The recession is forcing epiphanies on both companies and people at a torrential pace right now. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, companies and their marketing departments are forced to focus only on what matters most. Customer’s trust, loyalty, maximizing the customer experience, supply chains that work, quoting systems that deliver orders right the first time are just a few of the critical areas companies need to improve. Think of 2009 as a crucible that will test both what your company is best at and cares the most about.
Predictions for the coming twelve months illustrate just how rapidly the trends impacting how customers are treated and related to will change. Partially fueled by the recession and urgent need to get spending moving again and partially by customers’ demand for transparency, these predictions show how attracting, selling and serving customers will never be the same.
Trust is the new currency. From the Madoff scandal to the meltdown on Wall Street and all scandals in between, consumers are yearning for companies they can trust. During 2009 it wouldn’t be surprising to see a research firm develop a measure of Share-of-Trust in a market. Trust between B2B companies is what is keeping the economy moving right now.
Transparency on social networks changes brands fast, both for the good and bad. Twitter demands transparency as a social network, and so do many others. It’s inherent in how people interact with each other on those sites. There are those companies including Comcast, Dell, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and others who have strengthened their brands by relying on Twitter and other social networking sites to listen and respond to customer complaints, understand unmet customer needs, and provide valuable flight information including weather alerts. Conversely companies have gotten on Twitter and proceed to spam everyone they possibly could, eventually get banned from the site.
Marketing Gets Re-invented. The mindset in marketing departments is changing and will accelerate in 2009. It’s not going to be enough to just blast out tens of thousands of e-mails or blanket call prospects. Marketing will become almost entirely about showing prospects how they can quickly solve problems, all based on being transparent. In a sense social networking is going to lead to a truer sense of what marketing is. The video illustrates just how different marketing is in general and advertising specifically versus what customers need.
Virtual Customer Advisory Councils begin to proliferate outside of the auto and software industries. Called online panels, these are large groups of consumers, often segmented by psychographics, and are regularly asked for their opinion and insight on key product design questions. Microsoft has an online panel of approximately 60,000 and Toyota has over 5,000. As social networking begins to get accepted into enterprises, look for virtual advisory councils, or more in-depth panels, to proliferate.
Social networking will go through a vendor shake-out and emerge more aligned with Enterprise 2.0-based concepts than they are today. There is going to be consolidation in the social networking industry this year. An outcome of this will be a more robust set of applications that align to Enterprise 2.0, making adoption in companies more efficient and aligned to their unmet needs.
Bottom line: Social networking graduates from enabling simple conversations and customer service to first-line service and support for the most profitable customers while creating new opportunities to hear the voice of the customer in the process. For some great predictions on the CRM market read Paul Greenberg’s ZDNet blog at CRM 2.0: The Conversation and also Dion Hinchcliffe’s predictions at Top Internet Predictions for 2009