Defining the Brand: Loyalty or Acquisition?

Like most mornings before I get my day rolling, I check the internets and see what’s going on.  Lo and behold, my buddy Bryan Willmert shared this article about gamification from Mashable.  In this article, we are presented with the game mechanics needed for customer loyalty:

  1. Define the “grind” – a clear and easy-to-understand action as the core of your product and loyalty effort
  2. Lay down an XP (“experience points”) system
  3. Create five social actions
  4. Develop a Social Loop With Appointment Mechanics
  5. Have a Reward System Based on SAPS (non-cash rewards by the way)

As I read it, I was reminded of something I posted a couple of years ago where I recommended my former employer change their focus from customer acquisition to customer loyalty.  Now, I’m not naive as I completely understand in the automotive industry, sales are king, BUT I will say that times have changed and that focus might need to make a shift towards loyalty, customer relationship marketing, customer experience or whatever you want to call it.

My “out of the box” idea to my friends at The General would be to take the $10 million you pulled from Facebook advertising and the money you would have spent on the Super Bowl and invest some (or all?) of it into a platform that develops the Apple following I’ve heard many of my former colleagues talk about when I was there.  If you want to develop a car culture where you have people talking about you on their own, provide recommendations and not have to rely mainly on incentives, why not give it a shot?

Check out the following chart that just happened to pop into my inbox as I was writing this:

Most companies would love to see this chart about them, wouldn’t they?  Things are different now, especially online.  Investment must be made and the platform and consumers need to be cultivated.  The biggest question is, are you patient enough to wait?

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4 Opportunities for Buick and GMC

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while but finally decided (after some encouragement from my friend Gini Dietrich, a.k.a. Wonder Woman) to put my ideas out there.  I’ve talked a lot about why I think the social web is important.  Now I want to give some practical ways I believe large companies (like mine) can benefit from the social tools and begin to build their community.

There is a huge opportunity to truly interact with our customers through the tools that are now commonplace with most other companies.  Last month, I blogged about how important the customer was and posted a video from the Saturn Homecoming.  Today’s post expands on that.  These are 4 strategies that I’d love to see implemented at Buick and GMC.

1. Develop a loyalty rewards program
I believe Loyalty Reward programs have tremendous value.  Think about how many people wanted to rack up their airline miles for free tickets?  I’d take this to a different level for us.  I’d establish a Buick and GMC Loyalty Rewards program for owners.  Once you buy a vehicle from us, we reward you with a baseline amount of points.  These points can be used for discounted subscriptions for OnStar and XM.  What about using the points to attend special events sponsored by Buick and GMC?  Additional points can be earned when purchasing accessories or doing regular maintenance at a Buick and GMC dealer.  Why not reward someone for making a major purchase decision in your favor?

2. Interact with the 47,000 Facebook “likes”
Humanize your brand.  Give it a personality.  Develop a community and an environment people can interact with people.  For one thing, I’d showcase some of our employees.  Who is the face behind the all new Buick Regal?  What do you want to know about the Marketing Manager for the GMC Terrain?  (Ford recently did this with Explorer.)  I believe this would change some of the perceptions that currently exist about our company and the type of consumers we attract if they got to know the employees behind the logos.

What about showcasing the people that bought our products?  Facebook is really their forum.  As a marketer, I want to know who bought from us.  Encourage new owners to post pictures with their new Buick LaCrosse or their GMC Sierra and give us a comment as to why they love it and share their story!

3. Start a Corporate Blog
This idea started swirling around my head after I read this post from Social Media Examiner.  It talks about the influence blogs can have in search rankings.

  1. Adds naturally occurring, keyword-rich pages.
  2. Increases the potential for incoming links from high-quality websites.

A blog is one of the best ways to continually add pages to a website that generate relevant and reputable links.

If you want more reasons to do a corporate blog, Ted Defren just published this post on his blog.  In short:

  1. Blogging gives your company a voice
  2. Blogs are better place to direct people than your corporate website
  3. Blogging enforces respectfulness
  4. Blogging is timeless
  5. Blogging enforces content creation

Another reason to start a corporate blog is to further give the company a personality and build our consumer community.  Is there content that we could offer that talks about things other than the vehicles we sell?  Could it be social causes?  What about biographies of our leadership or employees?

4. Foursquare
Location based services are the current rage.  Foursquare is offering window clings to companies like Whole Foods to display so customers will check in and learn about special offers these stores offer.  Why not take this same approach to our dealerships or locations where we have sponsored events?  This could tie back in to the Loyalty Reward program I mentioned above!

The final thing I’ll leave you with is this.  Joseph Jaffe talks a lot about customer service in his book, Flip the Funnel.  Last night, I came across this quote as I was reading his book:

Customer service is a front-office strategic imperative that belongs at the same table as strategic planning, marketing communications, branding and advertising.

I’d replace “Customer Service” with “Customer Experience”.  Either way, this needs a seat at the strategic planning table.  This is where leadership buys in to the plan and is willing to invest in it.  With the web as a platform for consumers to get their voices heard quickly, you need to make the investment in money and man power to participate in this conversation.

By no means are these ideas “new”, but they may be “new” to my industry.  I just see these as great opportunities to integrate into our traditional marketing efforts.  What do you think?  Would this work for you as a consumer?

It’s all about the customer

One of the benefits of GM being a corporate sponsor of Future Midwest was getting the opportunity to meet with Joseph Jaffe (@jaffejuice) and hear him talk about his latest book, Flip the Funnel.  I finally started to read it last week.  What are my initial thoughts?  It’s all about the customer.  Jaffe proposes “flipping” the traditional marketing funnel upside down and using your current customers as your brand evangelists to help generate new sales.

This certainly is a different mindset among a lot of corporations today.  Think about it.  Most companies are solely focused on the time of the purchase.  What about focusing on the time between the purchase?  There are countless examples out there now…think Zappos.  They are all about the customer and customer service.

The other factor in all of this are the social tools (it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention those!).  Customers talk to each other!  We all know the power of word of mouth and customers trust each other more so than they trust the brands themselves.  Jaffe uses the “Conversation Prism” from Brian Solis to illustrate his point (see below).  With all the tools out there, are brands paying attention to what customers are saying about them?

With Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, consumers are generating content and opinions that influence their personal networks.  If brands can talk to and take care of these customers regularly, then what do you think the conversation will be about?  My hypothesis is that it will be positive.

The last thing I want to leave you with is this.  GM at one time had a division that was clearly focused on the customer.  It was Saturn.  Can you imagine if that customer experience existed today with the products that are currently in market?  Remember the “Saturn Homecoming”?  Saturn invited ALL of its customers to Spring Hill, TN to see where their cars were built.  The response?  44,000 people made their way to Tennessee.  Talk about customer loyalty!