Friday, March 28, 2014

The social web demands partnership with customers - and a radical rethink on content

We're... seeing a much bigger shift in how people spend their time online. 
People are spending much more time interacting with other people, and much less time consuming content from websites. This shift is not about any one particular social network. It's about people connecting to each other online.
Paul Adams, user research lead for social in the UX team at Google.

That nugget is essential information in telling the story of our shift from trusting brands and branded content, to trusting each other. It is also a revelation in telling the story I am so keen on - that the web is for us to connect with; to enable us to self-organise.

Paul adds, in his presentation  The Real Life Social Network: "The social web is not a fad, and itʼs not going away. Itʼs not an add-on to the web as we know it today. Itʼs a fundamental change, a re-architecture."

This adds to the evidence offered in The 10 Principles of Open Business that rebuilding trust between brand and customer is not the realm of ads or branded content. We are turning to each other to find the truth behind the promises made by content of this kind. Content only has value so far as social media is concerned if it proves the promise the brand is making. If the web is indeed going through a fundamental change to become the social web what that means is that ALL online content must now pass that test.

Tell me what you like, but unless I can discover the truth of your promise from the experience of my peers, I'm not going to believe you. That's our reality. How is that impacting your next web design, your next social media content strategy?

The shift suggests that now all content (that will have any value in building trust, inspiring action, at least) has to be created by people like us.

Companies must think long and hard about this shift. It demands a rethink in the role of content and in your relationship with your customer. There is no mileage in simply telling people what you are. You will have to demonstrate what you are - prove it, giving them the experience of it, which they may choose to publish to their peers.

Organisations will have to be more transparent - more ready to involve customers in open innovation, more ready to share and connect - to collaborate

Customers become partners - not dumb recipients with wallets attached.

This in itself demands a more socially focused approach to CRM than ever before, a more customer-as-partner approach. It must answer how we create, discover, reward and scale advocacy; it must back the customer's judgment when they make referrals; it must understand the difference between Lifetime Value of a customer who couldn't care less about us but has little option but to trade with us and the Customer Referral Value of someone who loves us but - right now, for whatever reason - isn't buying from us; it must understand customer intent as well as map behaviours.

Ultimately it can solve many of these challenges by turning to the same social web that is causing the rethink because there - in our digital footprints - is the reality of our referrals, the clarity of our click-paths, the negative sentiment of our disapproval.

Reading this in total (and it occurs that separating acquisition from retention, loyalty and search cannot help matters) will help us make businesses more able to respond to, learn from and be led by their customers.

By the way - Paul didn't write his presentation about the shift to the social web this week (in fact, he's no longer at Google). He presented it at the Voices That Matter Web Design Conference in San Francisco in June... 2010.

Yes. I know. It probably is about time to act.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What's your Customer Referral Value?

In a world of increasing automation relationships will have greater and greater value.
The human touch across the digital void... matters.

That's something that's recognised as customer referral value gets dialled up alongside customer lifetime value as CRM has become more and more Social CRM.

So. I thought. Surely there has to be a website where I can type in my creds and find out what my customer referral value is? And if there isn't surely there should be one? And if there was one... wouldn't that trigger new business models?

The likes of Kred and Klout seem to me built for marketing (of self and of brands). And in any event they only tell me what my value is at a very general level - a level which is of little value to companies (or ourselves).

Both the companies - and ourselves - find more value in understanding our value in a particular context - and there is no 'influence measurement tool' which has taken on that complexity yet.

My value to company x (which I love, advocate online and off, submit feedback to but purchase infrequently due to the nature of the product) is substantially higher than to company y (who I loathe, bitch about and couldn't care less if it fails, but from which I have to purchase frequently). That's the distinction from Customer Lifetime Value.

But we must also put influence in context - make it specific. My 4500 twitter followers may make me relatively influential in my small world of open business and social media strategy, but it gives me little power to turn the human tide about (for example) which black cocktail dress you should wear next Christmas.
Imagine if we could use such dimensions (value as a contributor/participant/advocate in this specific context) to generate a real-time Customer Referral Value.

Why not then have dynamic pricing online. I log in and my price (thanks to my CRV discount) is 50% what you pay; Offers to engage in co-creation projects are directed to me; I'm treated as if my participation with your company means something to you. You over deliver. You build a relationship with me.

Then I use my relationships to bring you more people like me. I select these, without waste, without spam, based on what I know about them (not what you would like to know about them, but cannot yet).
And you support my judgment by upping their CRV when I've brought them to you.

This model acknowledges that customers know each other better than companies do - and rewards them for it and supports them in using that. Customers managing each other - for their shared benefit.
So what we need is a CRV engine which genuinely balances customer and company need.

