By Kim McWatt
In my white paper “Harnessing the Power of Social Media within a Dealer / Franchise Network”, I discussed how providing your dealer/franchise network with the strategies, processes, and support tools for managing social networks locally ensures that consistent brand experience can be delivered to the customer. Setting the expectations up front makes sure that greater trust is established between the corporation and dealers/franchisees since all parties are clear on their roles and responsibilities within the overall company social network.
In addition, consider these best practices for increasing the success of your social media program implementation: 1) listening to the customer, 2) selecting the right social media management system, and 3) collaborating effectively on campaign development.
Listen to Your Customer
Having a deep understanding of your customer, how they interact with your company, what kind of relationship they want to have with you and your brand, and how they respond to your marketing strategies is critical to your success. It often seems as if the customer is an afterthought, especially when it comes to social media. There is such a concentration on using social media to market to customers, the technology often becomes the driver rather than the other way around – aligning customer behaviors and needs to the technology.
There are abundant examples of companies who get on the social media bandwagon without really thinking if it’s the right thing to do for their customers or their business. Unfortunately, good intentions don’t always equate to good results. When starting on the road to developing sound marketing strategies which include social media as an outreach channel, consider questions like:
- What are your customer’s dominant buying motives?
- What is the strength of your current relationship? Do you have advocates of your business? How loyal are they to you?
- What is their preferred method of communication? Email? Online / Social? Personal Selling? Direct Mail?
- Are there any common needs within your customer base? Can you cluster customers based on their preferences?
- Are they currently using social media? If so, how?
- Are our customers currently talking about us online?
By listening to your customers online using Google search, HootSuite, or other social media monitoring tools such as MeltwaterBuzz or Radian 6, you can effectively start to plan your social media communications strategy. From your analysis, you gain the background needed to determine the right content, the right social communications channels, and the right voice needed for your current and potential customer audience.
Social Media Management Systems
Social media management systems (e.g. HootSuite Pro/Enterprise, Zift Solutions) offer dealer/franchise networks a way to streamline communications and cascade content through these channels. Corporate head office can deliver content directly through the local channels while still allowing their dealers/franchisees the ability to post local content. Team based channel management can be set up to enable head office to listen, engage and measure all from a single interface. Management permissions can also be set at an enterprise level and enable as little or as much control of content posted through the local social networks as necessary (i.e. approvals required on all posts versus no approval required).
Selection of a management system should be determined by the corporation and based upon:
- Business size and engagement points (i.e. size of dealer/franchise network)
- Expectation of customer engagement frequency/volume (e.g. expecting a high volume of customer posts related to customer support)
- Volume of marketing content to be posted (i.e. deals, news, campaigns being managed)
- Custom support options (e.g. specialized reporting or if the organization is multinational)
Not all systems are created equal. The corporation needs to determine what systems will work best for their unique network requirements.
Local Campaign Support
Corporations need to make sure all dealer/franchisees are fully aware of the goals, objectives, timing, content, and response requirements for social media campaigns (e.g. product promotions/product launches).
- Goals and Objectives – clear objectives and measureable goals need to be published to the franchise network so they understand the success measures for the promotional campaign. Is the campaign designed to increase brand awareness? Drive lead generation? Improve online customer engagement? Franchisees need to understand the objectives and goals in order to provide support at a local grassroots level, just as they would for a traditional media campaign.
- Timing – this includes length of the overall campaign, frequency of posts, and timing of individual posts. From a recent experience with a food service franchise, we learned that discussion of this aspect of the campaign is critical for local support. The Facebook promotional campaign for a new menu was not clearly outlined to the franchisees both in terms of length of campaign (5 weeks), number of posts (varied weekly) and timing of posts (twice a day to once every 2 days). Franchisees became concerned that the frequency and timing corporate posts impacted on the visibility of their local posts. A discussion with follow up outline of the campaign prior to launch would have alleviated any concerns and allowed franchisees to time their local posts accordingly.
- Content – Dealers/franchisees need to be aware of the content of the campaign so they can follow up with supporting content, answer customer questions, and ensure they do not post duplicate content during the campaign time frame.
- Response requirements – the corporation must outline how customer comments will be responded to – will corporate provide all responses to corporate posts? Is the dealer/franchisee responsible for managing comments? If the responsibilities are unclear, customers will become frustrated with either a lack of response or duplication of response.
