In 1963, the Beatles released their hit single ‘Please Please Me’. It rocketed to No.1 and went on to rock the world. Stunned by this instant success, the ‘Fab Four’ rushed out a debut album and ‘Do you know a Secret?’ became not only one of its top tracks but also one of the most popular ballads ever written.
However, it’s taken over 40 years for this chart-topping hit to impact the Boardroom. Only now have the lyrics ‘Closer, let me whisper in your ear’ become an anthem for corporate success…
Listen, do you want to hear a secret?
I am constantly amazed by the reluctance of many companies to listen to their customers. Most would prefer to spend a fortune on so-called ‘consumer gurus’ rather than ask their own customers some very direct questions. What can we do better and differently? Where can we add real value? How can we win and keep your loyalty?
In recent months, I have visited several well-known companies where staff are expressly forbidden from reaching out to their customers. Whether this is because management is afraid of raising customer expectations or frightened of what it might learn is unclear. It’s certainly strange. It’s obtuse. And it’s curiously contradictory…
These same companies avidly follow their customers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Flickr and a raft of other channels. Every tweet and comment is monitored with painstaking care. In the distorted goldfish bowl of social media – where people are hard-wired to carp and complain – this can be a deeply depressing and often misguided exercise.
And it’s all so unnecessary…
The surprising truth is that your loyal customers genuinely want to help. They would love to share their thoughts and opinions. They would welcome the chance to develop your thinking, products and services. Indeed, there is real potential for turning customers into an extension of your sales force. Let me give you an example…
The Simple Way
Simple is a British skincare brand specialising in sensitive skin. Although now a Unilever brand it was, for many years, owned by Solihull‐based Accantia – a ten year‐old company and a minnow compared to global rivals such as Nivea and P&G’s Olay.
To counter the huge marketing muscle of these rivals, Simple focused on finding a truly cost-effective way to:
In their search for a competitive solution, Accantia approached one of our Clustre member firms. The brief was simple: develop a strategy that delivers all four of these goals. The result was an award‐winning, breakthrough initiative in consumer engagement. A solution that surpassed all expectations…
The process started with a customer engagement survey to check that Simple really was a word-of-mouth (WoM) brand. The results revealed an impressive Net Promoter Score (NPS) and proof that most of the brand’s Promoter customers arrived through personal recommendation.
To capitalise on this strong WoM appeal and to leverage Web 2.0 consumer engagement principles, our firm’s next priority was to create a special environment for engaging brand fans. ‘Simply VIP’ treats selected customers as valued advisers ‐ bringing them ‘on the inside’, giving them ‘Brand VIP’ status and actively seeking their opinion on brand & business development.
With this special status came special privileges. VIPs were given voting powers on critical brand initiatives, including:
This bold strategy was underpinned by some pretty compelling psychological research. In the 1950s, Henry Landsberger looked at some pioneering studies into work productivity conducted at the Hawthorne Electric Company. He discovered a striking tendency for people to work harder and to perform much better through closer participation. He then developed this thinking into the ‘Hawthorne Effect’ – the psychological trigger that creates advocacy through involvement.
Simple took this thinking to a new level. It asked VIP customers for feedback on products and other brand-related issues BEFORE any business resolutions were taken. Effectively, this gave customers a key voice and a very direct influence over business-critical decisions.
This empowerment dramatically stimulated online and offline conversations amongst brand fans. Research shows that offline product chats outnumbers online ones by a ratio of 9:1. As a consequence, the strategy was used to feed brand fans with privileged content online so that they could go on to share it offline.
No business can control customer conversations. That dream is the height of delusional arrogance. But, as Simple proved, they can stimulate dialogue and inspire brand advocacy by feeding the imagination. And this is precisely what Simple achieved with its VIP privileged content programme.
But possibly the greatest achievement has been the way Simple has sustained and expanded upon this success. From the start, the key to generating genuine advocacy was to show that adviser feedback has a real impact… that it’s acted upon. This deep and vital bond with customer advisors was stage-managed every step of the way by our member firm…
In the first few months the VIP advisers provided Simple with invaluable advice on:
Over the next nine months, the results exceeded client targets and expectations at every level:
And if you want to know the bottom-line value of listening to customers, here is the conclusive evidence…
☺ Simple increased market share. This minnow in the cosmetics market eclipsed Nivea and rose to become the No 2 brand in the facial skincare market.
☺ Simple out‐performed the market by 2.5 times. It’s little wonder that Simple soon became a prime target for acquisition. The brand was acquired by Unilever who are now using these very same techniques to grow consumer interest in a variety of its brands.
In my next blog, I will focus on ‘selfies’ and reveal how video is capturing customer attitudes at critical moments of truth.
Honest, emotive and deeply personal, video reveals inner feelings that are closed to conventional market analysis tools. Tone of voice, facial expressions, physical surroundings also provide non-verbal clues that take research to a whole new level. For the first time, senior executives can see real, raw responses rather than hygienically-processed research.
The next article will show you how one company – another member of Clustre’s innovation community – is setting standards that set the ‘selfie’ apart. Don’t miss it!