Apr 162008
 

I was reading through my feeds this morning and came across an article about how H&R Block is using social media. Basically, they’re using twitter as a mechanism to see what people are saying about them and responding to those people. Additionally, they’ve got a couple of applications on facebook – a tax return estimator and a financial quiz application.

This is pretty interesting on a couple of fronts. First, if I twitter (twit? tweet?) about H&R Block and get a response from them, I imagine that would be pretty impactful, particularly if the message I get back is helpful. From the perspective of H&R Block, that interaction is valuable, at least for now. People will probably receive it well until every single time they mention any brand they get a message from that brand. I can see people starting to censor themselves regarding brands when they share something on twitter.

As far as H&R Block’s applications, I haven’t tried them (and won’t), but they don’t seem all that social. What is social about a tax return estimator? My taxes are between me and Uncle Sam. And Uncle Stan (my spontaneously created name for New Jersey – you like that?). As for the financial quiz application, yes, that one is more social. I still don’t think it’s very useful or valuable though. Granted, its users are getting more H&R Block brand messaging just by using it, which does have some value for them, no doubt.

I just thing they could do better. I propose “BlockNet”. H&R Block should build their own, branded social network that ties in with Facebook, MySpace, Hi5, and all of the others. This network could consist of H&R Block customers, tax preparers, and/or people interested in finance and tax information. Brand “BlockNet” as a financial social community, brought to you by H&R Block, of course. They could very easily convert their regular customers to be users of this branded network directly. They could expand their market by bringing users in from financial based web sites like fool.com, smartmoney.com, etc. And every single user could have the ability to be social regarding financial applications across all of their networks via Social Identity Mapping.

So they’ll probably need some software to help them with this…perhaps Ringside Networks could provide it, and free at that!

  6 Responses to “H&R Block Goes Social. Can They Do Better?”

  1. BRob:

    Thanks for the blog post! Like most companies we at H&R Block are in the listen and learn mode. We do have a community site, digits.hrblock.com, where we have been experimenting with podcasting, Vlogs as well as using it as a repository for our other interactive assets. It was incredibly handy to use it as a forum for late breaking tax news around the AMT and Economic Stimulus changes. We were even offering free tax advice during January.

    Funny that you mention the name “BlockNet”. It is actually the name of our internal intranet. I guess great minds think alike.

    All your thoughts, suggestions and insights are greatly appreciated as I’m sure Digits will take on many different forms in the future. Keep’em coming.

  2. Uncle Stan – very funny :)

  3. I think that H&R Block has realized something that very few companies have realized: that the traditional sales model has been greatly impacted by social media, especially for web-centric and Software-as-a-service (SaaS) products. While the functions within the traditional Discover, Evaluate, Purchase, and Support areas remains relatively consistent, the people and resources responsible for delivering those functions has shifted.

    Think about it: traditionally a Sales Rep would be responsible for getting new customers to discover the product, help the customer to evaluate it and answer questions, and then close the deal. Now a potential customer does a Google search to find the product as well as read blogs and other customer reviews (that are not run or posted by your company) about your product. They look at your website to evaluate the product, download a trial version/subscription to decide if they like it, and then purchase through the website. You made or lost the sale without any human interaction; “seller” control over these areas is lost to the web and social media. The only area left, the only area where you still have control, is Support.

    Support has now become critical to influencing the other areas. When someone does a Google search for a product you sell, you want them to see the blogs and reviews written by your raving fans because they are so impressed with the amazing customer service and experience that you provided them. Treating one customer like royalty in the short term may be more costly, but in the long term not only will you spend less on helping current customers, their free word-of-mouth marketing will help you add even more customers. Support has effectively become the new marketing. Now the question is: can you follow H&R Block’s lead and adapt to the new world of social media and marketing? I recommend taking a step back and figuring out what it’s like for your customer in the Support area, and how you can improve it.

    I’d be happy to email a “How SaaS has Impacted Selling” or a “7 steps to Online Marketing” guide that I put together for my internal team. Note: I don’t work for an agency & am not offering any professional service, making a sales pitch, etc – just offering free, no-strings help from one marketer to another.
    - andy[dot]ridinger[at]muralconsulting[dot]com.

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  6. The Zune concentrates on being a Portable Media Player. Not a web browser. Not a game machine. Maybe in the future it’ll do even better in those areas, but for now it’s a fantastic way to organize and listen to your music and videos, and is without peer in that regard. The iPod’s strengths are its web browsing and apps. If those sound more compelling, perhaps it is your best choice.

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