No matter how great your marketing is, what your customers say about your company has a bigger impact. The difference today is that your customers are talking with your prospects on the Internet. As a marketer, you can create more trust with your prospects by listening to those conversations and incorporating customers into your marketing strategy.
Everyone is Listening to Your Customers
If you’re like most people, the last time you made a purchase, you asked other’s opinions on a product or service before deciding what to buy. This is a standard part of the buying process-- but in recent years, it’s become far more influential. In the past, you only had your immediate circle to consult with. If none of your friends or family had experience with a brand, you had little to go on other than the brand’s own marketing. Because of the lack of connectedness, businesses had a lot of power to promote the image and message they wanted.
Today, that’s changed. You can go online to any store that sells a product you’re looking for and see thousands of reviews from strangers. They may simply rate the product out of five stars, or they may give a long, multi-paragraph review with specific pros and cons. 84% of people trust these online reviews as much as friends. And that’s not even considering the power of going viral to make or break a brand.
Incorporate Customers Into Your Marketing Strategy
This may sound like a problem. If one disgruntled customer posts a bad review, it could hurt your business far more than that customer could have in the past. But it’s actually a huge opportunity. Happy customers are your best marketers in today’s digital landscape, and they cost a lot less than a full page ad. With so many customers putting their trust into what others have said about you, a rave review has incredible power to do much of your marketing for you. By encouraging your happy customers to become promoters-- not just of your products, but of your content-- you can market your brand to a far larger audience than you could have imagined 20, 10 or even 5 years ago.
As the influence of customers grows, marketers are searching for ways to harness that power. Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies without a customer-centric marketing focus. But there isn’t one simple technique or tool you can use to get your customers to work for you. You need to retool many aspects of your marketing to incorporate a more customer-centric focus.
Powerful New Uses for Social Media
Many marketers begin with social media as the first channel to harness the power of customer marketing. You likely already have a social media program on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn for brand building or lead generation. Your customers and prospects are on these social platforms, and probably use them to keep up with favorite brands. One survey found that 90% of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram users have used social media to communicate with a brand.
Here are some ways you can take advantage of social media to incorporate your customers into your marketing:
The human element. Being personable on social media by engaging with people and trends encourages your audience to share your posts. It can be hard to get away from the image of a brand as a monolithic, incessant advertiser. Social media lets you show the fun, laid back, organic side of your brand, the side that people want to talk about and recommend to others. This can be a tricky needle to thread, however-- social media users are savvy, and always on the lookout for too-genial brands misusing the latest hashtag. Be genuine, and your audience will want to share your posts.
Provide customer service. Social media lets you communicate individually with your audience, which can include people who actively follow you, people who see your posts second hand via shares, and people who are shown your posts based on social media algorithms. This can be a powerful tool for customer service. Customers who receive good customer service through social media are not only more likely to remain a customer, but will spend more money and recommend the brand to others. And this is a growth area-- Fix problems promptly and hassle-free and your customers will share their delight.
Spotlighting your customers. Your audience is looking for rave reviews to confirm that your business is the one they want to purchase from. Why not amplify the ones that are already out there? Promote your happy customers on your channels and share real success stories. User-generated content can help your customers get exposure of their own, particularly if they’re a small business. Promoting them on the channel on which they’re trying to build a following of their own grows both your brand and theirs!
Social media can make your customer service faster and more individualized, and it’s critical that you respond to consumer issues by going above and beyond what they expect. But even more importantly, it can give you a constant stream of information about the way customers are reacting to and engaging with your business, and it can give you a platform to create a personable and highly shareable online presence.
Spotlighting Your Customers
Social media is one way to highlight customer success, but your marketing can benefit from spotlighting your customers across all the channels you use to reach your audience. On your website, in press kits, and at events, stories of customer success and delight can help you market your brand.
A good way to do this is to create a section of your website to display case studies, and link to it throughout your product pages for the relevant products. If you’re a B2B business, showcase your relationships with brands your clients know (for example, if you work in office supply wholesale, you could write a case study on your relationship with a coffee company that your prospects see every day in their office). You can also bring guest writers who love your product or service onto your blog to author a piece on how your brand has helped them in their industry or hobby. In this way you can use what your customers are already saying to build trust between you and your prospects and leads.
Incorporate Customers Into Your Product Strategy
As marketers, we are often asked to contribute to product management and design - bringing the voice of the customer into internal conversations about new product features and positioning. Here, too, we can leverage what customers are saying about us online.
You can read reviews of competitors’ businesses and find out what they’re doing right, or read third-party blogs to get an outside perspective on industry issues. This information is invaluable. Find out what your audience wants from your products and services, what they love about them, and what they don’t like, then help your company use that information to improve.
Say you work for a candy company, and you notice that nostalgia for a discontinued product is making rounds on Facebook. You can capitalize by incorporating retro flavors, or creating a limited edition of the discontinued candy, or creating a social media campaign to post old pictures of your customers eating the candy. If your business makes outdoor gear and a well-known influencer is espousing the greatness of your boots on their Instagram feed, you can reach out to them to collaborate. Being aware of how you’re discussed online helps you make intelligent changes and create organic, customer-focused marketing that will increase your leads and conversions. If people are opining, complaining, effusing, or otherwise talking about your business with any emotional tack they wish, you can find it, read it, and use it.
Customers are talking about your business-- good and bad-- and your prospective next customers are reading what they say. Reviews, social posts, and the word of friends and family are becoming a far more trusted adviser than sales and marketing. By monitoring what people are saying online, you can use it to your advantage for powerful marketing to bring in new leads that lead to more conversions.