Your Attention, Please

John Hagel led an interesting session on Attention. (This was at a much higher level the Steve Gillmor’s Attention conversations.) The pitch:

Old scarce resource: Shelf space
New scarce resource: Time and attention

In this context, Hagel gave his “Three A’s” of Attention:

  • Attract – have customers seek you out
  • Assist – how do you assist customers, pre and post purchase?
  • Affiliate – mobilize complementary resources to deliver more value

The winners, Hagel argues, are the organizations that have the ability to orchestrate large array of resources.

He also argued the “brand promise” change that is occurring:

  • Old brand promise: “We have a great product,” or “We are a great vendor”
  • New brand promise: “I know you, better than anyone else. You can trust me, and us.

A very interesting insight…customers have an attention deficit as well. In other words, attention cuts both ways. Not only does the vendor desire the customer’s attention, but it’s critical that the customer can get the vendor’s attention as well. (Case in point? Think about the last time you tried to “pound out” of an interactive voicemail system and wanted the attention of a real person…)

I was fortunate enough to facilitate a session as part of the talk, and our group came up with four key insights:

1) We discussed the Edelman Trust Barometer, and that the most trusted person is “a person like me.” Attention is given to those who are trusted. Ergo…determining affinity between vendor and customer, or members of a customer community, is a critical precondition in gaining trust. Those who are trusted get the attention.

2) Scarcity and exclusivity may focus attention. (Think about the “red velvet rope” at the trendy club of your choice.) The flipside of this is that exclusivity, especially fake exclusivity, is fashion and the attention fades once the bloom is off the rose.

3) There may be cases where attention is contextual (John Winsor said this very well during the session). The degree of a attention given to a particular vendor, customer or situation will also be affected by the competing alternatives for that attention at that moment in time.

4) The biggest “a-ha!” that our group arrived at was that attention between vendor and customer is not always symmetric. In other words, there are times when a customer is giving a great deal of attention to the vendor (“I have a critical issue and need to fix this right now!”) and the vendor is giving little or no human attention to the customer (“Thank you for your call…your call is very important to us…your average wait time is ’10’ minutes…fade to Girl from Ipanema…”).

Based on (4), above, we hit on the big idea of the day. Our group hypothesized that when there is an attention gap between the attention being given by the customer to the vendor vs. the attention being given by the vendor to the customer, the customer gets frustrated and becomes dissatisfied with the relationship.

Does your organization give as much attention to its customers as they give to it?

Related: On Time, Attention and Marketing

A Conversation With Eric Mattson At MarketingMonger

Eric Mattson of MarketingMonger is on a mission to have 1,000 conversations with marketers, and to present them all as podcasts. Eric writes:

“For the 20th podcast in my project, I connected with Chris Carfi of Cerado.

I first ran across Chris’s blog when he published his original Social Customer Manifesto.

Then I heard interesting things about Cerado’s Haystack social networking software for businesses.

So I was excited to get a chance to talk with Chris about his social customer philosophy, his entrepreneurial efforts with Cerado, Haystack’s success to date and more.”

A link to his summary of the call here, and have a listen to the mp3 file here.

Thanks for the invitation, Eric!

Marketers Out Of Touch With Customers

On the heels of the previous post, which has some saying “CRM is dead,” comes a very interesting article by Barney Beal. Here are some points of note from the article, quoting a recent study from the CMO council. (All stats below were sourced from Barney’s excellent report.) According to the study:

  • Two thirds of respondents said they have no formal system for tracking marketing’s role in acquiring new customers
  • Over one third don’t have a model of their “best” customer or opportunity
  • Just under a third have no reliable data on profitability of key customers
  • Nearly 50% said someone other than marketers influences the “segmentation and targeting strategy”*

Now, those points noted, there is a huge reliance on existing “CRM” systems. This, however, is frought with some problems. 33% of the respondents cited their CRM systems as their primary information source. Yet the survey found that “40% of the respondents rated their customer data systems as ‘weak’ or ‘very weak’ in timeliness and depth; availability of useful data; reports and analytics; and relevance to marketing strategies.”

The whole article is here.

* – N.B. I still despise the terms “segmentation” and “targeting” in this context. The first to me seems like it refers to tearing the customer limb from limb. The second seems to indicate a viewpoint that the customer is prey that is to be stalked and bagged like a trophy elk. But I digress.

