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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Traditional Research on Campus
I listened in on a phone interview yesterday.  A university in the Northeast was asking questions dealing with: awareness, importance of attributes, their perceived performance on those attributes, price and affordability, and finally demographics.  Such a traditional research approach is fine, except that since the questionnaire was written from an internal view and focused on what the university probably already knew they were doing right, it’s not likely to drive very much improvement on campus or in their marketing communications.

I actually have visited the university in question and have heard what high school students in my town consider its strengths and the weaknesses. It’s a pity that the university didn’t just ask their current students (and the ones they accepted that went elsewhere) what they are saying and writing about the school to the high school students they know.  It would have provided a lot better focus.

They would have heard a lot of apprehension about those 6 months a year of snow, and the small town business district that has seen better days. (Both issues currently avoided on their website, in their mail campaign, in information sessions, and during tours.)

Think there’s nothing they could do about those issues if they allowed the research to identify them as critical?  One university in the Northeast accepting that six feet of white stuff could be an issue uses their campus informational presentations and tour guides to draw attention to the campus-wide celebration that happens with the first major snow each year, the proximity to great skiing, and thrill of their winter carnival.  A second university has taken on their downtrodden locale by helping with the maintenance of the local town green, gifting paint and matching awnings for village shops, and even opening a trendy coffee shop in what would have been an otherwise empty storefront. 

Critical negatives that are diminishing inquiries, applications and even enrollment can be addressed with a little imagination, and some well-placed funding. But it will never happen until the corporation or the university does some careful listening to what current customers are saying to friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, and even complete strangers.

8:37 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Where Are All Those State Farm Customers?
In a recent ad viewers are told by a spokesman that they should “first talk to any one of the 40 million drivers insured by State Farm”.  We’re strong believers in the importance in word of mouth from friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, etc.  We believe it increases awareness, consideration and that it drives new customer acquisition.  But there are some real challenges to be faced in State Farm’s suggestion.  Consider:

1)     Short of asking everyone they know (something most people aren’t likely to do), consumers don’t really have an easy way to identify any of those 40 million customers that they could ask about State Farm.       
Based on a comparison of Google searches for “complaints” and“compliments” for State Farm, a number of those 40 million may not have positive things to say about their State Farm experience.
3)     Most of your loyal, satisfied customers aren’t insurance experts and may not know what to say about State Farm other than it’s “fine” or that their agent is “nice” or “helpful”. 

To overcome such challenges State Farm needs to create a group of raving, knowledgeable, active customer advocates. They need to identify the Best Potential Advocates (trying to reach every customer would be a huge mistake) give them proper care, education and attention, make them more visible, and then trust them to tell the world about the company and their experiences.  Trying to drive sales through current customers makes sense, but even “free” social media requires time and effort.

2:52 pm edt          Comments

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