Understanding Real Company, ahem “Stuff”, DistilledLive Seattle video discussion

In the last DistilledLive video, Will and Bridget gave their thoughts on mobile sites and search. For this week's edition however, we're heading back to the Seattle offices to talk through a much discussed turn of phrase within the industry of late. Our consultants, Kate Morris and Kristina Kledzik talk understanding RCS; what it is, what it isn't and what this means to you and your business.

You can also, find the full transcript of this video below.

What the heck is RCS anyway and who coined the phrase?

Wil Reynolds introduced us to the term back in his session at last year's Mozcon and reminded us that businesses existed long before search engines. But what does the term mean and how does this relate to you and your business? Real Company, ahem, "Stuff" is when you do something as a company that's going to bring value to your users specifically value that they are going to remember.

OK, so who are the companies doing RCS well?

Nordstrum is a great example of a company doing RCS really well. They offer easy returns to all their customers and, despite running the risk of having prom dresses returned the day after the dance, they make the return process easy because they want to be known as a great place to shop. They want the best customers. For an online example, Modcloth is a company we're not shy of applauding here at Distilled and really go out of their way to make their customers feel valued and build this relationship with their community.

Over to you!

What kind of experiences have you had with companies doing RCS well and are there processes and attitudes you've taken to building up your community online, or offline? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Understanding Real Company, ahem "Stuff", DistilledLive Seattle video transcript:

Kate:  Welcome to Distilled Live. We are in Seattle. My name is Kate Morris, and this is...

Kristina: Kristina Kledzik.

Kate: We are here to talk about RCS, or real company . . .

Kristina: Stuff.

Kate: Okay. I’m just going to say shit. I would kind of hide it, but you guys, anybody that knows me, knows that I’m just going to throw out curse words every once in a while. Sorry. There have been a few questions on Google+, on Twitter here and there, about what RCS actually is. We wanted to dig a little bit deeper into it, give you some examples of what we think RCS is; what we think RCS is not. To start it all out, we’re actually going to show you a snippet from Wil Reynolds’ video, when he spoke at MozCon last year and actually intro’d RCS to the world.

Wil: Stop it. We’re going to talk about revenue, man. Share a voice. Let me take you to the land before time. You guys in this room realize that businesses sold things before search engines existed, right? You remember this. There was a whole thing called business well before Alta Vista. Like ‘96 or ’86; two of the guys in this picture aren’t even here anymore. It’s freaking sad. I’m going to take you back to that time. The clicker’s a little bit off.

I want you to think; how would you sell a software product if you couldn’t build a bunch at link juice? How would you sell it? How would you sell software if somebody gave you a $500 budget and asked you to help them sell their software? How would you sell the first Jordan? Link juice doesn’t exist. You got to think, how did people market this stuff? They did real company shit.

Very often, SEOs do fake company shit. Let’s bridge that so we can get the budgets that we deserve and stop begging.

Kate: Now that we’ve heard that, Kristina, if somebody asked you on the street, not that anybody would ever ask you this on the street, because nobody on the street really knows what anything we do is anyway.

Kristina:  If you mention SEO in a bar, they will have questions.

Kate: Precisely. If someone were to ask you what RCS is, what would you say?

Kristina: RCS is when you do something as a company that actually brings value to your users, specifically value that they’re going to remember.

Kate: Yeah. Mine’s pretty close to that. Mine is doing things for your end-user. RCS is not a set of tactics; it’s actually doing things to make your customers happy, to grow your community. It’s not to grow your bottom line; your bottom line grows anyway. It’s really to grow your customers, and grow your community.

Kristina: Now that you’ve seen Wills video, we want to go into specifics of RCS. Like I mentioned earlier, RCS is really bringing value to your customers. One of the big ways that you can think about that is you’re building a relationship with your customers. For example, if you have this good relationship with your customers, they’re going to come to your store looking for things before they look anywhere else. If your competitor is selling something for the exact same price, they’re still going to buy from you because they already have this relationship with you. It’s something that they’re going to want to tell other people about. They are going to be your marketing for you; you don’t even have to do that. If people are telling their friends about you, that’s way better marketing than you could ever do through any way that’s paid.

Kate: To be clear, building relationships is not about giving people a free shipping coupon. They are not following you . . . don’t build your relationships by giving things away just to get followings on Twitter or just to build followers on Facebook. If you’re doing contests to build followers, that’s fantastic, but that’s not RCS. Real Company Shit is making people love you, making people want to talk about you. A free shipping coupon is not really something that is going to make them want to talk about you, so you really want to do the good stuff. Things like free shipping coupons, not so much.

