It’s About “How” Not “What”

Today information can be found pretty much anywhere and more often than not it’s free.  Increasingly consumers are less concerned with what information they’re given and more about how it’s presented to them.  Wolframalpha is a perfect example of site that has revolutionized the way content gets displayed within a search engine.  It doesn’t just tell you where to find your answers – it gives you your answers.  In fact, in many cases it gives you more than you asked for (see image below).

As we consider new products and new ways to reach potential customers it’s important to consider how people want products delievered to them.  Sometimes a new product may be right in front of us in existing products, just asking to be shown in a different light.


Brands that Engage

To date, the majority of brands that have experienced success online have done so by engaging customers through campaigns designed to involve online communities in the brands’ development. One-time give-a-ways and discount offers to followers will attract one-time visits, but brands that truly engage will be top of mind to customers for a much more significant and meaningful period of time. Involving them in the development of the brand, for example, gives customers a rooting interest in an outcome that they’ll follow with interest. Further, when companies accept input and feedback (and actually act on some of it) it makes customers feel like they’re more than just the end purchasers of the product.

Papa John’s recently launched a social media campaign called “Papa’s Specialty Pizza Challenge”. Customers have been given the challenge of creating a new specialty pizza for Papa John’s menu. The top three pizzas will be featured on the pizza chain’s menu through the month of August, with the winner being the pie that earns the highest sales figures.

The contest winner will receive 1% of sales (up to $10,000) for the one year period the pizza will be offered after the contest and free Papa John’s pizza for life. The winner will also appear in a Papa John’s television commercial.

A little like American Idol for pizza lovers, the new Papa John’s campaign is a great example of efforts made to engage customers online. Dominos recently used the online space to obtain feedback on it’s pizza and built a new receipe based on the customer input. Papa John’s; however, is going one step further, linking efforts to incentives that will undoubtedly create a buzz around the campaign. In my opinion, the contest offers more than just financial incentive, but the opportunity for loyal Papa John’s customers to become a part of the ‘Papa John’s family’.

How Twitter Can Be an Effective Research Tool

Beyond its usefulness as a means for improving customer service, a tool like Twitter can be used to gather valuable information and in turn assess the needs of your target customers. It is important to remember that most people don’t know what they want, so asking them directly is more or less a waste of time and resources.

Instead, we must learn to ask the difficult questions that uncover the insights that will help improve the products and services that we offer. What a person likes is far less valuable than understanding what people dislike. As long as a company is willing to do something about it, negative feedback or conversation about a product will undoubtedly provide the most significant long term return.

Twitter provides a unique space for like minded individuals to connect, share information and communicate their opinions. It’s in spaces like these that we must learn to analyze conversation and determine the right questions to ask when conducting traditional market research. Conversation sparks opportunity for real opinion and the valuable insights that come with recognizing customer needs beyond those that are most obvious.

Customers can only tell you what they want based on what they recognize as possible, but its the job of a marketer to define that realm of possibility. It’s our job as marketers to get beyond the answers we already know and recognize that there are increasingly effective channels for doing so online.