Including dealers/franchisees upfront in the discussions about social media campaigns can significantly increase the chances of delivering a successful promotion and supports the development of deeper trust between the franchisee and franchiser.
Successful implementation of social media programs takes a collaborative effort between the corporation and its dealer/franchise network. What other best practices are you using to manage social media in your network?
By Kim McWatt
Social media for dealers/franchises is more than setting up a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn account for every location. These are the tools, the applications. Social media is a conversation happening online – it’s customer service, product/service education, consumer reviews, and brand messaging. It’s building a relationship with existing and potential customers through word-of-mouth.
Social channels create more opportunities to connect with more customers directly and build relationships with them. Web and mobile technologies – the basis of Social Media marketing – help turn communication into interactive dialogue among organizations, communities and individuals. Successful engagement through Social Media is not measured by how many followers or likes you have, but in the quality and quantity of the engagement that occurs. Deeper engagement leads to deeper brand affinity and strong brand advocates.
Changes in Online Consumer Behavior
Social media has changed the way consumers think and behave in their purchase decisions – both in B2B and B2C relationships. In a 2012 study conducted by Nielson Company, they found social media users participated at least once a month in the following social activities:
- Hearing other’s experiences – 70%
- Learning more about brands/products/services – 65%
- Complimenting brands – 53%
- Expressing concerns/complaints about brands/services – 50%
- Sharing money incentives – 47%
As Jim Letwin, President & CEO of JAN Kelley Marketing, mentions in his article Effective Marketing Communications for Franchisors (Part III):
When influencers (such as the media or users of our products and services) voluntarily say good things about our business, “earned media” is generated. Word of mouth has always been a powerful marketing force because consumers trust the opinions of other consumers more than they do the opinions of advertisers. So, when someone amplifies that word of mouth by publishing a positive review about an experience they’ve had, their message carries far more weight than if it had come from the company itself. Earned media is presented either through traditional channels (on and off-line articles, TV and radio editorial or news reporting) or through blog mentions and social media reviews. When compared to paid forms, earned media of this kind can generate higher levels of engagement, influence and impact.
Generating earned media takes time, commitment and a reasonable amount of expertise. Because of its popularity and accessibility, social media is the best starting point.
Consumers are looking to the opinions and preferences from a broader online network to help guide their purchase decisions – no longer can a company tightly control its brand/product/service messaging across every channel. They are also looking for information from a company that provides a consistent and authentic customer experience, regardless of which social channel they seek information through.
With the customer always top of mind, a franchise organization must consider how their activity on social media affects both head office and the franchisees. Policies, processes, and contingency plans need to be put into place to ensure consistency in content and mitigate any potential issues or errors, including reputation damaging content posted by employees through their own social networks.
With all these online conversations happening, it’s easy to see the need to engage with your customers through social media. The hard part is determining how to most effectively do it.
Social media implementation within a dealer/franchise network is different than social media for a typical business or corporation. There are multiple interdependencies found within the franchise structure and relationship that need to be taken into consideration when developing and implementing a social strategy within the organization. It needs to fit with the franchise agreements, work within the structure at both the corporate and franchise levels, include guidelines for brand integrity, and be integrated into the overall marketing strategies.
The corporation needs to take a leadership role in developing the social networking strategy for the entire dealer/franchise organization.
If corporate head office doesn’t…someone else will.
Download my whitepaper “Harnessing the Power of Social Media within a Dealer / Franchise Network” to get insights into how to get started in developing a plan that works for your organization.
We’ve all heard this: one size fits all. This phrase has been associated with everything from clothing to computer interfaces and marketing communications. Wikipedia defines this phrase as: “a description for a product that would fit in all instances. The term has been extended to mean one style or procedure would fit in all related applications.”
Not too long ago, marketers within the trucking industry assumed traditional marketing tools were the best way to reach their audience. Just as in clothing one size doesn’t fit all; today, a single channel of communications doesn’t fit everyone in trucking. They now have the option to get the information they need from direct mail, print publications, email, the Internet, social media, broadcast media, mobile channels and more.
The way information is gathered and consumed by a truck fleet owner, truck driver, maintenance manager or service technician will vary significantly. Take the time to understand your customers’ communications preferences. Then use this information to develop marketing strategies that leverage the channels which make the most sense for your customer.
