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The Scribe

By Patrick Spencer 04 May, 2017

Many of us probably remember the incident involving musician Dave Carroll when United baggage handlers damaged his $3,500 Taylor guitar (he overheard other passengers say that they were throwing guitars on the tarmac during his layover at Chicago O’Hare International). After 15 months of repeated attempts to get United to reimburse him for the repairs to his guitar and innumerable calls to United customer service (he asked for $1,200 in flight vouchers as compensation), Carroll composed and performed the three sequential songs titled “United Breaks Guitars.”

The first of three music videos that Carroll released, it went viral almost immediately—generating over 150,000 views in the first 24 hours. Within three days, the video had generated over a half million. Within a month, it had hit five million. Though United responded and attempted to remediate the situation, it was too late. 

The impact to United’s brand was immediate and substantial. The incident garnered significant attention—from news networks to academic settings (including an article in the Harvard Business Review ). I thought at the time that it would be very difficult for United to trump the “guitar fiasco.”

By Patrick Spencer 25 Apr, 2017

The jury is no longer out when it comes to online communities. The evidence undeniably shows that companies with online communities see tangible business returns. For example, a study conducted by the Aberdeen Group uncovered the following:

  • Businesses with online communities achieve 54 percent faster annual growth in revenue and see 3.1 times greater customer satisfaction rates.
  • Companies with online communities decrease customer service costs by 2.6 percent.
  • Customer service issues are resolved 37 percent of the time without escalation to a customer service agent.

Online communities also facilitate better customer engagement, which translates into higher revenues. For example, according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan , customers that are actively engaged in communities spend 19 percent more than other customers.

By Patrick Spencer 01 Mar, 2017

Ascendance of Customer Storytelling

The evidence is almost incontrovertible when it comes to the importance of customer case studies. This was true 15 years ago when I worked with the IBM software team to build written customer case studies that were populated into a centralized database used by their sales team. IBM account representatives used them as corroboration with buyers to demonstrate that their peers were successfully using IBM software products.

The importance of case studies—or more specifically customer stories (or testimonials), for the space has expanded to include other content artifacts such as video, podcasts, business value impact studies, and blog posts—has only grown over time. Additionally, as the buyer journey funnel has developed in recent years, the role case studies play across the buyer funnel has expanded.

Take the top of the funnel as an example. If your case studies are optimized for SEO on your website, then you’ll generate case study traffic from buyers who are just starting to gain a basic understanding of their business issues and available solutions. And as they are spending more time researching solutions (80 percent indicate they do so), the more of your content that they find at this stage of the journey, the more brand awareness you can influence. The top three resources buyers consult when initially mapping out a solution include web search (68 percent), vendor websites (54 percent), and peers and colleagues (49 percent).

Case studies typically play a greater role in the middle of the journey when buyers seek to identify their business requirements and understand what type of solution aligns most closely with those. Thirty-eight percent of buyers list that they use case studies to gain an understanding of a vendor’s capabilities and to confirm that peers with comparable business issues have successfully used the vendor’s solution to address them.

By Patrick Spencer 22 Feb, 2017

Drowned Out from the Content Decibel Levels

One of the biggest challenges for content marketers today is the volume of content noise. The decibels are at levels where it is virtually impossible for someone to sift through everything that is being published. Think about it; for blog posts alone, there are over 70 million created every month (2 million per day!). The number of indexed Google pages went from 1 trillion in 2008 to 30 trillion in 2014. 

The push doesn’t seem to be slowing down, but rather speeding up. Seventy percent of content marketers plan to increase their marketing spend as well as the amount of content they produce this coming year. And while customers report that content plays a more important role in the buying process than ever before, they also indicate that one of their biggest challenges is the quantity of content they receive and identifying that which is valuable (quality). The list could go on and on.

Too many brands make the mistake of generating quantity over quality, failing to recognize the implications of Google Hummingbird on SEO . Rather than measuring business results, too many CEOs, and even CMOs, focus on volume—particularly when it comes to blog posts. I’ve lost count of the prospects and customers with whom I have spoken over the past couple years who nod their head in agreement when I speak to them about the need to increase the length and quality of posts while reducing the frequency of posts.

