A Business Technology Place

Marketing technology thought readings 10

I participate in digital spaces by capturing, marking, and commenting on content around the internet. This is a recurring post of three links that I think others will find valuable for their thought lives.

  1. How Starbucks is turning itself into a tech company by Jennifer Van Grove of VentureBeat. I’m not a big coffee drinker in the sense that I try many different combinations. I have to put some cream and sugar for sure. (Sorry Black!) But I admire the Starbucks brand and the business they’ve created where they can charge a premium price for a cup of coffee and run a business with a hoard of loyal customers. I use Starbucks as a place for business meetings and I do enjoy the barcode app that stores a payment balance with them. This article does a great job showing how Starbucks has adapted and innovated to continue to create customer touch points as the world changes with different digital devices. A classic business school case study.
  2. Why I Like People with Unconventional Resumés by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz of Harvard Business Review.  I truly believe this is a big topic for recruiters and HR professionals who label themselves as “talent acquisition”. So many times the conversations I hear are about trying to exactly match candidates backgrounds with a job description. In fact, it’s part of the logic for the programs that scan resumes for keywords. The big idea here is to find people that can adapt, think, and remain flexible. Those are the people that perform best. Do you seek them for your team(s)?
  3. Wi-Fi and Amtrak: Missed Connections by Ron Nixon of the New York Times. As I read this article, my first thought was that Amtrak should have tested this more before releasing it to their customers. But as I think on it more I like their approach. They have released a service to their customer base and put it in the market. No, it’s not perfect. It’s a work in progress and I expect they’ll improve it through incremental improvements. I see so many projects die from “analysis paralysis” or projects that don’t get approved because the scope is too big too fast. So here’s a shout-out to incremental improvements and taking steps in the right direction.

Let me know what links you shared, tagged, or commented on this week.

Starbucks gets the big idea


Have you seen mystarbucksidea.com? Starbucks has gone outside their corporate walls for idea generation and thought. They’ve given their customers a chance to submit ideas to help improve the Starbucks brand and business. This isn’t anything new you say? You’ve had the ability to do this for years right?  You could submit ideas and leave comments through suggestion cards and customer surveys. Hold on, let’s take a closer look at what Starbucks has done with this site.

The My Starbucks idea site is really a community. Customers or interested persons leave their ideas where they are visible to everyone. Each idea is then voted on by the community and discussed. If Starbucks implements an idea from the suggestions they will post it on their blog named Ideas In Action.

What so ingenious about this and how is better than traditional surveys and comments cards?

Idea submission

To submit an idea you must be a registered user. Not to worry, the registration form only has 3 fields ( Username, email address, and password). So you won’t spend time writing out your name, complete address, and those dreadful demographic questions.

The process then allows you to pick a screen name for use with any posts you might make. To submit an idea you only need to fill in three boxes: the idea name, a description of the idea, and the category (from a selection box).  How simple is that? Don’t forget you can submit multiple ideas and keep coming back to the site.

Viewing ideas

Both registered and unregistered users can view idea submissions. Ideas are grouped by category, points, date for easy viewing. This creates a sense of community and understanding. It’s not something you’ll find with traditional customer response mechanisms where your survey is a one-off input.

Voting on and discussing ideas

Registered, users can then give each idea a thumbs up or thumbs down which will help determine the point score for the idea. The total points for an idea are shown by its name. In this way, Starbucks can get an idea of just how popular an idea is with its customers. Think about that. You can make your voice heard through voting for others comments even if you don’t submit any of your own ideas.

Registered users can also create discussions for each idea. This allows people to both further clarify the thought or to have a healthy debate on the merits of each idea and if they should be considered further. Again, it creates a sense of community and feeling that customers can contribute to shaping the future of the company. You can’t get this by dropping a white card into a wooden box or by filling out an online survey and never knowing if anyone reads it.

It comes with the territory

Perhaps the most impressive thing I saw on the site, was that the moderator allowed negative posts to stay on line. Starbucks reserves the right to moderate the site from profanity or inappropriate comments (as they should). But they do not delete posts which customers use to vent frustrations or to give criticism. This lets you know that this site is not just a marketing feel-good board. It’s a place where comments are welcome and viewed. Posters beware though. Since this is a community site, you may find that others don’t agree with your assessment.

My hats off to you Starbucks. You’ve got the big idea!