Learn to Empower, Says SIPA 2011 Keynoter

Take Advantage of Peer Influence, Bernoff Urges

Josh Bernoff, senior vice president, idea development, Forrester Research, has an IDEA, and he will be coming to SIPA 2011 on June 6 to deliver it.

The acronym stands for “the four things that companies need to do to become able to respond to customers that are empowered,” he said in a recent interview. The IDEA emerged from a new Forrester book that Bernoff co-authored called, “Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, Transform Your Business” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2010).

“The I is identify your mass influencers so that this [defines] the people in your market that have the most influence,” Bernoff began. “Sixteen percent of the people account for 80% of the influence, so you have to identify them. D is deliver groundswell customer service. In this environment we live in now, customer service is marketing because any of your customers could be Tweeting or writing about you. You have to be able to monitor that and deliver on it. E is empower with mobile information. That is really how to take customers and make them happy—give them all the information they need. And the A is amplify fan activity. When you find the people who love your product, you have to find ways to take that activity and make it much more visible. We have a number of case studies in the book about exactly how that works.”

Bernoff’s Monday morning keynote for SIPA 2011 is titled The Dynamics of Peer Influence. While empowerment is a big part of Bernoff’s winning formula, it is not enough in itself to get the right message out. Employees need to understand the company strategy, and that involves putting a process in place that enables their innovations to be recognized and supports them. “So, empowering your employees doesn’t work unless you have actually designed a management framework that enables them to work together and go from, I have a great idea, to, I am actually doing something that can help customers and it is in line with the company strategy,” he said.

As for the customers, Bernoff greatly respects their power to tell their friends and social connections about you, good or bad. Simply put, impressions people get from one another are far more believable than ones from a third party. “This is why you need to tap into what customers are saying,” Bernoff said. “Your budgets should be designed to recognize” that.

Bernoff has another acronym from the book that he likes: HERO. It stands for Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operative. “We all know these people,” he said. “These are the people who come up with the idea. We should have a customer community; we should have a Facebook page; we should have an iPad application. We should build a way for people to see videos about our products. These ideas are relatively easy to implement and now people throughout the organization want to use technology to do them. This is a challenge to IT, which is used to controlling that technology and it is a challenge to management, which is used to controlling the voice that the company has.”

Bernoff points to the success of Best Buy and their system called Twelve Force, where 2,500 employees “are able to share one Twitter system to respond to problems and how that actually turns detractors into promoters of the company,” he said. It works because CMO Barry Judge supports that culture. “[Judge] says, ‘we like half-baked ideas.’ That means that if you come up with an idea and you haven’t quite figured it out yet, they are going to support you and try and turn that into a reality.” And that kind of atmosphere made it possible for Best Buy employees to be responsive “where other companies really haven’t gotten the cultural necessity or the cultural way of thinking to be able to get to that point yet.”

It’s fascinating stuff, and SIPA 2011 attendees will be very fortunate to hear a lot more from Bernoff on June 6. Register today and save!


Speaking of a Twitter community, follow tomorrow’s
New England Chapter presentation—
Using Social Media to Build Your Publishing Business
—on Twitter using #sipane.

Speakers include:
Josh Macht, executive director, Harvard Business Review;
Danny Carlat, publisher, The Carlat Report; and
Mary Kay Lofurno, director, online marketing, Wellesley Information Services
The session begins at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time.

Download a FREE copy of 7 Ways to Monetize your Portal Audience, and discover how today's top publishers are generating revenue through memberships, events, clubs, sponsorships, and more.


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