Content marketing is a hype!

OMG. Preparing for a workshop today I realized that content marketing is a total hype! It just doesn’t exist.

I was preparing for an upcoming workshop session about many things, one of them being “the most important thing companies should do in their marketing” – content marketing.

For my backgrounder part I wanted to get a non-hyped version of the definition of content marketing. Preferably an academic one. Those are often more digestable for people who need to learn and understand.

On with the Google, worlds fastest reference book. Content marketing, Only marketing pages. “Content marketing”. The same thing. “content marketing” definition. No. “content marketing” academic definition. Lists of marketers quoting other marketers selling their thing.

I couldn’t find a single academic source with the definition of content marketing!

So, I’m drawing conclusions: Content marketing must be a hype created by marketers who needed to differentiate themselves and came up with a new, fuzzy category (see brand strategies) that people could relate to. And the rest of the world followed.

Other alternative is that the whole thing appeared so fast that no academic had time to research or analyze the phenomenon. Which I doubt, since people like David Ogilvy was quoted in some of the posts.

Now. Please, please tell me I’m wrong. I would like nothing more than to get a proof that I’m totally wrong.

I just want the academic definition for content marketing.

 

Let's help the media re-invent monetization!

An age old problem. The media world is changing and the entire publishing world is suffering. The subscriptions for traditional print media are going downhill and people are not willing to pay for online content. As a consequence of the difficult situation, the media has started making free online content less free. First by setting up paywalls for online content, and more recently by selling subscriptions to electronic publications which look exactly the same as the traditional print publication, with ads and all included. And of course limiting the free online content, “because it’s cannibalizing our business”.

It seems that none of that is working very well, but why? After all the information and news offering available today, people have so many possibilities when choosing where to get the content from and how to consume it. If you get the same content for free, why would you pay for it? Someone always offers most of the content free. At least if the content is casual, generic content, copied from some other source.

Solution stems from the basics

There are three different types of journalistic content categories that people consume:

News content. This is generic, short, available first and consumed only once. Typically served and consumed “everywhere” from screens in the public transport, to a feed on your mobile device. Content is being produced by news agencies and aggregated by major news outlets such as CNN, BBC, YLE, HS, Al-Jazeera and likes. Oh, and then it’s being “quoted” by thousands of others. Worth paying something if you get it fast, good, easy and everywhere.

Deep expert content. This is typically specific content for a certain topic. Some magazines such as Harward Business Review are doing a great job with in-depth content around their selected topics. Well worth paying for, right?

(Hyper)local content. Any content that is interesting to the local community. What happens in your own neighbourhood. Something that the rest of the world has no interest. Thousands of publications that support their own and unite people. Also worth paying to know what’s going on at home.

Choose your content category

In order to have good and wanted content, you need to be the best choice for the consumer in one of the categories. Or at least get to be shortlisted.

You should choose the positioning for the content. Are we going to be the leader in the news content, the best expert in a chosen topic or the chosen local publisher? It’s unlikely that anyone can be all three at the same time.

Rethink your primary channel

Once you are close to achieve the chosen content position, start thinking the best delivery method from the beginning. If your target readers have 80% penetration for mobile data, put priority in producing the best, fastest and most in-depth content there. If you can deliver the content for 90% of your community by printing them copies when they head out to their daily chores, make it happen. If you need to use two channels to reach most of your audience, put them both in equal priority position.

Do not plan or deliver any channels just because they are trendy or everyone does it. You have the best content and the most convenient channel. Why divide resources and focus to anything else?

For the same reason, if you have existing channels that really doesn’t reach your audience, start a quick exit plan for that channel. You can’t win with it.

Turn the earning structure upside down

Now, since you own the best content and channel, you have all the attributes to be number one on the shortlist.

#1 publisher can ask money from the consumers, since they are providing the best value to the customer. Put a premium price for your priority channel. There is a price fit, you probably need to do some research and testing to find out the right level.

No need to perform lock-in

Many subscription businesses are selling with all kinds of lock-in sales models. You don’t need to do that because you are the best. Be open, allow people to try something else. This will make the joining easy. If you are good enough but they leave, they will come back eventually. This will strengthen the leader position and make you even stronger.

