Wednesday, February 18, 2009

We're putting our money where our mouth is.


A short, but telling post.  At every branding conference during the last 10 years, Starbucks has been used as an example of die-hard brand loyalty.  The hypothetical question asked was:  "If the economy ever turned upside down, what item would you least give up?"  "A cup of Starbucks" was always the answer.  People felt that at $2.50 or so a cup, it would still give us a taste of luxury in tough times.

Well, guess what.  Starbucks has closed and will close hundreds of stores, its stock has been grinded down, and the famed "experience" is now realized while grocery shopping or pulling up in the "Drive Thru."  

The lesson?  Real fans put their money where their mouths are.  The rest of us are quick to find less costly alternatives that still satisfy the basic needs.  Now that's something to think about.

Monday, February 9, 2009

SOCIAL NETWORKING MAKES IT POSSIBLE TO QUANTIFY YOUR HOSPITAL BRAND'S FAN BASE!

In 1993, Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles wrote another book in their series of short reads covering the "One Minute Manager" to organizing for greater corporate efficiency. One of their best selling titles, "Raving Fans, Revolution in Customer Service" caught the interest of many of us in the service sector.


In the classic marketing behavior model, our job as brand-builders is to move customers from awareness of our product/service to loyal users. Along the way, we create preference, likeliness to use, and advocacy. And then we all talked about moving loyal users to fans...customers who would throw themselves on a sword for our services and recommend us to all their friends and neighbors.

Back then, it was all talk because it was difficult to quantify a "fan base." It sounded right in theory.

Hello 2009 and social networking sites like Facebook. Now, it's possible to count your fans and gauge your effectiveness in truly creating a fan base for your organization. Pretty scary - and exciting - isn't it!

At the time of this posting, Mayo Clinic has 4,725 fans on its Facebook page. Interesting posts from patients, family members, and physicians. Its Facebook site includes information on the Clinic, links to various web sites, videos, and more - but most important it has "The Wall." Yes, that empty page where you can write your thoughts, wishes, and other posts. This, brand-builders - is where the proverbial "rubber really hits the road." This, brand-builders, is where your consumers opt-in and voluntarily write their thoughts and opinions on your wall and describe their EXPERIENCE! It's not just about expectations and effect anymore, it's about their experience - the last leg in brand performance that is often overlooked in favor of creating the expectation with television ads or a snazzy web site.

Now, that's a raving fan!

St. Jude's Hospital has over 25,000 fans and it appears that there are many hospitals on Facebook that have created their own pages. By comparison, Target stores has 173,000 fans, Starbucks has 987,000 fans, and Nike has over 1.1 million registered fans, to name just a few in the "power brands" category.

Pretty soon, we'll not only talk about "creating a fan base," we'll quantify it in marketing plans. Not only will this section include raising awareness 8 points, preference 10 points, and contributing to a sales increase of 15%, but it will also include new goals such as "create 10,000 fans by Spring, 2009."

I'm fascinated by this new metric and encourage hospitals to 1) get up to speed on social networking, 2) get your "fingers dirty" by playing around on Facebook and/or other social networking sites to see what "a wall" actually looks like, 3) creating a page, and 4) tracking your fan base.

You'll also receive excellent insight on what people are saying about you without expensive surveys - and you'll enhance your search engine optimization. Lots of good reasons to get exclusively out of the awareness and preference modes and past the loyal users and advocates modes.

It's time to get to the "Fans" level of thinking which might cause you to re-think your approach to your brand.