How Do You Effectively Manage Customers & Fans Online?

from the service-is-everything dept

Post sponsored by

Insightly
The #1 CRM for Small Business

Last week, we talked about the customer management challenge faced by successful crowdfunding projects. That's just one aspect of a broader issue that affects every online business and every creator trying to monetize their work: the more success you find, the harder it gets to manage and maintain that success. Connecting with fans and customers has always been the first half of our philosophy of success on the web, and it needs to be baked in to every business plan from day one.

As part of our sponsorship program with the CRM tool Insightly, we want to get feedback from our audience about the challenge of customer service and management online. We're looking for perspectives from both the business/creative side and the customer/fan side, plus stories of good and bad service experiences (everyone's got a few). Here are a few key questions to consider:

  • What changes someone from a first-time customer into a long-term one?
  • How do you scale personal service (something that makes a lot of startups stand out) with a growing customer base? How do you balance the retention of loyal customers with the acquisition of new ones? Same goes for entrepreneurial artists and their fans.
  • What's the best way to communicate with customers across the wide variety of channels that they use, from social media to email to good old fashioned phone calls?
  • What are the most important features for a CRM tool, and what kinds of other tools do businesses and creators need to manage their customer bases? In the previous sponsored posts, we discussed the lack of CRM features in the backer management tools included with Kickstarter - on what other platforms are creators and businesses going underserved?

Submit your thoughts, stories and responses in the comments below!


This post is sponsored by Insightly. Grow your business and your customers with Insightly, the #1 CRM for small business. Sign up for a free account today »

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 12:30am

    Congratulations, Techdirt engineers -- once again you've broken something.

    I don't know what it is you did this time, but the expand/collapse tabs have stopped working, some time in the last hour or so. Now if an article isn't shown in its entirety you have to click the headline and wait for a slow, extra page load to read it. :P

    I suggest reverting the site software to the state it was in about six months ago. I much preferred it then. 20 articles to a page, no little expander-thingys at all, and strictly chronological display of the articles. Simple, easy, works for everyone, played nice with NoScript and other privacy/security tools, and you could catch up with a minimum of clicking and (waiting for) loading. The changes since then seem calculated to tick off your core audience -- techheads who are very likely to be using things like NoScript. And now the expander-thingys don't even work if JS is enabled.

    It's funny, though, how each new malfunction/degradation of the user experience seems timed to coincide with a "sponsored post" appearing, isn't it?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 12:31am

    Re: Congratulations, Techdirt engineers -- once again you've broken something.

    Annnnd looks like you broke the gravatars too! :P

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 12:40am

    Re: Re: Congratulations, Techdirt engineers -- once again you've broken something.

    Well that was quick. Seems both problems are gone again. Also, the text on the expander-tabs had changed to "Read More" and has reverted to "Expand". Did you guys click "undo" after trying something and realizing it had unwanted side effects?

     

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  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 1:13am

    Are you guys slowly selling out?

    Seems to be an awfull lot of "sponsored" post lately....

     

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  5.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 14th, 2013 @ 1:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Congratulations, Techdirt engineers -- once again you've broken something.

    Well that was quick. Seems both problems are gone again. Also, the text on the expander-tabs had changed to "Read More" and has reverted to "Expand". Did you guys click "undo" after trying something and realizing it had unwanted side effects?

    Nope. Made no changes to the site tonight at all. Expand/collapse has been working fine for me. Not sure if what you saw was a hiccup, but we'll look into it.

    As for some of your other points, we decreased the number of articles on the front page after we received numerous complaints of load times for the full page. The expand/collapse stuff was also due to people complaining that they had to scroll through long articles they didn't want to read to get to the ones they did want. This way you can scroll and *very easily* open up the full article if you want to.

    Also, if you want to keep the articles expanded, there's an option for that in your preferences, so if you really don't like the collapsed stories, no problem, you can have it appear the old way -- and that works whether you're logged in or logged out.

    So, no, most of these changes have been focused on improving user experience, giving you more choices. Sorry if you don't appreciate them, but we're trying our best to accommodate a variety of ways in which people read.

     

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  6.  
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    Leigh Beadon (profile), Jun 14th, 2013 @ 2:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Congratulations, Techdirt engineers -- once again you've broken something.

    If you saw "Read More" instead of "Expand" it's because the javascript failed to run for whatever reason (people with JS disabled get Read More links instead, since the expansion feature relies on javascript) -- probably just a connection hiccup

     

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  7.  
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    Pragmatic, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 3:39am

    Re:

    Sponsored posts are a revenue stream because Mike doesn't do the "paywall" thing.

     

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  8. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 5:26am

    How Do You Effectively Manage Customers & Fans Online?

    WELL, in all seriousness to your title question: just put out your warez and don't try to involve ME in running your biz. Customers aren't interested in your business problems or in doing work for you. -- I doubt that when you go into a restaurant, you volunteer to clean the bathrooms before you sit down to eat. Same principle.

