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25 posts from December 2004

New Marketing Term: Determined Detractor

In the New York Times (whose articles are viewable with free registration for about a week after posting, with purchased required thereafter), Nat Ives has an EXCELLENT analysis of negative brand influencers called Determined Detractors. He points out that BuzzMetrics has become expert on tracking an evaluating these critics. It's now easier than ever for these activists to tell their story on the web, but the real danger is when people with the same issue CONNECT.

Link: The New York Times > Business > Media & Advertising > Advertising: Marketing's Flip Side: The 'Determined Detractor'.

"Where there are disgruntled customers out there who have done some degree of organizing, the infrastructure is there for a major attack to take place."

You'll find BuzzMetrics white papers, including case studies and an analysis of internet message boards here.

Customer Heirarchy of Needs

Whenever I've been struggling with implementing a new system, I'm always delighted to discover that someone else working on the same problem has a helpful angle.

The Phelon Group has published a white paper on the Customer Heirarchy of Needs (pdf) that clarified a marketing problem that's really been vexing me. When promoting events, my teammates keep hammering on me to focus purely on the 'what's in it for me' issue with the prospect. They say that should be the ONLY message, and that's been bothering me. It doesn't FIT my perception of how the customers are behaving.

In this white paper, The Phelon Group propose that we see our customers as going through a similar heirarchy of needs as Maslow proposed for people, you know, from physical needs to social needs to self-actualization, etc. Now Phelon is a consulting firm focused on the information technology field, so I'm going to adapt their descriptions to be a little more general.

  1. First, customers need a 'product that works' or a service that reliably solves the initial problem that sent them into the marketplace.
  2. Next, since it's an imperfect world, they need rapid and reliable support in using the product or service, on resolving issues that may be caused by product failure or incorrect application of the product. They need help.
  3. After they believe they are getting the first two items, that's when the 'customer relationship' can really begin. A sense of trust and belonging start to build. They see the supplier as someone who understands them, and they are willing to communicate more and help increase the benefits of using the product or service.
  4. "Recognition and expanding horizons" is how Phelan describes the next need being met. This point is where the testimonials can be solicited, where customers appreciate recognition, and a customer community starts to appear.
  5. Finally, the customer and supplier can enter a true partnership where they both have benefits and the customer will actually start looking out for the supplier.

These ideas are not new, but arranging them into a heirarchy helps me see how in a diverse customer base you may have people at different need levels who need different messages. Whew!

Thanks to Seth Godin for pointing me to this paper in his blog.

Value of Blogging

Link: InfoWorld: The network is the blog: December 10, 2004: By Jon Udell .

As a blogger, I worry when I see statements like this one by Jon Udell:

Just as telephones are meaningful only when connected to the telephone network, so blogs are meaningful only when connected to the blog network.

I don't agree that as a blogger you necessarily have to connect to other bloggers, but I agree it's crucial that you be "findable," and being in the blog network is one way of being found. But your best audience may not be other bloggers.

However, Jon does have some very powerful things to say later in this article:

The blog network is made of people. We are the nodes, actively filtering and retransmitting knowledge. Clearly this architecture can help manage the glut of information. More subtly, it can also help ensure that no vital inputs are suppressed because nobody has to rely on a single source. If one of the feeds I monitor doesn’t react to some event in a given domain, another probably will. When they all react, I know it was an especially important event.

The resemblance of this model to the summing of activation potentials in a neural system is more than superficial. Nature knows best.

This phemenon exist without the world wide web? It's like we're watching our brain evolve outside your head.

Communities of Shared Interests

Salon has a terrific article (see link below) on the new social activity taking place on the photo-sharing site flickr. Recently I mentioned a Nielsen report that showed people are going online for 'shared interests,' and surely this is one of the best examples. The simple premise that people might enjoy talking about photos that strangers took of the same subject has led to amazingly collaborative creations. Then there are the people who share images with their existing social network. It's incredible to read about all the different activities which are emerging.

Link: Technology | The Friendster of photo sites. (Free if you agree to watch an Ultramercial.)

On most sites, you create your own album or page of photos, and invite your friends to look at them. But on Flickr, you can mingle all your photos with similar images, creating an endlessly beguiling cross-pollination of photos that spark a host of unique communities. Flickr allows its more than 176,000 members to meet each other through both images and words in an ever-evolving visual playground. The onslaught of images that appear on the site range from the truly artistic to the bluntly documentary, a pool of more than 2.2 million photos that's growing at the rate of about 30,000 a day. What's unique is that 82 percent of the pictures on the site are publicly available to anyone who cares to look at them and riff off them. Members can keep their photos private, shared only with a specified group of intimates, but most choose not to, allowing the pictures of their cat or car to freely commingle with others.

I Wanna Be a Conducer

Over at -, a comment by Glenn Reynolds got me thinking. He says

...people blog so that they can express themselves -- to be producers, not consumers -- and we see this impulse across the world of new and alternative media. But it's not really new. Lots of musicians play music in spite of the fact that most of them won't get rich.

In The Support Economy, Soshana Zuboff has a wonderful exploration of the difference between being a consumer and being a producer. She finds indications that consumers are second-class citizens.

But really isn't this a bizarre distinction? We all consume. And we all produce something, even if it's just ill-will in others. A more natural view would be to look your ratio or consumption to production. One of the reasons I blog is that is allows me to digest and produce ideas as a result of my enormous consumption of information. Otherwise, I get really fat with ideas.

The Establishment of Innovation

Anyone interested in innovation needs to pay attention to the Council on Competitiveness. Although I'm not sure how influential this group of heavyweight leaders of business and academia will be, they do say the right stuff:

For the past 25 years, we have optimized our organizations for efficiency and quality. Over the next quarter century, we must optimize our entire society for innovation.

The members of this council include the CEOs of IBM, American Airlines, Verizon, Amgen, GM and Pepsico as well as the presidents of Stanford, MIT, Columbia, Texas A&M, and U.Michigan. They have just issued a 68-page report called Innovate America. I haven't had time to read it, but I did observe that it ends with four goals:

  1. Create a national consensus on supporting innovation growth strategies (They do have recommendations on how to execute this idea.)
  2. Create a 21st century intellectual property regime (agreeing the current system is broken.)
  3. Strengthen America's manufacturing capacity (that sounds like political pandering.)
  4. Build 21st century innovation infrastructure and use healthcare as a test bed. (Good idea.)

I suspect most of us haven't had time to read and evaluate it, but I'd love to hear comments from anybody who has.