I am more than half-way through reading Empowered on my Kindle and I have to say that I am really enjoying the stories and the information in the book.
The main thesis of the book is to let you are to be employees Heroes (very resourceful authorized agents). They want employees to become HERO’es because the challenge It is not only for demanding customers in the context , is what this engagement does to corporations and how employees respond to this engagement. The authors may be correct that this is a management challenge but there are still a lot of issues when it comes to how management views marketing and social media itself.
Here’s an example of a HERO project:
Let’s say that you are one of the top brands for Bicycle’s in the United States. Over the course of the last 2-3, more and more people are purchasing and going biking but they are confused on which type of bicycle to get. Should they, for example, get a road bike, a hybrid or a cruiser? Normally the manufacturer has recommended that customers go to their local bike shop and work with a salesperson to determine the best bike but today people like to shop on the Internet and get a list of possible models and ask others what they think about the models.
Someone at the bike company who monitors the brand’s Facebook page observes that a lot of people are asking each other to recommend a bike model. He determines that it would probably be beneficial to develop a “bike finder” interactive tool that recommends bike models for you based on several criteria such as where you intend to ride, age, how much you want to spend and-and how long it’s been since you have been riding. Once you answer some questions the bike choose recommends several models on one page where you could compare them.
According to the authors of Empowered, you would have to go through a HERO evaluation. In the book, this is almost 4 pages of questions that you would answer to determine of resources should be allocated to the project. My problem with this is that you are either replacing a processor adding a process to a decision that should be easy to make because mentally the person who identified the need for this tool already has done this. In addition, if different people within the organization answered the questions would they all agree on the answers? Probably not, in fact, you would probably have to have a lot of meetings to get everyone on the same page.
My personal feeling is that most organizations move to slow to meet consumers ever changing needs. As a manager, we could not and should go off in a thousand directions and try to do a lot of projects we have to prioritize what we feel adds value to consumers. What we don’t need is to add another quantitative process to slow down projects that we know could add value. The Internet allows us to determine rather quickly if a project we implemented is successful or a failure.
The other issue that this book tackles is working with IT. In some companies, IT has an LOT of power and they view marketing as people in toga’s walking around with martini glasses. If your IT people ask for a “business case” when implementing or developing new consumer-driven tools then you are already at a disadvantage and your IT people are putting up barriers to derail your projects.
I have worked with good and IT departments. One IT department I worked with would not even make minor changes to our website with doing a technical and functional specification plan that could take weeks or months to get approved. How did I handle it? I met with IT people to give them the basics of marketing 101 online and as I won them over the IT policy was changed to only requiring tech and functional specs on new websites, not changes.
Empowered has a lot of examples of HEROes as well as some excellent data from Forrester. However, social media is more of a tactic and strategy, it’s a way of thinking about your customers and the authors give a lot of examples of how this can benefit brands. I am going to give Empowered 4 stars out of 5. I would give it five stars if their book were to be published in color (I have Kindle edition the book is not released yet).
There is a big correlation between HEROes in this book and Linchpins in Seth Godin’s book. The common theme running through both of them is people taking action to acknowledge the new age of empowered consumers.