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6 posts from December 2010

How to think harder about serving customers

This article was bookmarked by me weeks ago, and today I re-read it and decided to discuss it here, then I read a few of the comments and my head started to spin. J.P., who is one of the biggest forces for innovation in telecom, touches so MANY vital issues. And, most importantly, he doesn't deliver his opinions as much as he asks high-quality questions.

I'm going to go back and read all the comments and also read Clay's book and the new edition of Cluetrain Manifesto, which I have to retrieve from a friend. Then maybe I'll have a qualified opinion about all this, but in the meantime, please read the quote below and see if it doesn't change your mind about how customers should be treated and respected.

Confused of Calcutta: A sideways look at cognitive surpluses and knowledge “management”, 2010-Nov-23, by J.P. Rangaswami

Let’s start with knowledge. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to define knowledge in the enterprise as “information about anything and everything that makes our customers’ lives easier; as a corollary, information about anything and everything that helps us make our customers’ lives easier”. I feel that such a definition is in keeping with the ethos of Peter Drucker’s immortal saying “People make shoes. Not money“. If we make our customers’ lives easier, they will thank us for it. With their attention, their time, their loyalty, and even their money.

Using this definition, the management of knowledge can be defined as “the process by which we create, collect and share information that makes our customers’ lives easier”.

So who should be involved in such a process? Who would know the most about what would make our customers’ lives easier?

Hotels sponsoring music performances

Qv-110323-gp Sponsoring performances is old hat, but hotels actually hosting performances and events around entertainers, especially local ones, offers many opportunities for innovation. Examples from Renaissance Hotels are here, but wouldn't this be really easy for any hotel to copy? The hotel may want to hook up with a good local music promoter, and availability of performance space in the hotel may be infrequent, but this has to be a great way for the hotel to strengthen ties with the local community. Would love to see a Houston hotel try this. Doesn't seem to be happening at the Houston Renaissance yet.

MediaPost Marketing Daily: Renaissance Hotels Launches Entertainment Program, 2010-Nov-5, by Tanya Irwin

Marriott International's Renaissance Hotels is launching RLife Live, an arts program aimed at helping guests as well as locals discover "hidden gems" in culture and entertainment. The program encompasses music, culinary arts and design through hotel-branded entertainment during on-property experiences. First up is music, with the hotel chain hosting an eclectic fleet of emerging artists at various Renaissance Hotels throughout 2010 and into 2011. ...

In addition to hearing the music, the RLife Live program gives hotel guests a chance to engage with musical talent on-site at the hotel properties. Renaissance has curated these experiences, with events ranging from intimate acoustic performances to listening parties, to pre- and post-concert events and meet and greets that go beyond just a quick photo or autograph signing.

More understanding leads to less advertising

The availability of information is changing the way people buy, and the most important change is in the evaluation stage. Instead of considering a few brands, comparing and selecting, people now scan a much broader horizon after they develop a purchase interest. If an iPhone sparks my interest, I won't just look at its direct competitors. Instead I will engage my contacts in conversation, observe how iPhones are being used, and search the web for mentions in any context. I may or may not ask Apple for information, but if I do, the quality of Apple's response will be crucial. Did they respond to me as an individual, or did they just dump product information?

Newcomers can jump into consideration more easily than ever just by providing an excellent customer experience. Why should you try to buy awareness with media dollars when you can jump into the conversation at the evaluation stage? If you're participating in the conversation, you have better quality feedback that you can use to constantly improve. Advertisements that don't work tell you very little.

Learn more about the decision-making process in the Harvard Business Review article, Branding in the Digital Age, 2010-Dec, by David C. Edelman:

In the June 2009 issue of McKinsey Quarterly, my colleague David Court and three coauthors introduced a more nuanced view of how consumers engage with brands: the “consumer decision journey” (CDJ). They developed their model from a study of the purchase decisions of nearly 20,000 consumers across five industries—automobiles, skin care, insurance, consumer electronics, and mobile telecom—and three continents. Their research revealed that far from systematically narrowing their choices, today’s consumers take a much more iterative and less reductive journey of four stages: consider, evaluate, buy, and enjoy, advocate, bond.

How to avoid customers that are too small

When deciding whether or not to work with someone, you must pay close attention to the context of their questions. Some people want to learn, and some people just really don't. For those of us who love to learn, it's mysterious but a very, very real concern. 

If your prospect doesn't understand what you do they must either 1) trust you to handle it, or 2) display a willingness to learn from you. It's hard to walk away from someone who really could use your help. Visit the link below to see a very entertaining example. 

Digital Life: The Complete Myth of Local Advertising, 2010-Nov-20, by Shelly Palmer

There is no incremental local retail advertising to be had. The money simply isn’t there. If a local company is big enough advertise, it is already doing it. If it is not big enough to advertise — there’s a reason. The myth of local advertising is that it exists at all. It simply does not.

Re-balancing my time and interests

Among the many ways I'm trying to reconfigure my life, establish new routines, and open myself up to new experiences, I'm going to be blogging more often, with less focus. 

Clarity is very important to me, but my life had become too fragmented. Trying to keep things separated has become a big disadvantage. So you'll soon see me talking here about everything that interests me. Perhaps I'll do more 'continued' posts so the blog is easier to scan. 

I'm still devoted the new 'viewspage' concept, but I hope that will evolve into something that can be grasped and leveraged more quickly. 

I'm also going to spend more time being a follower instead of a loner. I've chosen the VRM Project to follow and support, and I'm thinking about going to SXSW to meet other followers, as there don't seem to be any here in Houston. 

As I integrate everything, it will often happen that it's not clear what I'm talking about. It scares me to be less clear, but I think it's just a passage I have to make to a new self. 

I'm also going to start looking for employment with someone besides myself. I never thought I was any good at being an entrepreneur, but I'm tired of not having funds for my pet projects. In my past, my greatest accomplishments were as a team member at large companies, so I will be looking for a team to join. Notice that I am not looking for a job, and will not be responding to job listings. However, if you know a great business that would appreciate my contributions, please let me know. 


Innovation requires the right environment

In order to innovate, you must supply yourself with the right environment. Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile (author of Creativity in Context) identifies three ingredients: 1) the company of adventurous, thinking people, 2) a mission about which you're passionate, and 3) an environment that promotes learning and innovation more than efficiency and production.

Few businesses can supply these ingredients, so we have to put them together ourselves. That's why I co-founded the Houston Summit. It gathers Houston's most innovative minds, helps them find a mission, and supports them in creating temporary workspaces that support their creativity and desire to change the world.

Harvard Business Review Blog: Three Threats to Creativity, 2010-Nov-15, by Teresa Amabile

Without the creativity that produces new and valuable ideas, innovation — the successful implementation of new ideas — withers and dies. Creativity depends on the right people working in the right environment. Too often these days, the people come ill-equipped, and their work environments stink.