Tuesday Feb 17, 2015

Converting Likes to Profits: How Polaris Harnesses the Power of Social

How does a company convert "likes" into dollars? Most businesses are acutely aware of the importance of social marketing for customer service and brand awareness. As this recent McKinsey report shows, businesses understand the importance of social tools but are still struggling to maximize their potential. A recent Forrester report showed that a majority of businesses aren’t leveraging social listening to uncover actionable business insights.

There are, however, some companies that are ahead of the curve and using social to enable key parts of their business from marketing to service to commerce to research and development. Minnesota-based Polaris, maker of riding machines like snowmobiles, ATVs and motorcycles, and an Oracle Social customer, is one such innovative company.  

The winning design for the Pink Ribbon Riders Campaign

“Polaris is a customer-centric organization—we believe deeply in putting the customer at the center of everything we do,” said Holly Spaeth, Manager of Interactive Media and Content at Polaris Industries. “Social is a central part to customer centricity, as it’s an arena where we can listen, learn and engage directly with our passionate fan base to make customer- and data-driven business decisions.”

At Polaris, social listening and engagement got into full swing in early 2012.  In fact, it was a simple t-shirt campaign that showed the Polaris executives how listening and learning from social communities could benefit their business.

The company had launched a brand-new Victory logo and wanted to generate awareness during the annual Sturgis Rally, including creating a new t-shirt design campaign. They had an agency design three concepts and asked their Facebook fans to vote on their favorite. Surprisingly, instead of a focus on voting, the fans overwhelming disapproved of the t-shirt designs. Consumers said the t-shirts didn’t “feel” like the Victory brand. They offered suggestions, including how to better showcase the Victory logo.  Polaris took the feedback and redesigned a new t-shirt that garnered fan praise, as well as strong awareness at the Sturgis event.

“It was just feedback on a t-shirt but it showed us the power of engaging and learning from our customers. We now apply that simple concept to marketing campaigns, product colors, accessories and even new product design. Social insights are being shared across the company and making a positive business impact regularly.” 

In early 2014, when Polaris was developing a color scheme for the new Victory Gunner motorcycle, they went straight to social and let the fans decide.

“We are quite literally co-creating with our customers, seeking their input and knowledge around likes, dislikes, wants and desires,” said Spaeth. “And they get inspired and passionate about being heard—especially around product and accessory colors. Color plays a big role and is an ongoing and important theme across our social channels.”

In late 2012, Polaris started seeing social conversations and themes around the term “pink.”  The conversations were correlating around breast cancer, Pink Ribbon Riders, and an interest in pink-styled designed snowmobiles.

“When the pink themes and conversations started across social we began to take notice. We continued to listen and monitor the increasing volume and positive sentiment and realized there was something there.”

But before actually executing on an idea, Polaris tested “pink” during the annual “snowcheck period,” a six-week period where consumers could pre-order custom sleds in select colors, and this time pink was offered. “Pink correlated and resulted in strong sales. So although ‘pink’ went against the traditional grain, we followed the data and connected with our R&D team to create something bigger around this idea of pink,” said Spaeth.

What Polaris created was more than a new product idea; they tied the “pink” theme around a charity campaign and sponsorship with the Pink Ribbon Riders, an organization dedicated to help women and men with breast cancer. 

“We executed a consumer-generated snowmobile custom design to support the Pink Ribbon Riders. Social insights were helping make decisions on a new charity partner, as well as a consumer-focused and engaging campaign.”

In the spring of 2014, Polaris launched its Pink Ribbon Rider Wrap campaign on Facebook, where consumers generated the designs and voted on the winner. A portion of the proceeds went to benefit the Pink Ribbon Riders. Thousands of social fans participated but it was Cassandra from St. Paul, MN that had the winning design.

“The reaction to the entire Pink Ribbon Riders Wrap campaign was tremendous, including a strong interest with our dealers and partners,” Spaeth added. 

