The Bankwatch

Tracking the consumer evolution of financial services

Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

A perfect example of customer loyalty | WordPress outage

A key driver of customer loyalty is customer service, especially in the handling of crises and problems.  But there are other aspects.

WordPress for those that are not familiar, is a blogging platform.  This blog is running on WordPress.  Yesterday, late afternoon, WordPress was down for 110 minutes.  On the face of it this would be a crisis.  For example when gmail goes down, even for 2 minutes, everyone panics, predicts the end cloud computing, reflects on how this proves you cannot trust Google etc. etc.

When wordpress goes down, here is the result. Downtime Summary

  1. Jean-Luc Crucifix
    February 19th, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Thanks for this very quick update! We appreciate it!

  2. Olivia Tejeda
    February 19th, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Honestly, I was horrified when I heard WordPress was down, but you did a great job of keeping us informed and getting back to business. Thanks so much for that!

  3. Avraham
    February 19th, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Thanks for all your hard work!

  4. jamesb101
    February 19th, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Thanks for the info…..
    I love you guys…..You’re doing a great Job….
    After I did a level 2 diagnostic check (A la Star Trek ) I knew it was the system and I just left things alone…
    Keep up the good work!

  5. Ruslan Trad
    February 19th, 2010 at 12:06 am

    We understand!:)

We love you, thank you, we understand??  There are 203 comments and they are 100% in the same vein.  There is not one comment suggesting they will leave WP, or even anything remotely negative.

On twitter these were the initial reactions.

And this was wordpress response at the time – note Matt Mullenweg is the CEO.

I have seen similar occurrences when something has gone wrong at WP and the result is always the same.

A few things stand out about wordpress.

  1. They are both personal and personable.  Users feel they are dealing with people.  First names are always used.
  2. Matt the CEO is personally engaged and it shows.
  3. There are frequent enhancements to the service that are promoted on my dashboard, and discussed on their blog and forum. They are always communicating to their users.
  4. Users care about WordPress, appreciate the service, and feel engaged with it.  so when it breaks they feel part of the problem, as opposed to Google users who have no idea who is on the other side of the wall at gmail.  There is no personality in the case of Google.

Relevance to Bankwatch:

In my little case study of one, me, WordPress and gmail are my two most commonly used apps.  They are both technically sound, equally reliable and invaluable to me.  Yet I have more perceived confidence in wordpress than gmail,  this despite the fact that logically I know that gmail has never missed a beat since inception in 2004, and I have complete confidence my mail will always be there, despite occasional hiccups.

I believe one difference must lie in personality, and knowing who I am dealing with.  I always have more confidence in the bank where I know the people than in a monolithic organisation such as a typical discount brokerage firm where there is little human contact.  Incidentally I also recognize the distinction between the immediacy of the tools which will also influence how users interpret downtime. 

The challenge then, relative to the organisational personality aspect is to create that human contact and create it in a way that is genuine, and that will scale, without having to maintain a 1,000 unit branch network for example.  The traditionalists always say that bank branches drive loyalty and new accounts.  Is it the physical locations or is it the personality that located in those locations?  How do we scale personality and personal contact.  Before everyone jumps on it this is more than a twitter solution.  My impression of twitter is that it is actually becoming highly impersonal with RT being the predominant twitter activity.

No, the challenge for banks and other organizations to develop a genuine and trusted personality online will be multi faceted yet essential in order to succeed and produce economic scale.

Written by Colin Henderson

February 19, 2010 at 15:34

Posted in Marketing, Self Service

A social business definition from Clearlyso

If there is a word that bothers me, it is the word ‘social’.  It is often quickly followed by the word community.  Over the last 5 years you are no-one unless you have a social aspect and a community.  Some have gone to great lengths in an effort to properly define social in a meaningful way.  However to this day, it remains hard to frame the context of social in a business way, and especially for existing businesses such as banks and financial institutions.  I certainly is not by having a PR managed twitter account. 

I raise all this again after meeting today with the nice people from clearlyso located at CSI in Toronto. is the Canadian arm of a UK group and launch is coming soon!  Our conversation was related to communitylend, but that’s not for here.  Clearlyso has definition of social business that makes sense to me.  In fact I raised it here and here in the context of regulation, and here in the context of meaningful social capital.

Yet this all becomes hazy when I look at real businesses and attempt to evaluate them based on being ‘social’. 

So it was refreshing to see someone lay a line in the sand and outline a simple definition. 

A social business definition |

A social business is one which integrates two objectives:

  • A commercial objective: To achieve and increase profits and realise growth (like any traditional business) and…
  • A social (and ethical and environmental) objective: As set out in our list of social benefits, found in the search box on the company directory.