Kred and Klout may have missed a trick.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Open Business: The Podcast

Anne Hawkins and Eric Swain have been kind enough to interview me and put together a podcast on the subject of The 10 Principles of Open Business. It's published today.

It's number 57 in their series on The Social Media Show. Please go take a listen. Then let me know what you think?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A blast from the Social CRM past

I found myself picking up Paul Greenberg's CRM At The Speed of Light last week - just the five-plus years after the fourth and final edition came out.

Paul's approach to CRM (and particularly the shift in orientation from company-empowering to customer-empowering models) aligns very well with the 'Art of Making Partners of Customers' approach delivered by The 10 Principles of Open Business.

So I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to find a section by social customer champion Chris Carfi AND his reference to my own example of trying to put the customer in the driving seat (literally) through what I called a small experiment in vrm (Vendor Relationship Management).

I was buying a Toyota Yaris for my wife and tried to switch marketing/search roles with the vendors. I marketed to them that I wanted a vendor (via blogposts and tweets). They were given the role of searcher (usually the one we customers take up). For the details read both my blog post from March 2008 - and Chris's own take on it.

Any half decent social monitoring connected to any decent CRM would have delivered any number of wannabe vendors to me. But they didn't come.

When I was reminded of all this by reading Paul's book, I tweeted to Chris. He was blown away that the example is now six years old. Frankly, so am I. Because the gaps it revealed in the capability and philosophical will to serve the needs of the customer are still as wide today in too many companies.

I've worked with many companies since then to help them close their own gaps - by designing processes for the discovery of real time needs (through openly published conversation) and delivery against them, in developing systems to ensure the work and the data flow to the right places, in generating the desire to change required of a customer-led (rather than self-serving or even customer-centric) approach across the business. Yet still it is not the norm.

We still have that Yaris. It's been a great car - and continues to be. But at some point soon we'll change it. I wonder if at that point I can repeat my experiment and get a better result?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Beware the business bots

Image via:
In the future every business will be digital.

For many that future has already arrived. You know you have arrived in that future when 50.1% or more of your revenue comes via digital. You can probably draw a line on your revenue growth and decline charts to identify the point at which that becomes true for you.

In the future every business will be a technology company. Being digitally, socially connected, always on via the cloud and mobile will be an essential of even the most mom & pop business.

Yes those businesses which require your corporeal presence (those that will congregate in High Streets) may feel this effect later than most, but feel it they will. If I can choose to book a haircut via my mobile vs turn-up and hope, over time even the strongest habits and relationships will be challenged. You can be sure new habits and relationships will more likely be established via the technology route. Old habits die hard - but time kills even the oldest in the end.

So it would be sensible to prepare for your digital and technological future.
But in doing so never lose sight of what will make all this technology work for you - the scalable human relationships it empowers.

Without the human heart of your business - its purpose, your belief, your demonstration of your values through what you do (not what you say) you'll end up with a business which acts like a bot.

In a dark, bleak future there is a world of business bots all following each other and trying to sell to each other based on the faked behaviours each is demonstrating to each other- rather like twitter would become if all the humans left over night.

It's easy to imagine organisations sleep walking into this future - focused on getting technology to do everything for you and for your customer. Bots see and bots do but there is no meaning for them or those they interact with in what they do. Transaction after transaction without meaning.

In the bright, belief-filled future, businesses are using technology to enable and enhance rather than to mechanically do. Here humans are connecting with humans building trust through relationships in which each has the other's best interests at heart. They are partners. They are working together to achieve a shared purpose. They generate meaning.

The role of technology is to reduce the friction in each transaction - whether that be purchasing goods, connecting people with shared purpose, or sharing ideas.  Reduce the transaction cost and you reduce the cost of action.

But we must always be careful to keep the meaning in. Industrialisation took it out. We have the opportunity to rediscover it through the human connectedness the web enables. We can take advantage - or we can build bots.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

The 10 Principles of Open Business in the press

Open Capital in the FT on March 11 - with a plug for The 10 Principles
In the interests of collating and curating the press coverage of The 10 Principles of Open Business as it emerges... 


June 2014
The Guardian publishes my article on Open Business and its role in sustainable business. (June 5)

I'm interviewed on the subject of crowd-funding (Open Capital) for the June issue of the BA inflight magazine Business Life - online version here

Subscribers to ADMAP magazine's June issue receive a three-page article on each of the 10 Principles of Open Business - and there's a front page mention, too. I'm afraid ADMAP don't allow sharing of their articles.

May 27 2014:
Forbes Magazine includes quotes from and references to The 10 Principles of Open Business in its piece on attempts to rebuild trust in big business: People Don't Trust Leaders Who Say: Trust Me

The Chief Learning Officer at global PR business Ketchum wrote an article/review on The 10 Principles of Open Business for the Ketchum blog on April 8 (2014).

