As a marketer or sales professional, your customers are your most valuable asset (and no, that isn’t #1 on my list). What astounds me to no end, is the frequency with which organizations consider customers little more than sources of revenue. Customer Support organizations know the importance of exceptional service but all too often, Marketers fail to value customers beyond the point of conversion, while Sales professionals stop at the hand off to an account management team. In 5 considerations or less, I want to change your perception of your customers.
1. Your Customers Are More Credible Than You
Gregory Ciotti, founder of Sparring Mind, recently shared with HelpScout the incredible story of Chegg, an wildly popular online book rental company that allows college students to rent textbooks online.
Their “ambassador” program is called the Chegg Champions network offers the opportunity to become a brand ambassador and earn rewards for continued purchases. Certainly not a novel idea, in and of itself, but Chegg, who knows that their customers are more credible Sales and Marketing professionals than they are themselves, goes further. On their blog and in a private hub for these champions, Chegg promotes the top performers and provides ideas and resources to help these evangelists, their customers, promote Chegg and earn more.
Appreciating that customers are more credible than they are themselves, Ciotti adds that “Chegg is the #1 online book rental company as of this writing, and tapping into an enthusiastic customer base has certainly played a vital role in their success.”
2. Customer Service can be Incredibly Simple
No one likes to be ignored. If you have a service based business, always answer the phone and ask a customer to hold while you deal with something before you. If you have a web based service, integrate a customer support platform like ZenDesk to streamline your inbound inquiries, FAQs, and support process.
Customers understand that you’re busy serving someone, but a little attention costs you nothing and a smile costs even less. Besides, it’s incredibly easy to profile all of your customers online and give them that bit of attention with a tweet or nod on Facebook where your engagement, through a social network, can pay off in dividends.
When you’re busy, do what you need to make them feel welcome and attended. If all else fails, remember #1
3. Their Use of Social Media May Surprise You
People using LinkedIn tend to be older and well-educated professionals while people who sign up with Facebook may seem younger than the average LinkedIn user. Okay, so that isn’t too surprising but data from IBM’s “Leading Through Connections” suggests that CEOs have a strong interest in gaining deeper insights into their customers. 73% of the respondents indicated that they will be making significant investments into the ability to pull significant customer insights from their available data.
Notably, for example, according to Get Satisfaction, social networks are unlikely to influence purchase decisions with customers still preferring to turn to your website for information about products and services rather than their friends on social networks. Keep that in mind when investing in your own social media strategy.
Mining and understanding that data is the challenge but make no mistake, your customers’ use of and behavior on social networks are incredible indicators of their interests, intent, and affinity with your brand.
4. Social Data Indicates Key Consumer Trends
At least, the overwhelming majority of CMOs believe so; do you? According to Bazaarvoice’s “Chief customer advocate: How social data elevates CMOs,” roughly 4 in 5 CMOs believe that social data is effective in indicating: discernible trends or patterns that may impact the business, consumer demographics and/or psychographics, consumer sentiment towards individual products or product lines, and the influence of individuals or groups on the purchase decisions.
5. You think Social Media is Prevalent Today…
According to an IBM survey of more than 1700 global CEOs released in May 2012, social media will become one of the dominant customer engagement tools in the next 3-5 years. Surprisingly, only 16% of businesses currently engage customers through social media; 57% anticipate doing so in the few years, a proportion that places the channel behind only face-to-face methods of interaction (67%), and ahead of websites (55%) and call centers (31%).
What the these considerations suggest to me is that though social marketing may not be a significant part of your business or marketing strategy, social media, must be. Learn how to leverage the intelligence in social media to learn more about your customers, your industry, or trends that will affect your business, and you’ll be prepared to compete in a few years when social media really takes over.