Look, Mom! I’m Friends With A Sorta-Creepy Bearded Guy!

BurgerkingWade Roush, on being able to be a friend with the Burger King and other “Fakesters” on MySpace: “What’s sad about MySpace, though, is that the large supply of fake ‘friends,’ together with the cornucopia of ready-made songs, videos, and other marketing materials that can be directly embedded in profiles, encourages members to define themselves and their relationships almost solely in terms of media and consumption. This can’t be all that social computing has to offer.”

Channeling Aretha

Playstation3Frank Rose: “PR fiascoes tend to be a sign that nobody’s thinking about the customer.”

From a great article by Frank Rose, regarding the Sony Playstation 3 launch.

Emerging Trends In Marketing

Yesterday I gave a presentation on emerging trends in marketing to a group of over 100 executives in Washington DC. Key topics covered were:

  • The Evolution of Marketing
  • How “Web 2.0” Is Affecting Business Relationships – The Customer Is In Control
  • Marketing Tactics – Offline, Online
  • Viral Marketing Ethics and Best Practices
  • Social Networking As A Community Marketing Component

If you’re not able to view the embedded slides above, you can also find the slide deck here.

Executive Briefing: Social Networking For Businesses And Associations

SnbrochurecoversmallWe’ve just made available a new Executive Briefing e-book that pragmatically introduces the idea of social networking for businesses and associations. Interested in introducing social networking to the exec staff at your organization? Included are answers to the common questions of:

  • What is social networking?
  • Why does this matter? Isn’t “social networking” just for high school kids?
  • How can my organization get closer to customers or members using social networking?

Excerpt: Why should our organization care about social networking?

“Customers have lost trust in traditional sales, marketing and service (the three areas commonly referred to as “CRM,” or Customer Relationship Management). According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, “the most credible source of information about a company is now ‘a person like me,’ which has risen dramatically to surpass doctors and academic experts for the first time.” The survey relates that in the U.S., trust in “a person like me” increased from 20% in 2003 to 68% today.

The connections enabled by social networks are the glue that put the humanity back into business to solve the trust problem. In other words, the organizations that will win are the ones that most easily enable individuals to build relationships and communities with people they trust.”

Download the entire 12 page e-book here. Then talk about it, forward it, print it, casually drop a copy on your co-worker’s desk…

A Look Back At 2006 – The Customer Really Is In Charge

This is my look back at 2006 from the current issue of CRMGuru.

Companies Are Actually Engaging in Conversations With Customers

By Christopher Carfi, Cerado Inc.

In 2004, there were a few odd shakes. Some organizations noticed them, but most ignored them, perhaps attributing them to the distant passing of large truck.

In 2005, a few small, but noticeable, cracks appeared in the fortifications that separated The Corporation from its customers.

In 2006, the cracks widened. For some organizations, portions of the fortifications began to crumble and crash to the ground, casting away long-held beliefs and practices as they fell. It was the year the reliance on one-way “control” of the customer began to give way to “conversations” in earnest.

While viewing the world through the three-sided prism of “sales,” marketing” and “service” still holds as a reasonable way to characterize the breadth of CRM, these changes in customer relations affected all three areas very differently.


For some in sales, “CRM” is synonymous with Sales Force Automation (SFA). The problem is, very few customers want to be “managed” by their sales representatives. In 2006, those customers who “weren’t going to take it anymore” started taking up arms.

We’ve entered an era rich with cheap, easy, accessible of online tools to publish in nearly any format. Consequently, 2006 saw an explosion of words, photos and videos of customers documenting their experiences with products of nearly every stripe. Did you see the photos of the exploding Dell laptop in Osaka? If you didn’t, search on “dell laptop fire.” Those pictures sparked Dell to recall more than 4 million laptop batteries, and the incident ultimately may cost Sony, which manufactured the batteries, hundreds of millions of dollars. Millions of customers shared their experiences with companies with the world via their personal blogs, as well as through online communities such as TripAdvisor. Consequently, salespeople have been put in the unenviable position of competing in a world where the customer is, in many cases, better-informed than they are.

Another trend that affects sales is the rise of a new type of corporate customer: the “bizsumer.” These are individuals within large organizations who are making buying decisions at an individual level, oftentimes as a means to “get things done” in their groups without having to deal with the bureaucracy of their own organization.

The bizsumer is purchasing tools for project management, collaboration, business social networking and other systems at a price point that is often below the radar of centralized organizational planning-and usually delivered as an online service. (Joe Kraus, CEO of collaboration provider Jot, calls this purchasing things that are “expensable,” rather than “approvable.”) As such, sales has needed to embrace tactics that are much more common in the mass-market realm, such as online ordering and payment by credit card, which is a marked shift in the customer engagement process.