Kristina: Not great. Just to be clear when talking about RCS, it doesn’t roll into ranking better. There are a lot of companies that we talk to who say, “If we rank better, then more people get to find out about us. We are an amazing company and that’s what we want.” Yes, we’re SEO's, and yes, that is our job is to make you rank better, but really, RCS is not about ranking better. Ranking better is going to get the results doing better RCS.

Kate: What we’ve reviewed so far is we want you to be building a community. We don’t want you focusing on tactics like free shipping coupons, increasing numbers, or things like that. We don’t want you focusing on ranking better. What we really want you focusing in on are the bigger things; are the not-tactics. Sending a birthday card to a customer is a great thing, but if you’re sending a birthday card just to send a birthday card, that’s a tactic. If you’re sending a birthday card because you genuinely wanting to wish them a happy birthday, and it’s just that, that’s Real Company Shit. Sending them a $10 coupon in hopes that they’ll come buy something on their birthday; not Real Company Shit. See the difference there?

Kristina: What we’ve been talking about this, we’ve been talking about offline and online examples, but RCS is something that didn’t really start until last year at MozCon, so lots of times people think of this as an online marketing thing that online marketers keep focusing on non-RCS and all of that. Really, this is the something that’s been around for ages. It’s actually something that if you’re a business major or an accounting major, that’s called goodwill. It’s that part of a company that people value beyond the value of its assets, which is the very technical term for when people just like a company, and then are more willing to give it more money and buy more things from it because they like that company. Goodwill values much higher or lower. Walmart is obviously small goodwill. I would say something like Nordstrom’s has a very high goodwill.

Kate: Nordstrom’s has been around for a long time; lots of people have shopped there for many, many, many years. One of the greatest things about Nordstrom is not only their Christmas sign that says, “We will not put up Christmas stuff until the day after Thanksgiving.” P.S. I love you for that. They also do great things for their customers beyond that. They have easy returns; if something goes wrong, you just bring it back in. They do run the risk of having prom dresses returned the day after. They just kind of suck that up because they want to be known as a great place to shop. They want the best customers, so they give the best customers the best service. When you buy something and it’s not just right, they’ll tailor it to you. They do all of this to make themselves the best place to shop and that right there, that is Real Company Shit. 

Kristina: To give an example of that, that’s happening on the online world, one company that we like to talk about a lot is ModCloth. This blazer actually comes from ModCloth. It’s something that I like to talk about. It’s something that, literally friends who are not in the online world at all, these are PHD candidates . . .

Kate: This is what should be happening.

Kristina:  . . . will have full-on conversations with me about ModCloth and about how ModCloth is amazing. ModCloth is a lot like Nordstrom’s, in that they have the same free returns, they’re really nice about things. A really good example is at one point I had a zipper that got stuck in the dress. I got stuck in the dress; I had to cut it out, and they just comp’d me for the dress. They said, “We’re sorry. That was a bad experience for you to have. We don’t want you to think about ModCloth and having this bad experience. Here’s your money back. We’re sorry.”

Things like that, I think lots of times, especially when you’re in the online world and you’re thinking of how small your margin has to be because it’s so easy to go to competitors, what you really need to remember is that something like that with ModCloth; if I got stuck in a dress, I had to cut myself out, I’m going to think “Never buying another dress from ModCloth. I just had to spend $50 on a dress that’s down the tubes for me.” For me, as a customer that just went away to 0-value. For the company, because they gave me that money back, they just gave me $50 back and they got a customer who’s going to return. I am going to keep going back, I’m going to keep buying from them because I feel like that risk is negated; I don’t want to say totally gone, it’s going to be less. I feel like I can trust them with my business, I can trust them with my money, and I’m going to go and shop on ModCloth before I look in other places.

Kate: What you’re hearing from us right now is really all about customer experiences. Notice, we’re not talking about any specific tactics. We’re going keep driving this home because a lot of people mix up RCS with a tactic, and it’s not a tactic. It’s really just about what makes your company great.

Kristina: Talking about this and calling this RCS sometimes can lead you to believe that anything that a company’s been doing successfully for a long time must fit into that example because it’s a real company and it’s been successful, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about bringing value to your customers, having them recognize that, and think of you in terms of, “This company brought me some value. I like that.” Like we said, building relationships.