 

Content That Resonates Above and Through the Noise  

So, how many words are we talking about for a long-form post? It depends on the research, but most pin the “magic number” over 2,000 words . These long-form posts generate longer time spent on a page and more page views on a site. They also generate much better conversion rates —anywhere from 3x to 12x—than the typical 500- or 600-word post. (Note: This doesn’t discount the value of quality short blog posts. But a blog strategy that fails to incorporate quality, long-form content posts will not succeed in the era of Hummingbird).

Yet, at the same time, the same content leaders who agree with me indicate that they are unable to change their blog strategy from one targeting quantity as a core objective to one focused on quality content. What is their rationale? Their CEO or CMO mandates a certain number of blog posts per week, and moreover post volume is one of their primary measurements. Another factor is that they are unwilling to pay for more substantive blog posts. The adage, “you get what you pay” is quite apropos.

Looking at the broader content picture, what types of content do buyers value the most? The answer is content that reveals insightful research findings in their business segment and content that enables them to gain a deeper and broader understand of the available solutions. Buyers rank research as the most-valued form of content, with nearly three-quarters wanting vendors to “curb their sales messages” and do a better job of creating business issue-oriented content.


Examples Where Quality Content Matters

TIRO Communications was founded on the premise that quality content matters, and our ability to research, analyze, and write about varying topics in engaging and interesting ways differentiates the content we produce against that generated by other agencies and freelancers specializing in content and customer marketing. The following are a few of many examples where we have drawn upon our prowess in the areas of delivering Ph.D.-level research, analysis, and content authoring for clients: 

1. Comprehensive Content Strategy and Execution. TIRO Communications served as strategic content marketing consultant for MightyRecruiter and oversaw research and development of 30-plus different types of content (including 4 in-depth eBooks) used across the buyer journey that have generated hundreds of leads and nurtured hundreds to conversion. Check out the latest eBook that we researched and authored: “ 2017 Hiring Trends & Predictions: Industry Experts Weigh In .”

2. Solutions Guides. Researched and authored Solutions Guides on various topics for companies such as Davinci Virtual Office Solutions, Reverbant, VIEVU, and Fortinet to pinpoint industry trends, reasons for organizations to deploy a solution, and checklists of issues to consider when selecting a solutions provider and implementing a solution.

3. Blogging Strategy. Collaborated with the Davinci Virtual Office Solutions team to develop a new blog strategy . Initiatives included moving to longer-form industry research posts. Key results include:

  • Increase in SEO Inbound Traffic, 67%
  • Reduction in Quantity of Blog Posts, 45%
  • Increase in Social Shares and Likes, 25%
  • Growth in Opportunities from Blog Posts, 3%

By Patrick Spencer 21 Feb, 2017

One of the areas where TIRO Communications specializes is in creating substantive, in-depth content that is highly engaging and educational. Our award-winning content team has done it over and over for more than 15 years and for companies ranging from fast-growth startups to Fortune 200 companies.


Data Analytics, BI, and ML Add New Element to Thought Leadership Content  

As a complement to our Ph.D.-level research capabilities, we recently added data analytics, business intelligence (BI), and machine learning (ML). Not only are we developing cognition tools such as TIRO Cognition Insights that enable organizations to gain business insights that improve efficiencies, capture new revenue opportunities, and transform customer experience, but we’re also able to research and author in-depth research reports that uncover unique insights. 

With regard to researching and authoring thought leadership reports, many companies expend tens of thousands of dollars surveying decision makers and end users at a high level. And while survey findings remain relevant and valuable for many research reports, additional analysis of survey findings and other information sources such as CRM and ERP environments can turbocharge the findings from surveys. Our approach is based on real-world data, providing readers with actionable insights that produce measurable business outcomes.


2017 Workspace and Communications Services Report

 One of our existing clients, Davinci Virtual Office Solutions approached us late last year with a request to produce an industry thought leadership report on on-demand workspace and communications services. In addition to leveraging existing industry data and research, Davinci Virtual Office Solutions wanted to tap its vast reservoir of information residing in its customer relationship management (CRM) environment. As part of the project, we analyzed several hundred thousand records to reveal business insights used to generate a portion of the report: “2017 State of Workspace and Communications Services Report.”

Read the blog post and press release announcing the availability of the report. Or simply download and read it.

The 30-page report is broken into seven sections: 

  1. Business Disruption
  2. The Solution Providers
  3. Market Opportunities
  4. Business Drivers
  5. The Market
  6. Customer Acquisition
  7. Key Takeaways

A couple insights in the report that we identified using our data analytics and BI tools include:

  1. Historical cross-sell and up-sell rates reveal significant market opportunities for business office service providers to grow their revenues and expand their margins.
  2. Our analysis identified which industry segments exhibit the highest percentage of revenue across all four products: workspaces and meeting rooms, virtual offices, live receptionists, and live web chat. It also pinpointed repeat workspace and meeting room bookings for each industry segment.