A social business can be large or small, a start-up or an established player, it can take any legal form (CICs, co-ops, Ltd companies, and so on) and can operate in most industrial sectors (it’s difficult to imagine a social arms manufacturer/trader)

In summary a socially oriented company is one that is doing good, and not doing evil. 

  • Customers are right until proven wrong
  • making profits from inherently devious and fake products such as derivatives is evil
  • taking TARP money on false pretenses is evil and it turns out illegal
  • forcing call time that drives revenue and does not allow the customer choice is evil, driving ‘thin value’

Why is it that on the banking side, I have more evil than good?  That’s not good. 

The definition of social has finally transcended the fact of hosting a forum, or engaging in twitter/ FaceBook/ blog comments.  No.  Rather it is a fundamental requirement in the business objective of the company that sees business profits to be made while people perceive real value, both financially, ethically and morally.

Written by Colin Henderson

February 5, 2010 at 00:02

The coming media crisis and parallels with the financial crisis

A general thread that has been building for me for some years now is highlighted in a few things I have seen recently. The thread is my hatred of advertising and in particular online advertising. For me it lies in the same category as junk (paper) mail except worse. I can simply throw paper junk mail out as one package, so it is not intrusive. Online advertising is horribly intrusive because it is pervasive. I use lots of things to ensure my online experience is minimally interrupted by ads

In 2004 people were asking about blog business models. Now it is social network business models. I have suggested other ways to deal with business models, but the mob continues to aim directly at advertising as the answer. It will pollute the web, and result in the opposite result than what is desired. It will not bring sustainability for them using advertising.

So what happened this week.

  • twitter volumes are already dropping. Pick any topical topic and search it on twitter – result 80% of the tweets are re-tweets of the topic. Its a gigantic echo chamber. In fact the next question – how many of those re-tweets were someone with a vested interest, a professional marketer, or a PR company? The theoretical value of wisdom of crowds does not allow for gaming the system. The black swan of twitter search.
  • the volume of requests to me at this blog for linkbacks, blogroll links and outright requests for ads is increasing significantly. That will never happen btw. However it is indicative of the desire for ‘social media’ results
  • A good friend who despite my recommendations still uses hotmail (now windows live). This persons entire contact list and archive of emails were deleted and it turns out this person not alone. Some kind of scripting virus inside hotmail launched by making the wrong click and signing up for something let the virus in. The clue was emails to all the contacts notifying my friend was happy with some TV or the like. Needless to say my friend is now using gmail exclusively but its a bitter lesson.
  • techcrunch reported on the real evil of ad networks online and the significant money being made. Its a long post, but the key is that no-one is generating any real value here. Individuals are getting rich and that is all.

So what is the point of these seemingly unrelated observations especially as I am a devout proponent of the value of internet. What I am against is traditional interruption advertising coming online. It pollutes the medium and hinders the genuine creation of new and valid business models.

Today I read Umairs post at Harvard and that solidified it all for me (Umair does that). He points to the coming online crisis that is the online version of the subprime crisis. Readers of this blog get the sub prime crisis. The coming online crisis is one of trust, and realisation that online activities require security and protection yet something more which is still to be invented – control. It will be a crisis and it will be a broad based internet crisis of confidence. The result will be serious and cause serious grief for banks and others who have come to rely on online for servicing.

The parallels with the financial crisis are interesting. The financial system was getting better and better at recycling money and the convoluted networks that were built lost sight of the origin of the credit instrument, and the underlying risk. Causes were lack of transparency, shadow markets, rapid expansion, and mis-allocation of risk amongst others. In the case of the online advertising market, there are similar attributes. Transparency is non-existent in most cases, because there is no way to know who is behind those ads. Shadow markets and rapid expansion – ditto. Mis-allocation is interesting. I avoid online ads because they are interruptive. At a deeper level, they are mis-allocation of resources away from user experience and towards the requirements of a stupid ad server that is busily collecting data on you. The value is highly one-sided – worse the server is gather data that may or may not be of any value. Internet is simply clicks – do clicks imply desire, need and future purchase patterns?

Relevance to Bankwatch:
Smart banks and others will look at the embedded value in the customer base they have and define models that add value to those people, not spam them. What is known about your customer base, and what do your customers actually want. Traditional advertising models assumes customer needs – internet models will (I believe) enjoin the customer to participate in the definition of what they need and in return protect them (the customer) from spam advertising. One example is the promise of VRM. But it is only one – others will be developed, and will be supported by powerful authentication tools.

Innovation is another loser in this coming crisis, or as Umair notes unnovation. In advertising land, innovation is all about finding ways to get inside peoples click patterns and drive ad revenue. There is not value created for the majority of consumers (90% + who do not click), nor for merchants who actually desire long term client loyalty.

This has turned out to be a negative post, but really it is intended to provoke thinking beyond online advertising and ad servers. Which innovations will align customer advocates and merchants in a genuine and trusted manner?

