Tuesday, December 27, 2011

¿Where are our marketing practices going during 2012?

What's out there for us?

And finally we made it to 2011’s last week! And even though there is no real pause between one year and the following, it’s as if we’re really going into a New Year, a different one. It feels like closing one door and stepping into a different room. ¡It’s an overwhelming feeling, very difficult to put down on words!

This is a wonderful time of the year to look back and think, analyze, meditate. I love doing it. Thinking a little bit about the things we’ve done, about those that continue to be in our “to-do list” and even about those we did without even planning ahead.

It's also a good time to ask yourself: Where are we heading to next year? What's out there waiting for us in 2012, that many people think is going to be even harder than 2011, and for others, it doesn't look like it's going to be so bad?

The new way of doing business, doing marketing, has taking a very exciting direction which, at least for me, it’s really enjoyable and makes me truly believe it’s a direction in which you can really start putting together highly profitable strategies, with little waste and a lot of satisfaction for both of the participating actors: your company and its customers.

It’s not about finding out today which is going to be the most successful social network, if Google+ is finally going to give Facebook a hard time, or if Twitter will finally open up and say it’s going again California’s giant, or if location-based marketing will finally become an effective strategy, or if mobile marketing will be the “New Mambo King” or not, or if social protests will continue to be promoted and coordinated by the twitt or by whatsapping!

This time I’m simply referring to the fact your customer will finally become the main element on your planning. This customer which has been able to develop a powerful voice, with a huge capacity to cooperate with others and contribute to collective knowledge, a consumer who has challenged any doubt there could be about his value on the sales cycle, and has brought old sales speeches that are no longer enough to the spotlight, and so many other things that are being revised now. If we want to put it brieffly “your customer has got the control”

The fact you're now making such a strong effort to develop relevant content for them, of their interest, that gets their attention and invites them to share it with others, it's really something you've never done before.

The fact you’re now so eager to include among your goals to developing the “referral sale” or the sale you can do by being recommended by your customers with their friends, thanks to a honest and transparent relationship with your customers, where there is value for both sides, it’s also a huge step forward if compared to the way marketing had been done for many years.

And that’s good for everybody. It’s good for your company because it really pushes you to creatively compete and add value to your relationship with customers. It’s good for customers because, in exchange of their loyalty and recommendation to others,  they’ll get better product and services offers, which will be completely focused on fulfilling each and every need they might have.

It’s also good for the society as a whole because companies and consumers will be working together for the first time in many years.

That’s the reason why I enjoy so much this new way of doing marketing focusing our efforts in delivering an integer, positive customer experience. Because it’s really, and has always been,  about developing satisfied customers.

It doesn’t matter who beats who, or who becomes the leader this year, nor is about which is going to be the application everyone will be talking about. For sure we’ll have the opportunity to test and play with new, technologically advanced toys but now, it’s about winning over your customer’s loyalty. That will be key to measuring your efforts’ success.

¿What can I recommend you to carry it on throughout the year? Definitely from all the things we’ve learnt and shared this year, the best advise I can offer you is to closely listen to what's happening around you, to what your customers are saying about your company, brand or product. Listen to what they comment and share, and make sure to develop many “ears” in many places so that you don’t lose any opportunity to develop a stronger and more positive experience for your customers.

From this little place in the ciberspace we wish you the very best in the world starting the very first day of the upcoming year and forver.

Happy New Year 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2012 for everybody!

It’s been quite a complicated year from many different points of view. However, I want to focus this post on the positive side, on that energy that, at the end of the day, is going to help us stay put, move on and bring all our projects to life.

Even though simply being a positive thinker isn’t going to turn your business into a successful one neither it’s going to double your sales every month, it’s by positively thinking that you’re going to afloat in the days in which things don’t  turn out the way they’re supposed to. If your thoughts, meaning, your attitude towards your life, business, your family are complemented with your efforts, decisions and actions, I’m very positive everything will work out for you on a different way.

May this Holiday season be a time for you to enjoy with your loved ones of cheerful moments, plenty of happiness, of things to share, of stories to talk about and treasure, plenty of laughs and many hugs.

And, of course, may this brand new 2012 be plenty of wonderful things, prosperity, health so that you can work double shift every day, peaceful and success.

On my side, I can only thank your for the support you’ve given to this humble blog throughout the year and simply renew my commitment to keep this space as one to talk, share and learn from our own experiences y knowledge, on a simple, clear and straight-forward way.

Merry Christmas and may this year we’re receiving as new allow for all your most beautiful dreams and projects to come true.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Interactions in Social Media: Why are your “Comments” so important?

Long before Facebook announced its new statistics, which are now mostly oriented to measuring interaction with posted content (among other things, of course), there were some industry trends indicating a slight shift in the social media business towards this element: interaction.

It’s now circling around conversation, leaving slightly on the side the myth of large fan numbers, to focus more on the two-ways interactivity, that meaning, the audience’s commitment or engagement.

What am I talking about? For sure you’ve had the opportunity to see it often enough: very interesting articles which are read by thousands of people, retwitted by hundreds, with many “Likes” on Facebook, and as many "+1" in Google.

From any point of view, a successfully post by its content but, however, when you scroll down to the comments area, the reality you see is completely different: very few comments, and even in some cases, without a single comment at all.

Why are your comments so important? As I always do, I'll explain myself with an example:

In this picture I share with you an email Manolo is sending to his friend Francisco (fictitious names and accounts to avoid the "spammers" we are all familiar with) where he’s sharing a link to an article and just says "You might be interested" in the "Title". There’s nothing more.

