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Books in Review: Getting Customers to Talk about You

A review of Empowered: Unleash your employees, energize your customers, transform your business, by Josh Bernoff & Ted Schadler

Empowered:
Unleash your employees, energize your customers, transform your business

By Josh Bernoff & Ted Schadler
Harvard University Press ($27.95)

Empowered by Josh Bernoff, coauthor of Groundswell, and Ted Schadler, both of Forrester Research is another in a series of new books on social media’s impact on marketing.

However, this book is a practical explanation of how social influence marketing, which is having your customers create customers for you – works! Loaded with lots of easy to understand cases, this is an information packed book demonstrating that social technology has become universal. In just one month in 2009, according to Comscore, 100 million Americans watched 6 billion You Tube videos. The Wall Street Journal’s home page now features video news analysis everyday, and sites from Home Depot to Amazon share video tips on their sites.

While maybe not apparent to CEO’s across the board yet – corporate social applications are becoming ubiquitous. Nearly every technology company has a support forum where customers help each other solve problems.

Like with many other common sense business practices this book not only reminds us of them, but also illustrates how social media can be used to embellish them. Using simple statements e.g. “once you have customers, you should do everything possible to maintain a connection with them”, the authors explain how social media is the perfect tool for that dialogue.

Black & Decker, for example, after studying You Tube decided to utilize video in their sales training, and then do-it-yourselfers started creating their own training materials. One user sent in videos of competitors products, highlighting their weaknesses in a highly visual way that sales people and consumers could really relate to.

Now videos on the Black & Decker server attract hundreds of views from Black & Decker workers, and the most popular videos get viewed by over half of the sales force.

The book is laced with questions, that the authors put up online at http://forrester.com/empowered, the answers to which will guide any management team to developing their own social networking strategy. These questions are supplemented with actual cases from well known firms like Black and Decker, UPS, and others.

The authors introduce their IDEA formula:

  • Identify mass influencers – the people most likely to spread messages about your company.
  • Deliver groundswell customer service by reaching out through groundswell channels and serve those vocal and influential customers.
  • Empower your customers with information, especially mobile information. Keep people happy by surrounding them with information they need.
  • Amplify your fans. Find people who love you, and boost the impact they have on their peers.

The authors explain that Mass Connectors account for 80 percent of the online influence in social networks. And, among social connectors, 80 percent of the impressions about products and services come from only 6.2 percent of the people online.

According to the authors social network impressions are fleeting, continuous, and viral. People retweet what others tweet, comment on others’ Facebook updates, get influenced by what their best professional colleagues say on LinkedIn, and pass those messages on.

Some of the better cases in the book explain how Ford used social media to launch the new Fiesta, and how Zappo’s developed their love affair with customers.

A unique illustration of the new marketing funnel developed by Forrester Research should be of special interest to readers. This different view of the classic marketing funnel (from Marketing 101) leads the authors to conclude that a sale is no longer the end point! Once you have sold the customer, good service will create happiness. Surrounding them with information will generate more touch points, and more reasons to feel good about your company. And enough outreach like this will create a customer who broadcasts your praises.

Josh Bernoff shares a personal story to illustrate this having to do with his family vacation travel needs. He finds hotels to be too cramped for his family so he found a site called rentvillas.com that has hundreds of houses throughout europe. Rentvillas provides a personal travel consultant that responded to questions about everything from local supermarkets to clothes dryers.

She also provided Bernoff with a detailed map and 150 page guide on living in Italy where he and his family stayed. After the trip she asked him to rate Rentvillas site as compared to other online travel sites. He was so pleased with the experience with Rentvillas he added it to his blog and continues to use it as an example of companies that treat their customers like human beings.

Bernoff explains that Rentvillas reached out to him as a satisfied customer hoping that his word of mouth, in person and online, would influence others. Just as they do with all their other customers. Travelvillas recognized that the funnel doesn’t stop at the narrow end of the funnel with the sale. It continues with personal service, surrounding the customer with information resources, and encouraging word of mouth.

Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler capture the value of social media in their simple explanation: “get happy customers talking.” Their common sense approach continues with “having acquired a bunch of customers, you should be doing everything possible to maintain a connection with them, like Amazon does with email reminders of new books and other products that their customers might have an interest in based upon their past purchases. You should develop a healthy obsession with what they are talking about, who they are talking to, and what they want. Only then can you determine how best to encourage them to speak about your products.” This echos Jeff Bezos’ now famous statement: “determine what customers want, and then give it to them with great service.”

For those unsure about how to use social media to market more effectively, this book will be helpful. Bernoff’s earlier work “Groundswell,” written with with Charlene Li, is a comprehensive analysis of corporate strategy for dealing with social technologies. “Empowered” co-author Ted Schadler created Forrester’s Workforce Technographics methodology, the industry’s first benchmark analysis of how people use technology at work.

Bob Donnelly writes the Entrepreneurial CEO column for Chief Executive.

About Robert M. Donnelly

Robert M. Donnelly
Robert M. Donnelly is CMO of Flo-Tite Valves & Controls, a U.S. based supplier of valves and components to the process control industry in North America. A coach, educator, and advisor to founders/CEOs of growing firms, he is a serial entrepreneur, having started, grown and sold several technology based businesses. Previously he held executive positions at IBM, Pfizer and Exxon.