     

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  9.  
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    ReallyEvilCanine, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 6:22am

    I'm fine with sponsored entries

    But not dishonesty. By what imaginable metric is insight.ly "The #1 CRM for Small Business"?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 6:37am

    Is it just me...

    ...or are these "sponsored posts" pegged to the second position in the front page? This is annoying, since it makes the order of the posts change all the time: a new post starts above the pegged post, and then suddenly it is below it.

    If you scan the front page to check for new posts, stopping when you see the first one you already read, this can trip you up.

     

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    horse with no name, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 7:37am

    Step 1

    If you want to manage your relationship with people, don't bash them over the head with paid posts.

    Step 2... don't call it Step2. That dog died.

     

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  12.  
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    ReallyEvilCanine, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 8:41am

    Re: I'm fine with sponsored entries

    I'm also not cool with bumping those stories into a high position on a site where currency is a submission currency is a factor.

     

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  13.  
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    Dan Tobias, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 9:13am

    Managed and monetized

    I don't think the typical Techdirt readership is likely composed of people who want to be "managed" or "monetized", or whatever other buzzwords might be thrown around in sponsored posts.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 12:26pm

    Now how can I make this floater sink down the page at the usual rate as new articles come online?

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 4:28pm

    Mike you're only proving yourself BLIND!

    Lame articles seeking help from readers about business problems have just near zero interest, besides that you'll get ZILCH useful and must deem it a flop.

    Nor will it stir up discussion. I'm sure that your fanboys regard the pinning as nuisance, and with lame article and pleas for help, embarrassing because reveals you as clueless, so they don't want to AT ALL encourage you, will just sit it out. Your fanboys won't tell you to STOP this notion. It's counter-productive. -- But I'll be happy if you stubbornly continue looking foolish, and only LESS happy if you wise up and quietly drop it!

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 4:59pm

    I would treat fans as I treat the plants in my garden with care and love, they are not weeds.

    Observe, learn, experiment, if the plant is getting all yellow with dark spots it may be because of lack of some nutrient, try epsom salt for magnesium, egg shells for calcium, take some samples of the plants tissue and look it under a miscroscope to see if there are any strange organism there, post the photos somewhere and ask others if they saw something like it before, collect temperature, humidity data, talk to them and try to make every single one of them feel liked.

    Is there anything else to be done?

    You try, if you fail, you ask somebody who suceeded how they did it or observe what they do it, if you don't fail you can help others.

     

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  17. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    horse with no name, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 5:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Congratulations, Techdirt engineers -- once again you've broken something.

    most of these changes have been focused on improving user experience

    Is that the new Valley term for "SEO to suck up to google better"? Perez Hilton did the same thing, but he at least more of less admitted the shorter pages was to drive page views and ad revenue, while lowering the bounce rate on the site.

    So for Techdirt, it's the "user experience", but the moves exactly mimic what Google wants for better results. How odd!

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 5:42pm

    Re: Step 1

    Seriously, sour grapes here. If you can't be bothered to install an ad-blocker, why should we care what adverts you see?

     

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  19.  
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    Leigh Beadon (profile), Jun 14th, 2013 @ 6:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Congratulations, Techdirt engineers -- once again you've broken something.

    In order to drive pageviews and lower the bounce rate, we'd need to actually trim the articles and thus force people to click through to the post pages -- which is exactly what the expand feature avoids. The expandable posts mean all reading can still happen on the main page, so it has no impact on pageviews or bounce rate...

     

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  20. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    horse with no name, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 7:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Congratulations, Techdirt engineers -- once again you've broken something.

    Umm, I wasn't specifically talking about the expand, rather the move to go from 20 stories on the front page down to a much shorter list currently. That is almost certainly a page view move, there is no other reason.

    Now, of course, Mike wsaid "As for some of your other points, we decreased the number of articles on the front page after we received numerous complaints of load times for the full page.", but the real page load issues have not to do with content (which is essentially all words) but rather all the extra stuff loaded in the sidebars, the lower toolbars, and all that other stuff from third parties (who remarkably likely track user actions across various sites, another story altogether). If the goal was to improve page load speed, stripping that stuff out would be a much better way to do - cutting content is just cutting content.

    Perhaps you should follow along with the full discussion, and not just the parts you like, you even missed the boss's comments, I guess!

     

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  21. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    horse with no name, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 8:52pm

    Re: Re: Step 1

    It's not easy to filter out paid posts, fool. That's why Techdirt is using them because it's a "natural flow discussion" thing that let's advertisers be part of the site, rather than just slow loaded banners and chat boxes on the side.

    However, the FTC rules require these things to be marked and obvious, and judging by the lack of substance in discussion here (and on the rest of both Insight Community and Step 2), the people have spoken and have no interest in this stuff at all, except perhaps for a few of the more notable brown noser types. Otherwise, it's a dead player. Most people understand that they are getting used and just don't participate.

     

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  22. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    horse with no name, Jun 14th, 2013 @ 10:44pm

    Re: Mike you're only proving yourself BLIND!

