Monday, February 26, 2007

The shift in focus from non-customers to customers

I sloped off skiing for the past week, so light posting, but am back refreshed and ready to roll. I currently have a "relationship" bit between my teeth, and am finding my thoughts dominated by one seemingly simple sounding proposition: that non-customers are getting less important than current customers. As people insulate themselves from marketing messages and are influenced more by what their friends say than what expensively produced marketing materials say, the trick for companies to shift their wares is to convert current customers into their evangelists. All very Cluetrain 101. However, what strikes me odd as how badly companies manage their current customers, preferring instead to focus on non customers. This pic and post in Creating Passionate Users sums things up better than I ever could:

Don't stop paying attention. Don't stop being kind. Don't gain 50 pounds. Don't stop flirting. Stay passionate, stay sexy, stay caring. Answer their calls. Unfortunately, too many companies are all candle-lit dinners, fine wine, and "let's talk about you" until the deal is sealed. Once they have you (i.e. you became a paying customer), you realize you got a bait-and-switch relationship.

Put that together with Doc Searls' latest thoughts on relationships, and I'm led inevitably towards my thesis - advertising for new customers is not as effective (depending on product, geography yadayada) as it was, but the simple key proposition to is to manage and delight the current customers. However, the current tools that we've got for companies to manage them are pretty minimal. In particular those tools that allow customers to interact with brands using their mobile. This is an area that I'm thinking about quite a lot, so would be interested to hear about solutions already out there aimed at improving the lot of the embattled current customer.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Yawn. Vodafone partners with MySpace.

Perhaps I'm a bit cynical but is this deal the best that we in the mobile space can do?

Vodafone starts MySpace service: Vodafone customers will now be able to access and update their MySpace websites from their mobile phone. Social networking website MySpace said the tie-up with the UK's largest mobile phone company was its first extension into Europe's mobile sector

Have PC Internet services won the social networking battle. Are we going to be confined to just bringing existing web services, with all existing players and control points, to a smaller screen? I've no idea how the client will look or what extra functionality it will have (it will apparently be preinstalled in future), but I do hope it's a bit more than dumbing down existing content.

To my mind, MySpace is what happens when you take a contacts book and add web innovation on top. We already have a contacts book in the device that people love, so how about some mobile-optimized innovation on top of that? What integration will there be with your existing contacts book, which presumably already contains most people that you actually care about, rather than these other world friends, who exist in some netherworld between real and imgainary.

DRM-free content, data-loving subscribers: the beginning of the end of the mobile darkness?

For those of us looking forward to a grown up internet experience on mobiles, two pieces of news struck me as significant. First, the big increase in the likelihood of a new approach to digital music. Steve Jobs thumbs his nose at DRM. No surprise that he thinks that, but breaking rank so publicly with a long-held industry consensus is ballsy. We must remember that nowadays, when Apple sneezes, other industries catch terminal pneumonia. I imagine there's been conversations for some time about when the final shove will be needed to push the broken business model over the cliff - to claim credit for being a successful customer-centric champion, but not to unnecessarily antagonize your key business partners when they're still delivering your cash cows. (Any other industries we can think of that this might be true?). Warner's deal with LastFM is another signal that change in attitude of the music rights holders themselves is underway.

The second is this remarkable stat from Helio - $100 ARPU. Actually, just getting 25% of that from data does actually seem low, given that it's a data-centric story. So, with the possibility of unlimited amount of sharable music sloshing around, together with some very real interest in mobile data, perhaps the message is getting through that you need to let go to have any chance of holding on?