But the phrase “You might be interested” can be interpreted from many different points of view. Francisco might be interested because it’s so bad an article as to be taken as an example of what not to do, or he might be interested because it’s quite relevant to something in particular. In either case, Manolo isn’t telling Francisco what he thinks about the content but he simply shared it because he thought it might be of interest to Francisco. That’s it.

In this new picture, you can completely and clearly see how important a "Comment" is. In this case, Manolo won’t simply re-send the link to Francisco, but he’s adding:

  • "You must take a look. I found it truly interesting" in the subject line. Right from that point on, Francisco knows what Manolo thinks about the article, since he’s saying he considered it "excellent", not good, not regular, but excellent.
  • "It would be extremely interesting for the project you're working on now" in the content, so that Francisco knows reading the article will be important to him, it’s going to be useful for something he’s working on now, inviting him to take immediate action at that moment, not leaving it for a later time.
  • "Use it on my project too." Wow, if it’s so good that Manolo is using it for his very own project, it definitely has to be good.

And finally, he says, "Let me know what you think," inviting Francisco to continue the interaction and get back to Manolo with his comments. Having said this, Francisco knows Manolo will be looking forward to receiving his feedback, and the conversation get’s fueled up automatically.

Did you see the difference? Did you see how the "Comment", as simple as it might be, is the element that actually generates the interaction, the understanding between the two actors?  

In the first example, the shared post can be read or not, but the person who sends it, isn’t bringing anything to the table, but just acting as a relay antenna. You could assume the post is interesting but nothing more. In the second example, the "Comment" is the one that actually generates the interaction, nurturing the relationship, and adding a powerful value to the sharing act.

When you include your comments in any material you re-send or share, or even in an article you read on any website, you’re leaving your piece of history, you’re helping build up a stronger social Web, you’re contributing to the Collective Intelligence, and help other people to draw on your experience and knowledge.

The comments, interaction, the two-ways communication are really the golden key on social networks and the new way of doing business and building relationships in our times. And it should be the goal of your digital marketing strategy too.

So what do you think?, Do you share with me your opinion?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

3 Questions that can help you grow your business¡

Just 3 simple questions.
This post was originally published by Salvador Figueros, a fellow blogger, and I found it so interesting that I asked Salvador to allow me to publish it here. I dedicate it to all of you, business owners and small to medium entrepreneurs who might be banging their heads trying to figure out ways to increase business.

There’s a simple formula: If you can turn each of your 10€ order into a 13€ one, you would be increasing your sales 30%. Right? If you make this every single day, at the end of the month, your profits will surprise you. But how can you make it happen? Here is where Santiago’s post fits perfectly and explains it so clear there’s little to add to it. Here you have it.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

“McDonald's is a great company. That's not new for anybody. Since Ray Kroc started the business years ago, things have worked out great for the franchise. There are many others who do similar things, but not the same.

It makes sense to see what they do. Analyze it. Learn from them.When things go well for so long, it means that what they’re doing, it’s been done properly. There is always a reason. Leaders do not leave that much room for chance. McDonald's doesn’t do it either.

The interesting thing is that you can learn from their secrets. You just have to get in the line to place your order and pay a little attention to what happens around you. Open your eyes wide and listen. Sometimes it can offer you a great lesson.

¿You want to biggie-size it?

You are in the queue. It is your turn and you ask for a "Big Mac". Then, you hear the voice of the attendant saying, "You want to biggie-size it?".

Just a few words is all it takes, and it’s enough. You don’t need much more to boost your income. Perhaps you didn’t think about the bigger size. It's okay. There you have the McDonald's staff to remind you.

Why? Because they know that question might mean additional income. There is a huge difference between making it or not. It's really easy. Just offer the customer an option. It's really easy, but there are only a few businesses that take advantage of it, and many other simply don’t do it at all.

¿Nuggets, chicken wings, ...?

Fortunately, there are many possibilities. Can you simply order the menu? For sure. It's more than enough if you’re not that hungry, but if you’re offered a supplement whether it’s nuggets, onion rings, wing, it might actually improve your meal. The options are readily available and Mc Donald’s staff simply offers them to you.

If you’re on a good mood, then usually add an order of 6 or 9 nuggets (you’re always offered the opportunity to choose). You always have the possibility of adding a supplement to your order, or not. You can still opt for the small, medium or large menu. No one is forcing you.

The game is a game of choices. There are never so many options as to get you confused or overwhelmed. Just enough for you to consider. That’s it. Think about how many customers they serve on a daily basis. You can now figure out how their business is increased by using this simple way of doing things.

Anything else?

You’re about to pull your wallet to pay, but there's always time for another question. This time, it works as a final summary: Anything else?

You’re being asked this question just when the process is almost finished. You might want to make sure you’re not leaving anything behind (dessert, pastries, ...). Did you ask for all the things you wanted to? Perfect. Now you’re finished. For sure?Great. You’re done. You’re happy and so is McDonald's. Happiness for you, revenue for them.

These are three simple questions, but have the power to increase your business significantly. They help you bring more money in everytime. They help you sell more. They help you not to leave anything behind.

At the end, everything is natural. It simply flows. Naturally. The questions come when they have to come and the process isn’t interrupted at anytime. In the end, everyone wins.

Reformulate these questions for your business and start working the way big companies do. If these questions can increase your income, why shouldn’t you try them out?”

Author Santiago Figueros
Published in Spanish at 3 Preguntas Que Pueden Doblar Tu Negocio
Translated by Joel Pinto

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

¿Can your business exist without customers?

Without customers buying, there's no business.
Some time ago I wrote an article entitled "Customer or company: which side are you on?" And one of the comments I received in one of the sites in which the article was published stated: "I think the company is more important than the customer because customers exist due to a company which is servicing them."