    I think even the fanbois agree with you on this one. It's a sad attempt to monetize this websites, but it's funny as heck, considering that the demographicsof this site tend to skew to students, at school, and not people with real world experience.

     

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  23.  
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    Malor (profile), Jun 14th, 2013 @ 10:48pm

    Yeah, these sponsored posts seem to be doing the lead balloon thing. I have no particular beef with either Insightly or with you guys, but trying to force geeks to talk about things that benefit a sponsor is just not going to work. I've seen two of these posts, and in neither one did any useful conversation happen.

    You'd probably raise more actual revenue if you came up with better price tiering. I wanted to give you $50/year, but that wasn't easy to do; it was either $15 once or $10/mo. So you got $15 from me instead of $50.

    I think you're falling away from your own major drives, the ones that got me to sign up in the first place... engaging your users and giving them something excellent. Looking for ways to make it easier for your primary revenue source to grow, like better tiering, and maybe attractive little perks to go with the tiers, strikes me as much more likely to increase revenue than by cannibalizing your user base to chase sponsor money. From where I'm sitting, that looks very inconsistent with your stated business model.

    And don't get me wrong, I'd love it if you were wealthier than Croesus. I don't mind you making money, and I hope you make a lot of it. But these sponsor posts really put a bad taste in my mouth.

    Talk about Insight.ly because they are interesting, not because they pay you.

     

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  24.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 15th, 2013 @ 12:15am

    Re:

    Yeah, these sponsored posts seem to be doing the lead balloon thing. I have no particular beef with either Insightly or with you guys, but trying to force geeks to talk about things that benefit a sponsor is just not going to work. I've seen two of these posts, and in neither one did any useful conversation happen.

    We've had tremendous success with some of these posts, and others haven't caught on. We're definitely learning and adjusting as we go. Just a couple weeks ago, one of our sponsored posts was the top post on Reddit tech and reached #5 on the front page of Reddit as well. So, sometimes people quite like them.

    Also, in the past, we've held similar discussions to this one that have gone quite well and been very interesting, including on topics like enterprise storage, enterprise printing, data models, and the like.

    But, yes, this particular post clearly did not catch people's interest, and we're learning from that as well.

    You'd probably raise more actual revenue if you came up with better price tiering. I wanted to give you $50/year, but that wasn't easy to do; it was either $15 once or $10/mo. So you got $15 from me instead of $50.

    Hmm. Perhaps the organization of the site isn't that clear, but we've always had a lot more options than you suggest, including a $5 month option (http://rtb.techdirt.com/products/watercooler/) and a name your price option, that even has a single check box for $50 (http://rtb.techdirt.com/products/friend-of-techdirt/).

    We'll look for ways to make that clearer.

    I think you're falling away from your own major drives, the ones that got me to sign up in the first place... engaging your users and giving them something excellent.

    Again, as noted above, most of what we've done has worked. Sometimes it doesn't -- and this may be a case where it doesn't, which we're learning from.

    Talk about Insight.ly because they are interesting, not because they pay you.


    Honestly, nothing in this post said anything about talking about insightly. It asked people to discuss ways to deal with a very real problem that many of our users do discuss regularly. It was sponsored by Insightly to create a general discussion on the topic -- not to have anyone comment about Insightly.

     

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    horse with no name, Jun 15th, 2013 @ 5:14am

    Re: Re:

    A post sponsored by a CRM company, asking questions about how to handle customers seems like a push for the company. Perhaps they didn't want it to look that way, but it's how it comes off.

    I would think you would realize after the Step2 fiasco that your audience here isn't into this stuff much at all, you do have a few readers I gather who are in the field, but not that many. More of the readership is in the "f--k the politicians and the **AAs" mentality, which makes it unlikely that they have ever had to deal with a customer at all, except perhaps in the "would you like fries with that" way.

    This particular post, while it's in an area you WISH your site was really about, is not what it's about. You are too far off topic for most people. Further, by pinning the post and basically jamming it at people again and again, you make it worse instead of better. People learn to dislike those sorts of things. For the company, perhaps they will understand that these posts don't make them part of the ongoing discussion, and rather makes them stand out in a way that isn't entirely flattering to them.

    Nice try to monetize, but not entirely successful.

    BTW, have you considered dropping the link to step2 from the top of the pages?

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2013 @ 11:40am

    This article will demonstrate (by its lame comment section) that all people, want all sugar, at no price, all the time.

    So, in a world of free, to monetize, you've virtually got to be sitting in the guy's lap, for free, with a smile, and then after the third drink, he'll smile and sigh and loosen his hold on a few dollars more, also for free, and with a smile.

    Let's be clear: I'm still for a world of free.

    I remember when I was out in Berkeley there was a visitor at the Hoover Institute, a guy who combined his intellectual work there with an interest in the spiritual traditions of the East, and he published in a paper his theory that the true cause of the suffering of the poor, in the West, was that they were just too attached to material things. Nervous strivers, they were.

     

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