“We recap our social and digital insights weekly across departments and, together with other customer data, use it as a guide to make better business decisions for marketing to services to sales to product development. And Product Development is always interested in what our social fans are saying to help with everything from product naming, design, color, accessories and more.” 

Wednesday Feb 11, 2015

VIDEO: Oracle President Thomas Kurian on Marketing & CX

Perhaps no other business role has more to gain – and lose – in the ever-important world of customer experience (CX) than today’s marketer. Customer centricity and CX have become the leading strategic focus across almost every business around the globe. And yet there’s still no clear-cut winner on who owns customer experience. What is clear, however, is that marketing and its numerous customer touch points has the greatest opportunity to take the strategic wheel with today’s empowered, digital, social and mobile consumer.

Gartner analyst Laura McLellan cited 10 “proof points” on why customer experience is the next big thing. The proof points include compelling statistics including Gartner research showing that last year the top marketing technology investment was customer experience; and the No. 1 innovation project for 2015 will be CX.  McLellan also references Oracle research that reveals 93% of business executives say that improving CX is one of the top three priorities for the next two years, with 97% stating, “CX is critical to success.”

With all this CX imperative talk you’d think businesses and marketers would be feeling confident in their CX development. You’d be wrong.  According to a recent Advertising Age article, many CEOs and CMOs feel their progress is lacking. Why? It’s not an easy process. It requires transforming your business models to put the customer at the center of every single thing you do, understanding and engaging them at all touch points, across both their offline and online worlds. As McLellan says, “It’s a huge change-management process.” And one she believes the CMO has the prime opportunity to seize and lead.

Oracle’s Thomas Kurian understands the CX imperative and the heavy weight on marketers to lead it. Having a consistent cross-channel view of customers with the ability to reach, engage, understand, segment, target and automate in an effective way is a major undertaking. But it is one Oracle has dedicated years of resources and time towards.   “We are the only ones in the industry that can actually solve these problems.” He goes on to say how Oracle is helping the marketer develop a “cross-channel identity graph” so marketers can know their users across all their channels and touch points. “The fact that we have this unified view of people, across all these channels, fundamentally transforms the power of marketing tools.” You can hear more from Kurian in this video.

“The core of CX, and what we are building it for, is to enable our customers to successfully disrupt business models and become leaders in their industries,” said Kurian.

In a business environment where the majority of CEOs and CMOs put CX at the top of their priorities, that’s a good thing for Oracle and its partners. 

This is just one entry in a series of blog videos with Kurian. Oracle Social Cloud Group VP Meg Bear spent the day recently with Kurian discussing everything from the changing role of today’s CMO and CIO, to data and innovation, to the importance of user experience. Check back each week as we feature a new video with insights from Kurian on how Oracle is partnering and co-innovating with our customers to help pave a path of success and deliver consistent, rewarding and exceptional experiences for their customers.  

Wednesday Feb 04, 2015

VIDEO: Oracle President Thomas Kurian on the Importance of User Experience in Enterprise Software

When is the last time you read documentation about your iPhone?” That’s the rhetorical question asked by Oracle President Thomas Kurian in this latest video emphasizing the importance of user experience in today’s enterprise software. His quick answer of course: “Never.” Usability and user experience isn’t new for enterprise software providers; it’s just increasingly becoming a requirement and a differentiator. The proverbial bar has been raised.

Consumers today have high expectations from their personal technologies, as they are accustomed to modern, personalized and intuitive experiences. Those expectations don’t change at the workplace. And with the rise of millennials entering the workforce, user experience becomes even more critical.  The Hartford Financial Services Group estimates that by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials. Accounting firm PwC sees it much higher, pegging it at close to 80% by end of 2016.

As Kurian states, Oracle has undergone years of extensive usability testing to create a reimagined and redesigned experience with the user in mind. It’s a transformation that focuses on applications that are simple, easy, intuitive, and optimized for the different devices people use today. It’s a fundamental change across the portfolio of Oracle applications.