That person also added "... it is precisely the product the real "star" on the company-customer relationship."

My answer came with no delay. Can a business exist without customers who buy the products? Is there a star product with no customers buying it? The only way for a product to become “the star product” is by having many people buying it, isn’t it?

If you continue to think about the product being the king, it’s understandable because for many years companies have been focused on marketing the product, brand or the company itself, while there were little ways for the clients to make their opinion known, to bring it to the table. 

Everything worked only one way: from the company to the customer. Your company did manufacture a product and brought it to the market through different venues. Your clients went to the outlet of their choice and bought the product. Occasionally, if you were interested (which was very rare) in getting to know who your customer was, you only had to run a market survey and, with some metrics and analytics, you were able to define who your "average customer" was, and then moved on.

But now you must understand that the company has never been, or shouldn’t have been playing the main role. Neither should have the product. Nothing happens for your business if, on the other side of the counter, there isn’t a human being considering that everything you say, do and offer seems good and makes the decision to give you his money because he truly feels your product actually meets his needs, whichever they are.

It has always been this way: No customers willing to buy your product, there is no business for your company. With no business for your company, there is no money and with no money, there is no progress.

Even in very remote times, when companies were not "business" as we know them today and transactions were made through the exchange of food and things, if, for instance, you had four goats and, a typical day, wanted to exchange them for fish (yes, I know ... is not a balanced exchange, but let’s use it only as an example) if there was nobody interested in your goats, you were not going to have fish that day. It was really simple.

Even such a long time ago, if there was not a human being on the other side of the “business transaction”, nothing was ever going to happen. Very simple and it's been true for centuries, as it is today and will remain the same way forever.

And I think there's not much to say. If you still think that your product is the star, share with us why. What if your customers do not buy?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Things you can learn from the army.

Investigation - Preparation - Planning.
Perhaps, as it happens to many people, it has also happened to you that when you refer to your business you have ended up using phrases like "price war", "closing of death", you may have sometime called your competitors, "enemies" or something like that, and it all indicates that you feel the fight to succeed in business is a "tough battle" and must "be fought to the end", to the very last minute.

And considering that sometimes we refer to the market as a battle or war, I started thinking about the many things we can really learn from the army.

If you take a look at the daily life of every battalion, squadron or military unit, there are two things that are happening continuously:
  1. They’re always gathering relevant information about potential enemies and even their own allies, the weapons they buy, the investigations carried out, and also about their social and political environments, their economies. In brief, they keep track of any information that could eventually mean a potential conflict is on the making. This is what we refer to as "intelligence work", right?
  2. They ‘re continually training their minds and bodies getting ready for that one day in which something could go wrong and a real conflict happens. That is, even if the conflict has not exploded yet, they are always prepared as if it could happen the day after. 
If you take these two ideas to your business, what do they mean to you? Don’t they tell you something about how you should analyze your market and therefore your competition? What do they say about the ongoing preparation and professional development, both of yours and that of your employees?

Perhaps it’s not your case, hopefully, but for many business owners and independent professionals the last time they took the books was while obtaining their college degrees or graduated from high school, and then they set out to work and make money without having any additional opportunities to update their knowledge base or, as some people say today, "to recycle themselves". Is this your situation? Is this the situation of your employees?

Returning to the army example, if a conflict breaks out what happens?
  1. An extensive planning process begins and analysis of different scenarios is done, based on all information gathered during the intelligence work. 
  2. Setting of goals and perfectly clear objectives (well… almost always) is done before taking any action. 
  3. Having defined their objectives and actions’ plan, then they do proceed to its implementation, making use of all available resources and that human factor which has been steadily preparing for this moment. 
  4. During the conflict itself, they continuously monitor if established goals are being achieved, and if things don’t go as expected, they then make decisions to change course, revisit their actions’ plan and continue the monitoring process.
Let’s get back to your business. Where does it all fit? Doesn’t it look to you like a day on your product’s life and its ongoing struggle to achieve success, increase sales, and gain your customer’s preference and loyalty? This is the "war" you have referred to sometimes, but maybe without completely and truly realizing or understanding why you called it that way either, and even though you were referring to a “war” you didn’t pay enough attention to it or you didn’t work hard enough to really get prepared and “win that war”, as soldiers do every single day of their lives.

Maybe you've just been sailing along with the tide, without having real control of your path or not even taking that much care on all the things you were doing. And you can continue to do it the same way without taking it so seriously, until you come to think that, maybe, some of your competitors are doing it as they have to, and are planning to win the battle, take your product down and bring theirs to the top position, while at the same time winning the loyalty and confidence of those customers you also wanted to approach to.

Where is this all leading you to? I bring these ideas to your attention just for you to consider once you have decided to join the market with your product or brand, or if you're already competing with other products, companies or brands. Maybe some of them don’t take this way of action into consideration; maybe some other do and decide to confront their product against yours.

This is the war that you were referring to when innocently make those remarks with your friends, maybe be while having some beers or sipping coffee. Remember when you said that "the fight was tough" or that there was a "tremendous price war" and so forth? Well, this is it.

Take into consideration how things are done in the army, and above all, keep in mind the discipline and seriousness with which soldiers get prepared every single day for that struggle, which in their case, might never happen, but that in your case maybe the environment in which your products spends every day. Don’t let competitors take you by surprise and carefully plan and understand the next things you will do so that your product becomes the leader, the big winner on its segment.

Don’t you think it will be a good idea?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's not called "social media" for nothing.

It's not called "social media" for nothing.
No matter the social platform you use, there is that one thing you can do (and usually you do) that will quickly make you disappear from the radar screen, so fast that you would never know what happened. And, unfortunately, yes: You probably are already doing. If you want to summarize it in just one thing: being-ego-driven!

