@Jonin60Seconds says “Your World Has Changed”

My good pal, Jon M Bishop recently presented at Digital Surrey last Thursday, on how mobile is changing our world. He delivered an engaging talk and described a number of excellent examples on how mobile phones are enabling mobile transactions in Africa. Here are some key statistics from Jon’s talk:

  • There are around 6 million Internet users in South Africa. Only 750k are on fixed line broadband
  • South Africa’s MXit also created the most engaged social network in the world and it all on mobile, despite only being launched in 2003!
  • The M-Pesa service allows South Africans to make mobile payments for items such music tickets, food and taxi payments
  • Safaricom is now the biggest bank in East Africa, despite being a communications company.
  • Google estimates that $3.3 billion in mobile ads will be spent this year, $1 billion will be with Google alone

Jon, then went to discuss a real life case study of his friend Shame, who has shunned the Apple iPhone platform in favour of Blackberry devices. In particular, Share enjoys the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service with his friends to stay in contact and be informed. Jon also noted that the BBM service was also a key technology that helped to keep ah hoc gangs of youth to stay connected during the London riots.

Learn more about Jon’s talk by reading his slide deck above.

Are you embracing your brand super fans?


Flickr Credit: Chrissy White

Are your customers satisfied, do they even care if your brand existed any more? With the infinite variety of goods and services, it is becoming harder to retain new and existing customers. One method of retention is through customer advocacy.

Harvard Business Review recently stated that customer advocacy strongly differs from satisfaction, or even loyalty. Advocacy can help a business to connect with its audience and build a relationship on trust. In turn, it can provide long term competitive advantage. So, how do you recognise your brand advocates? I find the term advocate rather boring. Therefore, I’m going to refer to advocates as super fans. Because, that is really what they are.

It is fairly straightforward to recognise your brand super fans, they are the ones that: 

Support the brand. Super fans will stand by the brand even in times of difficulty, they aren’t afraid to react to criticism or correct factually incorrect statements about the brand, and will purchase brand products as gifts for friends and family.

Actively promotes the brand. Super fans share their experiences via various social media, openly praise company employees both internally and externally, and provide unsolicited feedback on service and quality. In some cases, they consider themselves “brand protectors.”

Are emotionally attached to the brand. They have a sense of ownership in the brand. They will forgive shortcomings (such as price) when buying products, and treat the brand as part of their inner circle.

But how does one go about turning customers into super fans? Harvard’s article recognises the following points: 

  1. Silence detractors. Develop an environment where customers will not want to talk badly about a brand. 
  2. Build a solid and positive customer experience. Create consistent, coordinated interactions across channels to meet customer needs. Develop efficient internal processes, integrate data, and empower employees so customers are satisfied every time they interact with you. Satisfaction and loyalty are critical to the success of a business.
  3. Offer extraordinary experiences. Go that extra mile when customers least expect it, and in return you will receive their long-term business. For example, just as Zappos does.

The process of creating brand super fans depends on the level of customer engagement that already exists. For customers who are already engaged, you need to create emotional connections between them and your brand.

At AVG, we take our brand super fans very seriously. On our Facebook page, we actively recognise and reward those community members which are the most supportive of us.  We actively encourage, our fans to upload videos and photos involving AVG (as a brand) and we also share product experiences with the rest of the community. Some of our Super Fans will even record product testimonials for us.

To conclude, 21st century firms are the ones that actively embrace their community and work with their super fans to genuinely build the brand, build trust, the customer base, and the balance sheet. Those who chose not to, risk extinction in our increasingly social world. Food for thought.

Gary Vaynerchuk’s Talk @ The Water Poet – London

Yesterday evening, I attended the Gary Vaynerchuk Crush It event organised by Sprouter, at The Water Poet pub in London. Overall, Gary was on top form and shared some interesting insights with the audience.

My rough notes from the talk follow below. But I recommend that you watch the complete talk to gain all of Gary’s insights.

Consumer Expectation

– Free Shipping was once considered the greatest thing that ever happened when consumers bought online. However, 10 years later, no one cares! It has become a standard and we are used to it.

– Imagine checking into a New York based hotel and discovering that they only had dial-up internet?  You’d want to punch the concierge in the face, and pick up the phone to call home and tell someone about your bad experience. However, we have only been used to a better dial-up experience for only a few years. Our expectation of a better Internet connection in hotels has grown.

– One of the big trends to emerge in 2010 is going to be "Consumer Expectation."
Consumers will expect brands to respond to them, when consumers leave comments on a company’s Facebook wall, or when consumers send tweets to the company. They will expect a response.  Customer Service and actually "caring" will filter out contenders and bullshit artists.

– If customer service is not the backbone of the business the you are looking to build, you are going to be in trouble.

– When Amazon bought Zappos, Jeff Bezos recognised that Zappos was a threat to them and had no choice but to buy Zappos.

– Zappos will make an interesting case study for many people. It was the only company in the retail world that was a threat to Amazon. Amazon doesn’t consider companies such as Walmart, Target and Tesco as real competitors to their business.

– Zappos was a threat to Amazon, because they were beating Amazon on "DNA and culture."  Buying shoes from Zappos were not inexpensive, Amazon beat Zappos on price here. However, they ‘cared’ more about the customer.

– When you called Zappos, they trained their staff to stay on the phone with you as long as needed (to get the sale). They rewarded staff for being on the phone with you for an hour! If a dog barked in the background, and you (the person in call centre) were authentically into dogs, you were to talk about that. If you ordered a large number of shoes that didn’t fit, you could return them for free.

