Big networks are preparing for the eventual wave of online viewers. NBC, Fox, and Disney now all have a stake in Hulu. You can expect to see their marketing departments experiment with content delivery and advertising programs as the online viewership of Hulu grows.
I spent this past Saturday at Six Flags Over Georgia compliments of the employee activity group at work. It’s been many years since I’ve been to the park. I once roamed there periodically as a teenager. I’ll admit, my expectations were pretty low about how my consumer experience would be, because I had some preconceived ideas about uncleanliness, wild teenagers, long lines, smoking, etc. To my surprise though, the park was clean, smoking was only allowed in designated areas, and the other park patrons were well behaved. It did get crowded around lunch time and wait-time for the roller coasters quickly went above one hour. But all things considered, I had a great time and enjoyed the opportunity to hang-out with my kids.
It’s typical that when I play Johnny Consumer at places now that I look at how they approach customer focused principals and processes. I cannot guarantee that the experience in all 20+ properties is the same, but I’d like to think the company applies similar processes and rules across their portfolio of amusement and theme parks. Things that I graded highly:
- Cleanliness – To be fair, the park is only open on weekends right now, so it better be clean on a Saturday.
- Variety of food choices – While I did not eat at one of the many eateries, I did notice that they had a large variety of choices.
- Signage – The directional signage was clear and easy to understand for in-park navigation.
Things where I saw room for improvement:
- Line queue management. Despite long lines for rides, I noticed that on almost every ride there were empty seats for a particular run. The empty seats are created by a riding party not having the exact number of people to fill a row in a ride. Empty seats means less customers served per run and results in longer queue times. Six Flags would do good to look at how Disney World parks make use of single rider lines and asks their ride operators to try to fit a party exactly into the allotted seats.
- Courteous employees – I should say that none of the employees treated my family disrespectfully. Everyone did their job, dressed well, and kept-the-peace. But a world class customer focus rating requires employees that are going above an beyond to give you an experience that makes you smile and feel that you have been served. It can be done with hourly employees if the system that’s put in place properly teaches, encourages, and rewards it.
Using the tag line of the company from the last couple of years, Six Flags can up their flag-meter by focusing on queue management and putting in a system that makes their customers feel like they are appreciated. More flags, more fun!
As an aside, Six Flags is struggling financially right now. One recent move is an attempt to pay some of their debtors with company stock lieu of cash payback. I hope they make it out their financial difficulties by making some sound management decisions and financial structuring. It’s a nice place for young people to hang-out with friends and provides some thrilling roller-coasters.
Over the past year, I’ve observed my kids exhibiting a similar behavior when going to various destinations on the Internet. Rather than typing “destination.com” in the address bar, they go to the search box and type “destination”. As I thought about this, three reasons came to mind to explain their behavior:
- It’s less typing. They have discovered a way to reduce the number of key strokes to get to their destination.
- They trust that the results of their Internet search will return the destination URL in the 1st or 2nd listing of the search results.
- People think and relate to brand names and the association to a product/service rather than an address.
The behavior I observed with my kids is not isolated to them. When I searched for some research on this topic, I found this piece about how the search box is used to type in the .com site name for online dating services.
If you look at current trends with browsers you’ll see that we may be headed for a combined address and search box. In fact, Google has filed for a patent to combine the two boxes. If you use Firefox as your browser of choice, you will see that typing a search phrase in the address bar does return a Google search result. It’s the number one result in the “I’m feeling lucky” search from Google. Want Firefox to return a standard search results page? Read this. For our friends at Microsoft, I tried a keyword in the address bar on Internet Explorer 8. Typing a phrase in the address bar returned a Google results page. Nothing like putting a destination in your browser for your biggest competitor.
Think about this. Why do we need two input boxes for addresses and search? It’s a nice simplification and natural advance to combine the two boxes. As I noted about, we think in terms of what we need, not an address. However, Google and other search engines have something to loose if the two boxes are combined. If you type in “destination.com” and get a search page of results, Google is making money for the ads you see. If they combine the two boxes and you do that then you’ll be taken directly to the destination address and not see the search results. So who will win out? The consumer or the money making company?
What lessons can learn from Internet search behaviors, browser offerings, and how we market our products and services?
