Thursday, December 21, 2006

Web 2.0: Please!

I am soooo over the hype on the "second coming" of the Web. So here's my Christmas present to you. Do you want to know what Web 2.0 is about? OK, so many of you may be saying what the hell is it?

Good question, the media has been hyping it for what seems like an eternity but I still haven't seen a good simple explanation. Some like BtoB magazine are even calling it a "Revolution".

Here's what I think 2.0 is really about is about creating an engaging and useful web experience that is designed by the user community...and of course, all the web tools/applications to enable this (Blogs, Podcast, social networking, etc.). Yes, that's it. Creating opportunities within your site to let visitors give you feedback on their experience -- and you (Company X) actually paying attention and doing something about it.

The best part is that you don't have to wait until the hype and new technologies start rolling out to build your own Web 2.0 site right now. In fact, you probably already have pieces of "Web 2.0" in site right now. A few tips for getting started:

  • Track/Determine Interaction Time and/or Engagement Level- go beyond measuring typically web metrics (traffic, clicks, etc.) to measuring Interaction Times. Determine not only if the visitor is returning to your site but also how much time are they spending on it. You also need to understand where they have come from, your sales process by product, where customers spend their time (in what channel to learn, shop and buy) and finally, how long it takes (on average). As you can see from the graphic above, in Hi-Tech customers surf among channels (both online and offline). Complex sales, as you would expect take much longer and consume more Face-to-Face resource time. Oh, by the way, the research done to produce this graphic was conducted for a client in 2003. So much for the "revolution" of Web 2.0.
  • Build Information "Depots" - if you want customers to give you feedback, give them something to respond to and an opportuntity to do so by giving them vehicles/channels to communicate. HP is experimenting with giving IT professionals new media tools such as Blogs to engage with customers. And Intuit has created a feedback button called "We Hear You" that enables Quickbook users to submit product feedback. Keep in mind, if you want something of value (information) you have to give something of value. If you don't have an even exchange you will not get the information you get those offers together (white papers, research, etc.).
  • Go beyond Community Building - You'll hear a lot of hype around "communities" and many of you probably have robust user communities. Get the communities more involved in building, testing and promoting your products, website, campaign,etc. Start measuring "Net Promoters" - a metric of customers who would recommend your products. Word of mouth is still THE most powerful marketing tool, but with recent regulatory changes, be careful on how you motivate customers to sing your praises.
  • Leverage Existing Tools - years ago we started to leverage an Online Training tool called Brainshark. It allowed us to create On Demand sales and marketing presentations using PowerPoint and a phone...very simple and convenient. But the most valuable part of the tool was the tracking. We were able to see who was viewing the presentation as soon as they opened it, how long they viewed it, how many pages and who they sent it to, etc. We able to measure the interest levels inside a company, decide on who to pursue and predict when we would acquire the account -- all by watching how people interacted with us in a "virtual" world. This functionality now resides in most Webcast tools so make sure you are taking advantage of your investments in Webex, Placeware, etc.
  • Before, At and After the Web - think about what information you want to collect at each of those stages. Also, think about what you want the visitor to see and retain in each of those areas. This is the "customer experience". Organize and integrate your activities by segment (customer, product, etc.) against these three stages to create a seamless experience that reinforces your message. With complex products/solutions, for example, each stage should communicate a portion of the total message, and subsequent stage should reinforce the previous stage. Breaking the message up into pieces and then, hopefully, rebuilding it in the mind of the visitor piece by piece as they go throught the buying process. So a customer may see a TV ad, then visit your website and finally call you contact center to place the order. You must anticipate, plan and, hopefully, direct the customer buying behavior to drive the response, conversion, close and yield rates.

The bottom line is that Web 2.0 is not "revolutionary". The concept is not new, in fact, if we had to do the first round of the Web all over again we would of done it this way...let your visitors/customers design your website the way they want to use it. But what might be different this time is that I think we are ready to listen to them.

Have a great holiday! Talk to you in the New Year.