Column as it appears in Sept. 28, 2009 AdWeek
I spend my days analyzing what customers are doing online and talking with CMOs and their teams. I’ve often wondered what the 1.67 billion folks online would say if they could share their thoughts in our meetings. Here is what I imagine they would say:
Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. CMO:
We don’t know who you are since most of you are not online, but we hear you’re very important to us. We don’t recall many of you asking for our ideas, but we thought we would provide them anyway. Here’s our top 10 list.
1. You are welcome to join us. No offense, but we don’t need companies anymore, at least like we used to. We’re part of a “liquid network” and we’re loyal to great content, which we can easily get online. We’re sure we go to a lot of places that don’t show up on your media buying plan, but that’s OK. Which gets to our next point.
2. E-mail and trees: please start saving more of both. We don’t really respond that much to catalogs anymore and we’re tired of promotional e-mails that speak at us. We love when companies speak directly with us, like HP (hp.com/hpinfo/blogs/index.html) or Intuit. Even better when you ask for our ideas, like Starbucks (mystarbucksidea.force.com). It’s easy to get to know you when we’re having a conversation and then we can decide when to buy. How’s that for a concept?
3. There are 365 days in a year. For many of your companies, we only buy something from you once or twice a year, but we like your brand. Would you mind finding ways to be relevant to us all year round without trying to sell us? We really do think about travel and technology all of the time, but not in the ways you may think. Become part of our world.
4. Video rocks. We like to learn much more via video than copy. It’s one of the reasons why YouTube is now the second-largest search engine. It would be great if you realized this is a more important channel. Just check out the facts, we’re there.
5. Personalize search. Why do we always have to go to a destination site to begin a search? It’s so annoying. Can’t we integrate Google or Bing into our favorite community? What’s keeping us from getting there?
6. Ratings and reviews. So glad you started doing this, but now we have a blizzard of them. When there are tens of thousands to choose from, we have to admit we start tuning out. Can we please evolve this area so we can see what our peers think? Remember, we seek out peer advice three out of four times before a purchase, so we’ll bet the conversion numbers will work.
7. Technical support. We’re told CMOs “don’t do technical support.” We just want to let you know that you should. It’s so easy to improve our experience with your brand. For example, do you know that more than 90 percent of us will never call you this year? Yet, we may have issues. We figure it out on our own or via our technical support team-our peers. It would be great if you focused on the larger population, rather than wait until we call you out of desperation.
8. Languages. We’re not all the same, which we know you know intellectually. But why aren’t you having conversations with us in at least the 10 languages that reach 90 percent of us? You see, we only make decisions of importance in our native language, probably just like you.
9. Our phones. We love our phones and we’re getting more used to them as our primary device, along with our laptops. Any reason why most of you don’t offer SMS alerts or make it clear which mobile apps are best for us? With a few billion phones in the world and 3G taking off, we hope this moves up the priority list.
10. Your role. We don’t know each other, but we hear you’re the leader of our experience, so to speak. All we ask is that when you’re running important meetings inside your company and doing lots of PowerPoints, which we hear is critical to success, don’t forget we’re outside of your building. The world is a better place with your full attention. Until then, remember we’ll be here when you can make it out.
The 1.67 billion customers of the online world
Bob Pearson is chief technology and media officer of the WeissComm Group, and chief evangelist of the Social Media Business Council. He can be reached at email@example.com.