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?

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Build Your Community and Embrace It!

Over the past week, thoughts of “community” have been racing around my head.  This started when I heard a podcast with Dave Murray (@davemurr) and Sarah Worsham (@sazbean) talking about the social web and community.  It’s well worth the time and I highly recommend you listen HERE.  I’m a big fan of takeaways and there were 8 that resonated with me after hearing Dave speak.

  1. Don’t build community around your product
  2. Communities are based off of needs and passions
  3. Communities are wrapped around people and communication…product is secondary
  4. True community is allowed to grow through its own organic process
  5. The Social Web is a long term strategy…word of mouth and action happening off line
  6. Introductions are made online but meaningful connections happen in real life (confirmed by Scott Stratten, @unmarketing, today)
  7. Communities cultivate brand loyalty (see Joseph Jaffe, @jaffejuice)
  8. Putting a face / personality to a company allows for a deeper connection

What does this all mean?  To me, if you can develop and embrace a community, you’ll be able to mobilize a group of people around a common interest and take action.  Tools like Google Alerts (thanks Gini Dietrich), Facebook and Twitter allow this conversation to happen immediately.  Why not leverage them to listen to your audience and provide a value to your growing community?  If companies and organizations saw the social web as a long term investment instead of another platform for one-way communication, I’m confident they would ultimately see the ever popular ROI they long for.

I was fortunate enough to meet Jeff Pulver (@jeffpulver) last week, founder of the 140 Conference Series.  His visit to Detroit was to kick off the planning for the conference to make its way to the Motor City on October 20th.  I’m honored to be part of the team to help bring it here and put Detroit on the national stage for 2 days.  Since then, Jeff has mentioned on many occasions that he believes this conference will be special because of the people and the spirit he’s encountered in his brief visit.  I think if you asked any of us that got to hang out with him, this is another extension of the energy we felt after the Future Midwest Conference earlier this year.  There is a community of people that live in metro Detroit that want to help turn this region around and make it a national destination.  The opening video from Future Midwest still gives me chills.  Watch it below to see what I mean.

The final thought I’ll leave you with is this.  The social web is about one thing and one thing only…people.  There is not magic tool or “trick” to be successful at it.  As long as you have a personality and value the people you’re CONVERSING  WITH, you’ll have success.

Your turn.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  Have a great week!

What are you racing for?

This morning I ran the Komen Race for the Cure in Detroit.  As a native metro Detroiter, it was awesome to see 30,000+ people in the city.  Downtown Detroit was alive even on a cloudy day.  The streets were packed with runners and walkers, adults and kids…every one of these people rallying around a cause that has impacted their lives in some way.  Since 1992, the Detroit race has raised over $17.5 million locally.

Since my mind is always thinking, not only did I see a rallying cry for 30,000 people, I also saw an opportunity.  As of late, my business thoughts have focused in on one thing, the customer.  In a recent post, I gave my thoughts on Joseph Jaffe’s book, Flip the Funnel.  If you recall, Jaffe suggests leveraging current customers in order to gain new ones.  What can businesses, both big and small, do to rally loyal followers (current customers) around an idea?  Businesses can get behind a social cause.  The caveat in all of this is that businesses need to do this because it’s the right thing to do and not because they are trying to get a sale out of it.

When there is a worthy cause to get behind, communities get involved, as evidenced by the number of people in downtown Detroit this morning.  Yes, the corporate sponsors there with their product displays, but the overwhelming theme was about the fight against breast cancer.  From a business perspective, one of the benefits you get is exposure.  However, the additional benefit you get is being tied to something bigger than the company itself…people and the community.

So my questions to you are this:  As a business owner, do you see an intrinsic value in this?  As a consumer, can something like this influence your opinion of a brand, product or service?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Flip the Funnel [vid]

Last week I posted a blog called, “It’s all about the customer”.  I talked about the book I was reading by Joseph Jaffe (@jaffejuice) called Flip the Funnel.  Today, Mr. Jaffe posted the following video to his Facebook page from Readitforme which gives a great visual summary of his book.  I agree with Joseph on this…pretty awesome.

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!

Best of Future Midwest ’10 (#FMW10)

Continuing with my Future Midwest recap, I wanted to give you a snippet of some of the great content that was shared last week.  These are just some of the many quotes that I feverishly took as they were spoken from the stage.  I’ll also give kudos to Southfield, Michigan’s very own Jay Adelson who gave the keynote on Friday night.  His message followed the Future Midwest opening video which you can view here.  It was the perfect combination to motivate and inspire everyone in attendance!

  • There is no next big thing.  The next big thing is now. ~ Joseph Jaffe
  • Every community has an Oprah, someone with tremendous influence. Your job is to find the Oprah and arm them with what they need to influence the community. ~ Christopher Barger
  • You have one mouth and two ears…use them in that proportion. ~ Requoted by Scott Monty
  • Build community around what you are passionate about. ~ Blagica Bottigliero
  • Engagement is a generic term for not doing the diligence you need to…be specific. ~ Ken Burbary
  • Success means never letting the competition define you.  Instead you have to define yourself based on a point of view you care deeply about. ~ Tom Chappel, Tom’s of Maine from Scott Hauman

As you can see, lots of great information to help you build your social web and marketing strategies.  I’m confident that if you take these approaches, most of your projects have a greater chance of succeeding.

On to Jay Adelson…his message was simple, “We need crazy.”  Don’t accept the limits that are around you.  He said, “Limits aren’t real…look for limits and break them.”  His presentation was short and to the point…take risks and fail forward.  Given what this region went through the last 18 months, what do we really have to lose?  Pardon the cliche, but it can only get better!  Below is an interview Jay did with The Hub right before going on stage.  This should give you a great representation of his message to the crowd at the Royal Music Theater on April 16th.

There you have it.  That’s my recap of Future Midwest 2010.  I’m sure the organizers have even bigger things planned for 2011 and I can’t wait to be a part of it!

One final thing…look out for the challenge that Bryan Willmert and I are going to pose to all of you!  It’s going to be great!

Thanks for your time!  Feel free to leave comments below!  Would love the feedback!