The Company’s #UX imperative can be seen on display with Oracle Social Cloud’s SRM workstation called “Social Station,” launched last year. The news of Social Station was covered by several outlets, including ZDNet and The Hub, and the overall tone applauded the development and focus on user experiences and interfaces that are simple, easy to use and deliver value. In fact, Omar Akhthar, senior editor at The Hub, stated the following: “Oracle has an opportunity to prove its value by making sure it keeps its user-interface simple and highlighting its ease-of-use compared to other social media management tools.”

The focus of simplicity brings to mind a quote by Albert Einstein that certainly rings true on this subject:  “Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.” Design and development of UX/UI isn't easy; but it's an absolute priority. 

Enterprise software will need to catch up with the consumer-grade level of #UX… starting now.  

Wednesday Jan 28, 2015

VIDEO: Oracle President Thomas Kurian on the Role of Today’s CIO in Cloud & Business Transformation

Expectations of business-driven IT are higher than ever and changing rapidly.  Words like agility, mobility, digital, data, cloud and customer centricity are common and constant from Line of Business (LOBs) executives like CMOs. Today’s business must move at the pace of – scratch that – ahead of the pace of today’s consumer. Businesses must anticipate customers’ needs to be truly customer-centric organizations.  Innovation through the cloud is a big force driving customer experience and customer centricity.

Here’s another word of importance: collaboration.  And collaboration is essential to make a successful business-led technology transformation. Today’s CIO will play a pivotal role in crafting that collaboration between IT and business leaders. Unfortunately, the process hasn’t taken root just yet.

According to a recent ZDNet article, research shows that confidence and collaboration between LOBs and IT is not strong. The article cites a new CIO Magazine survey showing that 54% of business leaders view IT “as an obstacle to their mission.” Forrester research shows that less than half of marketing managers collaborate with IT when developing a technology strategy. And our Oracle study revealed that less than 1/3 of marketing and IT executives surveyed reported collaborating “frequently,” while at the same time noting greater success when they do collaborate.

Kurian believes the CIO will play a pivotal role with collaboration, cloud and business transformation. In this video he states “cloud actually empowers CIOs to take the lead with innovation.” He goes on to say that today’s CIO role is not diminished just different, requiring a new business mindset. The CIO is very much essential to this new digital, customer-centric business revolution.

ZDNet reporter Dion Hinchcliffe had some great insights on the future role of CIOs: “The CIO should have – or should quickly ascertain – a better sense of how to translate the current business into today’s emerging digital marketplaces and channels. And yes, that means knowing more about how to apply digital to various parts of the enterprise than line of business executives. Relentless education and experimentation is required here to be successful. The CIO should be the visionary and evangelist that can get business – from the management team to the workforce – fully on board with digital business.”

Cloud is the future of business transformation; CIOs will play a key role. As Kurian says, CIOs are extremely important to their executives and businesses, and the cloud empowers them to take the lead.  The best CIOs in the industry are beginning to grasp that and train their staff to become experts in cloud technologies. For more on cloud innovation, read Oracle CEO Mark Hurd's recent piece on how cloud is revolutionizing business in four key areas.

This is just one entry in a series of blog videos with Kurian. Oracle Social Cloud Group VP Meg Bear spent the day recently with Kurian discussing everything from the changing role of today’s CMO and CIO, to data and innovation, to the importance of user experience. Check back each week as we feature a new video with insights from Kurian on how Oracle is partnering and co-innovating with our customers to help pave a path of success and deliver consistent, rewarding and exceptional experiences for their customers.


Tuesday Jan 20, 2015

VIDEO: Oracle President Thomas Kurian on CX, Data & Innovation

Keys to any successful customer engagement and customer experience (CX) program are strategy, integration and data. In our video blog series with Oracle President Thomas Kurian we continue with his insights on Oracle’s commitment to CX and how developing a strategic and innovative CX portfolio that is enriched with data will be Oracle’s differentiator.

