The Awwwwww Factor

Keynote Speaker, BizConNH Oct 1, 2011

"As chair of the BizConNH Committee—and as an eager member of your audience—thank you for a dynamic, captivating presentation at BizConNH. Everyone I spoke to (and everyone who stopped me expressly to praise your keynote) was not only excited about your C2B message but very appreciative of the fact that you included local examples of businesses that we all respect and know. Your humor, your thoughtful responses to questions, your clear and delightful slides and your passion for your message were wonderful.

Thank you for speaking at BizConNH and for doing so much to connect with our audience. Best wishes, Sharon

Sharon Bailly
TWP Marketing & Technical Communications

Keynote Speaker, BizConNH Oct 1, 2011

"As chair of the BizConNH Committee—and as an eager member of your audience—thank you for a dynamic, captivating presentation at BizConNH. Everyone I spoke to (and everyone who stopped me expressly to praise your keynote) was not only excited about your C2B message but very appreciative of the fact that you included local examples of businesses that we all respect and know. Your humor, your thoughtful responses to questions, your clear and delightful slides and your passion for your message were wonderful.

Thank you for speaking at BizConNH and for doing so much to connect with our audience. Best wishes, Sharon

Sharon Bailly
TWP Marketing & Technical Communications

(c) 2011 Mark C. Robinson

SLIDES: Photos of Dogs in Wheelchairs, Fireworks, Food, Baseball

Awww (cart),  yum (food),  wow,  ooooh (fireworks),  yessss  (home run)

What are these sounds?

These are the sounds that your customers make when they are engaged with your business, and an engaged customer is a valuable asset and when your customers are engaged, they become a valuable resource for your business:

  • They will talk to their friends about you
  • They will pay more to buy something from you
  • They will give you advice – make suggestions - work for you

Your community of engaged customers will give you value because they like what you are doing.

SLIDE: B2B, B2C, C2B

Engaging your community of customers isn’t a new concept, small businesses engaging their customers has been the model for generations -– but it’s an idea that now needs to evolve. We need to learn to apply the traditional Community to Business Value chain, or C2B Value, to the new world of the internet and social networking.

How do we survive in a world where mass-marketers can out buy, out price, and outsell us? 

Well, when we engage our customers, we have something the mass merchandisers can’t have - community - people who care about our business and love what we do. We have used this to generate this “C2B Value.” We’re all familiar with b2b where value passes from business to business, and b2c. By taking a closer look at the Community to Business Value, we can see how to adapt it to a virtual world.

Who am I

I came into the Monadnock Region about 30 years ago.

I’ve always been into to electronics, computers, systems -- Sold burglar and fire alarms systems for Honeywell in Manchester - Merton Dyer, owner of the old Dyer Drugs in Peterborough was my first sale. Worked for Tom Judd at his computer accessories company, Curtis Manufacturing here in town then went into business for myself publishing computer magazines. Started Computer & Network Services, Computer Empowerment Seminars, then moved into renewable energy, and now, as well as running a web marketing consulting company, I’m the world’s largest manufacturer of, can you guess? Doggie Wheelchairs -  I wouldn’t have guessed.

SLIDE: HandicappedPets.com

Through my businesses, I've discovered something revolutionary about business.

Well, maybe not quite 'revolutionary.'

Actually, I kind of finally just listened to what everybody had been telling me for years.

"Provide a valuable product or service to your community and your community will support you."

So how does that work? And especially, how does that apply to this new world where a 'community' could consist of a town, a country, or a global network of people?

So let’s take a look at the relationship between Community and business.

Anyone recognize the name Sam Drucker?

He was the owner of the Hooterville USA general store in the 60's sitcom Green Acres and Petticoat Junction.

SLIDE: Sam Drucker

You'd go into Sam's store, hand him your shopping list. He'd fill your basket with what he had and order the rest from nearby Pixley.  Sam's store was a post office, a newspaper office, and a bank (he kept a cash box under the counter). You’d take your paycheck there to cash it and settle up your monthly grocery bill. Sam Drucker was fully engaged with his community and his customers. “You’re Welcome, Sam!”

SLIDE: Add “Thank you Balloon” to Sam

So what do you think would happen if Sam’s roof collapsed? Well, of course, a dozen guys would show up the next day to fix it. Wouldn’t be Hooterville without Sam Drucker’s store.

Another "Sam" came along and changed everything. Sam Walton created Walmart the self-service super discount store where people sacrifice all the trappings of service for low cost. You go into the store, search for what you need, and now, with the self-checkouts, don't even need to interact with anybody to do your shopping. Is it bad manners not to say “You’re Welcome” when a machine says “Thank you.”

SLIDE: Self Scan with “Thank you” Balloon

If Wal-Mart’s roof collapsed? FREE STUFF!

