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The Future of Marketing: Brian Solis Q&A

Vocus hosted a webinar which discussed the Future of Business and Marketing with WTF author and Altimeter Principal Analyst Brian Solis. At the end of his presentation, Solis received more questions than he could answer live. He took the time to think through the most recurrent themes and shared his thoughts with Vocus for a follow-up article.

Q: We are a computer / network system integrator. Our audience are IT managers in mid-sized corporations, with an age range of 40 – 50 years. What should be the approach to get new customers?

BS: Often, age has less to do with strategy than does behavior and interests. I’ve found over the years that people who live a connected life both personally and professionally share similar networks and characteristics.

One approach to get new customers is to uncover how decision-making occurs among customers and prospects and also identify the new areas of opportunity based on this new information.

Chances are, you’re doing a good job targeting traditional decision-makers now. The idea of course it to see how those on the IT or business teams are sourcing ideas based on social networks, influencers, and communities. This isn’t anything new but as these connected individuals rise in the ranks, IT or any management team really, starts to lean on this information.

Tools such as Linkfluence, eCairn, and Traackr will help you find your influencers.

Q: B2B industrial marketer here… In this new age of transparency, when it comes to customer experiences and testimonials, is it better to cherry-pick the visibility of certain reviews, or allow all reviews (the good and the bad) to be visible on your site?

This is an important question.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that you only hand-select the positive reviews. However, customers want to see the all sides of the customer experience.

Of course, you can feature a variety of best-in-class examples at the top and provide links to deeper case studies as well. But transparency and authenticity require just that. And to demonstrate it, and earn trust in the process, you should share a fair balance.

This opens the door to a bigger, if not more important, conversation.

I believe the future of branding is tied to shared experiences. Reviews are just one form of shared experiences. Rather than react to them or become surprised by what people are experiencing and sharing, this is time for marketing to proactively work with product development, customer service, and all groups that are responsible for greeting customers in each moment of truth—before, during, and following transactions.

By investing in meaningful and shareable experiences, businesses are, by default, investing in relationships.

Q: How do you recommend measuring the experience divide?

The experience divide occurs when you compare your brand or product experience promise against shared feedback in review sites, status updates, posts, videos, etc.

Many businesses already employ a social listening program. I see this as becoming a monthly or quarterly barometer to measure where there are parallels and also distances between what you say people should experience and what they actually experience and share.

Additionally, your promises and shared experiences should be compared to direct competitors, and also to brands that appeal to your desired audiences. There’s always something to learn in how aspirational brands create desirable experiences, even if they are not competitors you usually track.

This research is done for reasons beyond reporting, of course. It yields a gap that should create a sense of urgency. Executives need to feel this. It’s this empathy that teaches us that we’re no longer in the product business. We’re now in the experience business.

Q: Do you see social as part of all business functions – like HR, Ops, Engineering – or staying siloed?

Dedicated functions such as HR, legal, IT (and all groups such as sales, marketing, customer service, digital, for that matter) must become social. There’s social that faces externally, and there’s social that unites internal groups to learn, share, and collaborate.

The matrixed organizations of the past need leadership to bring about desired change. While experts preach about the need to break down silos, they miss the reasons, benefits, and also the catalysts for doing so.

Nothing should happen “just because.”

To create experiences is one thing. The key is to stitch together desired experiences throughout the customer lifecycle. And that starts with not only bringing disparate groups together to ensure a consistent experience but more importantly, it starts with the definition and articulation of what that experience should be. There must be a standard. There must be a benchmark for which to guide and measure success.

This is bigger than NPS. This is about Shared Experience Value!

The most elite organizations are starting with experience definition and then creating a special cross-functional steering committee to re-engineer the customer experience and the infrastructure (people, processes, technology) necessary to support it.

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