In his post The Purpose Driven Organization - Moving from Talk to Walk Robert Burnside concludes: "I highly recommend you check out the thinking in this book. It's ahead of the curve and a useful glimpse into the future."

B2B Marketing Magazine published a review of the 10 Principles of Open Business in its April 2014 issue.

Written by Harris Interactive's UK Head of Marketing Ian Smith, the review concludes: "The book will get you thinking about ways in which you can apply the open business ethos to benefit your business, direct stakeholders and society in general. Open business is our present and our future. You can't afford to ignore that, or this book - 'Open up, and win!'

Cambridge Business Magazine published a three-page interview with me about The 10 Principles of Open Business in its April 2014 issue. You can view an e-magazine version here. The article starts on p58. It's flash so no use for apple devices I'm afraid.

Intelligent HQ ran a a lengthy and positive piece on March 24, 2014 concluding The 10 Principles of Open Business is an important new book which can benefit society as a whole...

The Huffington Post ran an article on March 13 (2014) featuring The 10 Principles and concluding that Open Business is an idea whose time has come:

Extract: "We seem to have a rare convergence between demands from the marketplace, driven by the real-time collaborative Internet culture, and a desire by entrepreneurs to define success as something more than making money. I think it's really happening, and it's time to take a reality check on your own business, and your own shopping habits, to capitalize on this trend." (writer Marty Zwilling - on twitter as @startuppro)

And on Tuesday (March 11, 2014) Financial Times readers found a reference or two in a column about crowd funding by Andrew Hill (it will be online the evening before). What was particularly gratifying about the FT column was its emphasis on Open Capital over crowdfunding - in line with the book and its principles.

Here's a link to the result of an interview conducted with me about Open Business by The Irish Times.

Extract: "Openness is not just a nice to have corporate social responsibility virtue but is a vital element in 21st century organisations. While born-digital ventures, for example, instructively know this, all organisations need to move to this model quickly if they are to survive in the networked age."
For the full article (as it also appeared in print on February 24, 2012) go here.

Brand Republic ran the press release about the book pretty much as is on February 3, 2014 (read it here) as did another magazine in their group - which I've lost track of, sorry.

The Cambridge Evening News' Business Magazine ran an article on The 10 Principles in its latest issue - March 2014 (give them your email for a free e-edition here) . 

And, for the record... .SO magazine ran a double page spread in their autumn issue of 2013. Find that online here.

Other stuff in the pipeline includes an indepth article in the April issue of Admap and an article on the theme of sustainability through Open for The Guardian.

Friday, March 07, 2014

New rules for Open Capital in the UK

The FT on Mar 11 on Open Capital - with links to The 10 Principles
The UK's Financial Conduct Authority (part of what the FSA used to be) yesterday confirmed new rules on crowd funding (or as we prefer to call it in The 10 Principles of Open Business, Open Capital).

At first glance they appear sensible - and not a million miles away from how Seedrs operates (which as of time of writing Open Business, was the only FSA approved platform in the UK).

Like Seedrs the FCA rules impose a limit on how much you can invest - as a percentage of your investable assets. The FCA sets that limit at 10%. In other words it won't let you bet your farm on a Crowd Funding proposition (and the FCA are talking about security and loan-based crowd funding, not simply funding the production and purchase of an item) no matter how passionately you may believe in it.

This is actually a higher level of restriction than that placed on most people taking a punt on the stock market. For example, when I recently invested in Royal Mail shares, no one made me sit an exam to check I could afford to lose the amount I was putting up. You may therefore reasonably ask why this test is being applied to the crowd, and how indeed this crowd differs from the one making online share transactions every day?

Having said that, I'd be all for the retro fitting of this test to anyone investing in the stock market. It may prevent the odd crash or two... (imagine it applied to the banks)

My only concern with singling Crowd Funding out in this way is that it leaves it in the 'hobby money' field - a place where people dabble for a bit of fun - which doesn't feel quite a match with backing your beliefs and all the attendant generation of new kinds of businesses which mean more to more of us, that my chapter on Open Capital describes.

That said, the FCA is not closing the door to those who really want to push the boat out. If you want to invest more than the 10% of the assets you have available you can - you just have to prove you are doing so having conducted due diligence and been given professional advice.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Will we meet in March?

I'm going to be at The Association of Online Publishers Spring Conference in London on Wednesday March 12 to join a panel directly after the opening keynote. The subject matter is still being confirmed.
If I don't mention Open Business - shoot me.
And I've just confirmed that I'll be doing the closing keynote at the Digital In Kent conference on March 26 - talking about Open Business, in some detail. Copies of the book will be available at the latter.
If you are attending either, please do come find me and say hello.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?