Take a good look at your customer
Consider a typical owner-operator or small fleet truck owner in the commercial trucking industry. Annually, Land Line Magazine posts the results of a reader survey which gathers information on opinions and behaviors of owner operators and small fleet owners. According to the 2012 results, a typical owner-operator or small fleet owner:
- Is male (94%) and approximately 50 years old
- Owns a computer (desktop (54%) or laptop (56%)
- Has a Facebook account (35%)
- Accesses the Internet on the road and at home (44%)
- Checks out news and promotional offers online (19%)
- Is using a cellphone (77%) or smartphone (33%)
- Is starting to use mobile apps, especially trucking apps (42%)
- Predominantly uses email (71%)
- Still prefers to receive their magazine subscription as hard copy (82%).
So, you’re thinking, big deal. But it is! While the survey indicates print is preferred for certain types of content such as industry news within trade magazines, consideration needs to be taken for the fact that online sources are being used to consume other types of information (webinars, locating loads, offers and discounts, or entertainment).
Take advantage of communications trends
OE truck manufacturers have been quick to take advantage of this online trend in how customers consume content. For example:
- Mobile Apps: Many now offer apps to help connect customers to their nearest dealer location (Mack’s “Mack Locator” ) and integrating parts promotions available at a dealer location (International’s “On the Road” iPhone app). Volvo Trucks recently launched an iPad game to showcase their truck’s fuel efficiency.
- Social Media: Majority of OEMs have a strong presence on social media with thousands of followers of their brands. Plus, their dealers are also increasingly using social media to reach out to customers on local promotions, community engagement, and product updates.
- E-Newsletters: Providing industry, vocational, and product (truck / parts / engine) updates via email has become commonplace. Freightliner provides an archive of newsletters online as well as email subscription.
- Online Communities: International offers their International Advantage program to enhance their customer’s ownership experience. Freightliner offers Team Run Smart, an online community of trucking professionals.
One size doesn’t fit all: Getting the right mix
Regardless of if your organization is a large manufacturer or local dealer, distributor or service garage, when developing the right mix of outreach options for customers, consider the following:
- Let them self select their preferred communications channel. Do a customer survey and ask them how they want to receive information or promotions.
- Don’t undervalue print and direct mail. In the trucking industry there is still a preference for direct mail (flyers, magazines, promotions) and printed materials as leave behinds in personal selling.
- Look at your website – do you offer multiple ways to engage with customers (social sharing, online chat, e-commerce, and newsletter signups).
- With increased use of mobile technology (smartphones and tablets), is your website mobile friendly and easy to navigate with a smartphone?
- Get started on social media – Facebook is the preferred social network so think about the content you can provide to customers through this channel
- And don’t forget to collect email. Have your staff ask for it directly to add to your contact lists.
Just as every customer has unique business needs, they also have their own preferences for how they’d like to be communicated with. A combination of outreach channels ensures you’re reaching a broad range of customers in the way they prefer.
One size certainly doesn’t fit all, all the time. So, what ways do your customers prefer to stay in contact with you?
Web and mobile technologies – the basis of Social Media marketing – help turn communication into interactive dialogue among organizations, communities and people. Successful engagement through Social Media is not measured by how many followers or likes you have, but in the quality and quantity of the engagement that occurs. Deeper engagement leads to deeper brand affinity and strong brand advocates.
Within a dealer/franchise network, social media is used for a number of different purposes: to build awareness, to support customer service, to influence stakeholders, for education and training, or for business networking. Social channels create more opportunities to connect with more customers directly and build relationships with them.
The Challenge – Who owns the social channel?
Within a dealer/franchise network, there is a fine balancing act between the needs of the corporation and the needs of the local franchise owner. Corporations must support their network in delivering consistent brand messaging to local customers while at the same time establishing relationships with the consumer at a corporate level.
Especially critical is creating uniformity in a customer’s brand experience across all customer touch points. Since head office usually controls its brand message through all outreach channels (e.g print, broadcast, in-store), it should also control the brand conversations occurring online through social media. Leaving it to the dealers/franchises to decide how the brand message is delivered through their personal social channels leads to inconsistency in the experience a customer has with the brand – between corporate and the local dealers/franchises and between the dealers/franchises themselves.