Then you only need marketing

So, you are the best, most convenient, easiest to join and no-strings-atteched content publisher. Now you need customers.

This should be easy. Just make yourself known among your target audience by caring about them and sharing to them. Use your content creation skills to make yourself a topic for discussion.

And the rest is history…

Do you think I’m crazy? Do you know I’m wrong? That’s ok. Join the discussion in re-inventing the media monetization.

I love to be proven wrong. A challenge.

Consequences of social customer service - three true stories

Disclaimer: This post includes stories on real customer service situations. I have tried to describe them the way I experienced them, but still as objectively as possible. The purpose of this post is to demonstrate how an organization can make a big difference on customer perception. No harm is intended to any persons or organizations involved.

 

 The changing role of customer service

Customer service is becoming more and more important issue for companies nowadays. In the old days it was common that there were mistakes in the customer service and some customers were disappointed. They were complaining, but as long as  nothing really serious happened, the bad bell was just a minor issue. There would be more new customers, no need to worry too much.

During the last few year, internet has changed this setting. People have started to share their experiences by writing on forums and blogs, and sharing their ratings on generic websites. These customer sentiments have been available through search engines and sites like Tripadvisor. This has been easy – if you want to know, just search for the stories.

At the moment we are quickly approaching the next evolution of customer service and reputation management – the era of social stories. The viral effect caused by when people like, comment and share stories, makes the customer experiences to appear directly on people’s faces, on their Facebook streams and Twitter feeds, without even looking for them.

This emergence of social stories has new demands for the behavior of organizations. Let’s take a look at three different stories I have experienced recently.

 

Unexpected service with a smile: Hilton Singapore

Hilton Singapore is a fancy hotel in the middle of action in Singapore. It is a safe haven from the buzz of Orchard Road in Singapore.

The story starts from the Asian dinner buffet, during my stay with some lovely colleagues. After a busy day we ended up eating at the hotel buffet. Easy, fast and delicious.

At some point of our meal, I noticed there was a dead bug in my food. I notified the personnel who invited the chef to check the situation. Our party was treated with dignity and apologies, and it was no big deal for us. I asked to be notified on which bug it was, it was easy since I would be staying at the hotel for the next couple of days.

After couple of days, I realized that no message from the kitchen was delivered to me. Without any intention to complain, I just tweeted something like “I wonder which bug I had in my food at Hilton?” and went on with other things.

Couple of hours later I received a tweet from Hilton’s social media team. They wanted to know what happened, and when I told them they wanted to investigate the situation and asked for my email address. I provided my email and was a bit surprised how they made this such a big issue.

A few days later I got a personal email message from the General Manager of the hotel, apologizing and telling me what happened with the bug issue and how it would not happen again. Additionally, he asked me to get in touch with him next time I would be visiting Singapore, so Hilton could give me special personal service.

I was amazed by all this. To me, a minor issue, was turned into a huge positive story for Hilton for exceeding customer expectations.

And guess how many times I’ve told this story? A lot.

 

Bad start with a learning curve, saved by the customer service: Mercure Paris

Hotel Mercure Paris La Defense 5 is located in the heart of Paris business district. Most of the customers are business customers with certain level of expectations.

The story starts with prepaid booking through ebookers, a big online travel agency. I made the initial reservations for two rooms and two nights on the morning of the arrival. One hour later I realized we only need the two rooms for one night, called ebookers, cancelled the reservation and made a new booking for two rooms and one night. No problems. Paris, here we come.

On our arrival to the hotel we were told that our reservation doesn’t exist, but they had one room for two nights, and we can pay for the other room. We tried to show our confirmation, we weren’t listened at all. So we ended up staying in the hotel and having our other room swiped from a credit card. There was also some rudeness in the air, but let’s not go there now.

Once I got into my room, I tweeted to Accorhotels customer service and expressed my sentiment on bad customer experience. We checked out from the hotel before there was any reaction from Twitter.

Afterwards, Accorhotels raised my issue with the hotel, and the hotel sent me a formal apology, only stating the wrong information which caused the confusion in the first place. At this point, no person from Mercure had heard our side of the story.