Other insights include:

  1. The average booking ratio for live inventory is 49 percent higher than non-live inventory and at a 38 percent higher rate.
  2. Churn rate for subscription services is less than half of standard SaaS-accepted rates.
  3. Customers continue to prefer multiple engagement channels (for lead origin), with phone remaining the leading preference across all four product groups.
  4. For business office service providers offering multiple products, there is a significant opportunity to grow revenue through cross-selling (e.g., 20 percent of live receptionist leads come from cross-selling).

By Patrick Spencer 03 Feb, 2017

Seeking to pinpoint how their customers rate and value their product and service experiences, many businesses embrace some form of customer experience survey program today. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) Index is the most prevalent. Research demonstrates that the companies with the highest scores in their industry segments outperform their competitors , generating higher margins and greater customer lifetime value. In addition to companies developing tunnel vision and becoming infatuated with high NPS scores, many realize NPS and other survey results are inadequate when left on their own.


Augmenting and  Amplifying Customer Experience Survey Models

To begin, in too many cases, companies are “cooking the books” when it comes to their NPS and customer experience scores. Employees from over half of companies that use NPS as a business measurement indicate their organizations are more interested in achieving a high score than in actually improving customer experience. You don’t need to go very far for a reference point; automobile manufacturers are notorious for attempting to elicit biased scores by incenting customers to mark off high scores in exchange for discounted services. 

On a similar note, though it goes without saying that NPS and other customer experience survey methodologies, when used correctly, offer organizations valuable insights on their customers, they do not reveal the why behind the answers they provide. These surveys also only capture a segment of total customer feedback; existing customers and not former customers. In addition, the percentage of customers responding to surveys has plummeted (and continues to do so), further limiting the breath of insights that can be collected from them. The reality is that there is simply too much digital “noise,” and survey fatigue is a tangible problem.


Online Review Sites and Community Forums: Latent Intelligence Opportunity  

Online review sites and community forums offer a rich repository of objective, unfiltered customer comments and feedback. In B2B instances, we’re talking about hundreds or even thousands of reviews and thousands or tens of thousands of comments on community forums. B2C companies typically have even more reviews and forum comments at their disposal.

However, the intelligence contained within these data sources remains latent with regard to evaluating, measuring, and modifying customer experience. Companies see the review sites as a marketing tool; a means for eliciting customer content, generating new marketing and sales leads, and identifying new customer advocates. They aren’t looking to review sites for customer insights.

When it comes to online community forums, the primary reason organizations build them is to provide customers with self-service opportunities. Secondary use cases include delivering educational content to customers, enabling prospects to connect with customers and evaluate their solution based on customer comments and feedback, and engaging and mobilizing customers for advocacy activities.

 

Creation of TIRO Cognition Insights

With this in mind, we created and built TIRO Cognition Insights. We scrape, organize, and analyze your customer information – along with competitors’ customers – to pinpoint actionable insights that allow organizations to improve efficiencies and capture new opportunities. Configured as a managed service, the TIRO Communications team works with the customer to determine which competitive products, review sites, and online communities to include in the analysis. Potential outputs include:

  • Sentiment scores at various of levels of granularity over time for your product and your competitors’ product – in aggregate and per online review site and community forum.
  • Smart SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) based on NLP (Natural Language Processing) for your product as well as for each of the competitor products included in the study
  • Key-phrase and entity analysis pinpoint areas of intelligence such as the most positively and negatively rated aspects of your (and your competitors’) product, comparison of product messaging with the what customers are saying, and alignment of demand-gen marketing tactics and strategies with what resonates with customers.
  • Honing of content messaging, tone, and brand voice a well as creation of demand-gen programs and communications based on understanding of customer values, needs, and personality types.


