Advancing Corporate Uses of the Internet and Social Networking to Drive Business & Profits

March 5, 2010
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It’s about 65 years since World War II ended and that means major transitions – for many reasons.  First, there are a massive number of ‘baby boomers’ who are becoming of age to receive health benefits (mostly through US’s Medicare), and secondly, there will be multiple European Countries that will default on loans, economic debt, and promises to their combined EU leadership.  (You heard it here, right?)  Third, the leadership of most of the leading industrial countries have been forgetting their functional job responsibilities or purposes and have embroiled themselves in politics (as usual) which is undermining the economies of the great 20th century nations.  This century will become, or is becoming, accelerated in actions, based on Business Intelligence, Analytics, and the ability to track customers/prospects like never before.  So the old ways are quickly passing.

Maybe these events will not affect the opportunity of all of us to reconsider what we could achieve by “knowing our customers” so much better and driving profitable actions.  The world of the internet is taking over the world of “direct selling”…

It’s about 65 years since World War II ended and that means major transitions – for many reasons.  First, there are a massive number of ‘baby boomers’ who are becoming of age to receive health benefits (mostly through US’s Medicare), and secondly, there will be multiple European Countries that will default on loans, economic debt, and promises to their combined EU leadership.  (You heard it here, right?)  Third, the leadership of most of the leading industrial countries have been forgetting their functional job responsibilities or purposes and have embroiled themselves in politics (as usual) which is undermining the economies of the great 20th century nations.  This century will become, or is becoming, accelerated in actions, based on Business Intelligence, Analytics, and the ability to track customers/prospects like never before.  So the old ways are quickly passing.

Maybe these events will not affect the opportunity of all of us to reconsider what we could achieve by “knowing our customers” so much better and driving profitable actions.  The world of the internet is taking over the world of “direct selling” and also of “knowing preferences of customers.” Or has it?

Social media, sometimes confused with social networking, has catapulted upon the scene and is driving many businesses to re-evaluate their web-investments and the requirement to integrated web-based information with normal customer/product information in their DW. Social Networking appears to be an excellent way for telecoms, banks and others to ‘see’ their customer’s connections or interactions.

Sherry Heyl informed us about Alan Radding’s interesting and informative recent articles on this subject.  Alan has posted a series of articles about the internet itself, one special one on 03/03/2010 which covers social media and social networking. These insightful blogs have informed us that “there even is a social media portal for CFOs, called “CFOzone”, where financial professionals can engage in forums and discussions and participate in various types of professional social networking. But that is focused on the CFO’s professional development. Social media/networking also can do good things for the business itself. “

Alan’s point is to assist us, as I have been trying to do for sometime now, to better define what can and cannot be accomplished in this arena. He goes on to say: “To start, let’s not confuse social media and social networking — both terms are used interchangeably — with e-commerce. With e-commerce, you put up a Web site for the purpose of conducting business, making sales, and generating revenue.

“Social media is not overtly transaction-oriented. Rather, it revolves around content-driven marketing. For example, one large consumer packaged food company, put up a social media Web site. It does all the expected customer service things through the site, includes discussion forums for use by its customers, offers recipes and enables customers to share recipes, and provides ask-the-experts forums on related topics — all content-driven.”

“Social media generally avoid explicit commercial transactions. Instead, you create content with social media to build the business and the brand, everything from recruiting talent to rallying the faithful to countering bad news. (e.g. Toyota leveraging social media to rebuild its brand?)

Alan’s thoughts give us “6 content-driven things that any business can and should do with social media:

  1. Establish presence. With hundreds of millions of active participants, you want continuous visibility among the people who are important to your business, be they customers, prospects. partners, or other stakeholders. (RSS Hint: don’t use this channel to provide nonsensical offers and things customers dislike. Learn from them, use it wisely.)
  2. Build rapport and relationships with specific audiences. Cultivate relationships with your important stakeholder groups through two-way communication. (RSS Hint: Better understand the leaders, followers, and the potential buyers of the future.)
  3. Establish your business as a leader and authority by providing helpful and insightful content that can’t easily be found elsewhere, information people want. (RSS Hint: Stop sending out silly or incorrect marketing/sales messages to your customers. You are killing your brand and the millions you have invested in the brand.)
  4. Engage prospective customers and partners interactively. Invite feedback and input, and be responsive, attentive, empathetic, and supportive. (RSS Hint: Integrate this data and you will enable analytical possibilities that were never before acted upon.)
  5. Listen and learn from your customers, supporters, and all your various stakeholders. Encourage constructive criticism, conduct surveys, solicit suggestions. (RSS Hint: Store these within customer records in your BI system.)
  6. Build brand and company loyalty. Social media is an ideal vehicle to grow whatever loyalty initiatives your organization engages in.” (RSS Hint: Use ETL and web tools to discover and collect data which would help you satisfy customer needs.)

You might also try going to another location to review some great information at these 20 social networking sites for business professionals.”

Now, what does all of this have to do with Data Warehousing or BI? Well, smart companies have been gathering data from the internet, analyzing it carefully, sometimes integrating it with their own customer or prospect data, and making the right offer, at the right time (e.g. timing can be everything in business), through the right (customer desired) channel, at the right price (in a commoditized world), and with ‘personalization’ based on past experiences with the company.

Three suggestions from our customer experiences at Teradata Corporation:

  1. Gather the detailed data from the internet, don’t just review the statistics/volumes/hits, and use the information to learn more about your customers and what they need.
  2. Drive future offers based on customer needs, not just your product manager’s desire to get his products sold to anybody. This will enhance your credibility with your customers and also regain long-term loyalties. (Oh, loyalty also comes in the form of ‘free’ referrals to other customers, which brings high return for your analytical, marketing, sales, and pipeline investments.)
  3. Measure and analyze the positive and negative transactions or lost opportunities. Learn from them and learn from what your customers are saying or doing on the internet through social media or social networking activities.

Using advanced techniques not just advanced tools, to Integrate web Intelligence into your marketing and sales, driven by facts not statistical figures or just hopes, will provide an assuredly greater contribution to your business. Many of our customers have seen this avenue as a way to truly ignite many opportunities, even during an economic downturn, a commoditized environment (or lower prices), wisely using a delivery of excellent, personalized, relevant, timely, and needs-based propositions and services through their data warehouses.

Have you accomplished something new such as this? Let us know. We appreciate your comments and feedback. Thanks for the tips Sheryl and Alan. 

 

Ron Swift