Signal vs. Noise vs. Customers

There’s quite the conversation going on over at 37signals‘ “Signal vs. Noise” blog today, and I’m still puzzling over why said conversation is even taking place. What’s going down: Matt Linderman, from 37s, today put up a post that starts like this:

Useless, absurd, must, need, appalled, just, infuriating, essential, etc.

“What could be more fun than those magnetic words that let you write poems on the fridge? How about a set of magnetic words that let you write support emails. Our kit would include the following: useless, absurd, must, need, appalled, just, infuriating, essential, oversight, pointless, confusing, nutty, and maybe some good phrases too, like ‘it can’t be that hard,’ ‘i’m a programmer, i should know,’ and ‘even Blogger let’s you do that.’ Of course, the whole set should be ALL CAPS too.”

He then proceeds to excerpt fifteen customer emails that 37s has received, annotating each one with a snippet of text that certainly could be interpreted as an accusatory finger, highlighting what was wrong with each email that their support line had received.

After reading and re-reading the emails that Linderman posted, I’m even more puzzled. Yes, some of them contained some hyperbole. But what about the others, like this one?

“Please call me regarding my basecamp system — (615) 780-XXXX.”

Yeah. Boy, I could see how that would be upsetting…a customer wanted to connect with someone at her service provider. Or how about this one?

“We NEED a web based system like Basecamp, but I cannot tell if it will be any better by reading the information you have available. I’m looking for sort of a web based excel-like program. We need to be able to see at a glance every sponsor’s name, sponsor level, address, contact info, if they’ve been billed/payed, if we need/have artwork, and if they have comments. We need to authorize up to five people for editing and another 60 or so for viewing.”

Indeed. A customer clearly spelling out his requirements and needs. That customer must obviously be deluded and prone to hysterics.

The conversation plays out over 120+ comments. And then “JF” (I’m assuming Jason Fried, of 37signals) jumps in with two comments that, frankly, just seem defensive and tinged with the slightest bit of hubris, all at once.

“We’re well aware of that, we’re well aware of our cash flow, we’re well aware of our churn, we’re well aware of our signups, we’re well aware of our growth, we’re well aware of our big-picture customer satisfaction. We’re well aware of what we’re doing, thank you.”


“120 comments in and I’m surprised we haven’t heard from a progressive thinker who might wonder if all this ‘bad’ stuff is actually good for business. Could these sorts of discussions actually be good for a non-traditional business like 37signals? Do sales/signups go up on days with these heated debates? Could there be a positive business motive behind all this that more traditional business observers haven’t groked?”

Now, Cerado is a customer of 37signals, in that we use Basecamp. But this last quote from Fried has given me pause, and I’m hoping it’s not a canary in the coalmine. The phrase “Do sales/signups go up on days with these heated debates?” is looking at a point in time. It’s solely looking at the transaction. Now, couple that with the fact that (I hope!) any rational customer would certainly entertain taking his business elsewhere if he saw his support request pilloried in the public square as an example of what not to do. Put those two data points together, and one begins to wonder if 37signals is truly doing something differently (as they continuously claim), or if it’s just another business looking for the quick turn, long-term-relationships be damned.

Others talking:

Zoli Erdos
Jason Kolb
Kandace Nuckolls
Steve Portigal
Marcus Campbell
Joe Taylor Jr.

(thanks to Zoli for the tip)

No, Really. Put The Customer In Charge.

Guy Kawasaki* cranks out a top-10 list on “The Art Of Customer Service.” My favorite of the lot:

Put the customer in control. The best kind of customer service happens when management enables employees to put the customer in control. This require two leaps of faith: first, that management trusts customers not take advantage of the situation; second, that management trust employees with this empowerment. If you can make these leaps, then the quality of your customer service will zoom; if not, there is nothing more frustrating than companies copping the attitude that something is “against company policy.”

The other nine are just as solid.

(By the way, if you want to really put the customer in control, this is a good place to start. Then again, I’m biased.)

* – “His name is synonymous with evangelism as a secular business technique, and motorcycles.” Still one of the best lines in a book jacket biography, ever.