Recently noted in an AdExchanger article, Oracle’s focus on data and data integration is no secret, especially with its acquisition of BlueKai in February of 2014 and the more recently announced acquisition of Datalogix. The holy grail of any marketer and business is a complete understanding of your customers and prospects across their online and offline worlds for better engagement and targeting. Oracle’s CX strategy includes integration across CX applications like marketing, service, sales, commerce and social; and enriching those applications with data so businesses have a unified view of people across all the many channels and platforms they access daily.

“Data is a fundamental differentiator… All applications, over time, can become vastly better if they are enriched with data,” noted Kurian in the video.

He also talks about the transition that cloud and CX innovation has had within Oracle. Today, Oracle is leading by partnering with customers to develop modern software that is innovative, integrated and delivers great user experiences. “Look at Oracle in 2007 and look at it in 2014, night and day different as a company.”

This is just one video in a series of videos with Kurian. Oracle Social Cloud Group VP Meg Bear spent the day recently with Kurian discussing everything from the changing role of today’s CMO and CIO, to data and innovation, to the importance of user experience. Check back each week as we feature a new video with insights from Kurian on how Oracle is partnering and co-innovating with our customers to help pave a path of success and deliver consistent, rewarding and exceptional experiences for their customers. 

Friday Nov 07, 2014

Lessons Learned from Pivotcon: Listen, Learn & Humanize in the Age of People-Centric Business

By Meg Bear, Group Vice President, Oracle Social Cloud 

A few weeks ago I attended the annual Pivot Conference in New York City. The theme of Pivotcon, “The Digital Imperative,” focused on the creative disruption digital is having on society and how that is changing our culture, behaviors, businesses, homes, transportation, media and much more. The convergence of mobile, social and cloud technologies has altered how we view and interact with our world and empowered us to learn more, engage more, explore more, buy more, create more, share more and expand our digital capabilities beyond mere physical limitations.


(Photo L to R: Amy Sorrells, Oracle Social; Meg Bear, Oracle Social; Phil Colley, GM; and Rebecca Harris, GM)

Think about these changes within your own life. Uber has simplified and enhanced the transportation experience. We seek Yelp for locating the perfect spot to eat. We share stories on Facebook. We voice our opinions on Twitter. We network on LinkedIn. We control our homes remotely with Nest. We are never without our smartphones. And information is always just a click away. 

We are an empowered people. And it’s happening across all generations and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the rising millennials, no more a novelty but a mainstream reality, completely embody the digital imperative. They grew up mobile, social and open. They think and operate differently, embracing technologies for the greater good in a transparent, engaging and social way. They expect the businesses they buy from and work for to operate the same.  Here’s a reality check: In 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials – that’s your employees, partners and customers.

Organizations must completely re-think how they approach business. People now expect a higher level of interaction, personalization and value. Gartner analyst Laura McClellan said her research shows that in only two years 90% of companies expect to compete almost entirely on the basis of customer experience. Not on price. Not on product. On experience.  How’s that for a change?

Customer centricity and a priority on customer engagement is the business imperative. But I’d take that a step further. It’s not just a “customer” experience; it’s a “people” experience. Businesses need to enhance engagement and experiences not just for customers but also employees and partners. Believe me it all ties back to the bottom line. Happier more engaged employees can be your best brand assets. Ditto for partners. Listen, learn, personalize, engage, deliver value and build trust. You aren’t talking at “audiences” anymore; you are building relationships with people. If you listen carefully, with humility and openness, people will help guide you and co-create with you. You need to shift your idea of who has the power. Don’t operate as an impersonal entity; humanize your brand. Talk about a pivot.

Becoming a people-centric business requires major change and disruption. And it’s not going to be a clean, easy and fast process. But it’s something you must start championing inside your organization today. How? Well, that’s for another much longer discussion. But below are five reoccurring themes we heard throughout Pivotcon that are absolutely relevant to becoming a people-centric business. So think about how these should apply to across your business.

