Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Customer Retention Communities

Social networks offer a great way to reach out in an attempt to acquire new customers. Meaningful social networks also offer an avenue to create bonds with customers that lead to retention. Peppers and Rogers recently published a good white paper on the subject (download here). I was initially struck by this chart which gives an excellent set of reasons about why social initiatives fail. Their reasons are worth serious consideration.When I reread the report, I realized they had several good examples of using social media to deepen customer relationships. They mentioned Fiskars and the scrapbooking community they had set up around a group of paid brand advocates. I have reservations about paying for social community participation, so I decided to check it out. I found a number of approaches worth thinking about.

First, their home page. This manufacturer of high quality hand tools clearly understands its market segments. They have a site for each segment, and once you’re there, you’re there. It’s actually a bit hard to get out of one and into another, but that’s a marketer’s perspective, not a customer’s. On the scrapbooking site I checked out the link for the Fiskateers and found that they are actively and pointedly recruiting customers to act as advocates. Ok, they are transparent about it, and, according to Peppers and Rogers, their visibility has gone way up, so it appears to be working. Transparency rules!

But I’m a gardener, and that’s the part of the site that interested me. What I found is a site built around Project Orange Thumb; I don’t understand why the thumb is orange but it’s an impressive grant program that supports community gardeners. What is even more impressive is the interconnected community they’ve built up around the project. There are events and a whole series of community blogs. There are “friends,” all of whom are master gardeners and likely paid for their willingness to connect their own sites to and in some cases to provide content for Fiskars. The community gardeners are passionate enthusiasts that Fiskars has gathered around their brand with a grant program that is not only clever marketing, it’s an example of a corporation doing good in the community. Explore for yourself, keeping in mind the word “interconnected.”

Oh, by the way, there’s a product page on each site. When you get there, it’s hardly an afterthought. There are detailed product descriptions, and I think I may need a couple of items for my summer garden. What I’m most impressed with, however, is the way the site puts the emphasis on the community activities. There are no blatant sales pitches.

I should probably point out that Fiskars is known as a superior brand—tools that last a lifetime. Could they do this with a brand of mediocre to poor quality? I very much doubt it.

That in no way detracts from the fact that Fiskars has a social media strategy—Peppers and Rogers’ first issue. It’s a strategy built on understanding of the interests and passions of distinct market segments. Their social media strategy supports those interests and activities; it doesn’t push product.

Fiskars has a traditional marketing strategy in traditional media. They sponsor gardening shows on TV, they advertise in gardening magazines and they have an effective distribution strategy that reaches specialty retailers. And they clearly get it in terms of the difference between traditional and social marketing.

That’s a growing proposition!

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