For a dealer/franchise network to successfully carry out a consistent brand experience through social media, the organization must ask itself:
- How do we support our dealer/franchise network to be successful in Social Media?
- How do we maintain the required corporate control and brand consistency while enabling a strong local social presence?
The Reality – Not everyone can do it
For dealers/franchises, social media marketing can be a very cost-effective method for customer outreach and building relationships locally. The reality is, not all dealers/franchisees can implement a social media communications strategy successfully. A number of barriers stand in the way of successful implementation:
- Time / resources – key staff at a dealer/franchise location are focused on fighting fires, building sales, maintaining customer relationships, managing P&L. This leaves little room for attention on social media marketing outreach.
- Skillset – social media marketing is not a capability usually found at a dealer/franchise location. Often times it is left to someone who “spends a lot of time on Facebook”, but may not have the ability from a broader marketing perspective. While larger franchisees may hire marketing expertise to support local outreach efforts, social media may not be a key priority for the location.
- Toolset– without strong guidance from the corporate level, dealers/franchises are left to their own devices to develop a social presence. From logo usage to tone and personality, dealers/franchisees need content, support, and resources to properly manage their online conversations and ensure consistency in customer experience
- Mindset – for some dealers/franchises, staff are not familiar with, do not see the relevance of, and are intimidated by social media outreach leading to low adoption or avoidance of social media as a tool to build relationships
The entire network including head office must work together to offer a strong online presence through social channels. To combat implementation barriers and support dealers/franchises in the use of social media at the local level, the corporation must take the lead and give the guidance necessary for their network including:
- Development and sharing of the overall communications strategy and implementation guidelines for the network including: setting the tone and personality for the brand, creating the overall brand promise, providing brand and content guidelines (from logo use to tone and content development), determining the core social channels and defining the set-up requirements (profile pictures, “about us” content, etc), and developing an annual editorial calendar for all stakeholders to follow
- Creating the Social Media policies for use across the entire organization including: employee and customer use guidelines, content management, and crisis management
- Providing training and support programs for social media marketing to optimize how the corporate and local retail social media presence will complement each other from both a relationship and content strategy perspective; and encourage dealers/franchisees who do not have a social media presence to understand how to develop a local strategy and engage customers online.
Providing the network with the tools and guidelines for managing social networks locally ensures a more consistent brand experience can be provided to the customer.
Corporate Control – Local Flavor
Just as there are a number of different management models of dealer/franchise networks, so are the methods of managing social media communications. The core element is the level of control at the corporate versus local level within the network. Social media execution can take on a myriad of forms depending on the structure that the head office has developed for their network:
- All communications are handled by Corporate through corporate social channels. In this scenario there are no local social networks.
- Corporate social channels augmented by individual dealer/franchise social networks with all communications managed centrally. Dealers/Franchises do not have any access to the local social channels to offer content.
- Corporate social channels augmented by individual dealer/franchise social networks with corporate provided access to all locally managed social networks to post corporate developed brand messaging while enabling dealers/franchises to manage all local content. Often in this scenario, corporate maintains approval rights on posts to ensure brand consistency.
- Corporate and dealer/franchise social networks managed separately where Corporate only maintains its own social networks and does not post any content on the dealer/franchise behalf.
- No corporate social outreach channels with all communications through the dealer/franchise social networks (this could take the form of corporate managing all content on behalf of dealers/franchises; dealers/franchises managing all content; or combination of both).
In order to maintain control, there should be consistent head office involvement in the social channels at all levels. Regardless of if head office has access to the network’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn pages or not, support must be given to the dealer/franchise network by providing content that can be customized at the local level (promotions, events, media relations, brand messaging). Regional / local networks must also follow the social media guidelines created by the corporation for overall communications consistency.
Additionally, head office (or using an external agency) can offer direct social media management services to deliver content directly through the local channels. Utilizing social media management software, team based channel management can be set up to enable head office to listen, engage and measure all from a single interface. Management permissions can be set at an enterprise level and enable as little or as much control of content posted through the dealer/franchise social networks (i.e. approvals required on all posts versus no approval required).
It’s all about maintaining consistency in and adherence to the overall customer brand promise. Because if head office doesn’t do it…someone else will.
How do you manage your social network?
by Kim McWatt
I Need More Cowbell Content!
