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CMO 2.0 Conversation with Pete Blackshaw, EVP Nielsen Online

Pete_BlackshawIt was fun to have a CMO 2.0 Conversation with Pete Blackshaw for a variety of reasons. First, it was reminiscent of a great SkypeCast conversation he and I had a few years back (right after Skype launched Skypecasts - we felt like pioneers), but also because he brings three distinct angles to the CMO conversation - that of a CMO, that of a person who markets to marketers, and that of a thought leader and author. Pete is the author of Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000, and also blogs at ConsumerGeneratedMedia.com.

We delved straight into one of Pete's favorite topics, which is what he calls the great "Conversational Divide" that exists between marketing and customer service. Pete believes, and I agree, that is unfortunate that customer service is so frequently considered a non-strategic part of the business, with little integration between what companies know about their customers from their CRM systems, their social media strategies, the promises they make through marketing , and what actually happens in their customer service departments when they talk with customers. Pete's take is that it is time for CMO's to step up to the plate and define a unified conversational ecosystem. It makes no sense, he says, to have different rules in the different parts of the organization.

Companies should also start capturing information about their customers' influence in their CRM system, i.e., do they have a popular blog, do they have a lot of twitter followers, etc. - especially since the people who typically use the customer service back channels are the same people who tend to use megaphones to express their dissatisfaction. If you do it right you could develop a so-called user contribution system, where consumers help one another and become advocates for the brand, reducing not only your customer support cost but also other costs like consumer research.

Pete talked a lot about the importance of credibility in the age of consumer generated media, and described in detail the six drivers of credibility: trust, authenticity, transparency, listening, responsiveness, and affirmation. He is convinced that trust is perhaps one of the most important competitive differentiators that companies can develop.

We also spent a fair amount of time talking about the benefits of building brand communities, and whether companies should all have their own or affiliate with one another to deliver better value to their members. And we discussed the community efforts at Intuit as we both have familiarity with Scott Wilder's work - and especially highlighted the importance of setting up a cross-functional center for excellence to capture all the potential benefits of communities, as well as the power of a credentialing model to ensure quality control when customers help one another.

Other things that we discussed include:
  • How Dell Hell could have been prevented
  • The importance of emotion and fairness in word of mouth
  • How the new customer service motto might be "this company is being monitored for quality improvements"
  • How there is a real risk that bad marketers will spoil it for the rest of us
  • The symbiotic relation between traditional marketing tools and social media based tools
We wrapped up the conversation by talking about the challenges that Pete is facing as a marketer, and how he measures progress and success. Not surprisingly, his primary way to measure success is by monitoring his client advocacy. Are customer willing to get on a stage with him? Are they willing to recommend his company?

We also talked about the challenges associated with competing in a world with many free offerings - and with Nielsen actually having their own free offerings. Interestingly enough, the way Pete looks at it is the same way you would look at it from a consumer packaged goods manufacturer's perspective like P&G - which is that "sampling" does lead to purchases.

As usual you can listen to the recorded podcast on the CMO 2.0 site, and we will put up a transcript as soon as we can.

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