CINCINNATI - With the obvious potential the Internet has in the consumer market, it’s no wonder businesses are looking to virtual branding as the essential marketing tool.
This month, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s BrandHUB will offer a three-part workshop designed to teach businesses how to create brands that connect, communicate and engage consumers.
Mike Dover, the author of "Wikibrands: Reinventing Your Company in a Customer-Driven Marketplace," will be the keynote speaker the first night of the event, as well as lead workshops for participants.
The branding workshops will take place September 25, October 23 and November 13.
Branding in three parts
According to Cincinnati BrandHUB director Nicole Ball, the event can benefit companies of all sizes. She explained the workshop will be broken into three sessions with the first focusing on social networking and branding.
After Dover’s opening address, she said, coaches will lead participants in an exercise on how to more holistically look at their brands: assessing where they are now; what they’re currently doing and how they can improve.
Ball explained if companies still have one single a social media officer for the entire company, they’ve fallen far behind the times.
“When you’re looking at this, everyone should be a social media expert,” she said. “Whether you’re tweeting on your own or your tweeting on behalf of your company, more and more of us are getting involved. So therefore you’re a leader in that space and need to start telling others.”
The second section will focus on performance measurement; in other words, are your current market strategies effective?
The final session will focus on building an action plan to address strengths and weaknesses. Ball explained after reading Dover’s book, she knew the Chamber needed to host an event to showcase his ideas and teach local businesses how to apply the concepts.
Ball said initially the Chamber invited Dover solely as a speaker and the workshop idea grew from there.
“We decided, let’s actually open this up a little further into a workshop, so people walk away and say, 'I really truly got meaning out of that and meaning that I can take back to my company and meaning that makes me a better marketer,'” she said.
Opportunities for innovation
Dover explained that his book came out in 2011 as an offshoot of a 12-year think tank which studied 20 companies including P&G, Met Life, Cisco, AT&T and IBM. The think tank examined these companies' marketing, research and development and finance operations and methods.
He said the book focuses on how these companies use technology to have more authentic conversations with their customers. He said one of the most effective tools for customer service requires no expense for the company whatsoever: online product forums.
Dover said people who staff the forums can answer questions quickly and more efficiently than a call center. The best part about forums, he added, is they’re most often solely composed of volunteers. One example is TurboTax, where accountants donate their time to lead the forums.
“One of the guys who was answering questions was a retired CPA and had 40,000 entries on that because he just really liked helping people,” Dover said. “So that’s basically what the book looks at is the technology aspect: you’re able to do things you never couldn’t have before Internet existed.”
An additional technological advantage that often goes ignored is monitoring complaints on forums and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, Dover said.
By tracking customer complaints about chronic problems or difficult user features, companies can more effectively update their next release of the product based on feedback without extensive research and development. He said in order to retain customers, companies need to not only read their comments; they need to act on them.
“You don’t want to be asking for people opinion and then ignoring it or appearing to ignore it,” he said. “Make sure to say, hey we heard you about that, but we’re not doing it right now.”
Dover echoed Ball’s sentiments that all sizes of companies will benefit from the workshops. In particular, he singled out small companies with low operating budgets, as they can use social media to act as research and development, marketing and PR departments.
He said the workshops even include a section geared especially for non-profits. While the sessions can be purchased individually, Dover said companies will benefit more from taking in all three parts.
“So ideally you want people to come to all three,” he said. “They’ll work as stand-alone as well, but you’ll just sort of being running uphill if you just come in and start at the second or third one.”
Developed in 2011 as an economic development arm of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, BrandHUB’s mission focuses on bringing area companies together to build marketing partnerships and further economic growth in the region.
As a fledgling entity, BrandHUB has offered smaller educational events in the past, but Ball said this is the first time they’ve tackled one of this magnitude.
“If you sign up for all three, you’re going to get a holistic approach of how I’m looking at my company and my brand,” she said. ”Some folks will probably tell you, 'Oh, we do that already.' I still think that even if you think you do it, you probably should hear from this perspective because I guarantee that’s there’s more to it than what you’ve anticipated.”