Chevy Careens Out Of Control (Or Do They?): A Roundup Of The Tahoe / Apprentice Ad Flap

PeakoilThe writing has been fast-and-furious over the weekend, with opinions flying on whether Chevy royally screwed the pooch with their current ad campaign for the Chevy Tahoe, a tie-in (somehow) with the TV show The Apprentice. To summarize: Chevy has set up a site where anyone can create his or her own commercial, splicing together a number of video clips and background music supplied by Chevy. More importantly, these user-generated commercials can have text floating over the images of the creator’s choosing. Therein lies the rub. It’s no surprise (to anyone with an IQ above room temperature) that this has unleashed the creative juices of a number of folks who have found the perfect platform for their messages.

A couple of examples that C|Net has archived can be found here. (Go ahead, check them out if you haven’t seen them. We’ll be here when you get back.)

Thoughts on the situation so far:

Tara Hunt: “[Chevy] should taking advantage of the valuable (even if it is vitriolic) feedback that they are getting and use this as an opportunity to change direction and survive into the future of this community-driven market.”

Doc: “Watch.”

B. L. Ochman: “Proving that execs at big companies, and their agencies, don’t monitor what’s being said online over the weekend, Chevy left thousands of anti-Chevy consumer-made ads on the Chevy Apprentice make-your-own-commercial site this weekend.”

Seth Godin: “Chevy is learning this the hard way with their Tahoe campaign… in which the best commercials are the ones that say, ‘Don’t buy me!'”

TechDirt: “It seems like perhaps GM understood what would happen a lot more than the so-called ‘experts’ give them credit for. In this day, anyone opening up such a contest has to know that it’ll be used for ‘anti’ ads. It’s happened so often that they must have expected it. In fact, by then being open about it, GM is getting even more mileage from this campaign, and making it appear that they are more open to listening to those who disagree with them…So, it’s questionable as to whether or not GM was ‘slow to react’ or if they are simply doing everything according to plan.”

AdRants: “Negative things will always be said about a brand. Understanding and accepting opposing views does far more for a brand’s mojo than killing off divergent opinion. Let’s hope this is what’s happening at Chevy and not that the ads are still up because it’s the weekend and big companies don’t work weekends.”

Carl: “I don’t understand how otherwise rational people look at this campaign as a positive. It would be like letting people create print ads for McDonalds, and publishing all of the ads that talk about cholesterol, fat, calories, carbohydrates and fat kids. And then patting themselves on the back for letting people ‘speak their mind’ and for ‘understanding social networking.’ This campaign can only damage the brand by reinforcing the negatives. Isn’t this marketing 101? The best GM can hope for is to convince all of the people who already hate the product that GM is a cool company with products they hate.”

And a whole bunch more.

I think there are a few things to think about here. One perspective that that this is, in some ways, akin to the LA Times wikitorial fiasco. If that’s the case…the GM didn’t consider the possibility that people would create ads that were not in line with GM’s vision of what should be done…then shame on GM. Any opportunity for “user-generated” media in any topic where there are strong feelings will generate the same spectrum of responses. If that’s the case, GM was simply Not Thinking. Any subject that evokes passionate responses will naturally have this outcome.

A thought: Perhaps a worthwhile tactic to take in these types of situations is to proactively set up areas/categories for the primary viewpoints that are likely to emerge. In the LA Times case, setting up two wikitorials (one “pro-war” and one “anti-war”) may have radically changed the outcome of their experiment. In Chevy’s case, allowing the “directors” of the videos to classify them as “pro-SUV” and “anti-SUV” would have been one way to proactively address the problem. It’s what Scoble did here (“Let The Venom Flow!“), and it’s a very effective tactic in cases where this type of activity is likely to occur. It’s going to happen. Might as well embrace it.

So, it seems from my vantage point that there are three “standard” things that Chevy could do. The options…

  • Option 1: Pull the negative ads
  • Option 2: Leave the negative ads, do nothing (It’s the Marc Canter approach: “I don’t give a damn about what anyone says about me, just spell my name right.”)
  • Option 3: Leave the negative ads, engage

Option 1 is the Bad option. If they go down that road, they’ll get crucified.

Option 2 is an OK option. They may be called “clueless,” but they’ll still be getting some buzz out of the campaign. (And, pragmatically, the folks who are creating the negative ads — as well as the individuals who find that the negative ads resonate with them — probably aren’t going to be buying an SUV anytime soon, anyway.)

Option 3 is a Pretty Good option. In addition to leaving the ads up, trying to understand what the negative-ad-creators are attempting to communicate and putting some plans in place to ACTUALLY address the concerns could rocket GM forward in this regard, if they are able to make some commitments and meet them. There’s some upside here, if they get their act together.

