Thursday, 28 October 2010

What is Foursquare and why is it important for your business?

When I talk to people about Foursquare, I am somewhat surprised by the amount of otherwise commercially-minded people who don’t ‘get’ it, and ask “but what’s the point?”

So I’m going to position it in the world of B2C SME businesses.

Firstly, a quick summary of what Foursquare is without using the geotagging/microblogging jargon of the digital day:

Foursquare is an application that users download onto their smartphone. It enables the user to ‘check-in’ to locations that they visit, a bit like putting a tick next to the yellow pages listing of the bar they happen to be sitting in (let’s name is X Bar). When they check-in to the X Bar, it can instigate a number of stimuli that have different purposes, including the collection of points for adding new venues, travelling geographically from your last check-in, number of check-ins that day etc.

However, the 2 most significant user experiences are:

1. As gameplay – they can collect badges in response to certain check-in behaviours. For example, if their check-in at X Bar is their 4th check-in at different bars that evening, they earn the questionable accolade of the ‘crunked’ badge. It’s a bit like collecting Boy Scout badges, but they sit on the users Foursquare profile page instead of sewn onto their shirt sleeve.
They can also compete to become the ‘Mayor’ of that bar – if they are the person who checks in to that bar most frequently over a certain period of time, they are crowned the Mayor of that bar until they get toppled by a more frequent foursquare visitor.

2. As a social network – users can link themselves to fellow Foursquare ‘friends’ in the same way as you do on Facebook; as opposed to tracking the mood/comments/status updates of your Friends, Foursquare enables you to track their actual physical location. This means you could be sat in X-bar, and be able to see (via your Foursquare dashboard) that your best mate is there in the bar too, but out of sight; in the beer garden maybe. However, in a nod to privacy, this functionality is also easily cloaked – the user has to select as part of the check-in whether their location is actually published. They have to opt-in to the Foursquare update appearing on their Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare status, so if you can see where they are, it’s because they have specifically chosen to tell you.

So that’s it from a user interaction perspective, but it’s the commercial insight and marketing opportunity that this platform provides that is so incredibly powerful.

Now imagine that you are actually the owner of X Bar.

Foursquare gives you the visibility of:

• Who your customer is; in real life – it even shows you their picture, and in many cases, their real name

• How often they visit your business

• Who they are with when they visit your business

• What time of day they visit your business

• Through the use of the ‘tips’ part of the application, they can even tell you (and every other Foursquare user) specifically what they like (and, crucially DON’T like) about your business

All of the above are valuable, tangible channels for customer insight, interaction, Marketing and loyalty initiative opportunities. A good example of an early adopter of Foursquare as a loyalty platform is Domino’s Pizza – they offered free pizza to the ‘Mayor’ of that branch every Wednesday.

The future possibilities of applications such as foursquare are incredibly exciting for businesses, and SME’s should adopt it as a low-cost, highly targeted tool, and ignore it at their absolute peril; in the world of publishable feedback, they can easily damage your online and offline reputation by posting examples of bad customer service/product or any other B2C fail specifically to your actual listing in the user generated and ever growing directory. If you have several branches, a user can publish that the branch at, for example, Westminster, has a rude Manager, or that the coffee isn’t good.

Equally, people can applaud your service/staff/product and become a champion of your business. This feedback works in a similar way to your website’s Google ‘natural search’ rankings – people trust other people’s opinions/content more than paid-for marketing messages.

Technology enabled social applications such as Foursquare are here to stay – they are portable, as they exist on peoples mobile phones; they are payment and subscription-free, and useful on a personal and social level for the user. They are also, in their nature and relevance to today’s world, highly integrative into the Users lifestyle.

‘Get it?’

Monday, 14 June 2010

Basic Online Strategy for Small Business

So what does the term ‘Digital Marketing Strategy’ mean for an SME?

The digital marketing industry is awash with acronyms, jargon and technical sound bites that must feel akin to a foreign language to even the most savvy of SME leaders.

It is very easy to get engulfed by the tsunami of marketing options available in today’s ever evolving and trending digital marketing space, so here’s a bit of clarity – what does it mean for your Small Business – what should and shouldn’t you be doing, and where do you invest your precious marketing budget?

Basically, I’m going to tell you to spend it on your website first and foremost. As with anything – ‘First Impressions Count’, and more so online than anywhere else. Your website is the face of your business that people will engage with however they have been driven there, via on or offline channels, so it’s of utmost importance that it is either:

1. providing a solution to their problem
2. telling them the answer to their question
3. providing the product for which they are looking

It must be immediately RELEVANT, otherwise they will bounce back away and click on another link in their search results. You will normally only get one shot at engaging that customer, so make sure you use it.
You must get the basic’s right before you invest further time and budget in Pay-Per-Click Advertising, Social Media outreach or any other marketing effort that may drive customers to your website.
Your site must be built for Search, so ensure the person or agency that you employ to build your site has proven SEO credentials and ask them to specify how their proposed technical and information architectures for your site delivers Natural Search (also called SEO) equity.

As an SME, you need your website to do 3 core things:

• Get Found
• Get Chosen
• Get Used

It’s important to understand that your target Consumer has the following action points in their online journey:

• Find
• Choose
• Engage
• Interact: Purchase/Enquire/Revisit

These actions need to be mirrored by your website using 4 products:

• Search
• Design
• Functionality

Your investment as an SME is in the Find, Choose and Engage requirement which your selected Agency/website builder should address with core products of Search (natural initially, followed by paid-for), Design and Development, as well as the top-spin product of CRM, which generates the repeat revenue.

