About Martin Dowson

I believe that business exists to create meaningful experiences for customers. I also believe that business has a duty to operate profitably and sustainably. I help organisations become customer-led so that they can find, once again, their true purpose. I am Director of Customer Experience at Comotion and I write personally at ExperienceZen and on Comotional's Blog You can also find me on Google



My favourite hotel chain in the World – Morgans Hotel Group – have given the big finger to the Recession in fabulous style… they are throwing parties galore around the world to let the Recession know it’s just not welcome…

I’m loving the way they’ve taken on a thorny issue and turned it into a selling point!

We of course know the global recession will be forcing many to re-think their approach… the big question is who will learn from history and INVEST in marketing, brand building and customer engagement DURING the downturn? History shows that it is always those that invest that come out of the curve ahead of their competition and ready for the new spring that must inevitably follow this dark (but hopefully short) winter!

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Be-A-Magpie Is PayPerPost For Twitter

Be-A-Magpie Is PayPerPost For Twitter:
It was recently brought to my attention that one of my projects could benefit from advertising on Twitter through “Be A Magpie” which is something akin to PayPerPost for Twitter. My initial reaction was to imagine what it would be like for the Twitterers of this world to see adverts coming up in their Twitstream… and I thought it could be terribly annoying and make them feel like the people they were following were trying to monetize them… Surely this would break trust and potentially cause a rush of un-following…

A Rush to Unfollow?
Now I’m wondering if that is really what would happen? I think that the end-result will be a devaluing of the conversations on Twitter, however the effect may be more subtly noticed than immediate un-follows.

First of all…

  • Can I be bothered to unfollow?
  • If I’m generally finding Twitter useful/interesting will I allow some annoying adverts and just mentally block them out?
  • When do the adverts become too annoying such that I’m perceiving more ads than useful/interesting stuff?

At this point…

  • Is Twitter, in theory still useful if I could only see what I want to see?
  • Would I therefore pay to not see the useless stuff?

Should the Twitter guys be worried then or is there opportunity here? I mean I’m presuming they’re not worried about Magpie per se because they could just introduce their own similar service to protect themselves from externals. But are they worried about the impact on their user base of trying to monetise the service?

Personally I would pay to be part of a community such as Twitter where people were not allowed to advertise or use “Magpie” like services. Somewhere where I knew there was a cost to entry, and a cost to ongoing participation such that there was a shared sense of value-add (worth paying for!)… but of course it would take a freebie version to convince me of the usefulness…

So do you reach a certain volume of free users and then turn on the money taps, knowing that only a small percentage will pay while the remainder of the freebie users may continue to devalue the service? If you’re Twitter or Facebook even a small percentage can generate a lot of $$. If you don’t have any other money taps apart from “premium” though do you have to allow the devaluing of your free bit to make the “Freemium” model work? Twitter is such a simple service, unlike Facebook which has many more facets to it, that either it’s useful and interesting to receive a stream of updates… or it isn’t… is there much more to it?

Certainly Twitter’s lack of monetisation strategy has been reported by commentators to be a factor in the breakdown of the Facebook/Twitter dealings that have been going on this week (and if some techcrunch are to be believed have been going on/off for quite sometime). Apart from Ads and Ad-free premium service I’m still struggling to think of monetisation options (answers on a NDA to…)

Anyway… back to everyone’s favourite bird… I look forward to seeing how much of the shiny good bits the Magpie steals from the Twitter nest…

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Facebook Rolls Out Verified App Program – Revenue Model? Control Mechanism? Building Trust?

Facebook Rolls Out Verified App Program, Plus One Hell Of A Revenue Model For Themselves:
I disagree with Michael Arrington @ TechCrunch that the recent announcement of fb Verified App Program represents a new revenue model… I mean of course it DOES as in it will bring in revenue.

It just may not have high margin and may only be done by a certain proportion of the app marketplace.

I loved Michael’s comment that $9M was a lot of money where he came from, and it is where I come from too, however neither of us own one of the largest social media platforms in the world that is heavily invested in by Microsoft (did he forget the $240mn they put in??!!) $9M one-off SHOULD be small fry in fb-hq and if it isn’t then start worrying!

now if it was $9mn recurring and growing…. that might be a different matter as long as the margins were good… however $375 to test, verify an app – I’m sure there is automation but it does sound like a low-margin cost-covering exercise so there must be something else in it…

So imho what is more interesting is that fb want to get more involved in telling users which apps are good, and which aren’t.

fb’s Great Apps has already drawn a lot of criticism from, what might be sour grapes, commentators claiming nepotism, but hey I figure people that made a great platform probably have some friends who make some great stuff too… no biggie. Plus causes is a GOOD IDEA.

so whilst I don’t buy the big conspiracy theory of “great apps” I will entertain the possibility that being able to rank apps into badges of acceptability from fb will allow them to get more involved in how business is built on their platform. If you can introduce control on your platform you can certainly take a slice of the pie that other people are making in your playground. Fair Play

For those of us intending to roll-out serious business models with fun apps on social media $375 for the right to play in the playground shouldn’t be a big deal… the only thing is that we will expect a different kind of relationship with fb now… a little more serious now that we’re paying them money… are they ready?