Most users of social networks are acting like, with all due respect, "content factories". Since most people say the idea is to develop content, many are simply devoted just to doing that. They are dedicated to writing articles, posts, tweets, uploading photos and videos, sharing links, updates, all the content you can imagine, and the do it with no limits, publishing it almost immediately, to everyone they know, and those they don’t know too, in groups, forums, to fans and friends.

If this is the way you’re doing, then stop. Stop right now. If you continue on this path, your followers, friends, acquaintances, fans and all of those who follow you somehow, will soon simply ignore you because you’ve forgotten the most important rule for social media behavior: Being social!

Even when it seems it’s a very simple and trivial thing, maybe you're one of those users who have not yet realized this "little-tiny-detail". Are you wondering why your followers don’t respond to your posts? Why do they ignore what you write or share? Have you come to think about this?

There is a fundamental element: interactivity. And it’s the motor behind all social networks. If in real life you’ve a friend who’s only dedicated to talking to you about him, nothing more than him and him alone, without even giving you the opportunity to say a word about anything, for sure next time you see him coming, you’ll hide away. No doubt about it. Or even not picking up the phone when he calls you, because you’re just trying to ignore the guy. Has it ever happened to you before?

The same is true for social networks. Don’t get confused thinking that your online communication goes only on one direction, because it’s not like that. However it takes a strong effort to get to have a very strong interaction that resembles a face to face encounter, but you might be able to get to approach your customers this way. It’s not only that it would be good; it’s that you’ve to try to get this close to them. The idea is simple: if you want people to pay attention to you, you should pay attention to them first. If you only push for your content, you’ll end up boring them and eroding the relationship. Maybe you’ll end up talking to a wall. Don’t let this happen!

People are not going to care whether your content is original or not, and neither about who you are unless you show you care about them and the things they like the same way. It’s a fact. But then you come to a cross joint: How do we get to develop such an interaction?

The answer again is very simple: Treat them the way you want them to treat you. If you're not getting enough comments, "like" or visits to your site, blog or website, or if you don’t have enough followers on your Twitter account, it's probably because you're not commenting much, or following other people, and not being involved with others and you just want it all for yourself.

You don’t have to spend 24 hours a day commenting and following what other people do, but providing them with content of their interest, sharing your opinions, comments, thoughts, your "likes", “retweet” what others "tweet", and so on. You already have the idea.

Keep in mind it’s about interacting, relating with others, and definitely it’s not about having a space in which you only talk about yourself, your products or brand. Try to listen and contribute first. The rest will come by itself.

Treat others the way you would have them do unto you. Have you tried it before? Were you able to notice the difference?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What do we really mean by "follow up"?

It's all about the following.
The "follow" or its derivative, the "follower" is a very popular term today and refers to the person who follows another one in Twitter or it can also refer to the action of keeping your attention or focus on someone else’s comments about a particular topic.

I think it’s precisely for this reason that the term "Follow up" is losing some of the wonderful power it has always had on business development. What do I mean by saying this? Today I want to talk to you as if I were your customer, who I could probably be because, as you do too, I also buy products and services.

In recent days I made an exercise with my Twitter account as well as on some of the Facebook pages I follow and some of the promotional emails I receive regularly. You're probably telling yourself: "This guy definitely went out of his mind!"

Well, I haven’t gone crazy just yet. By doing this exercise, I had the opportunity to confirm one thing: My messages were not replied to. No response at all. Zero-zero. Not even with those automated messages telling me something like "We have received your request for information. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible."

What does this mean for me? It's really simple: Companies are cultivating "followers" but aren’t properly executing the "following up" that is recommended to be done as part of any relationship management process, whether it’s a personal or business relationship.

Let’s see an example: When you go to a hospital because you're not feeling good, the doctor takes you to the emergency room and "puts you under observation", doesn’t he? Then he continues to "follow up" on all the symptoms that might indicate what your condition is and, perhaps, to get to know if they need to perform further testing. This "monitoring all the symptoms” allows them to determine what treatment is necessary to bring you back to a normal condition. It allows them to make a decision.

The same applies for business. When you send a business proposal, whether it’s an offer, discount, newsletter, notification of an event, or any other commercially oriented communication, it’s not your audience who needs to be on top of it or to follow up with it. No way.

It’s you who must "follow up" on what your audience responds to your posts, offers, newsletters, and so forth, whatever your intention or motive could be. It’s you, as the company, who must continuously monitor the actions that your audience takes upon your marketing efforts. This will allow you, as the doctors do, to make important decisions.

The "following" process should never be focused on you. Remember we recently talked about that on my post "Who follows who in Social Media?" Well it looks like it’s worth to bring the subject back one more time.

The "follow up" or "monitoring" process defines a continuous relationship you establish with your customers. It’s a commitment on your side to properly take care of them, and it’s not unilateral, but two-ways. You must be willing to respond to what your customer asks or comments, because this is the seed from which a true business relationship develops.

That what you want to do is to boost your sales? We all know that, but how do you know when I, your potential customer, I'm ready to buy? That's why there must be monitoring, active and effective listening, following up. I know it sounds like a child's play, but ultimately it's about your business, sales, profitability, return on investment we are talking about. Now it sounds more appealing to you, doesn’t it?

You have to get used to the idea that your business is on your client’s side and becomes alive only when your clients purchase your product or services. Only at that moment neither sooner or later. Just then. If the purchase doesn’t happen, the business doesn’t exist just yet. Or could you keep your business running without customers? Of course you can’t.

Monitoring or "following up" should be a commercial habit, and involves paying attention to each and everyone of the things that happen in your business environment, and even more important those that happen when you send any message to your audience, especially in the digital environment.

