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?
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?
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…
Had a fantastic cruise vacation on the Disney Magic June 6-18 in the Mediterranean. Enjoyed it thoroughly. But do have to mention that Disney definitely does an amazing job of maintaining extremely strong brand presence throughout everything they do on the boat and off. Even as simple a thing as the ship’s horn is Disney branded (to the tune of When You Wish Upon a Star). Plus, they maintain their high standards of customer service and support – hat’s off to everyone on board for making the cruise extremely enjoyable, comfortable, and memorable!
Check out the link below for an overview of the ports of call!
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
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
This week I attended a fantastic one-day course on Social Media Marketing held by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) of Canada. The speaker was Mitch Joel of Twist Image. Let’s just say, it was definitely like eating a seven course meal with a slingshot (analogy courtesy of my colleague Tim Srigley).
It was hard to believe all the information Joel was able to pack into this intensive eight hours. Time simply flew by. Here’s just a few key insights gleaned from this engaging experience:
- Many people don’t realize it, but social media has been around for a long time – over a decade already. It’s not a passing fad…there’s staying power and potential here that hasn’t yet been tapped.
- Social media has created the need to reemphasize marketing. A paradigm shift needs to occur in the collective mind of all marketers – we need to communicate WITH customers, not at customers. It’s a subtle shift, but it is definitely a shift and needs to be embraced by everyone. And we need to pay attention not only to what we’re saying to customers, but also to what they are saying to each other.
- Too often, marketers get hung up on the “how many” when determining the success of a social media campaign. How many followers, how many hits, how many visits to the site, how many click throughs. What we need to be interested in is the “Who” – who is following my blog or twitter profile? Who are the influencers? Who are the key trend setters? “Who” is far more important than “how many?”
- Everything is “with” not “instead of” – as marketers, don’t get caught in the idea that social media is a silver bullet, the savior of any marketing campaign. Social media is simply another media channel to be utilized. Based on the overall marketing strategy, these tactics should complement the other tools used to create an effective comprehensive communications campaign.
- And one of the best insights of the day: placing an ad is like a one night stand, social media is like getting married. That’s powerful. Think about it – are you looking for the quick spike in sales and gain a few new customers in the process? Or, are you in it for the long haul, building relationships and developing a community? Social media is not a one night stand. It takes true commitment and dedication.
Great insights, great course. I would like to thank the IAB for hosting the event and also Mitch Joel for being an engaging, passionate, and energetic speaker.
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