“Content, content, content,” – say that with a petulant whine à la Jan Brady. Are we making too much out of content? Content is all the rage today. Content is King! Content is everything, and everything is content!
While everything is content, not everything is relevant. I cannot count how often I’ve been told: “I need more content!” That statement always brings to mind the hilarious SNL skit with the amazingly talented Christopher Walken as Bruce Dickinson demanding that he needs more cowbell. And just like in the skit, the cowbell eventually overpowers the music, takes on the ridiculous, becoming annoying, so does the demand for more content. Content for the sake of content is useless without context or value to the audience.
Content marketing – the next big thing
Successful content marketing means communicating with customers and prospects about products and services without the hard sell. The focus is on freely sharing information, arming the buyer with what they need to know to make intelligent purchase decisions. Through the delivery of relevant content, an organization can develop a relationship with the customer over time, gain permission to communicate with the customer via other mediums (email, direct mail, online) and eventually lead to a sale. The customer is seeking information that solves a problem or gives them insight. They want information that has value – the business that provides that information authentically, freely, and without an immediate sales pitch will gain trust and credibility with their target consumers.
So how do you break through the clutter and create not just any content, but content that is interesting, important and energizing for customers – content that builds trust in the business, initiates conversation, and eventually leads to conversion? Here’s a few questions to consider:
- What is the marketing objective? Focusing on driving quick response or building a relationship over time? Content marketing is not a one night stand. It’s building equity with the consumer over time. If you’re only interested in making the sale, getting customers to make instant decisions, then content marketing is not the right fit.
- What keeps customers up at night? What problems do they need answers for? What are their concerns, what are they talking about online or with sales people, how can you provide the most value? Get the full picture of what your customer really needs and then help them get it.
- Where are they? Are they online reading blogs or talking on Twitter? Do they make comments on Facebook or through customer reviews? Depending on where your content is being consumed, and the preferences for your target audience on how they consume content, this will make a big difference in how content is being written and presented. A print ad is not like a PR announcement, which is not like website copy, which is not like a Tweet, which is not like a blog post, which is not like a direct mail letter, which is not like an email…you get my drift. While the underlying message may be similar, the way it is presented is vastly different. Depending on where the customer is on their purchase decision journey, tailor your message to suit. But always start with compelling, interesting, value added content to draw the customer in. Creating a whitepaper that is overwhelmingly “advertorial” will not instil consumer confidence or build trust – especially if you require customers to provide their email address to download the information. All they will think is that they’ve been hoodwinked into giving away their permission.
- How do you write it? These two statements say it all: “Content without copywriting is a waste of good content. Copywriting without content is a waste of good copy.” Sonia Simone of Copyblogger Media provides an interesting overview of why copywriting and content go hand in hand. Even though you provide valuable information to a customer, it doesn’t mean you neglect giving customers a call to action. Don’t be blatant and turn an excellent article into a hard sales pitch, but at least drive them gently toward your end objective.
Now, next time someone says to you “I need more content,” aside from thinking of cowbells, hopefully you can get the context you need to make the content work for your customer.
And now, back to Christopher Walken. Yes, this is somewhat irrelevant content, but you have to admit, he is amazing…
by Kim McWatt
My colleague Krista Benz and I had the opportunity to present at the Canadian Franchise Association’s annual Marketing Day held at The Old Mill in Toronto. Our topic was on strategies to engage and excite your dealer, franchise and sales networks.
If You Build It…They Will Come
As shown in our experience and in the discussion at the session, corporate offices continue to develop marketing tools and promotional programs for their dealer or franchise channel, only to experience a low adoption rate in the channel. It’s the whole “If you build it…they will come” concept.
Create an amazing promotion, develop a point-of-purchase kit with detailed instructions, send it out and you get…meh. Either the network doesn’t even notice or they look and say “I don’t have time for marketing.” Having great tools does not mean the channel will use them.
This is where our approach comes in.
To get your network engaged, it takes a combination of two things:
Hi-Tech – fast, efficient, and effective web enabled marketing solutions. These can be marketing resource centres that offer the templates and tools to create local store marketing programs quickly and effectively. Or centralized dealer portals that provide instant access to not only the marketing resources, but training on how to effectively use the tools plus communications conduits to reach out to corporate to get the support they need. Or even social media communities that connect corporate to employees within the franchisee network (think Best Buy Blue Shirt Nation or even a simple closed Facebook group)
Hi-Touch – specially trained marketing specialists who can help the channel understand and adopt the tools in their local markets. These individuals give the training and support to help a dealer or franchisee get the most from the marketing programs corporate offers. They become the conduit for feedback and continuous improvement of programs and promotions.