Collaboration: You absolutely can’t embrace major change and innovation without a collaborative effort across the enterprise. This falls in the “no more silos” bucket. CMOs can’t go it alone anymore. Neither can the CIO. Or the CCO. The famous Greek phrase, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” is totally applicable here. Break down those departmental silos and start communicating across departments and people.

Information: This is all about learning and insights. You need to understand your people (consumers, employees, partners) as well as possible. It’s not about the volume of data; it’s about actionable insights. One of my favorite quotes from Pivot revealed a certain truth: “We are drowning in data but starving for information.” But with the right technologies in place, you can aggregate, analyze and simplify data for invaluable insights that will allow you to understand and engage like never before. Listen and learn.

Integration: This refers to technologies. And as our partner Rebecca Harris of GM stated at Pivot, “Integration is the linchpin of the customer engagement strategy.” To truly be customer and people focused you can’t have systems that don’t integrate, communicate and exchange information. A big difference today is the pervasiveness of technology and the ability to integrate and weave it out the value chain to engage with the customer. Organizations must make integration key across the enterprise.

Personalization:  We are accustomed to technologies and experiences that are tailored to us. Whether that’s an ad, article, merchandise or media, the more it is targeted to our likes and needs the better it resonates and more value it provides. The data is out there to understand your people. You just need to listen, learn and follow their cues. Personalized content and interactions are the cornerstone to people-centricity.

Trust:  As Brian Solis said during Pivot, “Trust will be the new currency related to people-centric engagement.” We are operating in an open world where social networks bring forward the good, the bad and the ugly. Consumers don’t expect businesses to not have flaws, but they do expect authenticity and transparency when things don’t go right.  Just look at how GM and Chevrolet handled #ChevyGuy for establishing trust, not to mention authenticity and humanity. Businesses and executives who operate in an open and accountable manner will earn trust. And that will be key to cultivating and establishing relationships with your customers, employees and partners. 

Tuesday Nov 06, 2012

Are You Meeting Social Customer Service Expectations?

Customer ServiceWhether it’s B2B or B2C, one sure path to repeat business is making sure your buyer has a memorably pleasant and successful customer service experience with you. If they get that kind of treatment consistently, that’s called a relationship. And those aren’t broken easily.

Social customer service, driven by integrated SRM (social relationship management) technology, is the venue that can effectively connect customers not only to the brand, but to other customers. Positive experiences, once administered, don’t just rest with the recipient. They’re published in the form of public raves and peer-to-peer recommendation, a force far more actionable than push advertising.

What’s more, your customers have come to expect access to you and satisfaction from you using social.

An NM Incite study shows 83% of Twitter users and 71% of Facebook users expect to get an answer from brands the same day they post to them on their social assets. To make sure you’re responding, you’ve got to have a tech platform that’s set up to moderate and alert so you’ll know ASAP a customer needs help.

The more integrated your social enterprise is, the faster you can not only respond, but respond with the answer they’re looking for, because your system is connected to the internal resources that can surface the answer or put wheels in motion to rectify the situation in the shortest amount of time possible.

But if you go to the necessary lengths to make sure your customers feel valued and important, will they really reward you? The study says 71% of consumers who got quick and effective responses from companies they contacted via social were more likely to recommend the brand to their friends and followers.

So yes, sweeping people off their feet pays big dividends in terms of word-of-mouth marketing. But you should be keenly aware of the reverse side of that coin. Give people a negative experience, either in real world or virtual customer service, and that message is highly likely to get amplified through social channels faster and louder.

Only 36% of the NM Incite study’s respondents reported that their problems were solved quickly and effectively. 36%? That’s hardly an impressive number. It gets worse. 10% never got so much as a response - at all. Going back to the relationship analogy, companies that are this deep in the ditch where customer service is concerned are making their girl or boyfriends really easy for a competitor to steal.

Given the technology tools and data available right now for having an intimate knowledge of the customer, what products they’ve purchased, likely problems with those products, effective resolutions to those problems, and follow-up communication to gauge satisfaction, there are fewer excuses than ever for making the lifeblood of your business feel like you couldn’t care less.

@mikestiles

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