- Your brand is your traffic generator. On some materials you may choose not to spell out an Internet address (destination.com). This is OK, because people will search for you based on your brand name or the type of product/service you offer and not your web address. It’s not about you, it’s about your product/service meeting a need and providing utility.
- You need to make sure your brand is in the top slot of unpaid search results for the like key-word in an Internet search. There are many volumes of books, articles, and blogs about search engine optimization. If you haven’t already, find someone you trust and start making plans for this. You could even contact me…..
- Put your brand in as many locations as possible. It seems obvious, but don’t have to worry about additional wording because your name only can drive awareness and subsequently traffic to your web site. This simplifies your task by both removing the task of creating copy as well as reducing the amount of space required to put your message on a particular item.
A classic marketing framework for describing consumer behavior is awareness, interest, desire, and action (AIDA). Tim Ash does a good job of relating the AIDA model to eCommerce and Internet Marketing. Over the past several months, I’ve been trying to promote the ‘A’ for awareness with social media with my organization, friends, and family. It’s been a surprisingly difficult task.
At work, I routinely collect and share social media examples with peers and managers. Now, I don’t consider this a spamming effort. I try to make the content of each message relevant. It might be about relationship building or how businesses are using social media to reach customers. My Starbucks idea is a great example of this.
Here are some typical responses from work:
- Something like “that’s nice, come back to me when you can prove it will make a million dollars in 90 days”
- “That would never work here”
- An acknowledgment that it sounds really cool.
- No response, no acknowledgment. I translate this to mean, they are too busy to read the message, they don’t understand the message, or they think social media is a home based fad with no business relevance.
I see this as a battle between classic push marketing (paid print ads, internet banners, etc.) and value based marketing (content based where customers elect to see your content). Before I can get people to be ‘interested’ (AIDA) they need to be aware of just what social media is. The ideas of building relationships, offering helpful services, and being authentic are not new. What is new, is that you would do these activities without charging the customer for each interaction. Awareness.
At home, or with friends, I often hear comments like:
- Why would I put my personal life online? – Pick and choose what you share. But its a good way to build relationships, because people will post what’s important to them or what they are passionate about. It definitely gets you past the shallow conversations about the weather!
- “Who has time for that?” – I guess you have less time if you just turn on the TV and plop on the couch. Everyone has the same amount of time in the day. Make your choices about what you’ll do with it.
- “I’ve never heard of that or wouldn’t know what to do” – People are creatures of habit. Have you seen the fastest growing segment on Facebook?
How do you promote awareness of social media in your organization, family, or circle of friends? Write me, I’d like to get some insight into what has worked for you and what has not.
Photo Credit: Relationship-Economy
Last week I wrote a post about mail order alternatives to cable and satellite TV. This post included information about Netflix services which includes the selection of television series in addition to movies. The Los Angeles Times reports that Netflix will raise Blu-ray rates effective April 27. The subscription plan that allows 3 movies at a time will increase from $17 per month to $21 per month.
The justification listed by the company spokesperson is that this brings the premium fees for Blu-ray in alignment with other like services (in store rentals, purchases, etc.) as well as additional fees charged by Hollywood studios.
My local cable company is charging an extra $5 / month for high definition cable. So this price increase is in-line with market pricing for similar services. It seems strange that Netflix didn’t price the premium into the service at inception.I took a quick look at their 2008 annual summary to see if they were feeling effects of churn and trying to make up for lost revenue. Netflix defines churn as:
Churn: Churn is a monthly measure defined as customer cancellations in the quarter divided by the sum of beginning subscribers and gross subscriber additions, then divided by three months. Management reviews this metric to evaluate whether we are retaining our existing subscribers in accordance with our business plans.
But the annual report shows that the 2008 annual churn was at 4.2% which is in alignment with the previous two years. Their gross margin has been slipping, so this could be a move to elevate that number. As analyzed in my earlier post, the $21 price is still a bargain if you use Netflix as a substitute for full cable services. With a single in-store rental at Blockbuster now at $5, the Netflix pricing is at 4 single rentals.
What’s your take? Do you you use Blu-ray? Is the better picture worth the price premium? Do you think this is a wise move from Netflix?