What do you think GM should do, if anything?


Chevy responds in the NYTimes (registration or bugmenot req’d). The money quote, from Chevy representative Melisa Tezanos:

“We anticipated that there would be critical submissions. You do turn over your brand to the public, and we knew that we were going to get some bad with the good. But it’s part of playing in this space.” (via Adrants)

So, it’s at least Option 2. Wanna trade that and go for door #3, Melisa?

As a footnote, it’s worth noting that not all the ads are anti-Chevy or anti-SUV. Some are chuckleworthy. Examples:

Snakes On An SUV! (not advised for those with an aversion to profanity)
Badgerbadgerbadger (disclosure: we did this one, inspired by this)
Way too Emo (for Kathy Sierra, apparently)

Gratuitous Metablogging

I usually try to avoid the whole “blogging about blogging” path, but there are a couple of good items that have popped through in the last couple of days that may be worth a look, if you’re into that sort of thing:

Mike Sansone: “Some web (under)developers think blogging is a fad. Frankly, I think they’re worried about their jobs.”

Jeremiah Owyang, #49 & #50: “Don’t hire any firms to help you with a blog strategy that are not blogging themselves” and “Don’t hire any firms to help you that suggest the reason to blog is ‘because blogging is hot right now’.”

Hugh Macleod: “If you think this is just a game of bubbles, bandwagons, favoritism and knowing the right people, as opposed to having good ideas and plain old hard work- Fine, go ahead and believe it. Nobody cares.”

Robert Scoble: “I’ve been blogging for more than five years now and the “blogging is a fad” meme is one that consistently is reborn every five months.”

The Forrester “Social Computing” Paradox

Charlene Li gives an overview of Forrester’s new “Social Computing” report. Key “tenets of social computing” outlined by Charlene:

  • innovation will shfit from top-down to bottom-up
  • value will shift from ownership to experience
  • power will shift from institutions to communities

The third point is the one that caught my eye in particular, as it seems to be another point of validation on the idea that we are moving down this path:

Transactions => Conversations => Relationships => Communities (much more behind the link)

And then we get to the heart of the matter. Charlene:

“As I often stress, it’s not about the technologies but about the new relationships that users will form. Technologies will come and go, but the power built on the relationships created by social computing will endure.

To fully appreciate the value of social computing, companies have to let go of control. That means letting customers control the brand if you’re a marketer, and it means enabling new enterprise tools that IT can’t easily control to attract and support employees with high social computing needs. In many ways, this is the source of the great distress that I routinely hear from corporate managers.” (emphasis added)

Now the paradox…the report is only available to Forrester clients. If anyone has a copy, I’d love to see it.

The Social Customer Manifesto Podcast 15FEB2006

click here to subscribe

Summary: Christopher Carfi and Leif Chastaine review the American Marketing Association Hot Topic series, give an update on the state of the blogosphere via Jupiter Research, Pew, and Technorati, and shine a light on “Charter Street,” the new blog from Paul McNamara and Greg Olsen. (37:42)

Show notes for February 15, 2006

The audio file is available here (MP3, 34MB), or subscribe to our RSS feed to automatically have future shows downloaded to your MP3 player.

00:00 – Intro

01:00American Marketing Association Hot Topic overview : podcasting, video blogging, word of mouth marketing, RSS, interactive social networking, Bill Flitter (Pheedo), Dave Evans (Digital Voodoo), Willow Baum Lundgren (Umbria), Randy Moss (ACS), Napoleon Dynamite, Vote for Pedro

06:00Jupiter Research, online demographic study, teen influencers, patterns of online/offline usage

11:15Pew Internet and American Life, online usage (men and women), difference in online usage by boomers (note: PDF doc)

18:00 – State of the Blogosphere (Dave Sifry, Technorati, Part 1, Part 2), 27.2 million blogs online. 75,000 new blogs per day, Comparison of blogs and mainstream media reach (e.g. NYTimes), Huffington Post, Instapundit

31:30 Importance of tagging as a component of search

32:00 Charter Street blog launched, Versai Technology; SGI; Red Hat; El Dorado Ventures; Paul McNamara & Greg Olsen, startups, virtual companies, and “going bedouin

37:05 – Wrapup