7 Analytical Areas Examined by TIRO Cognition Insights  

TIRO Cognition Insights draws upon seven different analytical areas to develop actionable business insights. These include:

  • Customer Experience. For customer experience teams that are serious about improving customer experience and tapping new business opportunities based on what their customers and those of their competitors are saying, TIRO Cognition offers them the ability to augment and amplify the insights gathered from survey tools such as NPS by revealing granular detail.
  • Product Management . Pinpoint what customers like and don’t like in a product. Refine development roadmaps based on market threats and opportunities.
  • Sales Enablement. Exploit product strengths and competitor weaknesses with sales plays and programs, battle cards, and market opportunities.
  • Demand-Gen Marketing. Create competitive takeout campaigns based on competitive weaknesses and threats while creating precision-point campaigns and content based on what customers want.
  • Product Marketing. Align messaging and content tone with customer insights and differentiate product and services from competitive products and services based on Smart SWOT analysis.
  • Customer Success and Support. Tune support and relationship management by identifying gaps and capitalizing on strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. Chief Customer Officers (CCOs) can benefit greatly from the actionable insights generated by Cognition Insights.
  • Advocacy Marketing. Fill capability and feature gaps on online review sites and community sites as well as regularly monitor aggregate and individual sentiment site sentiment for your product as well as competitive products.


Check Out the Demo of TIRO Cognition Insights

Data analytics and business intelligence (BI) offer companies new opportunities to pinpoint actionable business insights that can have a direct, immediate, and long-term impact on their businesses. Check out our Demo Video on TIRO Cognition Insights for more details. Or schedule time with us for a deeper look at TIRO Cognition Insights and how it can help you improve your efficiencies, achieve better margins, and tap into new business opportunities.

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The Scribe

By Patrick Spencer 04 May, 2017

Many of us probably remember the incident involving musician Dave Carroll when United baggage handlers damaged his $3,500 Taylor guitar (he overheard other passengers say that they were throwing guitars on the tarmac during his layover at Chicago O’Hare International). After 15 months of repeated attempts to get United to reimburse him for the repairs to his guitar and innumerable calls to United customer service (he asked for $1,200 in flight vouchers as compensation), Carroll composed and performed the three sequential songs titled “United Breaks Guitars.”

The first of three music videos that Carroll released, it went viral almost immediately—generating over 150,000 views in the first 24 hours. Within three days, the video had generated over a half million. Within a month, it had hit five million. Though United responded and attempted to remediate the situation, it was too late. 

The impact to United’s brand was immediate and substantial. The incident garnered significant attention—from news networks to academic settings (including an article in the Harvard Business Review ). I thought at the time that it would be very difficult for United to trump the “guitar fiasco.”

By Patrick Spencer 25 Apr, 2017

The jury is no longer out when it comes to online communities. The evidence undeniably shows that companies with online communities see tangible business returns. For example, a study conducted by the Aberdeen Group uncovered the following:

  • Businesses with online communities achieve 54 percent faster annual growth in revenue and see 3.1 times greater customer satisfaction rates.
  • Companies with online communities decrease customer service costs by 2.6 percent.
  • Customer service issues are resolved 37 percent of the time without escalation to a customer service agent.

Online communities also facilitate better customer engagement, which translates into higher revenues. For example, according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan , customers that are actively engaged in communities spend 19 percent more than other customers.

By Patrick Spencer 01 Mar, 2017

Ascendance of Customer Storytelling

The evidence is almost incontrovertible when it comes to the importance of customer case studies. This was true 15 years ago when I worked with the IBM software team to build written customer case studies that were populated into a centralized database used by their sales team. IBM account representatives used them as corroboration with buyers to demonstrate that their peers were successfully using IBM software products.

The importance of case studies—or more specifically customer stories (or testimonials), for the space has expanded to include other content artifacts such as video, podcasts, business value impact studies, and blog posts—has only grown over time. Additionally, as the buyer journey funnel has developed in recent years, the role case studies play across the buyer funnel has expanded.

Take the top of the funnel as an example. If your case studies are optimized for SEO on your website, then you’ll generate case study traffic from buyers who are just starting to gain a basic understanding of their business issues and available solutions. And as they are spending more time researching solutions (80 percent indicate they do so), the more of your content that they find at this stage of the journey, the more brand awareness you can influence. The top three resources buyers consult when initially mapping out a solution include web search (68 percent), vendor websites (54 percent), and peers and colleagues (49 percent).

Case studies typically play a greater role in the middle of the journey when buyers seek to identify their business requirements and understand what type of solution aligns most closely with those. Thirty-eight percent of buyers list that they use case studies to gain an understanding of a vendor’s capabilities and to confirm that peers with comparable business issues have successfully used the vendor’s solution to address them.

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