Yesterday, I had the extreme pleasure of listening to Michael McCathren, Senior Consultant, Interactive Digital Marketing for Chick-fil-A speak about his iBrand concept. Michael kicked off his presentation by pulling out the Harvard Business Review latest article on Rethinking Marketing (subscription required, although Marketer's Kaleidoscope provides more detail). He read excerpts about how HBR recommends a customer-centric organization and appointing a Chief Customer and then Michael declared, "It's the same old stuff." Personally, I could not agree more. I have been recommending customer-centric organizations to clients for years and Best Buy is famous for putting it into practice in 2004.
Michael went on to say he wanted more and so has coined iBrand: the individual brand your raving customers represent online. He further clarified with three components of an iBrand Strategy: 1. Get to know your raving fans; 2. Increase fan iBrand equity; and 3. Trust the power of WOM. It was a compelling presentation which included great brand examples from Huggies, Scotts Lawn Care, and Chick-Fil-A (of course). He also took us through a detailed illustration of how BlendTec can improve their iBrand efforts. What really grabbed me though was how Michael was able to grow a privately owned Facebook page from 25,000 people to 1.2 million fans (and yes, it's still privately owned). First he called her, personally. And instead of taking over the page, he became a resource for her. When Michael asked his agency to create a social media strategy, he brought her down to Georgia and involved her in the process.
As I reflect upon his approach and read through the HBR summaries, it brought back memories of how I started my career. I wasn't always a B2C marketer. Before Razorfish and Caro Consulting, I cut my marketing teeth in the B2B space, doing direct marketing and supporting sales teams. And really where I was most successful back then is how Michael is finding success today. Success for me in the B2B space was when I decided to bridge the gap betwen marketing and sales and engage sales in the process. I would work with our best sales folks to determine what message most resonated with their audience, what tools they needed to get the message out there most successfully, and give them the freedom to do what they do best.
HBR does attempt to build an analogy between B2C and B2B by talking about assigning account managers to customers, yet I feel like they are still missing the mark. Raving fans aren't just customers, they are your best sales people. Shouldn't we be doing all that we can to make them feel valued, meet their needs, and meet the needs of their audience? This isn't new, we as B2C marketers simply need to take a page out of the well worn B2B playbook.