Facebook Rolls Out Verified App Program, Plus One Hell Of A Revenue Model For Themselves:

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Motrin gets “Twittered”

An extraordinary thing happened this weekend. A major brand was “taken down” by Twitter. A good synopsis of the story can be found here


it includes the original add. But you should SEE the response on Twitter (#motrinmums). I myself first heard about from @dancingmango and a very good post on his blog which shows the spikes in activity. Marc’s post and the whole unfolding of this event makes, more than ever, the case for marketing to get out of their entrenched positions and get up to speed with the ways in which consumers are able to communicate now and to understand the importance of the power of the consumer to the future of their brands. More than just showing themselves up as an out of touch team they followed up with a classicly poor apology in which tehy didn’t even say sorry and skirted around the issue by apologising for disappointing their consumers. Geesh this isn’t your DAD telling you off for coming in late… this is your BOTTOM LINE telling you to f.off because you took a liberty!

However is this a fair response to the situation? Some, but notably male, comments on the forbes.com article point out the “Mobs are inherently unpredictable…” and is probably right. Do we believe that Motrin really wanted to create offense? Do we believe that Motrin DIDNT think they were genuinely connecting with their customers? When journalists get a bee in their bonnet about something in the UK we often blame the hacks for stirring up a storm in a tee cup… can we say the same about the Twitter Mobs… did they get themselves in a mess about nothing?

Does it matter if the end result is your web-site is down for a whole weekend and the whole world thinks you just took the michael out of Mothers worldwide?

I think it does matter if we are to have a sane world in which we all consider the impact of our conversations, the truth of our communication (both sending and receiving) and are going to truly understand each other…

but what certainly matters more is saying sorry properly…

Oh dear…

Starbucks’ Service Commitment, Starbucks Service Moment

Starbucks’ Service Commitment, Starbucks Service Moment:
An excellent quick overview of the commitment some companies are willing to make to improving their customer service and a great story from the frontline of the wider impact Magic Moments can have.

Whilst it is difficult to measure that impact it is certain the moments like this make customers feel more significant and the on the old hierarchy of needs that’s right up there. If I can have a retail experience that also makes me feel significant I’m going to get quite loyal to that brand. How else would Apple have survived the debacle that was the iPhone 3G launch without loyal customers who were looking for more than just a phone and so were willing to put up with the annoyances of getting the ‘phone’ bit right.

What Magic Moments are you creating for your customers now? What would need to happen for you to be able to take a “moment”, as Starbucks have done, to get with your front-line and get everyone motivated to create excellent experiences for your customers?

dancingmango » What is it that makes your product distinctive?

dancingmango » What is it that makes your product distinctive?:

My recently easternised friend and excellent customer experience dude, Marc McNeill, has found a fantastic interview with The Master Brewer for Guinness. In the world of technology and consumer products/services we might equate him to a Product Manager/Developer. He has an on the ground responsibility for producing the end-product.

Our Master brewer shows that his priorities lie with an overall customer experience and how his product features (flavour, colour etc) fit in with that… the actual product features are the last thing he mentions.

Marc challenges us to think about what this means for the way that we organise ourselves around defining the customer experience in the context of developing innovative and irresistible products

There are very few master brewers who go beyond just satisfying their customers with features and functionality, to focus upon delivering “a great all round experience”. To turn the mediocre and mundane into theatre. Like Apple have done with the iPhone. Like Guinness do with their stout. Yet something gets lost as you move away from the strategic owners of the Brand, to those responsible for tactical implementations. And this loss can obviously be costly. If the Guinness Master Brewer was only responsible for a drink that is an acquired taste, would it still be the sixth top ranked global Beer brand?

This is an example from a single product world, but in many companies we are dealing with developing individual products that bundle together to form the consumer proposition. Understanding how we can enable our Master Brewers to be responsible for excellent flavour that complements the rest of the products on our menu is key to being able to offer value at a consumer level and understand the profitability of our component products…

I would look to companies such as Apple, Telcos (where there are often many components to the end-bundle a customer might buy) and premium financial services to see how they organise themselves around understanding customer needs and delivering a selection of products to them that together create an overall experience. There is a lot an organisation needs to do to be able to deliver an end to end experience across a range of products and services. Guiness has the luxury of being fairly single-product minded… for the rest of us we need to make sure our organisation is lined up to deliver not just our product developers…

Can Payroll be linked to Increased Sales?