Written by Colin Henderson

November 12, 2009 at 21:57

On VRM, Facebook, and being misunderstood for long periods of time

I simply love this post at RWW.  The post is about how FaceBook could turn on the power of their userbase to the benefit of consumer power.  I have long been a fan of VRM and at the same time at something of a loss to see how it could be initiated.  Then I read this post, and new lights went on.

The post is about FaceBook, but it is less about them, than it is about business models for companies with large userbases who insist on following tradigital advertising models. The whole ‘We have lots of eyeballs so lets monetise’ thing.

[disclaimer]  I have long believed that adwords, adsense, and any such interruptive advertising model has only a limited online lifespan, and represent a termproary interlude that keeps SEO types busy in these formative internet times, until we get to the next level whereby the consumer is truly in charge.  Only then will I accept a Web X.0 increment.

I look at myself and my online behaviours, and maybe I am in the minority, but maybe thats because the tools I use are not well understood.  My online experience sees almost no ads except when I choose to do so, and I do so choose.  I see them in emails I deliberately subscribe to, I see them when I seek them out, but my standard web experience is protected by pop up blockers and AdBlock Plus.  If in doubt how many have PVR’s at home, and skip tv ads?

Its not that I don’t want to lknow about products and services.  I just don’t want to know when I am reading, listening and watching things on the web.  This is the power and the promise of the internet medium;  it has the power to be better.  I listen to Sirius Radio for similar reasons; I want to hear music not ads.

Enter Vendor Relationship Marketing (VRM).  Terrible title, but in essence VRM says you will decide when a merchant (vendor) may contact you, ie advertise to you.  Until then stay away. Here is one of the more provocative catchphrases from “The ClueTrain Manifesto” which forsaw this problem and solution 10 years ago.


The challenge is how to move from an interruptive model in radio, television, phone, mail, and now internet to VRM which would require a seismic and complete shift.

“be prepared to be misunderstood for long periods of time.” – Jeff Besos

Back to the RWW post.  Bernard does a nice job of pointing out that FaceBook is taking too long to develop a business model, and is taking longer than Google did.  He notes that it will take a radical shift in order to do that, and that shift will be misunderstood, but give it time.

I agree with Bernard.  The reason FaceBook and traditional advertising doesn’t work is because no-one wants to hear an ad in the middle of a conversation.  However FaceBook has the other benefit (some say weakness) of being a walled garden and Google cannot see inside.  He notes this is the perfect oportunity to turn that walled garden into a powerful tool on behalf of the consumer.  When they feel the need for a product, service or information on them, FB users could, through an RFP (Request for Purchase) process make it known to vendors, even to the point of naming their price or price range.  Vendors could respond.

This turns the ad model on its head.  The playing field is levelled between the merchant and the consumer.  If the merchant comes on stronger than the consumer wishes, or tries to return to old ways, the consumer can ignore them.

Relevance to Bankwatch:

Consider banking – every day thousands of RFI’s emanating from VRM services, and the banks can compete on them, all electronically.  Clearly this requires formats, standards, and defined processes but it makes an interesting future world view, and one that FaceBook could kick off.

Written by Colin Henderson

June 26, 2009 at 12:47

State Department official, Jared Cohen, e-mailed Twitter – delay scheduled maintenance

This has little directly to do with banking per se, but it has a lot to do with information seeking, gathering, and the seismic shifts in how transparency of otherwise opaque bodies can be nullified by the internet tools available.  It is also just plain fascinating, and something all strategists should watch and try to understand.

Whether this was innocent or otherwise, it appears to be a fact that it happened hence the significance.  Also read here for discussion and note the ‘informed’ comments.  One cannot help but think that there is something deliberate to all this, and even that Twitter may be an unwitting accomplice.

[If this is the same guy, Cohen is actively engaged at State in Middle Eastern affairs, and published this “Iran’s Young Opposition: Youth in Post-Revolutionary Iran”.]

With a hint to Twitter, Washington taps into a new force in diplomacy | NY Times

Yet on Monday afternoon, a 27-year-old State Department official, Jared Cohen, e-mailed the social-networking site Twitter with an unusual request: delay scheduled maintenance of its global network, which would have cut off service while Iranians were using Twitter to swap information and inform the outside world about the mushrooming protests around Tehran.

The request, made to a Twitter co-founder, Jack Dorsey, is yet another new-media milestone: the recognition by the United States government that an Internet blogging service that did not exist four years ago has the potential to change history in an ancient Islamic country.

“This was just a call to say: ‘It appears Twitter is playing an important role at a crucial time in Iran. Could you keep it going?’ ” said P.J. Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs.

update: Whose views are being managed and by whom? (Washington Post)

“Twitter’s impact inside Iran is zero,” said Mehdi Yahyanejad, manager of a Farsi-language news site based in Los Angeles. “Here, there is lots of buzz, but once you look . . . you see most of it are Americans tweeting among themselves.