So who are the Modern Day Sam Druckers? The businesses that are so much a part of a community that they, in a way, define the community. They are the businesses that participate.

Slide: Roys

Roy’s Market comes to mind.

Roy’s has been in Peterborough since 1938.

Peter Robinson supports a number of important local programs like the Cornucopia Project that teaches children about farming and food. Because he’s a part of the community, he can be instantly responsive. He can “Buy Local” when the community wants him to, provide whatever level of service his customers need, and respond to and of the needs of the community. This is important, and the community appreciates this. Roy’s has an engaged customer base in this community that appreciates him and wants shop at Roy’s.

Slide: Ice Storm Lines at Roys

Remember the ice storm? There was only one store open. Roys. And it was open in spite of the state trying to keep it closed because their refrigerators had no power. Peter’s employees would lead customers through the store with flashlights to get the supplies they needed. Cash Registers weren’t working either so everyone got a charge account.

I asked Peter why, in his opinion, the A & P went out of business while his stores survive. He said:

“The A & P Company knows Marketing – They’re excellent at it. But we know community, and that’s what works in this town.”

Peter doesn’t participate in the community for the specific purpose of increasing sales, he does it because he’s a part of the community.

SLIDE: Peters Quote

But Peter also said something else during our discussion. He talked about the younger generation who aren’t accustomed to service and may not yet see the value of a community store. Their ‘community’ isn’t necessarily based in the geographical region where they live.

So how does Roy’s keep its community engaged when the younger generation sees community in an entirely different way.

SLIDE: Ledger Mission

The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

On the other hand, includes “community” right in their mission statement.  They stay deeply involved in the community in every way with participation in the River Center, Chamber of Commerce and much more. They sponsor local non-profit events and are, functionally, an integral part of the community… as a local newspaper should be.

Now, though, they face the challenge that every newspaper is facing… how can a semi-weekly publication stay relevant in a world in which people go online for their news and expect content continuously updated? How do they keep their customers engaged?

Slide: Sequoya Seeds program

Sequoya Technologies

is a computer support company that has developed an effective, scalable, and productive way to participate in the community. Their “Sequoya Seeds” program allows their customers to designate a charity that will receive a donation of consulting time from Sequoya.

This works well on so many levels.

Customers get to support their favorite local charities at no additional cost to them.

Sequoya gets the opportunity to work with new local charitable organizations. And yes, some of them may, in the future, become customers.

Local non-profits get the benefits of high-end technology support. They grow because of it.

And charities that don’t need technical support can sell or raffle off their time and turn the donation into cash if they like. The winner of the raffle now gets to learn about Sequoya.

From a value standpoint, one of the things I love about this program is that everybody wins, and it is scalable. It works well in the Monadnock Region, but would work just as well at a state, or even a national level if the company grows. And, it works on-line.

C2B has been working  for generations

In the past, the methods used by the newspaper and the food market were ideal to keep a community engaged. Contributing to local causes, showing up at community events, and providing high levels of service was all they needed to do.

Now, concepts like “Community” and “Engaged” are changing, as are expectations for levels of service.

SLIDE: Our Town

Previously, “Community” was a well-defined concept. We knew who our community was, what they wanted, and how to talk to them.

SLIDE: Social Networks collage

Now, a community of people can be a local, regional, or even global collection of any number of people or groups with a single common thread.  

With 2 Billion internet users worldwide, that means that there is a community for virtually every niche of humanity. Whatever you’re into, there’s a community for it.

SLIDE: Ice Chewing Discussion Forum

So now, as we try to update our business models to stay relevant, we need let go of geographical boundaries to ask again

“Who is our Community?”

“What do they want?”

“How do we get them ENGAGED?”

Let me tell you how HandicappedPets.com does it.

It started almost by accident. I created a small website and discussion board where people started talking about their elderly, disabled, and injured pets.

SLIDE: Forum

“How do you cut a tail hole in Pampers without the stuffing coming out?”

“What’s it like living with a dog with epilepsy?”

“How do you lift an 80 lb. dog into a car?”

To get it started I spent a great deal of time on the web contacting other pet-related groups to tell them about it. I looked for the most active animal-related groups and contacted the people who seemed most passionate. I was searching for my community.

I found groups of pet lovers who LOVED what I was doing. They thought it was great that someone was helping care for disabled animals, and they did what they could to help spread the word. They got engaged because they liked what I was doing.

They went to the message board and answered questions for people, kept it clean and free from spam… a big job. They actually formed a committee of volunteers who create and enforce policy on the board. They told everybody they could and people started coming to the message board by the hundreds… then the thousands. The community I supported gave me value, C2B value, because they supported my mission and wanted to help.

And, my community formed in a way that I was able to listen to them.

I watched their posts, listened to what they wanted and needed, and changed my products and direction based on what they were talking about. They told me what products to carry, where to find them, and eventually, how to improve them.

There were a few companies, at the time, that custom made dog wheelchairs for people. You would send in 13 precise measurements, a non-refundable deposit, and two weeks later get a device that, hopefully, fit your dog. I would sell these, on commission for the companies, then listen to people complain.

Slide: K9 Cart

It doesn’t fit right and I can’t adjust it

I don’t want to wait two weeks

It looks like a torture device

It won’t fit in the trunk of my car

It’s designed for my dog – I can’t re-sell it unless I find a dog exactly like mine.

SLIDE: Walkin’ Wheels

Well, I hired some brilliant engineers, solved these problems and patented the only fully adjustable dog wheelchair that folds flat, looks great, and ships same day.

I gave them exactly what they were asking for.

Now, with the help of my customers, and some outstanding members of the staff, we have almost 80,000 messages on the message board, over 40,000 friends on Facebook, and a global community of people who love what the company does.

SLIDE: Facebook Page

They are engaged with my business.

When we post a story I want publicized they share it with all their friends. When we need to get information or research, they’re ready to help. And of course, when they or anyone they know needs pet supplies, they come to HandicappedPets.com

So what makes a community?

Your community is any number of people with some common thread that are, at some level, engaged in your business… and not necessarily limited to your customers.

My “community” includes people who don’t even have pets, but love to see heartwarming videos of happy, healthy, handicapped pets. They don’t buy anything from me, but they like what we do. They talk about me… and that’s valuable.

And here’s a key point. A part of my community is engaged, but not customers. This is a potential area of growth for me. All I need to do is find out what they want, and provide it.

How might that work with other businesses?

Let’s take the example of a small town grocery store. Who’s your community? Yes, it begins with your customers… but expands based on the community service you do, to people who follow the Cornucopia project, to people in Haiti who were helped by the Merchant’s Alliance, and to people who care about Peterborough.

SLIDE: Circles of Community Inner=Customers, Outer Ring=people who like

You can’t bring the current generation Wal-Mart shoppers into your community by offering them a lower price, and they’re not going to be attracted by the promise of better service. You can, though, get them engaged with what you’re doing for their kids in school, or the causes they support.

The traditional community of the newspaper was the community of readers. Now, that’s not enough. A news organization needs to expand its community to “People who want to know what’s going on.”

How do you identify these people? How do you reach them? What do they want?

SLIDE: Circles of Community Inner=Readers, Outer Ring=people who read online

The Ledger-Transcript is doing a number of things to get their new customer base engaged including using facebook, headline alerts, and a “Daily Deal” that encourages people to share with their friends.

Starting on October 4th, Franklin Pierce University and the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript are hosting the Monadnock Forum at Franklin Pierce University – discussions with the Republican presidential primary candidates. The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript has assembled a team of students and journalists to cover the forum, real-time, on an interactive social network platform. That means that anyone can, from the web, participate in discussions, read commentaries, and be a part of this event through the Ledger-Transcript.

SLIDE: Circles of Community Inner=Readers, Outer Ring=people who read online, Outer Ring=people participating in the forum

This is a perfect example of expanding a community! They’re reaching a whole new group of people.

The third example, the computer support company, has unlimited potential to their model.

I’m a business who designates a cause. I now want to follow that cause – see what they’re doing. I want to tell my customers and get them excited too.  I want to see what other businesses are doing with their designation. With this program, Sequoya has the capability to extend their community not only beyond their current businesses, but also to their customer’s customers, their charities, to charities that would like to participate, to everyone that is involved with all of those charities, and to companies that want to bid on a charity’s excess credits.

SLIDE: Circles of Community Inner=Customers, Outer Rings=customers of customers, Charities…etc

With the current day model, small businesses provide an extremely high level of service to their customers… like carrying their groceries to their car, and a less-direct community service. With an updated model, businesses provide this and a small amount of service (such as engaging photos and news) to a much wider community, often of non-customers.

Turning service into value

Value seeks its own level.

Using this concept, we can encourage our community to give us C2B Value by giving them more than they expect.

Value involves a transaction. A typical transaction is money in exchange for product and service. Often, transactions are not perfectly balanced.

Here's a balanced transaction:

SLIDE: Fast Food – Arm sticking out of a drive through window with a bag of food.

You pull into a drive thru restaurant. You hold $5 out your window. A hand takes your money, replaces it with a bag of food. You zoom off. You got exactly what you expected, nothing more, nothing less. You may not even know whether it was a real person, or a disembodied hand that you transacted with. As expected, the food is tasteless but satisfying. Transaction is complete.

