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Posts Tagged ‘customers’


Social Media

In the old days, people relied mostly on products and services. Advertising didn’t exist back then, it was just as simple as putting a plank with your name and your occupation on your door or outside your gate. Nobody would see the plank unless they passed by your house or store. The business rule was very simple, if you have good products or services, then your happy customers will tell their friends, and if they were satisfied, then they will tell their friends and so on and so forth. Until now, we still found Word Of Mouth (WOM) marketing to be the most powerful tool every marketer should utilize. However, maintaining positive WOM is extremely difficult, since the expectation is always getting higher and higher so there has to be continuous improvement on the products’ or services’ side.

Then radio was invented and soon after, the television. Advertising as one dominant type of marketing communication became too strong. Small companies suddenly had national brands because they started selling their products in a massive way all over the country or even the world. Brand image suddenly become THE MOST important thing in marketing. Companies would do anything to defend their brands, they lied, cheated, even said negative thing about their competitors. As I have said before, they’d do anything to make their brands look good.

Then there’s the era of consumer power, where suddenly the market became so saturated with advertising, that customers became confused and started to come to their senses. They just want products that work and fit within their budget.  Marketers started panicking and scream that Advertising is Dead, Sales is Dead, etc. Of course they’re dead, advertising and sales are mostly one way communication, it’s how companies are pushing their products to the customers. Customers eventually have to make their choice based on their limited budget. The competitions then reached its peak and escalated into a price war. Who wins the war? Customers for sure, a lot of big bulk retailers that sells high volume at small margins and a few niche players.

Within the last 3 years, the social media has stolen the spotlight. Companies are flocking to use the new media to reach millions of (potential) customers. Social media specialists suddenly are in high demand. Despite all the hype, these companies keep forgetting that social media is not another type of advertising they thought they knew and will never be one.  Most companies use social media (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) and blogs as a form of one-way communication. Although they have done a great job of making it looks interactive, they hardly read their customers’ comment, and deleted the negative comments as if there is nothing worth improving. They are creating a narcissistic “faux-brand-image” where they always look perfect and everybody’s always so happy.  Those companies do not realize that those unsatisfied customers will never go away, because they have been using their personal blogs or any other media (facebook, twitter, etc) to express their disappointment and frustration.

As for me, I am a traditional marketer who believes that everything is about innovation and continuous improvement of products and services. Advertising, updates, tweets, blogs and everything else is secondary. The best example that I can use probably is to compare Apple and RIM. Apple always come up with disruptive technologies that upset the competition, while RIM (who used to be very innovative) prefers to use its current proprietary Blackberry Messaging technology. iPad is definitely not the first tablet computer in the world, but in people’s mind, iPad is ultimate tablet computer because of its intuitive touch technology. On the other hand, despite how much money RIM had invested in product development, PlayBook will never be regarded as an innovative product, since people will always see it as just another iPad clone.

It really doesn’t matter how much budget  your company has allocated to hire the best social media specialists to exploit the potential of social media and other internet-based technology, I still believe in the power of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM) because in the end, everything will come down to this: IF YOUR CUSTOMERS WON’T RECOMMEND YOU TO THEIR FRIENDS, THAT MEANS YOUR PRODUCTS OR SERVICES STINK! (PW)

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False Information Overload

If you live in a metropolitan city like I do, you will notice that you are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of ads, either they are printed or in other media forms. Some are convincing and some are just useless piece of information. Some provides too much information, some enough and some are just too vague. Some are serious, some funny and some others are just trying to be funny. Some are memorable and some are just too easy to forget.

Nowadays, graphic designers and ad agencies have a lethal way to cut costs, i.e. to use images from stock photo sites.  Using images from various stock photo sites will eliminate (of course) the photographer’s fees. By paying so little (or none), graphic designers can have access to thousands of high quality images taken by professional photographers all over the world. There are a lot of sites that offers free stock photos, such as

StockXchngEverystockphotoImagebaseMorguefileOpenphoto,

StockvaultUnprofoundFreepictures

Yes, isn’t the internet a wonderful thing?

Those stock photos are being used by graphic and web designers to create numerous good looking imageries for ads and websites that sell. So, what’s wrong with that?

The Moral Hazard of Using Stock Photos

Using images from stock photo websites can be disadvantageous. From all the ads I see on a daily basis, probably about 30% is just plain ugly. When you see them, you know at that instant that the images used seem to be just ‘pasted’ onto the ad. Immediately, your spider-sense will tell you that they must be stock photos. You might be surprises that some of these ugly ads are from reputable organizations. I have a feeling that the graphic designer or ad agency was just too lazy to find images that fit the concept. The only right thing to do if they cannot find the right images, is simply to call the photographer to get specific images taken. Finding the right image on stock photo websites can be very time consuming, sometimes it feels like finding a needle in a haystack.

On the other hand, there are some companies that use the stock photos to mislead customers. For them, using stock photos gives them the chance to create an image that is far from the actual condition, much like botox or a photoshoped fashion magazine cover.

From an ethical stand point I can see potential problems, especially when the service offered by the companies requires specific skills or when it requires a certain scale or range of expertise.

For services that requires specific skills, such as medical services, we would expect the doctors which are depicted in the design to be ‘real’, not just some stock photo ‘mannequins’.  You will be surprised that a lot of images used for medical services are stock photos, which means the friendly and charismatic doctors, nurses or pharmacists you see on their websites or ads do not exist.

For services that requires certain scale or range of expertise, we would also expect the companies to have at least x numbers of in-house professionals. You will also feel ‘tricked’ because there are a lot of imageries that uses photos of professionals or a team of professionals that are taken from stock photo websites. In reality, you will be surprised that these companies only have a few employees, and probably most of the deliveries are done somewhere else (outsourced), even offshored.

In the internet era, where anybody can be whoever they want to be using false photos and fake information is becoming quite common. Tons of companies are doing just exactly the same thing. A small moms and pops company can provide pictures as if they have large facilities and lots of employees. A company can also say that they can offer 100 types of services, while in reality they can only offer a few. Yes, in this era of information, anybody can say anything, not only people, but companies and organizations. (At this moment, you should now ponder whether the lady you have been chatting with for the last 4 weeks might not be a lady after all).

Customers Beware

Who in the end will end this madness? You, the customers.

You have to use your own wise judgment to decide which company you are going to buy the service from. There are a couple of things you can do:

  1. Don’t believe that if they have a local phone number, then the company must be a local company, because with VOIP technology, they can use local phone numbers for international calls.
  2. Call them from time to time and ask the same set of questions. Consistency here is the key. If a company is really committed into providing service they claimed to perform, then they will be consistent. Don’t email them because they will prepare very convincing replies.
  3. Call them and ask to talk with a technician or an expert. If they told you to call back, then you should beware. If they put you on conference, you should also beware because the experts might be offshored somewhere.
  4. If possible, visit the company incidentally. This will give you most of the information you need, because you can see the buildings, the facilities, the equipments and the staffs.

As for ad agencies and graphic designers out there, use the images wisely. Before you decide to use the images, think about the effect that the ad or website would generate. Think of the hidden message it will convey to the customers from the imageries and the text content. If you have done all the above, then you have done the right thing. (PW)

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