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  • How blogs and communities helped me choose between Firefox; LA Sovereign; Hercules and Hero bicyles and what this means for marketers!

    How blogs and communities helped me choose between Firefox; LA Sovereign; Hercules and Hero bicyles and what this means for marketers!

    LA - Sovereign.jpg

    I have been eager to write this post, but wanted to complete the loop before I actually wrote it down. Day-before, I finally picked up a LA Sovereign bicycle as part of my new exercise regimen to replace yoga, thanks to the neck injury that I caused myself at class.
    I think I am a fussy buyer – the entire purchase experience, and not just the product, matters to me. In this case, I was going back to something that I grew up doing with a lot of intensity and passion and was fairly involved in the process of this purchase. Whether I made the right decision remains to be seen, but it allowed me to witness some of our own theories play out quite nicely:
    Layers of Influence.
    I had put together this simple model, capturing the core of conversational marketing, as we see it. With some changes from case-to-case, I think it holds true.

    blogworks.jpg

    We believe, that over and above the layer of traditional channels, is a complete new layer of social media that is playing a very crucial role in the decision making process.
    There was a time when we saved that newspaper clippings/ ads/ flyers of anything that we found of interest or were hoping to buy. What is happening today?
    The Internet is now my ‘clipping’. It is my central repository where I go to look for information, when I need it. The three important players on the new layer:

    1. The peer – the increasing clutter; uncertainty about transparency/ unbiased reportage, among a large section of the traditional media, has meant that the original circle of trust- friends, family and peer opinion has an enhanced value.
    2. The expert – the ‘traditional’ experts are increasingly publishing content online; new experts are emerging, thanks to the enabling micro-publishing environment of the the Internet/ Web 2.0 today.
    3. The marketer – needs to engage stakeholders through transparent conversations, for, ‘brochure speak’ of the traditional media doesn’t work anymore.

    I came back having tested the Hercules Ryder and a couple of Firefox bikes. My heart was set on buying a Firefox Fusion – it served my purpose quite beautifully – 40 mins to 1 hour ride, mornings, on fairly smooth roads. It also fell within my budget.
    A quick search on Google, landed me on Shree’s blog post – cautioning me ‘Buy Firefox at your own risk!’
    What I witnessed was quite remarkable – there was a whole conversation happening on this single post. There were some 85 comments already:
    There were peers, of course,; there were alsoexperts – offering advice, managing communities and events/ initiatives. And lo, what do I see!! The marketer too has joined the conversations – taking feedback, sharing thoughts; not defending his product but offering solutions.
    I left a comment, asking if my choice was a good one. The Firefox team was prompt in jumping in, leaving a comment and then someone from their team wrote me an email requesting me to get in touch with him on his hand phone, which I did. They were transparent, stood their ground (no discounts). The only gap, a significant one, one could say – they were not good at closing a deal. I bought a competitor’s product when I was absolutely sold on Firefox! Confidence? Over-confidence? Flawed Customer Service Focus? Who is to say…but a sale lost. Lesson in this for all of us, including me! More on this later.
    Who is scared of negative comments?
    Simple answer: all of us!
    We shudder at the thought of “what if there are negative comments?” and yet, they happen to all of us. I learnt a lesson rather early into my blogs journey and made it a case-study on the 3rd day (after spending the initial 2 days in absolute shock and mourning). Many learnings came my way from this episode.
    Many, if not most, brands are scared to embrace blogs & social media for fears of “What if?” No amount of convincing might be able to showcase to them what this one bike post does. In real life, different people have different experiences, good is peppered with bad, and that negative makes it REAL.
    A significant number of comments in the Firefox post are negative, and YET, I was convinced about the quality of the bikes and nearly bought one. The posts allowed me to make ‘an educated decision’. That’s what the customer is looking for on the net. The attitude of the marketer in this situation would be critical:

    1. Is the marketer unnecessarily defensive?
    2. Or, is the marketer open to feedback and suggestions? Is the marketer listening? Participating?

    Still sitting on the fence, Mr. Marketer?
    Having tasted success from this episode, should Firefox (and others in the category) not be embracing social media more pro-actively?

    1. Setting up their own blogs, spaces where customers could engage with them directly? Firefox does have a club.
    2. Should they not be involving the customer in the very process of crafting & testing the bikes?
    3. Creating evangelist programmes and more?

    Still scared to test the waters? Go, take the plunge, but do show it the reverence it deserves. Do invest into rigour and discipline – think it through, for there are no ‘One Size Fits All’ solutions.
    In the end, however, it’s Customer Focus that matters most.
    Proactive interactions on blogs, email but missing on closure – the difference between ‘nearly sold’ to ‘actually sold’.
    The reasons I finally went with LA:

    1. ‘ Perceived’ value for money: Perceived still, and I will soon discover if it is ‘real’.
    2. Last mile: I called their office in Punjab for numbers of local dealers, which they promptly messaged back on my hand-phone. I ended up speaking with Gaurav of Supreme Cycle Co. – he had a rap number set as his caller tune; I landed at the store to find an intelligent looking young man, dressed in grunge; stud in one ear, blue tooth headset in the other ( I advised him to remove it when dealing with customers), laptop open on his desk – I could see he was using it to manage his stocks, as also listen to music; passionate about bikes, he was treating his customers with warmth. He knew his product and took me through the entire line-up, without showing any signs of impatience. Negotiated well but also made me feel like I got a deal. I was sold. He made a sale.

    Happy biking the social media roads!
    On another note, do check out xbhp!

    Disclaimer: Views of authors are personal and do not represent the views of Blogworks, or any of its clients.

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