Yahoo), has patented placement of text ads on a search results page. So, this was probably a difficult pitch.

Now, back to what is happening, see the black box on the right hand side on ‘Widget’…

It is obviously really a ‘simple’ test for some solid revenue stream generating business, we all are familiar with via Google text ads. But can this be an appropriate test to recall on revenue models?

The two test objects, Twitter search and the above mentioned Twitter widget link, belong directly to the Twitter concept. It offers some immediate navigation benefit to the user. This is what users are after for a long time. Thus, ‘Twitterati’ will click on the links and appreciate the easy way accessing their search service. So, the results Twitter sees with the test don’t reflect in any way potential click rates on text ads as these are dependent on results.

Isn’t there a difference if you promote some internal service or feature, or if you run a promotion from some external party or company? In my experience, in terms of text ads, and those generating results, we can definitely say, there is a huge difference on the click rates. Hence, on the conversion rate clients will find the difference as well. Editorial focus is not comparable to advertising, reaching out for awareness, right? And as clicks is the interactive currency ‘No. 1’ for marketers and convergence their need, according to yesterdays CMO report, the test sounds like comparing apples and oranges.

Spot On!
Nevertheless, the test is worth some thought. And just imagine Amazon and Twitter are getting engaged, the business model becomes clear based on some semantic web thoughts: connecting Amazon’s product catalog by connecting tweets and related products. Someone talks about a film and gets an offer from Amazon in the text ad. Or maybe Yahoo could be the new ‘Who is buying Twitter at last’ as they could compete in the long-tail market. In general, Google could finally face a competitor here…