I was recently in our local B&Q DIY store and followed a classic strategy of mine to solve our “sanding and varnishing” challenge.

  • Research the product online
  • Check product availability
  • Check store location and opening times
  • Go to store to get more information and purchase

This store certainly had a large range of products in the section we needed, some were fully in stock and some weren’t however it wasn’t until I was able to talk to a very knowledgeable employee that I was able to be confident that what I needed…

  1. existed and
  2. was in stock in this store and could therefore
  3. make a purchase.

We had, to be fair, been in another store earlier and not found what we needed… but in that store there was no-one knowledgeable to help us. We left confident that there was no stock of what we wanted to purchase… and went to another store (fortunately for B&Q another of theirs…)

So I was interested to stumble upon a Wharton Business School article which links the satisfaction of customer experience especially around stock availability and making purchases with… yes you guessed it… knowledgeable staff.

In short, customers get lower satisfaction from their shopping experience when stores have too few employees and, more importantly, when stores lack employees who are knowledgeable about what’s in the store.

Further more the study actually links increases and reallocations of payroll (around staff availability and knowledgeable staff) to increase in sales via increased customer experience scores. At times they were able to show an $1 increase on a staff member to a $4-$28 increase in sales!!!

So before you jump straight to your supply chain technology, or customer relationship database to see where you can eak out a better bang for your buck, may be this week have a look at where you are investing in some of your most valuable assets and see how you can better leverage your staff to deliver a consistent, excellent customer experience…

I would be willing to bet that the store we finally purchased from, whilst bigger, was not more successful because of size of stock availability but actually because of the range of knowledgeable staff it was able to support in guiding customers through their in-store experience.

The full report is available on Knowledge@Wharton (free to register) which is an excellent resource for all Business related research including the many ways in which customer experience is becoming more and more integrated into boardroom level decision making strategies.

Using Storyboarding to Communicate to Your Audience…

I’ve been following a few posts on “the secret to twitter” interested as I am on how people evolve their use of social technology to fit their needs.

Interesting in itself but I thought I’d revisit the Twitter home page to remind myself what they thought the secret to twitter was and I was pleasantly surprised by their method of communicating how to use twitter.

Twitter in Plain English from leelefever on Vimeo.

The video was produced by CommonCraft whose sole purpose is to produce videos to explain things in plain english! I think these guys are MUCH needed and their web-site states:-

“**please note** Our schedule is currently full for many months and we are not adding new projects to the schedule at this time.

A clear indicator that they are doing something right!

The Twitter video is a great example of how storyboarding and paper-prototyping can be used to clearly communicate purpose and function…

Now I’m off to watch a video on Blogs in Plain English see if I can’t learn something…

The bad table

I thought that Seth’s recent musing on restaurant service levels has something for us all to think about with regards our service offerings. He describes being offered the “worst table” in the restaurant, when he asked for an alternative table the one he pointed out was declared “reserved”…

Do you have a “worst table” that some of your customers end up with? Do you have a “best table” and how do you decide who gets that?

The bad table:
marketing dilemma: who should get your best effort? Should it be the new customer who you just might be able to convert into a long-term customer? Or should it be the loyal customer who is already valuable? Sorry, but the answer is this: you can’t have a bad table.

Here in the UK we have a great advert for Nationwide which makes similar points about customer service but from the flip-side:-

The “New Customers Only” mantra of promotions that are only available if you are a valuable (in this instance, new) customer…

Every offering, every level of service, every product you have should offer value at a level that means something to your customers new or established.  It is of course the case that ‘some’ of your offerings will be objectively compared to others and found to be ‘better’.

I think the lesson here is that you shouldn’t hold back on your good stuff just in case a better customer comes along.

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Two Levels of Retail Value:- “Do you have” vs. “Do you want”

Brand Autopsy: Borders Reducing its Borders:

Borders recently tested a front-facing display strategy where more books were stocked with their covers, not spines, facing customers. Sales increased by 9.0%. The strategy was so successful, all Borders bookstores will be switching to the front-facing strategy in the next couple of weeks.

This will mean reducing their stock in stores by anywhere between 4700 and 9300. However research showed that customers actually perceived an increase in stock following this strategy.

Seth Godin has a very interesting take on this that relates to the Two Levels of Retail Value that I discuss with my coaching clients – “Do you have” vs. “Do you want” the change in strategy from Borders is an interesting Customer Experience strategy that will have a measurable impact on the bottom line (I’m not going to predict which way it goes in the long-run yet) and is based around increasing the level of value that the store experience operates at…

Essentially stocking everything with the spine facing out is saying we are packing in as much as we can and we expect to have whatever you need… putting the covers of the books out is saying to the customer “Have you seen me…? you might WANT me?”. As Want is a higher level of value than need, we should expect the return on this strategy change to be significant…

If I can find any results over the next few months I’ll keep you posted.

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