Marketing and PR

Of the three primary CRM areas, the areas of marketing and public relations made the most strides with respect to customer engagement. Not only startups but also behemoths such as General Motors, Microsoft, IBM and Sun Microsystems have embraced social technologies such as blogs and podcasts in a big way, as a method of getting their message out and engaging customers in the conversation about their products. These processes of engagement with customers through social media, however, need to be done correctly, and with unassailable ethics and transparency. As an example, Wal-Mart and Edelman, a PR firm, found themselves in significant hot water in October 2006, when it came to light that a blog framed as a “grassroots” effort of regular, everyday folk (“Jim and Laura,” who were driving their RV across the country, from Wal-Mart to Wal-Mart and documenting it) was actually a planned marketing campaign, paid for by Wal-Mart and supported by Edelman. Customer engagement is highly important in strategic business planning, the data gathered can help immensely with how they want to market their products/services. Using device tracking software from companies like Epsilon can add to this and provide a solid connection with customers leading to a potentially positive outcome.

Anyway, it turned out that “Jim” and “Laura” were professional journalists on assignment. (“Jim” was Jim Thresher, a photojournalist for The Washington Post, and “Laura” was Laura St. Claire, a professional freelancer.) With incredible research tools at their fingertips, customers now can ferret out the truth about products and companies in only a few clicks. Despite such missteps, through social networking, other companies began to put a more human face on their organizations. An increasing number of companies are engaging with their customers directly online; answering their questions in the public square; and moving away from “marketingspeak” and toward developing deeper relationships with their customers based on actual interpersonal trust.


And then came “support tagging.” Stowe Boyd and Greg Narain, of the social application firm Blue Whale Labs, call these tags “beacons.” A beacon is a post in a public place, such as a personal blog, meant to draw the attention of a service provider to an issue the customer is having with the company’s products. In essence, beacons turn the service model upside down, drawing companies to the customer’s site to help them, rather than forcing the customers to go through the often onerous support process prescribed by the vendor organization. (The vendor organizations respond to such beacons through diligent, often automated, monitoring of search engine results for new items containing their company name, their products or relevant phrases.)

When it works, a representative from the vendor organization, or even an individual who may be part of a larger enthusiast community, will connect with the customer in the customer’s space and resolve the issue.

So I would call 2006 a sea-change year for CRM. Sales faced an ever-more-vigilant buyer. Marketing engaged with customers-and was called to task when it went overboard. Support is actually-surprise-supporting the customer, as opposed to purely being a cost center. The customer really is in charge.


Business Social Networking Breaks Out Of The Walled Garden

Today, am very happy to announce a significant development that Cerado has made with Haystack networking, our social networking service for businesses and associations.

What we’ve created is a novel way for an organization to easily create profiles of its externally facing individuals (e.g. sales, marketing, support in the corporate realm, or members for associations or groups), and allow prospective customers or members to interact with those profiles via a Flash-based player. Through this player, these profiles can be embedded into any website or blog (just like a YouTube video can be embedded in any site).

Examples of how it looks “in the wild” are included in this post, and on this page here, and on the sidebar here. Additionally, some answers to frequently asked questions are included below.

We’re really, really happy about this, and think this is an innovation that will greatly accelerate the adoption of social networking into the enterprise.

But, more importantly…what are your thoughts?


What it is: An embeddable organizational directory that can be integrated with any website with a single click.

Why it matters: What YouTube did for sharing video, Cerado has done for business-oriented social networks. The embeddable Haystack networking directory enables anyone visiting any website, blog or other online destination to have simple access to the profiles of the individuals who are part of a business, association or organization.

Why it’s different: The philosophy behind Cerado’s Haystack networking is to turn the sales process around 180 degrees, and enable CUSTOMERS to choose with whom they want to deal within an organization. (This is in stark contrast to the “traditional” sales model, where a representative from a geographic location is foisted upon an unsuspecting customer.) The capabilities being announced here enable companies, associations and organizations to easily allow prospective customers or prospective members to connect with externally-facing individuals from their organizations.

Extended geek details: We believe this is first business-oriented social network that can be easily embedded into websites or blogs. We’ve created an embeddable, Flash-based widget that can be directly embedded into blog posts, blog templates, web pages, or any other type of site, enabling access to an entire organization’s externally-facing individuals.

What it costs: Haystack networking widgets are included in every Haystack networking subscription plan, including our free plans.

How you get it: Every Cerado Haystack network has a Haystack networking directory widget that can be embedded into any web site. Simply go to the Haystack networking page for the company, association, or organization, copy the “embed” link provided, and paste it into the web page in which you want to embed the Haystack network directory.

Gilder-ing The Lily

George Gilder: “In every era, the winning companies are those that waste what is abundant – as signalled by precipitously declining prices – in order to save what is scarce. Google has been profligate with the surfeits of data storage and backbone bandwidth. Conversely, it has been parsimonious with that most precious of resources, users’ patience.”

Hey Look! A Free Pen!

Dscf7722Here is a great post by Nancy Dowd on the do’s and dont’s of successful trade show booths. (Read the whole thing.)

“As a test I set out to see how many pens I could take without ever speaking to a person. As you can see… my experiment netted me 50 pens. I could have taken lots more but I got tired and thought 50 pens proved my point well enough.

Some people set their tables up so you didn’t even have to speak with them and one guy actually had a bin of them. He told me that people were just coming up and grabbing a handful and leaving. When I asked him why he left them on the table he just gave me a blank look.

That blank look told me he probably had no idea of why he was there.”