So basically, your Digital Strategy as an SME is that which delivers on the 3 core requirements (Get Found, Get Chosen, Get Used), addressing the 4 core consumer action points (Find, Choose, Engage, Interact), using the 4 core products (Search, Design, Dev, CRM/Consultancy).

Get that bit right, and your future spend on the larger pool of digital marketing channels will be optimised. Get it wrong, and it may be wasted.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

What has happened to LinkedIN Etiquette?

I spend a lot of valuable time on LinkedIN – I was an early adopter and barely a day has gone past in the 4 or so years that I’ve had a user profile that I haven’t logged in for one reason or another.

I use LinkedIN for business – I am a hiring manager and comfortable networker, and the functionality helps to keep me up to date and in touch with an ever widening group of contacts. I am not an open networker, I have fought for the integrity of my network and it delivers value back to me daily. The role of LinkedIN allows me to ring fence my Facebook Account –as a rule, I do not accept ‘friend’ invites to my Facebook account from people who are in my business network – my Facebook network is less that 10% of the size of my LinkedIN network.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I respect the social territory-based networking that linkedIN enables – it’s empowering and enriching to watch the career progression of people you have worked with previously.

However, there is one facet of LinkedIN that never fails to irk me; the endorsement process. In fact, it’s not linkedIN itself that irks me, it’s peoples use/misuse of it. In the ‘early’ days, people were respectful and humble over their request for an endorsement – they either rang and asked personally, or made the time to find you face-to-face or at the very least scribe a personal request.

A personal reference is a very valuable commodity – it can influence your equity value to a new employer and make you stand above another candidate who has like-for-like on-paper experience. It can also influence a buyer’s decision to contact you for business services over another supplier who has less definitive recommendations – it’s a powerful reputation building device.

Of course, generally speaking, the more senior/influential the person who is recommending you, the greater the value of that endorsement.

So why is it that the last 5 endorsement requests that I have received, from otherwise talented relationship builders with whom I have worked directly (so know personally and have mentored), have been via the generic LinkedIN scripted request template, with no personalisation or effort?

I have found myself archiving these messages and feeling disappointment in the people who have sent them – I thought better of them. I may be being precious, but I happen to find it disrespectful – why should I spent 20 mins of my day crafting a personalised recommendation for someone who hasn’t even bothered to contact me personally?

I’m fascinated about the thought process from the requestor – what is the decision making path that has lead them to act like that – do they have a sense of entitlement that overrides their basic standards of etiquette? Are they embarrassed to ask, so take the pot-shot easy option to see if I have nothing better to do with my day than spend it helping them in their career for not even a courtesy phone call? Or is it that they took a cheap and nasty route and just spammed their whole network to see if someone, anyone, would oblige?

Anyone who has worked for, or with, me knows how I work – I always make myself available when people need help, support or advice, I consider it part of my responsibility as a senior bod and I get a lot of satisfaction out of it.

So am I a victim of my own accessibility – people now take it for granted and assume a right to have that helping hand without having to impart basic manners to the process? I’m not sure – I tweeted about this last night to see if I was the only person who got upset about receiving non-personalised endorsement requests, and I was glad to see that I’m not – for example, the reply from @martin_thomas: “No, they're a bit like spam. Non specific, non personal”.

What an uncomfortable concept – I’m being spammed by a small minority of my own carefully built network of people I have invested belief, mentoring and support in. That surely has to come full circle back to me somehow.

So I guess it’s shame on me....or is it only shame on me if I actually then still write the endorsement?

Monday, 10 May 2010

Commerciality in Creative Companies.

Commercial savvy is not just about T&C’s – it’s also about internal process/lack of. Creative and Tech environments are naturally populated by people who love to explore – be-it a new piece of software, a new tool, or a new creative concept. If work is not scoped and managed properly, this exploration can become an expensive indulgence that, whilst on one hand it can be captured and shared where knowledge-sharing policies are embraced and active, on the other hand it often it results in non-billable time generation – not great in an industry that’s revenues are largely generated via billable time. A balance has to be struck – the tech and creative teams thrive on exploration – that’s what drives innovation, great work and a collaborative working environment, so it’s important that this exploration is not suffocated. At the same time however, boundaries have to be set in order to also protect the margin on the project. This is most easily achieved by effective team leadership – instilling a sense of commercial responsibility into the stakeholders on a given project, but it also needs to be part of the culture of the department/Company – there are several positive ways of applying this, both in terms of relationship management and workflow process evolution. Importantly, the value of creative output must never be underestimated and must be effectively relayed to the Client – an increasing challenge in the current world of procurement disciplines!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Dear Scotthall Watford BMW

Dear Dealer Principal

I collected my 'new' approved used BMW car from you last night. It cost me a lot of money.

It's my 6th BMW.

It's my 3rd BMW from Scotthall BMW Watford.
There won't Be a 4th.

Here's why:

As of the day of purchase (27th Feb), you had it for 2 full weeks 'in preparation' to your 'exacting standards'.

It's a black car and I collected it in the dark.
But even I saw the dent in the rear bumper.

It's fully loaded.
But the 'electric' wing mirror doesn't work.

I asked for it to be debadged. You even wrote that request down.
But you didn't do it.

You have given out all of your keyrings to customers who bought new '10' plate cars last week.
So I didn't get one (yes, the small things count too).

Collecting a new car should be a highlight of my year - it's one of the reasons I work so hard every day.
This time it wasn't.

I think you should know how disappointing this is.

Shoddy Service, Mr BMW.

Paula Jago.