Now let's unbalance it a bit:

You start driving down the road, shove a bit of food into your mouth, and your taste buds suddenly explode with delight. This is the best food you've ever had! So what do you do? You tell your friends... Go get them and bring them there. You received more value than you expected and you try to equalize it by, in effect, working for the restaurant. Value flows from the Consumer to the Business. That's C2B Value.

SLIDE: Ton of People in a Car

Unfortunately, that example is not sustainable. For food to taste so far beyond expectation, the restaurant either had to spend more than their competitors on the food -- meaning that they're no longer profitable, or they have discover a new cooking technology which will eventually be duplicated by their competitors. Remember Krispy Kreme? That was new doughnut technology - they were a short lived success.

Providing greater than expected value at the expense of a healthy profit margin is not, typically, good business.

Now imagine that you pull up to the drive thru and see a big poster showing that they play a critical role in the support of the healthy school lunch program in the school your child goes to.  You appreciate that and may, possibly, mention to a friend that this is happening.

Clearly, a smaller thing like this is not going to have you go out, grab your friends, and bring them to the local Burger King. You’re not going to do a lot for them, but maybe you’ll “lift a finger.”

SLIDE: Click a mouse

And here’s the secret – through the power of social networking – all you need them to do for you is “lift a finger”

Let’s go back to our examples and use Facebook as the social network vehicle.

Slide: Roy’s Community Circles, expanded, with Most C2B Value -> Least on the outside circles

The Grocery store gets actively involved in social networking. By following them, you see stories about local children learning from local farmers, perhaps announcements like on a certain day children will be selling food that they helped grow, organic farm tours, 5% of all sales today are donated to a project. You “Like” that. Click on the “Like” button and these announcements will be shared among your followers, who will gladly “lift their finger” to share it amongst their friends. Suddenly, the grocery store is not just the center of town, it’s the center of a movement. Customers are engaged.

Slide: Transcript’s Community Circles, expanded, with Most C2B Value -> Least on the outside circles

The newspaper. The model, as is, is just about perfect. The challenge is to get the word out. Ideally, you want everyone who would be interested in this to find out about it, and tell their friends. This is social networking. Imagine the reach if the paper gets a lively, interesting dialog going on a social networking site where people share the political discussion with their friends. This is how a local newspaper can use a social networking site to get their wider community to ‘lift a finger’ for them, grow, and stay relevant.

Slide: Sequoya’s Community Circles, expanded, with Most C2B Value -> Least on the outside circles

The computer company, again, has a great model. How can they further engage their participants? How about a vehicle where businesspeople can see the impact of their donations – stories from the supported charities that are posted on facebook; read, loved, and shared. It becomes exciting. It spreads. It goes Viral.

SLIDE: HandicappedPets Foundation

The Handicapped Pets Foundation is my 501c3 non-profit that helps people who can’t afford wheelchairs for their dog. If you’re a member of my community, you’ll see a story we posted where someone talks about their dog and asks for help.

Example – Service Dog

If you donate just a dollar or two, and share the story with your friends, you’ll be able to watch this dog get a wheelchair, start walking, and get his life back again.

Awwwww.

When you see this story, and make that sound, you’re going to want to share it with your friends.

What do you do with your extended, engaged community?

In the case of the newspaper, and the consulting company, simply having a larger engaged community can be enough. Your customer base will grow as more people learn about you. The grocery store, though, may find another challenge. Their larger community may not want to come into the store. In this case, the business needs to ask:

Who is my Engaged Community?

What do they Want? and provide a valuable product or service to that community.

The Mechanics

Running a social networking page is feasible for any business.

But in order to be successful, the person running it needs to understand the landscape. There are a number of social networks, facebook is the most prominent, but Google Plus is an up-and-coming one. There are important do’s and don’ts on social networks. Post stories too often or make salesy posts and people ignore you. Don’t post often enough and they forget you.

The best way to get involved with a social network as a business, though, is to first get involved as a consumer.

If you want to engage your customers with facebook, then first become somebody else’s engaged customer. Find a cause you love on Facebook and start following it every day. Get hooked so you can understand what it means to become engaged on a social networking site.

Most highly successful social networking enterprises are done by, or supported by professionals – you may not want to do it by yourself – but even if you’ve hired a company to do this for you, YOU need to set the tone for your business and monitor the people you’ve hired. The only way to do this is to get engaged.

Summary

In the past, our businesses were supported by our customers. They came into our stores and spent money – in many cases because of our role in the community.

Now, to stay relevant, we need to expand our reach, broaden our community to people we can reach through the new social media. We need to engage them at an emotional level with who we are and what we do for this new community.

Who is your extended community?

How can we get them to “Lift a Finger” to help us?

And what do they want?

Then, with my not-so-revolutionary discovery:

Provide a valuable product or service to your community and they will support you.