iPhone App Case Study: Natalie Maclean

A great three-minute segment on CBC featuring wine writer Natalie Maclean,  who talks a bit about her approach to making a mobile experience available to the 110,000+ members of her customer community of oenophiles.  Three key takeaways:

  • Use mobile to provide access to the breadth and depth of information that’s available to customers; plus,
  • Simplify the experience to make it easy to navigate; and,
  • Always ensure it’s available, not just when customers are in front of their computers

As a wine journalist, it’s interesting to see how Natalie is leveraging the capabilities of mobile to make it even easier for the members of her community to access the information she’s providing, as well as connect with each other.

Disclosure: Our company, Cerado, worked with Natalie to create this iPhone app

The Customer in Personal, Public and Business Realms

"Some corporations will attempt to maximize the business value of each
individual worker, stripping out all the extraneous human factors. Chinese walls will be erected to keep the outside from the inside, the personal from
the business, and the public from the private. But when you put
messaging and communications tools into the hands of people they will
find ways to talk to each other— about work, life, play, the project,
and the joke they just heard at the water cooler." – Cliff Gerrish

The line above is from a brilliant post by Cliff Gerrish, touching on CRM, VRM and the rise of tools like Google Buzz and Salesforce.com's Chatter. 

Read the whole thing here.

The Fatal Flaw in the Google Buzz Interface

Is "fatal flaw" too strong a term?  Maybe.  Then again, maybe not.

First off, what is Google Buzz?  It's Google's new shot-across-the-bow to Facebook and Twitter, an attempt to integrate real-time web interactions with the well-known and widely-used Gmail interface.

However, Buzz does two things that will simply make it unusable.

  1. It shows threaded conversations and strongly highlights the initiator of those conversations, and makes the comments subservient to the initial post.
  2. It takes posts that have "new" comments and immediately bumps those posts to the topmost position of the viewing window.

This interface will greatly reinforce the existing power law relationships online, and have the effect of greatly reducing the serendipity and interestingness in things like the current Twitter and Facebook interfaces. 

With Buzz, those who (a) have a large number of followers, and (b) post frequently will always bubble up to the top of the stack, crowding out everything else.  Currently, I'm following about 200 people, which (you would think) would give me a great diversity in my stream.  However, the top twenty one spots of my Buzz feed are held by:

  • Chris Messina
  • Jason Calacanis
  • Jason Calacanis
  • Josh Druck
  • Jason Calacanis
  • Francine Hardaway
  • Derek Powazek
  • Steve Rubel
  • Robert Scoble
  • Brady Smith
  • Robert Scoble
  • Robert Scoble
  • Michael Elliot
  • Rex Hammock
  • Josh Druck
  • Josh Druck
  • Chris Pirillo
  • Josh Druck
  • Josh Druck
  • Josh Druck
  • Danny Sullivan

Worse, whenever anyone makes a comment in any of those threads, that thread pops back to the top.

In other words, it appears one can never get past the most chatty threads.  They'll always bounce back to the top.  Those individuals with many connections will almost always have the chattiest threads.  Ergo, the Buzz interface will, in its current incarnation, always be dominated by those with the largest, chattiest networks.

Screen shot 2010-02-10 at 3.01.31 PM 

Can Google figure out a way to turn off that "always bubble the newest to the top" feature?  Of course they can.  And they need to.  If they don't, Buzz instantly becomes an echo-chamber of the highest-order, and becomes completely unusable.

Social Customer Case Study: OK Labs Hits 150% of Customer Community Target

A nice article from CRM Magazine about the work we did with OK Labs. -cfc

A Social Strategy That's A-OK

OK Labs forgoes traditional marketing in favor of a community-based Web 2.0 approach.

• Tell us about your organization.
Open Kernel—OK Labs—is a three-year-old start-up that was born in
Australia and is now headquartered in Chicago. My role when coming on
board was to build up the brand and, most importantly, create awareness
among the technical developer community who work on developing mobile
devices. Our area is mobile open virtual solutions. We are in the
innards of mobile handsets. It’s not at the application level, but it’s
embedded within the device.

I realized initially that the company
wouldn’t exist if Google didn’t exist. The first commercial
opportunities came through online inquiries. The obvious thing to do
was to find out who these people are, what their needs are, and what
kinds of places they go to find information. I tried to figure out the
types of things these global engineers care about and tried to address
their thirst for information that was accurate, technical, and in a
peer-to-peer venue. 

• At what point did you turn to service provider Cerado for strategic support?
I found Cerado through networking and I said, “I’m building a community
of developers and I know this community behaves differently from other
communities. Can you help me build this?” I knew I couldn’t do it on my
own. Cerado did the typical things of defining the behaviors of the
community—and came up with something I loved. Cerado reinforced the
notion of creating elements that can be shared easily—or “social
objects”—and showed us lots of practical, real-world examples,
ultimately taking us down a path toward building an online community.
In addition to the community-development plan, Cerado introduced us to
the overall concept of social media and, of course, Twitter—before its
big ascent. What started out as a community-development plan evolved
into a complete sharing plan—which included viral videos, webinars, and
social networking—to grow organically and accomplish brand awareness
along the way.  