For example, sending out spam mail has happened ever since there’s been a US Post Office, because it’s insanely cheap to send out spam mail, and now it’s insanely cheap to send out spam emails. Neither is a good tactic. When people get those, they actually like you less than if they didn’t. There’s a very small percentage that is going to chose to work with you and that’s why people do it. Overall, that’s not going to be a long-term good strategy for a business. Another one that sometimes people get confused about, and we just want to clarify, is bringing value to customers has to be related to you. A lot of times, companies will want to do something like a sweepstakes and they’re going to give away money. Once people win money, that money isn’t going to be tied to you; it’s now their money. Yes, they’re going to remember that your brand was on it, but when they’re telling everyone about it, they are going to say, “I won a sweepstakes.”

On the flip side, if you’re giving out a sweepstakes where you’re giving out your own products, that is a great way to do it. The winners are going to get your products, they’re going to show off what they won, they’re going to be real proud of it, and everyone is going to see your products. They’re going to try your product; they are going to see your friend having your product. Also when you do a sweepstakes with money, you have to give it a lot of money for it to be a big deal. If you give out $100, people are absolutely going to forget about it. Whereas, you give away one thing that’s worth $100, that could change someone’s life.

For my example, when I was in 5th grade, I was that close to winning an American Girl doll; I was so excited about it. I was in the Top-5; they lined us up and I sat there. As I waited for them to draw a name, I thought, “I have to have an American Girl doll. Even if I lose, I have to have it, because I was that close to winning it.” I lost, and I immediately went out and bought an American Girl doll with my allowance money that I had saved up.

If I hadn’t been on that sweepstakes, I would have already decided American Girl dolls were too far out of my reach, but because I got that close, I went out and bought it. The person who won it, now when she plays with people she’s going to say, “I won this doll. It was so exciting. I got to line up. They made it so exciting.” Doing something like that, they brought value not only to the person who won, but to the other people who almost won, and then everyone who participated in the sweepstakes got to see that sort of event play out. A lot of the times, it’s not the actual money that you’re giving, it’s the feeling that you give to the people who are there.

One thing that we really want to highlight, though, is that we lightly talked about spam techniques. There are a lot of business tactics that are actually successful business tactics, at the very least in the short-term, that are not RCS. One example that really explains it is Monsanto; they are a huge agricultural corporation. They sell seeds, specifically soybeans and corn a lot. Their seeds grow really uniformly, really big. One of the biggest things with them is that they’re resistant to Round Up, so farmers can put down seeds, they can spray Round Up, their seeds don’t die; everything grows great.

The tactic that they’ve been doing is they’ve been forcing farmers to buy seeds from them for every round. Whenever you buy seeds from them, you have to sign a contract that says you’re not going to reuse the seeds. For now, that means that farmers are buying seeds from them every round. Think about it: Soybeans are something that’s huge right now for a very educated group of people who do not like tactics like this. They don’t like the idea that because Monsanto’s doing this, they’ve basically driven out everything that’s organic soybeans, because these are genetically modified. There’s this huge bad will against Monsanto.

The farmers can’t really do much to get out of it. There is one farmer recently who’s found that if you just buy soybean seeds, because everyone uses Monsanto, there’s a good chance that even though you bought soybean seeds that should be for feed that they’re going to have a lot of Monsanto in them. You can spray the Round Up, but you’ll probably get the Monsanto for free. Monsanto is suing them. If Monsanto loses, all the farmers are going to start doing this. No one’s going to support Monsanto wanting to still work with them, and they’re going to significantly lose a lot of business share.

The value in RCS is that because people actually value as a company, if you hit some hard times, they’re going to support you through it. You’re going to be able to go through that rough patch and get back to where you were before. If Monsanto loses this business tactic, if it doesn’t work anymore, they’re going to have to find another spammy business tactic or else they’re going to go down.

Kate: After all of these examples, what we really wanting to drive home, and I’m sure you’ve gotten this by now, is that while RCS may mean different things to different people, different companies have different user bases, what it’s going to mean to you is different than what it’s going to mean to the person next to you. It’s not about the individual tactics. What we really want to drive home is that Real Company Shit is about growing your customer base full of people that are going to talk about you, that are going to share what you do, what you sell. They’re going to help grow your business exponentially.

An individual tactic is actually not going to grow your business very fast. Doing any of these sweepstakes, doing schwag, they all help, but if you have a good user base that is willing to talk about you, to advocate you, that is going to exponentially grow your company. That’s what RCS is really all about; it’s about your users. It’s about the intent behind lots of different tactics. It has to be about helping them out, not helping you out.

Thank you so much for joining us today. This is Distilled Live, from Seattle. We hope to see you again for the next version. Bye.

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