Disappointed with the treatment, I wrote a formal reply to the hotel management and also copied the customer service. For some reason, the customer services had asked me separately about what happened, before I had time to answer the hotel management.

I don’t know what happened after this, but next thing was that the customer service told that they will investigate this issues and get back in 10 days. Only couple of days later I got a phone call from the person who is responsible for the hotel rooms and reception. She had gone through the whole case and wanted to discuss with me personally. We had a very nice and constructive call, and she said she had taken the precautions to prevent such things happening in the future. She also wanted to check that our balance was ok and extended an invitation to visit the hotel again.

Afterwards, she sent me a full description of what had happened and clarification of everything was settled and ok. And an invitation to visit the hotel with upgraded hospitality.

I had to thank the social media team for taking my issue forward. This is a case of a standard customer service process gone wrong, but after escalation extra miles gone to save the situation.

And guess how many times I’ve told this story? A lot.

 

Continued arrogance: Scandinavian Airlines

The largest airline in Northern Europe, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), has a long history as the main airline for Sweden, Denmark and Norway. They’ve been struggling with the changes in the industry, and just last week they were saved from a bankruptcy barely.

This story starts in a taxi in Paris, stuck in the traffic jam. It’s almost impossible to make it in time for flight to Scandinavia. What to do? Call SAS Hotline to the rescue!

First call agent was a helpful one, found our flight details with our names only and started to check the rescheduling possibilities… until the call was cut off.

The second call agent denied to help us without reservation code, which was in the trunk of the taxi, on a motorway. A new policy was enforced in three minutes. This call included lot of arrogance and we ended up rebooking one of the flights, giving the credit card details and then we were cut off, without flight details.

At this point we took the rebooking of one flight through other channels, since SAS just made it too difficult for us. This was a matter of couple of minutes, easy.

For the other two remaining flights, we took a third call. This time a nice call agent said that they can’t rebook us but the SAS ticket office at CDG (Paris Charles De Gaulle airport) can make magic.

When we arrived to the airport, we found out that there is no SAS ticket office at the airport, only two check-in machines.

Well, we took our chances and ran to the gate, and were very happy to make our original flight. Had we not made that flight, we would have be stranded overnight in Paris.

The next day I decided to give customer feedback. The whole mess should be clarified.

I started with Twitter. Go to the website or Facebook page for customer service, the profile said. So I went to SAS Facebook page: “Welcome to the SAS offical fanpage! If you have any questions we are here daily between 8.00-20.00 CET.”

So I posted my complaint with questions. Reply from SAS was to go to the website, where the customer care is. I said I don’t want go to another counter, I wanted answers. This started a public discussion, where I reminded that I wanted answers, and SAS Facebook team promised me the customer care would contact me.

The last communication from SAS was “the customer care will contact you tomorrow” but I have heard nothing from them since.

Today, I have no answer to my complaints, three promises that I would be contacted and a very bad feeling about the whole airline.

And guess how many times I’ve told this story? A lot.

 

Social customer service can make a big difference

All of these three stories started out in a similar manner. Something did not go as planned and customer experienced it. The consequence was a confusion by the customer and a will to clarify the situation. All three cases had a different result, caused by the way how the customer service was organized and how it reacted.

In the Hilton case the social team took a minor confusion and turned it into a positive story. It’s a result of good social listening tools and a permission and will to go beyond expectations and organization in customer service. Well done, Hilton!

The Mercure story started off slowly by the customer team, but eventually a process gone wrong was converted into a happy customer and a positive story. The social listening tools exist, but it seems that in the beginning the was no person/team responsible for taking the issue to conclusion. Until maybe when it was escalated. Mercure/Accor survived and are on the positive.

The yet to be solved SAS case is a total failure. No social listening, no ownership of the the channels, likely a heavy siloing that prevents good customer experience and likely not very motivated staff either. It may have something to do with the economic situation SAS has, but it’s not a good excuse, vice versa.

How to deal with such cases

Time.It is of utmost importance that in any social media environment, all deviations or signs of a deviation from standard customer communication are always treated promptly and with high priority. Most of the problems can be solved quickly and any further escalation are likely to be prevented. Oversolving should be the goal, and it will lead into positive viral stories.