If you send out an email newsletter or offer, even if it’s automated, keep an eye on the statistics not only to see the opening rate, but to know what really happens, who opens them, who doesn't. If on facebook or twitter, not only respond to your follower’s comments but try and encourage conversations, develop interesting themes, enjoy the great opportunity social networks offers to truly interact with your customers.

Never forget to show the keen interest you have for your customers, properly following up on all your marketing efforts. Don’t let the "follow up" and the "follower" be mixed up. Can you find an opportunity to grow your business by properly following up with your customers?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

“I want to be in social networks but don’t know where to start with.”

Social Networks: Where can I start with?
This is a question that for sure dominated your mind for months before you finally dove into the exciting world of social media marketing.

“Where to begin with?”, “Which should be my first few steps?” “How to start finding those new customers everybody is saying I’m going to get if I go social?”

Often the goal is to generate new customers, contacts, relationships and a bunch of new things. All of them brand new. That’s for sure! Besides, aren’t all of those social networks specially recognized by its novelty and the excitement they are bringing alone?

If your business has already been underway for some time, and before you get started on the quest for new clients, I’d like to ask you something: What about your actual customers? Those who already have bought your product, experienced your services, and have an opinion about you, your company, and product? What are you planning to do with them?

As it generally happens, if your business has already been up and running then your customers come and buy when they need your product or service, right? And that’s cool. Some may come once every two months, others once a month, others more often, but they all usually come to you when they need you. The decision is always on their side, right?

Is there something you can do to make that different? That is, do you think you can get more benefits and advantages from your current customer base, those people who already know you?

I’m bringing it to you because the NCAC (New Customer Acquisition Cost... remember last time we’re on acronyms) or how much money you have to put down to make a new customer is usually high. You have many things to investigate and analyze, to develop strategies and set up actions to put it all together, as it was with this issue of starting to promote your business on social networks.

So, what can you do?

What about creating your first community around those people who already know you? What if you look for ways to get to know them better, asking about the things they like, how they use your product, what do they think about your customer service people, your prices, and many other things you might be willing to ask or get to know? How about that?

What if based on all the information you gather, you were to develop content which could be interesting for them? Not necessarily talking about your product (since they are already familiar with it) but showing a keen interest on your side to learn more about and relate with them. Don’t you think it could represent a valuable opportunity for your company?

I'm going to share with you some ideas you could implement in your business to "spice up" (or improve the performance of) your relationship with those customers who already have and buy your products:
  • Make a survey to collect information about your customers, their contact information, hobbies, likes, preferences, and opinions about your product, in short, anything that can help you offer them a better customer service. 
  • With this information, then build a database, keeping in mind to always comply with current legislation on your country and making sure you have asked for your customer’s permission to use personal information and later communicate with them. Since they already are your customers, you shouldn’t have that much trouble. 
  • Make use of traditional marketing tools to communicate with them such as direct mail advertising, including product catalogs with special offers. 
  • Try always to be available for your customers and not let them think of your competitors, or at least do your best for this not to happen. 
  • If you want to save money though, think of using digital tools, such as email marketing to prepare newsletters with special offers and talking about these issues you found were relevant to your customers. (Remember you did a survey at the beginning, right?)
  • Take advantage of your social media presence, whether it's facebook twitter, or the venue of your choice, concentrate on reaching out for those customers your company already has.  

And create your community around your actual customers! Interact with them, approach them, and invite them to buy from you products that could be interesting for them or even simply recommended by others, send them offers that may result in an “out-of-schedule” buy or make promotions asking them to recommend your company to their friends and acquaintances.

But make sure you stay there, by their side, to service them, take care and share with them topics of their interest. That way, they themselves may help you get new customers and then, both you and they will be very happy and there will be benefits for everybody.

You don’t have to rush and go out to find new customers. Make the most out of those you already have and build your first community around them. It will be much easier to develop your presence in social media, starting from this point. Don’t you think?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It’s not a new but “over-hauled” marketing.

It's an "over-hauled" marketing.
I like to make things simple, without unnecessary complications. I have recently read many posts and comments talking about a "new marketing", and also the existence of a “new consumer”. And I do agree. Thinks have significantly changed, but have they changed so much as to have a “brand new marketing”? I don’t think so. Sometimes I wonder if we don’t make our own lives more difficult with so many labels and new words we like to use to identify every new trend.

Isn’t it that way with acronyms? You know those groups of letters that are generally used to abbreviate long names? Are you familiar with reading, for example, SM instead of "Social Media" or GPS instead of "Global Positioning System "? It can also get confusing many times simply because the same acronym can mean two completely different things depending on the industry you are referring to.

But hey, without drifting off topic, I want to review with you what marketing is really about, and take off some of the labels we've posted on his back lately.

Is this a "brand new marketing"? Out of the box? I think it’s not, and here’s why: In the end, the goal remains the same. Companies develop the necessary actions for the product or services they offer to bring them to the hands of the person who might need them. There will be many other things to be considered but all of them will be closely related to this process.

You, as the company manufacturing a product or offering a service and, through a series of coordinated actions make them available to your customers. Some processes are more complex than others, requiring large retail chains, pricing and promotion policies, incentives, etc. Others are, by contrast, very simple: decide how much your charge per hour of work will be and offer your services to the person who contacted you by email.

In both cases, it’s "marketing" even though the products are completely different. So what's the big difference that we must consider between the marketing we do today and the one we did 10 years ago? I think we can all say it with one word: tools!

Yeap! It’s about tools. The difference is the vast amount of available tools, some of them for free, some of them for a fee. The real change is on the way we play the game: the rules, but only the rules. The game remains the same.