• What results have you seen from your online efforts? Our
goal after developing the community was to have 1,000 members within a
year. We’re at about 1,500 now. And, in our realm, when you consider
the size of the developer community, that’s substantial. 

definitely have increased our online footprint and visibility. Now when
OK Labs releases a press release, for example, we launch a webinar
surrounding that news and we might ask a person with an impressive list
of industry followers to twitter about our event or accompanying white
paper. That leads to increased participation in our webinars. When we
deployed new social sharing tactics during our last news launch on the
topic of Google Android, we had the longest number of days in which
people participated with a sustained increase in traffic. 

Labs’ GeekTV videos are viewed via YouTube and Vimeo approximately 70
to 100 times per week. We know that we have not scratched the surface
of what can be accomplished by actually promoting the videos with
social media tactics. Most of our traffic for videos comes from links
through our email nurturing program.

The majority—about 90
percent—of our leads come from Web searches and through email queries.
Google search is the reason that the OKL4 technology was discovered by
developers and led to our first design-in solution for a major chipset
manufacturer for mobile phones. 

It’s a challenge at this point
to keep up with lead qualification. Twitter and LinkedIn will play a
larger role in OK Labs’ social media strategy in the coming months.

Five Fast Facts

>>>How old is the project? We
completed the community rollout in December 2007, then underwent
another phase of social efforts, including blogging, in January 2008. 

>>>Who was involved in the decision process? Me and several other members of the OK Labs team.  

>>>What has been the best idea? Breaking
some of the rules of what you can and can’t say in a Web presence.
There’s a little bit of an informal character about our company. We’ve
found that communicating a sense of humor with a brand is a whole lot
more fun. 

>>>Biggest surprise?
With people talking about personal lives and business on Twitter or
social media, you get a steady stream of information hitting on a
variety of topics. It’s making business so much more personal. If
people know something more about you, they might be more likely to do
business with you. 

>>>Biggest mistake? Using conventional advertising to reach technical developers. They don’t click on ads. They just don’t.

source: CRM Magazine

Phrase of the Day: “Transaction Myopia”

Screen shot 2010-02-04 at 4.46.15 PM Just tripped across a great turn of phrase from Peppers and Rogers: “Transaction Myopia.”  Good stuff, and worth checking out. (Via CRMAdvocate)

The key bit:

“It’s far easier for almost any business manager to think in terms of
transactions completed-whether you talk about products sold, or calls
handled, or loyalty points awarded-than it is to think in terms of
asset values improved (i.e., lifetime values increased because of
strengthened relationships). And obviously, having better transactional
data will help any firm do a better job in making customer-centric
decisions. But even sophisticated statistical analysis will not
necessarily change the mind-set of the executives involved. 

often say that thinking in customer terms, rather than transaction
terms, is like seeing a different dimension of your business. Rather
than focusing on one type of transaction (or product) at a time, and
trying to sell that transaction to as many customers as possible, the
truly customer-oriented firm will focus on one customer at a time, and
try to line up for that customer as many transactions as possible, over
the life of that customer’s relationship with the firm. 

most businesses, the product transaction is the hero. But for truly
customer-centric businesses, the customer is the hero. So, rather than
trying to find more customers for your products (which is the primary
objective for product managers), a customer-centric approach involves
trying to find more products for customers. And this means someone has
to be in charge of the customer relationships, one customer at a time.”

You can read the whole thing here.

(N.B. Unfortunately, it’s behind a not-customer-friendly registration wall.  A wee bit of pot-kettle-black…)

photo: chuck revell

The Social Customer Will Be Mobile

Morgan Stanley's uber-analyst Mary Meeker recently published her 671(!) page report on the state (and future) of the mobile internet.  Of her eight "key themes" in the report, one really stood out:

Mobile is Ramping Faster Than Desktop Internet Did and Will Be
Bigger Than Most Think – a confluence of five factors (3G + Social
Networking + Video + VoIP + Impressive Mobile Devices) Are Driving This

Whoa.  Think about that for a second.  Mobile Internet usage is ramping even faster
than Desktop usage did between the early 90s and today.  As soon as
2012, smartphones are predicted to outship worldwide PC shipments.

So what does this mean to the customer conversation?  Two things:

  • You need to be thinking now about how you reach customers via the mobile channel
  • More importantly, you need to be thinking now (or, perhaps even last week) about how customers reach you via the mobile channel

Now, this was the slide that blew me away:

Check that out.  Not just the rate of growth, but the magnitude as
well.  While the iPhone does not equal the entirety of the mobile
market by any means, it's stunning to see that the iPhone + iTouch have
8x the amount of market penetration that AOL did at a similar point in
its trajectory, and over 5x the number of users that Netscape did.

This isn't just a wave, or even a tsunami.  Mobile is going to
fundamentally change the landscape with respect to how customers and
companies connect.