Tag Archives: ROI

The Goodwill Hunters

My former colleague Karl Long puts it succinctly: “the very heart of strategy rests on the value creation question, who does it, why, by what means, and how do we do it better and cheaper than the other guy”. One way to create value, he proposes, is to create and lead a community. Communities add real but intangible value via the connections that they provide (hat tip to Scott)

Social communications tools provide the ability and opportunity to deliver actual, albeit intangible, value e.g. perception, reputation and trust, emotional attachments, and, perhaps most importantly, customer satisfaction.

In accounting terms, when one company acquires another, the excess paid above and beyond the tangible assets is called the Goodwill. Goodwill is made up of many things, including: perception, reputation and trust, emotional attachments and…

Goodwill is an asset that is worth building.

Chris Brogan was at the #likeminds summit I was lucky enough to attend last week, and he mentioned Milton Friedman’s point that businesses primarily exist to return value to shareholders. Although people are free to question this, it reminded me that a company’s valuation is not merely about this quarter’s profits, but is instead dependent on its ability to generate future profits. Today’s sales keep a company afloat,  but business value is determined by intangibles like Goodwill.

Rather than focusing on increasing this quarter’s sales, the role of marketing is helping and delighting customers. Making customers feel like guests or members of a club is a great way to increase the amount of value that you are providing them.

Seth says: just make remarkable products. Even though not all of us work directly in the product development team, we all have to think about how we augment the value of products by keeping value-creation in mind – baking in our marketing, as Bogusky has written about.

As difficult as it is to construct, a phone is just some metal and wires and it is really quite low value in terms of its tangible assets. Once we add services and software capabilities to the mix (what we at Nokia call the “solution”) then the value is greater. But still, the value really only exists once the customer starts to use the product i.e. once the solution meets the context in which it is used.That is where marketing should be focused.

It’s difficult to measure Goodwill, but it gives you super profits. Literally.

Goodwill is notoriously difficult to measure (sound familiar?), but it does exist. One method of valuing Goodwill is to look at the overall “super profit“: the difference between the profits made by investing the tangible assets into a business, rather than at the risk-free interest rate.

So, by definition, Goodwill is the super profit: Increase Goodwill, and you increase your profits.

How do you increase Goodwill? Make people feel special. Make happiness your business model. Do things that matter for the people who matter. Be an experience facilitator. It’s about pro-active customer service as marketing, but also about guest experience design. You measure customer satisfaction and happiness and focus 100% on that.

You do all of that good stuff, and when the finance people ask you why you are doing it, you tell them that you are creating super profits and building up the intangible assets they like to refer to as Goodwill.

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Survival of the nicest

survival

Intelligence may not help survival, but apparently being nice does.

Charlene Li recently posted about a study that correlates companies’ Social Media engagements with financial success. As usual, it is well-researched and interesting, and Charlene made clear that this is a correlation and not a causal link. But still some people have got a bit over-excited about the study and claim that it proves that engaging in Social Media improves financial performance.

Unfortunately, I could just as easily say that this study shows how far we are from proving ROI, with only the highly profitably companies able to invest in something that cannot be linked to a specific sale.

I had a Twitter discussion with Charlene that ended with the following:

@DaGood Given that some of the top brands are barely involved in SM, shows that they have a hard time dedicating $$, so it’s a luxury

Sometimes I feel like the guy in the picture below – I have faith, but I cannot prove what I know in my heart to be true. It surely makes business sense to be nice and engage in Social Media, no? I can tell you that people trust other consumers much more than they trust advertising, but I just can’t give you a dollar figure ROI right now.

Faith

So what now? Well, I believe that the lack of proven ROI will force companies to make a choice: they either take a leap of faith and adapt to this new super-social environment, or they stick to the old purchase-funnel thinking and keep their head in the sand waiting for a ROI figure to be produced.

I have faith that what appears to be a luxury will turn out to be a necessity; soon all that will be left is the companies that were willing (or able) take this leap of faith and find ways of authentically engaging with their customers.

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