– All the dumb things that our grandparents did, has been lost in history. Everything you do, will be documented forever. You grand kids will know all the silly and ridiculous things that you have done. You have to pay attention to this! In the book, Gary talks about "legacy being greater than currency.”  Think life in the long term, everything is being documented forever.

– Today’s fundamental shift, is that the gatekeepers have lost their keys. The fact that anyone who is connected to the Internet gets a chance to show the world their "stuff" is a game changer. If your “stuff” is good, you can breed word of mouth.

– Today’s social web, breeds word of mouth on steroids.

– The movie Bruno flipped Hollywood on its head. Bruno opened in the States to one of the biggest openings of all time. The next day, it was one of the biggest drop off’s in cinema history. Why? Because nearly everybody who saw the film, walked out and started Facebooking, Twittering and texting that the movie was no good.  In 24 hours the word of mouth for that movie collapsed, and people didn’t go to see it.  In Hollywood, the norm used to be 3 weeks before traditional word of mouth travelled. Due to Bruno’s failure. About 75 movies got shelved this summer because of it. 

Gary makes some very interesting points about Amazon’s purchase of Zappos.  As a bonus, watch the video below which explains the corporate rationale for Amazon’s purchase in July 2009.  Also, the video does a good job to explain how Amazon’s culture compares with that of Zappos.

Zappos – Five Seconds To Wow!


Up until now, most of what I knew about Zappos was that they were passionate about selling shoes. Selling shoes with a personal touch. I also knew that they were famous for paying off employees to leave the company, if they were not prepared to live and breathe the company’s values (see picture below). However, I recently read Scoble’s blog post which made me go Wow! I’ve shared the Wow! moments and key messages coming out of Zappos below.

What can all businesses learn from Zappos? Scoble recently found out the following:

1. Focus on culture and build something for the long term. Tony’s first company, Link Exchange, was sold because it wasn’t fun anymore.That’s why he focused so much on culture when he got involved with Zappos. I see so many companies who focus on growth and get exactly what they want: an unfun fast growing company that falls apart later.

2. Get rid of assholes. Zappos has a filtering system before, during, and after hiring to make sure they get rid of people who “don’t fit the culture.” That is the nice way of saying they get rid of assholes and they get rid of them quickly. They even pay candidates $2,000 after they go through training if they can admit they don’t fit into the culture.

3. Get a coach. Zappos has its own coach. His name is Dr. Vic. He meets with every employee. Takes their picture. Learns what they are about and helps them get their career moving. Plus he writes a blog for everyone else’s company.

4. Share with others. Zappos gives tours to everyone to share what they’ve learned. You can take the tour too, I highly recommend it if you are in Las Vegas. tours@zappos.com will get you a date and a time. Oh, did I mention they pick you up from the airport? And that they carry your bags? And that they are, well, um, nice?

5. Train, train and train some more. Zappos has a whole department that puts together classes. Your pay goes up the more classes you complete. Plus they have all those free books in the lobby.

6. Enable all employees to be spokespeople. Every single new hire at Zappos is asked to start a Twitter account and post a few times to it during training. After that they don’t care if you keep it up. Why do they do that? They want to rub it in that EVERYONE in the company is a public spokesperson for Zappos, not just the CEO or PR team.

7. Everyone lives by same rules. During Scoble’s tour he heard of a new hire that was fired during training for not showing up on time and giving some lip. This was a high level technical person that they really could have used. Silicon Valley companies would put up with that kind of behaviour. Not at Zappos. Everyone, from executive recruits on down are expected to live to the same rules.

8. The CEO’s office isn’t sacrosanct. Tony encouraged Scoble to throw peanut shells on his office floor. Why? That happens every day, we learned, as tours come through. But it’s a subtle message that Tony isn’t above anyone else in the company and that his door isn’t just open, but that you can come in and mess up his work space.

9. Create a welcoming culture. Every department, as we walked in, said “hi” in a different way. Here’s the casual department who waved these little clappy hands at us. Other departments had other kinds of noise makers. The Fashion department took pictures of us while they played music.


Picture Credit – Robert Scoble

10. Everyone is a VIP. Both internally and externally everyone gets the VIP treatment. This means all sorts of little things all across the company. Vendors, when they come to Zappos, get their bags carried. That wins them accounts. In our case we had our tripods and cameras carried and our every need catered to.

11. Create an atmosphere for both goofiness and brilliance. Every conference room was decked out with personal touches. It gets you in the mood for creative discussions. Here Rackspace employees are meeting with Zappos employees and learning more about Zappos. Notice all the weird touches on the table, the walls. It’s hard to take yourself too seriously there.

12. Root out hubris and kill it. This is mostly a note to myself, but I know lots of San Francisco companies who this could apply to just as well, too.

13. Follow your employee’s and customers’ passion. How did Zappos get into clothing? Their customers and employees were passionate about it.

14. Don’t be religious about what’s working. Having 400 employees on Twitter is clearly working for Zappos but Tony, at one point, told his employees to talk to me about friendfeed. They are always looking for the next idea. By the way, here’s everyone who is saying something about Zappos on friendfeed. I love this quote from Forrester’s CEO, George Colony (Tony is speaking at the Forrester Conference today): “When asked why he was on Twitter, Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO said: “People relate to people, not companies.”

15. Be religious about taking care of customers. Tony loves telling the story about when they got pizza ordered for them by Zappos help desk (they didn’t know who was calling). Every employee is empowered to take care of customers and get their problems solved.

16. Reward greatness. Every employee can give a $50 bonus to any other employee. Does it get misused? Not often and when it does it’s easy to solve.

17. Remember most policies are to take care of edge cases. They resist writing new policies at Zappos. When they do write a policy, they make sure it really is needed across the company. Usually policies get killed.