Think of an airplane pilot 25 years ago. All they had to calculate their flight path was a compass, a stopwatch, a set of charts, some basic electronic navigation instrumentation and little else. Compare to an airplane pilot today who at least has a GPS (to return to acronyms) or at best, an FMS (for Flight Management System), and autopilot and so forth. Has the old one stopped being a pilot? Sure not. What is the difference between this one and the other one? Must definitely the tools.

And the same thing has happened in every area of ​​our lives. There is no professional segment, or activity that hasn’t been incredibly developed due to new technologies. In fact, let’s look at ourselves. I’m now writing this post from my laptop, lying in bed, on Saturday morning. Could I have being doing the same if, instead of having a laptop, I had one of those heavy old typewriters? Could I be doing the same if I didn’t even have the typewriter?

On my opinion, the difference is based on the tools we have available today. The scenario remains the same: I want to share photos with someone in another country; I want to buy something that I don’t find on the local store and need it right away; I want to learn more about a book I'm reading, and so on. What is the difference? It’s the available tools.

Marketing remains the same, only now it has acquired some new toys, which have "overhauled" it and had made it closer to us, more powerful, flexible and effective. Don’t you think?

Related post: ¿Who is consumer 2.0?

Monday, October 24, 2011

How important is what your customer experiences with your product?

¡La experiencia de producto es la clave!
Whether you've designed a great strategy, with a creative out of this world and have invested a lot of money on advertising, still there is something that isn’t in your control. You know what it is?

The answer: What your customer experiences with your product.

And what do we mean by that? Well, it’s about everything that happens after your customer has said yes, bought your product (whatever it is, even if we are talking about your own services) and has already used it.

This is the starting point for everything. From this moment on, your customer will have the opportunity to confirm whether:
  • The promises you made while insisting on selling your product, were all true.
  • What he heard or read about your product, was true.
  • Those comments he read on your “Wall" on Facebook widely recommending your product, were true. 
And for sure there will be many other things your clients will be confirming that didn’t come to my mind, but I’m sure you already have the idea. Imagine that between you and your client there’s a line separating both. While the customer is at your shop, buying, he’s on your side of the line. When the product is sold and your customer is at home, he’s on the other side of the line. As much as you’d like to influence him after he crosses to the other side of the line, you can’t, or at least, not on the same way.

The same applies to your marketing efforts: it doesn’t matter how eager you’re to approach your customer and make sure his experience with the product is great, you just can’t. The closest you can get is to stay by his side to be sure that if any problem, question, inconvenience that should come up, is properly resolved, so that your client enjoys a satisfactory customer experience. And yet the experience as such, belongs to your customers. They live it, feel it, it's unique, personal and strongly subjective.

You're probably saying "Well, Joel, that's nice! What do you mean then? that there is nothing I can do to make this experience a positive one? "

No, of course that’s not what I mean. What I want you to know is that there’re so many things you can do to "ensure" the best you can, that your customer’s experience with the product is a positive one. You can start by making sure that:
  • Your product does what you said it would, that is, always sell the truth.
  • Only promise what you’re sure you can deliver and don’t ever "oversell" anything.
  • There are immediate venues for your customer to contact you if he was to have any kind of problem or concern. 
The customer has immediate, fast and simple access to product guides, FAQ, demos, and any available tool that can assist him on having a positive experience with the product.

And above everything, make sure to personally be there if your client needs help. Not only if he actually is to have a problem but also if he wants to show you his gratitude and satisfaction if he fells completely and totally pleased with your products and services.

We all know that things may not go as expected, that's normal. However, receiving prompt assistance, quickly and helpfully, can appease any inconvenience and turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one.

And I’m sharing this with you because I recently had such an experience with the company I bought an application from I needed for my Facebook page. Like any new thing, at first I took a couple of quibbles trying to handle it, however, their customer service has been so helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly to me that those glitches appear not to have existed at all and I wouldn’t hesitate to refer them with you, if you were to need their product.

That’s the kind of product experience you should make sure your customers have. Don’t you think?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Relationship value: What can you expect from social media?

What can you expect from social media?
By this point in time, you’re probable completely sold on the reasons why you’ve got to be in social media, why you’ve got to develop any sort of social presence for your business or product so that, at least, you get to be on the same level as your competitors are. That we know.

“If you aren’t visible, you don’t exist”, many people would tell you, and even though I don’t like to go so radical, I do have to admit it the same way. Maybe it isn’t that you don’t exist, but for sure you are missing out on big opportunities.

But let’s see, what can you really expect from social media? What’s in it for you? Which are those “benefits” that your company might have access to by having a Facebook page or even a Twitter account?

If you want it really, really simple, with minimum wording: closely relate with your customers, as you never did before.

Do social media allow you to listen to what your customers are saying about your brand? Yes, they do. Do they allow you to set up “viral” promotional campaigns? Again, they do. Do they serve as a complement to your offline marketing efforts? Obviously they do.

However, if you look at those little three questions, all have one thing in common: behind them, there is a client with whom you're getting connected!

It’s in this relationship with your customer where the "gold mine" exists for social networks. It’s this relationship the point from which a rich and natural interaction between your brand and its customers can be born, in which relevant content is shared for both parties, from which you can get to know your customers so closely as to even invite them even to participate in the development of your products, as Dell Computers is doing with their customers.

If you’ve previously made marketing plans, you’ve probably been used to working only from one side, unilaterally. The only way to measure whether your efforts were effective, was by the corresponding sales growth. No increase in sales, no effectiveness. If you wanted to know how to better refine your strategies, you had to rely on market research. If you didn’t have the budget for it, then you guided yourself with your "crystal ball" ... unfortunately in many cases (and fortunately in others) it was the way to go.