Written by Colin Henderson

June 17, 2009 at 11:36

The ultimate marketing opportunity, right under your banks nose

I just noticed this ad on netbanker.  Wow.

This summarises something that has frustrated me for several years.  Picture a situation where you have (relatively) perfect information about a customer, and what they might need and want.  Supplement this with what they actually have with you, and what you can safely predict what they have with others, and you have the ultimate marketing opportunity.


Written by Colin Henderson

May 4, 2009 at 17:59

Posted in Marketing

The Social Media Myth |

In one of the clearest pieces on social media, Michelle covers it well in this white paper entitled The Social Media Myth. My favourite quote, and an initial hint as to the content.

Because people don’t go on social networking sites to hear your pitch – people go on social networking sites to talk to their friends!

She answers the question on what is the one thing you need to know.  I won’t steal the reports thunder, so you can download and read for yourself, and I do recommend it to all banks.  As a hint, it differentiates beteen building link credibility and building personal credibility.  Marketers who read this, must keep an open mind because it requires new skill sets, and much of what is required here is not a requirement for marketing departments, and will engage other departments.   There are useful things here that all banks can participate in, no matter your cultural issues.

Written by Colin Henderson

February 2, 2009 at 11:43

“Back to Basics” because marketing gets “it”

I attended enough marketing conferences and events this year to realise this headline is no surprise.  Classic response which I can hear now – “we are in a new paradigm, with new challenges that no-one has seen before – time to get back to basics, and forget all this talk about social this/ that”.

Top Marketing Trends for 2009: Execs ‘Sick’ of Web 2 | MC Marketing Charts

#4. Marketers “Sick” of Web 2.0: Twice as many marketers are “sick” of hearing about Web 2.0 and related buzzwords such as “blogs” and “social networking” compared with last year’s survey.

I know enough people in marketing who actually do get it, that I feel safe in generalising here – the comment is aimed at the rest 🙂

What is interesting here is that web 2.0 however one cares to define it is being written off by marketing before they try it.  This is not SEO or fake emails to bloggers – its about being genuine.  Here we have some concepts that have the potential to transform business, marketing and business models, and already it is being written off, before even trying them.

I keep going back to Cluetrain.  Written in 1999 it is even further ahead of its time than we realised.  it does not help that it is an awful, and disorganised read.  Nontheless it is prescient and visionary in its beliefs.  Cluetrain is the real web 2.0 and the tools we hear of such as blogs and wiki’s are transitory, and replaceable.  The concept lies in wisdom of employees, enjoined with the wisdom of customers that develops a new level of understanding of products and services.  This understanding will make marketing messages irrelevant.

It will take us some time to get with with traditional thinkers apparently, but the web will take customers there before corporations.  The corporations who ‘get’ that will be amongst the winners.

Written by Colin Henderson

January 15, 2009 at 01:27

Posted in Marketing

Google – can I count on you ?

I have always been skeptical about online advertising.  I avoid it like the plague, and while I recognise I may not be the average, I also know I may be the view of things to come. 

Google Analyst: “Worst Economic Environment In Our Collective Lifetimes” | Techcrunch

Google’s stock price closed yesterday at $291, the first time it has dropped below $300 since 2005. It’s 44% off of its 52-week high of $725. Most analysts think its cheap and getting cheaper – the average price target is still over $500. Former analyst Henry Blodget, however, thinks it could fall to $200 (I prefer the bullish version of Blodget myself).

I have been skeptical about advertising as a model online.  It feels to me like a square peg pressed into a round hole.

The data suggests Google may be less powerful that people thought – June 2007

The perversity of online advertising

Internet advertising – gaps in the advertising model

Relevance to Bankwatch (and startups):

Austin Hill made this classic statement today at StartupEmpire

“Advertising is not a business model”

Enough said.  Its a great way to attract revenue, as you adjust, dip and dive through the competition, but its not a business model.  Business models require paying customers – period.

PS – I live and die by Google – I love them – I pay for Google Apps.  But their advertising is irrelevant to me. I worry if they will be there for me 😦

Written by Colin Henderson

November 13, 2008 at 23:38

Posted in economy, Marketing

Marketing ideas we haven’t thought of ….

This clip is from a Japanese instant noodle site.   Instant noodles are very popular in Japan. 



Note the last item – a ringtone.  What a simple, free, yet brilliant marketing idea.  What if your ad was a catchy, consistent music theme.  Serve it up as a ring tone, and both customers and prospects will hear it all over the place. 

Written by Colin Henderson

October 26, 2008 at 19:02

Posted in Marketing

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