Permission. Customer should not be expected to understand how the organization works. Any touchpoint is a representative of the company and that touchpoint should have a permission to solve the problem to the end.

Tools. There are a large number of tools available for running social customer service, such as social CRM and social media listening tools. Use them, they are worth it from day one.

Overall, lot of the company reputation will be formed within social media and from the stories told by customers, who had good and bad experiences.

Do you want to be my SAS or Hilton?

Have I stopped presenting?

Some people have asked me if I have stopped giving presentations or stopped sharing them. The answer is no, vice versa. I have been doing that a lot since I moved my espresso machine to Zeeland offices.

Not all my presentations are publicly available, since they touch some customer-specific issues. Most of the sharable presentations are published under Zeeland’s Slideshare profile, where there are other very interesting materials by my colleagues as well.

Here are some selected presentations by myself, partly together with my dear colleagues. Enjoy:

Social Media Slingshot - A model for social media campaign ROI  development

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Sosiaalisen median aamiainen - Some trends and analysis on business benefits of Google+

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Uusiutuvan markkinointiviestinnän vaatimukset – miten ja miksi - My presentation from Markkinointiviestinnän viikko 2011 in Finnish

View more presentations from Zeeland
Everything Changes - English language version with some additional captions from Markkinointiviestinnän viikko 2011

View more presentations from Zeeland
Marketing trends for 2012 - Looking at 2012 for Marketers

View more presentations from Zeeland
Miten teen tuloksellista B2B-markkinointia sosiaalisessa mediassa - My presentation on marketing and measuring in B2B social media (at  Mainostajien liitto seminar)

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Piiri2012 Saarikko - My keynote on marketing and branding a place at public sector marketing seminar in Salo

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The change is here – some details on my future

Now we know.

Couple of weeks ago I wrote about the coming change. At that time I had started a multidimensional transformation process, but couldn’t disclose the details. Today, many parts have been published, and it’s time to open up a little bit. There has also been number of questions already, I am trying to answer those as well.

Janne joins Zeeland as a strategy director

This is one of the biggest news. I will start a full-time job as a strategy director at Zeeland Society. I know several people working for Zeeland from different parts of my history, some people I have worked together with some 20 years ago!

The main reason for me to take this opportunity is the change I see in the whole of world of business and marketing. The whole transformation of business will require people and companies to work across silos, and in new innovative ways. This will be very hard for many, offering services only in certain area of expertise, or being a small company required to know it all.

With Zeeland I can see multiple areas of expertise that are vital for the transformation. Making those areas work together  will create enormous opportunities  for their customers, without missing the in-depth knowledge.

It has taken me couple of years to get to this point. On my own, I could only help companies to a certain point. Now, together with experts from all those areas… opportunities are awaiting!

Looking forward to start rocking with all my new colleagues!

Ekana Innovation repositioning

Ekana Innovation will not disappear with this change. The company will continue to work according it’s slogan, “Passion for First”, but the scope will more focusing in two areas, Firsts for the Future and Ekana First ventures.

Firsts for the Future will concentrate on future of society, business, work, organizations and leadership. You will be seeing writing, speaking, research and consulting related to these topics.

Ekana First ventures will cover Ekana’s own projects, the current and new ones.

Office Nomad concept will continue to exist and will expand

Many people have asked me about the future of Office Nomad concept. Officenomadism is not going away, even tough I will not be taking new host companies for myself at the moment.

We have to remember though, that there are several other people in many countries exercising this way of working.

The concept is being developed further, and there will be new variations of the concept and more opportunities for people and companies to start living in the nomadic ways.

I will let you know when there is more to tell on this one. Taking a closer look at the media is not a bad idea, either.

Design Finland – Finnish Design will get more content

My time with www.designfinland.fi has been limited lately. There are some agreed changes that will take place in the coming weeks, also providing more content and new approaches to Finnish design.

My role with the publication is likely to get smaller, but that is still ok. There will be more people to share their passion for design with context to Finland.

 

This is a brief description of the changes taking place at the moment. I am full of energy, so just watch me! :)

 

EDIT: There was a typo in the Office Nomad part – officenomadism is definately NOT going away. Thanks Tero & Jani for pointing that out! :)