This combination of technology and support leads to that ultimate business relationship nirvana known as TRUST. When corporate and their network learn to trust each other and understand each other’s needs, this leads to wider adoption of marketing programs.
Dealers and franchisees are focused on their business – marketing is not always a first priority. Because of this, don’t expect full adoption of programs or promotions without ongoing support to the channel. Collaboration and communication between corporate and the channel will build trust – which in the long run will lead to sales success out in the market.
What has been your experience launching a promotion to your network? Meh or WOW?
by Kim McWatt
This week I attended the seminar “Social Media for Printers” at Print World 2010 in Toronto, ON featuring guest speaker Anita Windisman. The point that stood out the most from Ms Windisman’s presentation was this: according to census projections, Generation Y (or Millenials) born between 1976 and 2000 will outnumber Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers in 2010.
Why is this important?
This is an important consideration for B2B companies for a number of reasons. The Gen Y cohort has grown up in the age of technology. They are the most plugged-in generation yet with over 96% having joined a social network at some point in their lives. Gen Ys are:
- Speak their mind
- Demand flexibility
- Tech savvy
- Have high expectations of themselves, the companies they work for, and the people they deal with.
And, most importantly: These are your customers.
The Changing B2B Customer
Gen Ys have and will continue to have a dramatic social and economic impact on business. These customers have changed the way business operates. Of today’s B2B buyers
- 59% engage with peers online who addressed their challenges
- 48% follow online industry conversations on topics
- 41% follow online discussions to learn more about topics
(Source: Inside the Mind of the B2B Buyer)
The world has changed
- Information is free
- The traditional sales channel is no longer the only information conduit for customers to gain insight into products or services
- Prospects are accessing information online
- “Sales” is not able to read the digital body language of customers.
That means marketing now needs to take on a greater role in understanding and interpreting the needs of the buyer.
A New Reality
This shift towards more intensive use of the internet has also changed the way B2B buyers interact with companies when making a purchase decision. Instead of a “sales funnel” there’s now a “consumer decision journey” (CDJ). David Edleman discusses this concept in his article “Branding in the Digital Age.”
For years, marketers assumed that consumers started with a large number of potential brands in mind and methodically winnowed their choices until they’d decided which one to buy. After purchase, their relationship with the brand typically focused on the use of the product or service itself. New research shows that rather than systematically narrowing their choices, consumers add and subtract brands from a group under consideration during an extended evaluation phase. After purchase, they often enter into an open-ended relationship with the brand, sharing their experience with it online.
And Now Back to Print World
It was interesting to note how few of the attendees at the Print World seminar were actually utilizing the various social media tools to enhance their own communications outreach. While it was a small group of people at the seminar (around 30), it was still surprising to see how many were still uncertain of the value of these tools for everyday business, or how they can be incorporated into their relationship building efforts. This is even more clear when taking a look at the Twitter posts using the hashtag #PrintWorld showed only 91 posts over three days from 30 people out of the hundreds that attended the show. Majority of these posts were from students or journalists (including a few from me).
Clearly, there are those in the print industry who are savvier than others when it comes to social media. Just watch Warren Werbitt of Pazazz Printing in Montreal promote his passion for print through his two YouTube videos – Printing’s Alive (which has had over 216,000 views) and Printing’s Alive 2 (just released in August 2010). It will be interesting to see how social media as a conduit for customer engagement is adopted over the next year by others in the industry.
How are you engaging with your customers in this new reality?
by Kim McWatt
Last week I attended a Customer Focus Group session that two of my colleagues facilitated on behalf of our client. The customer participants were the key parts purchasing managers from nine large truck fleets located in the U.S. and Canada. We probed customers on a variety of dimensions to better understand their businesses and how our client could offer a higher level of service to them.
One part of the session focused on ten “value dimensions” that we asked customers to rank according to order of importance in making a truck parts purchase decision. These dimensions included:
- Country of Origin
- Brand Comfort
- Service / Delivery
- Tools / Infrastructure
- Reputation / Reliability
- Dealer Network
- One Stop Shop (All-Makes)
Based on the discussion prior to the ranking exercise, one would have expected price to the key decision criteria for purchase. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t. The top three value dimensions were: Service / Delivery, Quality, and Availability. Price came in a close fourth.
