Saturday, February 20, 2010

Born to Brand – Adam Metz, Metz Consulting

This is one of several in a series of interviews, all part of a larger book project tentatively titled “Social Media Success: What these Folks Know that You Don’t.” (Also see my interviews with Louis Gray, Francine Hardaway, and commentary.)

Adam Metz is the Principal of Metz Consulting, a San Francisco-based management consulting firm that works with brands to to acquire, monetize and retain what he terms the "social customer." I first met Adam when was the Social Media Director at LaunchSquad, an SF digital PR firm where I also worked. He stood out a mile with his crazy checked shirts and turbo-charged energy, even in that hyperactive environment.

At the time, he was one of the few people around who knew social media well enough to advise others about it. Turns out, he’s still ahead of the curve. Eighteen months later he’s running his own firm, working with an enviable list of clients that includes several California wineries, numerous apparel brands, Mighty Leaf Tea, SF Convention and Visitors Bureau and  a handful of consumer service brands.

Our interview is slated to take place in person, but at the last minute he apologetically calls to say he’s sick (“something that never happens to me!”). I tap out our interview from a Tully’s on Van Ness, using a combination of my iPhone and AIM to communicate with him. Throughout our interview, he IMs me links and information without ever losing the flow of conversation.

When I ask him what he does for his clients, he answers that Metz Consulting is not unlike any other management consulting firm. They help clients better serve their customers. The difference? Well, for one thing, there are still only a handful of firms that exclusively offer social customer management consulting to mid-sized consumer brands. (His best known competitor is Altimeter Group.)

There are other distinctions. He uses a combination of strategy and customer relationship management (CRM) software that automates the complex and difficult tasks associated with brand management in today’s social media saturated world. We live in a time when like it or not, customers can (and do) say anything they like about a company on very public forums such as Twitter and Facebook. As their advisor, Adam’s number one priority is getting companies to a place where they can track and monitor and engage about everything that is being said about them. This means they can respond in ways that go way beyond crisis management.

Ultimately, they learn how to tap into consumer loyalty and enthusiasm.

“We don’t feel it’s enough to write a social web strategy,” he said. “All collateral has to go to one source. One dashboard. They need to prove a successful ROI. We’re the only shop getting certified by Salesforce Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics.”

An example: one of Metz’s clients’ customers (a thirty-something man) went out to a winery on a Friday night with his wife for their sixth anniversary. Despite a reservation, the couple had to wait an inordinate period of time. They were eventually seated and then all but ignored by the wait staff. Enraged, the man tweeted about his experience. Normally, that would’ve been the end of it, but instead, says Adam, “we immediately got it to them. The chef got through, texted and tweeted a response. The couple got a free tasting dinner. And that person came back as a paying customer.”

“But why the focus on consumer brands? Isn’t high tech still where it’s at?” I ask. “I mean, don’t you miss Silicon Valley?”

“I talk to Silicon Valley companies every day. They’re partners now. Take (cloud sales 2.0 intelligence provider) InsideView. They used to be one of my clients. Now I implement their technology. There’s nothing more fun than going to wine tasting –as I’m planning to do tomorrow--and realizing, this is my client. I’m writing strategy for these folks.”

He talks of fun, but later in our conversation it comes out how dedicated he is to understanding each industry he serves. His engagements substantiate multi-million dollar returns, and he takes his clients intensely seriously. As he admits, if you see him on Muni, he’ll probably have his nose buried in BevNet or Gourmet Retailer—trade publications for the wine and food industries.

There’s another reason he’s chosen to focus on consumer brands. The word “enthusiast” sums it up. Folks often get deeply personal about their favorite beverage or hotel. To illustrate, he had me search for his dad’s favorite brand of scotch on Twitter, Lagavulin. The query yielded hundreds of tweets from around the world.

“There are more reviews on the latest Mighty Leaf tea flavor than there are on the new Dan Brown book on Amazon,” he tells me.

This is beyond brand enthusiasm—it is outright passion. Metz has clearly hit on something. And he’s not keeping it to himself. He’s working on his second book: Dance on the Volcano due out early next year on how to do a million-dollar social customer management implementation.

He describes the book in the following terms: “If Groundswell was Sgt. Pepper, this is Born to Run.” Nice analogy. Think I’ll use it in my headline.

No comments: