At the Forrester eBusiness Forum in Chicago this week, Nate Elliott, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, announced winners of the 2013 Groundswell Awards. The awards went to six companies that topped Forrester’s chart this year for social marketing programs and innovative customer-reach tactics.
While not all the winners are specifically big-name brand-names, the judges recognized them for demonstrating solid brand-building strategies and proactive customer service programs. The awards are of interest because they provide valuable insights for virtually all customer service managers, sales and marketing managers, and others responsible for customer experience and customer relationship management (CRM).
Indeed, the choice of winning companies reflects how much "marketing" has come to rely on social media and "social marketing" specifically. Marketing goals now have to extend beyond just counting eyeballs and tracking visits. Creative use of social media needs to be folded into virtually every marketer's strategy.
Social Marketing's Role
This year, Forrester based its e-business awards around its "Marketing RaDaR" model. The R stands for Reach, meaning social reach tactics that help people discover your brands, products, and promotions. The D stands for Depth, referring to social depth tactics that help prospects explore and buy your products. The final R refers to Relationships, for the social relationship tactics you can use to build stronger engagement with your best customers.
Forrester's view is that social marketing is key to success in today's world. Branded profiles on social sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter can foster stronger relationships with existing customers, as well as being helpful for attracting new customers. The most successful social marketing efforts go there and beyond.
"More than 90 percent of the marketers we survey are already using social tactics," Elliott said earlier this year. "After people buy from a company, there are many ways they stay in touch. Social [media] has a valuable role to play here."
In fact, two of the six winners in Forrester's competition reflect bright ideas for motivating customers to remain on board and socially share their positive feedback.
Brainshark Champions Success
Waltham, Massachusetts-based Brainshark won the Groundswell award for "Social Reach Marketing" in the Business-to-Business category. The company, which was founded in 1999, provides cloud solutions for businesses to create and share high-impact video sales presentations.
Early on, Brainshark deployed all the standard confidence-builders for its website visitors: testimonials, reviews, case studies, etc. But, Brainshark's management team wanted something more -- a strategic mechanism where happy customers pleased with their cloud-platforms for online and mobile video presentations could really help "spread the word."
"We knew that the tremendous goodwill of our enormous fan base could be a powerful marketing vehicle for Brainshark, if only we could harness it," said the team. Happy customers can impact brand awareness and lead generation, but how?
The company created an online community as its answer, where satisfied customers promote the brand not just through one-off testimonials, but through social channels with much greater reach. Customers pleased with Brainshark were no longer "just customers" -- they became potential "champions" and Brainshark found a way to harness their energy into brand building.
In the "Brainshark Champion" online community, customers can learn, network with each other, and improve their mastery of the company's products. As part of the program, customers turn into advocates by participating in challenges, ranging from re-tweeting a blog post to referring a new prospect to the company.
A significant boost in Twitter activity, four times as many opt-in reference customers, and a 15 percent customer response rate to product surveys, compared with 2 percent through traditional means, are just some of the paybacks. Other benefits from the company's Champion program include a more expert user base, which also helps build the brand and increase sales.
Analog Devices Stepped Up Support
Another award winner this year is Analog Devices (ADI), taking top honors in Forrester's "Social Relationship Marketing (Business-to-Business)" category. The Norwood, Massachusetts-based maker of semiconductors was founded in 1965 and remains a leader in the semiconductor field, with more than 60,000 customers worldwide.
ADI won for its "EngineerZone Technical Support Community," which Forrester recognized as a "step up" from standard troubleshooting forums that merely post very specific product questions and answers.
Over the years, ADI had seen many changes take place in the way that engineers work and the challenges they confront. Engineers' support needs have changed, requiring faster time to market, and design expertise input for complex projects. In engineering circles, collaborative discussions drawing on the "wisdom of the crowd" can go a long way. To address these challenges, ADI developed a support site that provides engineers with direct access to fellow engineers and experts around the globe.
In addition to getting answers to their questions, engineers using the site can collaborate on new designs and find innovative new ways to use ADI products.
ADI reported that in a member survey about the site, those responding showed impressive results: 84 percent agreed that using the community helped them speed their design processes, and 76 percent were more likely to buy ADI products knowing EngineerZone was available as a resource. Membership continues to grow.
Other Award Winners
Forrester said it received nearly 150 entries for this year’s awards, including entries from around the world.
In the "Social Reach Marketing (Business-to-Consumer)" category, finalists included Pepsi, SodaStream, and Purina, but the top award went to a non-profit called City Year. The education-focused business works with at-risk students in urban schools and won for its #makebetterhappen campaign.
In the "Social Depth Marketing (Business-to-Consumer)" category, top honors went to the Milwaukee School of Engineering. The private, non-profit university won for its "Bridge Social Community" program, designed to drive more applications and encourage more of the students it accepted to attend the school.
For the "Social Depth Marketing (Business-to-Business)" category, Forrester chose the Webroot Ambassador Program. Webroot, an online security company, knows that people mostly talk about their antivirus software only when it fails, not when it succeeds. To turn the tables, Webroot set up its own ambassador program, encouraging satisfied customers to tell others about their experiences.
Soda brand Dr Pepper won the "Social Relationship Marketing (Business-to-Consumer)" category for its social media strategy that was designed to get Facebook fans more engaged, by creating content that championed the "Pepper lifestyle." The company reports that Facebook engagement rates grew 64 percent in 2012 and another 46 percent in 2013. Even more important, the program seems to turn Dr Pepper fans into more loyal customers. Studies show that, on average, after someone becomes a Facebook fan of the brand, that person will purchase Dr Pepper on 35% more of his or her shopping trips.
Forrester extended congratulations to all the companies that participated in the competition, recognizing the strides being made to improve customer service and boost sales through more effective customer engagement. Social marketing is obviously here to stay, and learning to leverage the tools of the trade can be your company's key to success, as well.