It’s easy to assume that a purchase decision in a B2B relationship is based strictly on price. Bottom line, a supplier is still dealing with an person who ultimately makes a purchase decision based on rational and emotional dimensions. Rationally, there are value dimensions that MUST be there to be in the running as the supplier of choice – the economic influencers such as competitive price, product specifications, quality, availability, service and delivery.
In the trucking industry, these all impact on uptime and lowest cost of ownership. If a truck is down because of a critical part is not available within 24 hours, the cost to the company is much more than the cost of the individual part. As one of the participants at the session indicated: “Price doesn’t mean anything if you can’t get it to me. Why do we have to wait for parts – availability is very important – if can’t get the part, trucks are sitting around.”
Emotionally, there are non-economic factors that influence the purchase decision. These include: career security (taking risks when making a purchase decision), trust, and, most importantly, the supplier-customer relationship. Eight of the nine participants in the session indicated that their relationship with their account representative was critical in their decision-making process. One of the most telling comments was this: “If everything is equal from product and price standpoint, I will go for the people.”
Ultimately, the comments from our focus group participants show that to be the supplier of choice you need to:
- Ensure economic factors critical to customer decision-making are as good, if not better than your competition. If the price isn’t competitive, or product is not available when the customer needs it, then all the other factors are a moot point.
- Do not neglect the emotional non-economic factors. These factors will be the tipping point between making that sale or not. All other factors being equal, a strong supplier-customer relationship with effective and efficient after-sale support (including any value added support programs) will make all the difference.
After all, the purchase decision is still made by an individual with their own beliefs and values. Appeal to both the rational and emotional, and you have the winning combination.
by Kim McWatt
To have a social media policy or to not have a social media policy? That is the question. For some, the answer is no. Policies are useless, uninspiring, inhibit creativity, and essentially are stupid. For others, policies are important to protect both employees and the employer. What do I think…well I fall into the group of those who think it’s important.
Why would it be important to have a policy or guideline set up for social media usage at work? People have common sense and should know how to behave online! Yes, they certainly should. However, we’ve all heard stories of people on Facebook saying something harsh about their boss only to forget their boss is one of their Facebook friends. Duh.
It certainly is interesting to note just how many instances of people doing very foolish things online and paying the price for it – either getting themselves severely reprimanded or even fired. I for one, would rather have a policy put into place which eliminates any doubt about what my employer would consider “bad behavior” online. As Shel Holtz notes in his blog post “Social media policies are stupid. Your company still needs one.”:
Hiring smart people…doesn’t automatically mean employees know every compliance issue that could come back to bite the company. Many of those compliance issues are unique or have special applications to the online world.
No one wants to get bitten. So, based on a review of a number of social media policies now published online, here are a few basic guidelines:
- Be transparent. You represent your company on any online company properties. You also represent your company on personal social media accounts. If anywhere in your profile you’ve mentioned you work for “X Company” then you should always remember that what you say can and may reflect on your company.
- Ask for permission. Do not disclose confidential information. Confidentiality is especially critical for clients. Ask before disclosing any information about a client – a client relationship always comes first.
- Cite any references. As in a university term paper, citations and references are critical to make sure proper credit is given to the originator of the thought. Plagiarism is never a good thing. Copyright laws offline work the same online.
- Be accurate. Facts and statistics must be correct – but if you do make an error, correct it as soon as possible and clearly indicate an error was made.
- Disclose relationships. Clearly indicate your relationship to the client when posting approved content – as with transparency about your own company, it works the same with clients.
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T. This is what it means to me – no obscenity, insults, offensive remarks. Demonstrate respect for other’s opinions and comments. Take the high road and don’t pick fights online. Constructive criticism is always appreciated.
- Remember – the Internet never forgets. Everything on the web can be tracked – so be aware of what you are saying and doing online.
In many instances, these are no different from phone, fax or email policies that came into existence when these technologies were new. Mr. Holtz sums it up nicely when he writes:
One day, when the newness has worn off social media, the policies that govern its use will be inherent in an overall communication or behavior policy.
Any guidelines you would add?
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