Today you’ve to face a completely different reality. Your client doesn’t disappear after leaving the store with the shopping bag and next time you get to see him is when he comes to buy again. Most of the times, your client has a digital life: an email account, a social profile (be it Facebook, Linkedin or whatever), jumps to the Internet to find information about their hobbies and a lot of things.

And it’s on those sites where you can meet him again. A possibility that was not there before!

That is why, in my personal opinion, the most important thing you can expect from social media, is to take advantage of this valuable opportunity to interact with your client. Talk to him (or her, of course) ask why they like your product, how they use it, ask about their hobbies, favorite sports, his favorite reading, and so on.

Who says you can’t find great opportunities to expand your business, getting connected this way with your clients? For example, let’s say you sell bags for athletes and it turns out, talking to your customers, that for 95% of them, volleyball is their favorite sport. Wouldn’t it be an important marketing opportunity for your business to sponsor your city’s volleyball team, for instance?

There you have the most valuable benefit you can expect from your social media presence: Relating with your customers this way: closely, effectively, and proactively. And above all, the benefits are for both, not only for you.

What do you expect from your social media presence? Do you perceive it more as an additional sales channel, or it’s a valuable item for you?

Related post: ROI on social media: When 2 + 2 doesn't equal 4

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Vision and planning - ¿Are you adapting to the changes?

Are you adapting to the changes?
A few days ago I was chatting with a small business owner in the town I live, about things, the world, people, about business and, as it’s normal for the time being, we ended up talking about the economic crisis. But not the crisis per se but the fact that everybody talks about it. Funny, it’s not it?

Trying to move away from the subject and turn it into a positive conversation (I always try to look at things from a positive side) and noticing he was talking about how slow business was, how people were buying very little from him, the need for a change, I started recommending a few things he could do, contacting his clients by email with special offers, doing some in store promotions, offering discounts in slow selling products, bottom line, a started offering him options.

To my surprise, from that moment on, reasons on why there is nothing that can be done started pouring at me, that the business across the street was being given more facilities than his, that our town is very little and needs to have double the population it now has, that people don’t have money to spend, that we have to wait for the crisis to be over. In one word: excuses!

But one phrase totally caught my attention: “We have to wait for the crisis to be over.”

Needless to say we all know the world’s economy is going through a very difficult time, that there are thousands of jobless people, that our surrounding is not particularly promising, at least in the short term and many other things. We all know about that and if you don’t, just turn on the TV and you will get to know right away. But still, “we have to wait for the crisis to be over”.

And it’s here where I want to make a stop with you: “We have to way for the crisis to be over”. I couldn’t get rid of that phrase. Let’s say, for instance, we are told that, for sure, 100% guaranteed the crisis will be over on March 15, 2012. What should we do? Well, apparently the obvious thing to do would be to wait until that day comes for us to start doing things. In other words, it would be starting from that day on that we can start planning things to do, our future marketing actions, strategies, the changes that would need to be made in order to move forward, everything… but starting that day, neither sooner or later.

But what do we do until that day comes? Well, wait and hold. Close your eyes and, in your mind, watch “the rain run on the roof”. The strongest will make it and the weakest, well, won’t.

But if we take a different approach to it, and know the crisis will be over on March 15, 2012, wouldn’t these days be the best to start planning things? Gathering information about things that we will be able to do then? To recharge our batteries, knowing the crisis is finally going to be over on a magic snap, and cheer up? Wouldn’t it be the logical thing to do?

But, have you asked yourself what would you do if the crisis is over, let’s say, tomorrow? Or next week? What if it ends ten years from now? What if it ended one week ago and you didn’t notice? What would you do then?

In my heart, I believe that we all have to finally adapt to the surroundings in which we’re living, recognize the situation is what it is, and that’s that. Whether the crisis is over or not, is not in your hands, neither on mine.

As a business owner and an individual, you’ve got to convince yourself that the only thing in your hands to do to make “the crisis be over”, is to move forward, put all your energy every single day into finding more opportunities for your business, be creative, proactive, and not to let yourself be appalled by the negativism that shows up in thousands of excuses to make you stay arms crossed and do nothing.

You’ve got to keep your eyes wide open, maintain your short and long term business vision, plan and execute the things you can do right now, and in the next few days, and plan for those you will be able to do later on when things get better. The show must go on, and so must you.

Even on these hard economic times, there’re businesses growing, moving on, step by step. Is yours one of those? Or is it one of those that are being appalled by the crisis and negativism that has come with it? What are you going to do if finally find out the crisis was over last week but you weren’t told?

Related post: Did you put all you eggs in only one nest?

Friday, October 7, 2011

David & Goliath: A small coffee shop teaches the big corporation a lesson.

A coffee shop: Business model to follow?
Could a small coffee shop show you the business model you should follow to develop your own company, grow it and maintain loyalty-based relationships with your customers?, could this little coffee shop be a model for you to follow and promote your products and services?

I’d like to share with an experience me and some coworkers recently had. We do gather every day for early morning breakfast at the same place, around the same time, as usual. I order half “serrano” ham and cheese toast, and peach juice for me.

Sometimes I am for a different taste and choose apple juice instead, or change “serrano” ham for “York”, nothing out of this world. Since I already know how much I pay every time I have breakfast there, I don’t even bother to ask. I pay the attendant and wait for the change. Since we have a nice relationship and see each other every single day, I suppose the change she gives me back is correct and don’t even check it before putting it on directly on my pocket.

