In my former life at L’Oreal, in the professional products division (selling professional products to hairdressers), we used to spend a lot of time trying to convert a hairdressing salon from one hair color range to another. When a color was well entrenched in the salon, all the stylists were confident with their formulae and the clients happy with their color results, it was a terrific battle to get the owner to switch to another color range.
Embedded solutions and partners
There are certain types of “products,” services and partners that, once they become embedded in your business, are tough as molasses to move out. Moving beyond the example of a salon professional hair color, I think of internal financial management systems, such as SAP. Or the distribution of a product, where the distributor goes to great lengths not to share its client list with with the manufacturer (this depends on the partnership and sense of trust that has been developed between the manufacturer and distributor). Or, it might be a closed environment such as Apple iTunes — where you have spent countless hours cleaning, vetting and categorizing your music — and which, by design, does not transfer to any other platform.
In each of these cases, migrating from one system (or partner) to another can be a costly affair, if not financially, then from a time or emotional (read: confidence) standpoint. The “lock up” comes via being proprietary, closed and/or non customer centric. And, a lot of it boils down to not being transparent.
Social Media – open to a point
One of the supposed benefits of the internet era has been the openness of systems and platforms. Open is a fundamental value of the internet (listen to this interview with one of the founders of the Internet, Steve Crocker). The relative newness of social media and the interoperability between code, software and/or platforms may have taken social media migration off the radar for some. However, when exploring a new system — including investing in a social media platform — I see a potential dark cloud as and when brands realize and struggle to extract themselves in order to switch from one social media to another.
Making the leap
How easy is it going to be to migrate or convert from your current social media of choice to another “better” one? New social media initiatives that seek to provide a valuable and superior service to the incumbent will need to consider the migration options. Reasons to change could include the [social media start up] business you’ve chosen is closing down, changing its rules or business model. When a social media network doesn’t gain traction, it is forced to pivot or close. Before selecting a site, one must wager on its long term success and the ability to extract long term value. In any event, a good question to ask your agency of choice as you consider new platforms is whether/how easy the customer data can be captured? There are simple things that can be done in the meantime, for example, downloading and archiving your Facebook page, your Twitter stream, etc.
Of course, would it not be lovely that suppliers considered keeping you as a client because the service was just so brilliant, that leaving would be inconceivable from a business standpoint (as opposed to locking you into an ironclad contract, for example)? And, if you switched to a competitor, it were just as easy to come back? We don’t live in an idealistic world, however, so it’s best to keep our heads up and be aware of the challenges and risks that lie ahead in keeping one’s options open to migrate the business if/when one needs.
Your thoughts and reactions, please?!