Stop Making Friends And Start Making Money

Todd Michaud has spent the last 16 years trying to fight IT issues, with the last six years focused on franchisee IT issues. He is currently responsible for IT at Focus Brands (Cinnabon, Carvel, Schlotzsky's and Moe's Southwestern Grill).

Can you imagine your company not showing up in the Google search results for your own company name? If you keep "dipping your toes" in social media, you may be unlucky enough to find out exactly what it feels like. I am amazed by how many people cannot see the fundamental shift that is heading for the retail industry.

The first retailers who can crack the code of how to maximize their relationships with customers via social media will win. The rest will become irrelevant. If you don't have a social CRM strategy in place, you are behind.

I can't help but smile when I read polls about how many companies are experimenting with social media. Responses along the lines of, "We are trying different social media tactics but have not landed on a solid strategy," tend to be the most popular answer. Can you imagine a CIO making the statement, "We are playing around with ERP to see if we can build a business case"? The world is moving to an open, sharing, social platform at a lightening pace. As a result, people behave differently today than they did yesterday. How have your sales and marketing strategies adapted to this change?

Let me give you an example of how some companies cannot see the forest through the trees. Currently, the hot topic with social media for restaurants is location-based applications such as Foursquare and Gowalla. These applications let people "check in" at a restaurant by pressing a button on their phones. That update is then posted to various social tools such as Facebook and Twitter and lets users' friends know where they are. The thinking is that if your friends know you are enjoying a drink down the street at the pub, they may join you.

These same companies were also smart to add a "game" element to the application that rewards users for frequent check-ins. On Foursquare, for example, if you have the most check-ins at a location you become the "Mayor." People have fun trying to capture and re-capture the position of Mayor at their favorite hangouts.

To capitalize on this trend, many restaurants and bars have started to offer specials for Foursquare users. Some restaurants offer perks for simply checking in, while others offer specials like free drinks or free appetizers for the Mayor. Early results are positive, with many restaurants seeing increased traffic as a result. (Although there doesn't seem to be much incentive to publicly state how your social media program is a complete failure, let's just assume that we're not getting the "whole" story.)

Rewarding your most frequent customer is one thing. But I think great companies will figure out how to take that knowledge to the next level. What if you could create a comprehensive view of each customer that includes online, in-store and offline? It's one thing to know that I am the Mayor, but it's another thing to know my average frequency, spend per visit and lifetime value.What if you could reward the customers with the greatest social graph (the most Friends and Followers)? Do you think you could score each customer to his or her overall value to your brand? Could you categorize your customers: Influencers, Heavy Spenders, Early Adopters or Casual Users? Why not?

What if you could provide incentives to customers to entice their social graph to visit the location (receive 10 cents on your loyalty/gift card for each of your friends who checks in)? Laugh if you will, but I believe the restaurant industry will see multi-level marketing become a large part of its business in the next three to five years.

My point is that retailers are about to be faced with mountains and mountains of data that will provide insights into their customers in ways we haven't even yet began to imagine. (Who would have thought Blippy would be a real site just two years ago?)

The key to success in this new world is organizing and managing all this data. Social CRM is the foundation platform that will maintain it. I think great companies will leverage their BI infrastructure to round out the social business picture.

Companies that figure out how to harness (structure) and use this data will have an incredible advantage over those that don't. I can't stress how big of a gap I feel this differentiation is going to create. The "haves" will have an ever-increasing intimacy with their customers, while the "have nots" will still just be shouting at the crowd.

What are you more likely to do: Try that new chicken sandwich you saw fly by as you fast-forwarded through the commercials during CSI or try that burger Mike keeps raving about, the one he's already eaten twice this week?

Term Of The Week: "Tibbing," which is short for "Technical Fibbing." Tibbing occurs when an IT person is unable to further simplify complex technology to a user's level of comprehension and must say something that is technically inaccurate but communicates the appropriate concept.

What do you think? Leave a comment or E-mail me at [email protected]. You can also follow me on Twitter: @todd_michaud.

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