One day, Carola, the attendant comes to me and asks: “Joel, how do you want me to fix your everyday order today? “. It was really funny and, at the same time, truly instructive. Not only she knew what I ordered every single day but also the fact that within the last few days I have been changing my mind asking like “Bring me the usual but with York and fresh cheese” for instance.

And I have to say instructive, because for me as the customer, it made me feel really well attended and showed me that such feeling I don’t have when doing business with most of the bigger corporations. And it’s a feeling I share with my coworkers every day we gather there for breakfast. It meant for me a smashing proof on how the relationship with a customer must be based on mutual interest, benefit and trust. But let’s not to stop there, because it get’s better.

During summer break, our coffee shop what closed for the holidays, as usual, and those who used to get together there needed to “relocate” to a nearby place for breakfast. It was impressive to feel during those day we had to go to “the competitor” how “we were missing” the service quality and personal attention we used to be offered on our every-day coffee shop.

Caution: I’m not exaggerating. The feeling was “I miss you”, neither more nor less. We asked ourselves when were they going to be open again, when were they coming back from their holidays, we even came to complain about having to go to the other place for breakfast!

When they came back after vacation, we gathered there again, in our respective seats, waiting for them to take care of us as usual, to remember what we used to order regularly.

Isn’t this the kind of relationship you, as a business owner, wants to develop with your customers? Having your customers missing your services when they aren’t readily available, having your customer wishing to go back and shop at your place or store, because he feels so spoiled that he doesn’t even worry about your prices being higher than your competitor’s. Wouldn’t this be a very valuable element within your marketing strategy? Isn’t it what you would like to achieve with your newest campaigns, even more with the environment being what it is?

Nowadays we can check how big and small companies are investing huge amounts of money in developing strategies and actions to develop with their customers business relationships with the same characteristics: long lasting, based on mutual loyalty and confidence.

It’s here where big corporations need to learn from small businesses, from the store around the corner, the little coffee shop in which the owner knows exactly what every customer orders, or the hair saloon in which the stylist knows your wife likes her hair a bit shorter here, longer there and not so dark on the tips.

This is the kind of relationship you should try to develop with your customers, with your integrated marketing plan, not only on social media, but in all your promotional efforts. The relationship in which your customers become the center of your attention, of your efforts, and his satisfaction is the goal to achieve.

Is this the way you are focusing your marketing efforts? Is the “coffee shop model” one that could serve you to change directions and develop more profit for your business? What do you think?

Related post: Already bought your product, now what?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Benefits' marketing: You want my money, I want benefits.

It's an exchange: Money vs. benefits.
And I’m not trying to oversimplify things. Or at least, I don’t pretend to do so. In every transaction, there is an exchange of something, even in personal relationships.

If we focus on business relationships, it’s really simple: In exchange of your product, your customer gives you money.

But there’s more to it than that, and that’s where, on my opinion, you really have the best opportunities, or the only opportunities if we think about being immersed on a recessional environment.

What happens when all products are the same? When pricing differences are not significant, and product features are basically the same and all products fulfill your basic needs the same way?

I’ll explain myself a bit better: a sandwich wipes off your hunger, and any sandwich, for that matter, will do the same thing too. So, if two sandwiches are priced the same and have the same "amount of sandwich”, what makes the difference?

Unintentionally, you have come to a fascinating land: that of value added to your product. Yes! The difference between both sandwiches is going to be the service you are provided with, if you like how the sandwich looks on the plate, how the waitress services you, the store’s ambiance, if in addition to the sandwich you get some snacks to take while you wait, in a few words, the difference will be on what you, as the restaurant’ owner, are willing to do to make yourself different from the restaurant across the street. It’s what knowledgeable people refer to as “differentiation”: making yourself different from competitors, moving away from them!

¿How many times have you kept yourself from going into a store where you know you can find good prices, just because you don’t like the way you have been treated before? Or, on the other side, ¿how many times have you gone into a store knowing the prices are a bit higher than in other places but you know you are going to receive the best service every time?

It’s a very simple concept, if we want to look at it from the basics: Your company works because your customer pays for the product you offer. Your only tool is basically your product and your customer’s experience with it. That’s why you have to do your best to make your product unique to your customer when he compares it with your competitor’s. There you have the secret: you make yourself different because you offer customers benefits that no one else does.

And what’s on your customer’s side? Well, just think for a bit how you react when you become a customer for someone. What do you do? Do you buy just because the product is cheap? Or, you choose the one which offers you the best mix of benefits at a price you are willing to go for?

It’s an exchange relationship that must be beneficial for both sides: yours and your customer’s.

What about you? Do you put your energies on making your product different from those offered by your competitors? Do you offer added values so that your customers forget about others and trust only in your company?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Already bought your product, now what?

¿And now what?
Have you ever felt as if you’re entering a long, dark hall, calling someone’s name only to listen the echo of your own voice? Have you ever felt left alone on your own after purchasing a product? Have you ever emailed a company asking for assistance about a product you bought and the response has came a few days later, even weeks? Have you ever been left without a response at all?

It really puzzles me to see how different the customer service situation is before and after the sale. Please be aware: I am not making it a general statement, but it’s sad to realize it does happen too frequently as to not bring it to the table.

Before the sale, and depending on the product you are buying, everything is happiness, smiles, positive energy. The sales rep does his best effort in assuring you it’s a great decision, showing you why it’s the best product for you and how, to your complete satisfaction, it’s going to fulfill your every need, from top to bottom. He even found for you a financing plan to keep you from making a huge down payment. What else could you ask for?... It’s simply great! Do you have any reason to complain? Obviously, at this point, you have none, because so far everything is picture perfect.

You make the decision, buy the product and already have it at home. Now what? Where did everybody run away? Is there the same energy and positivism between you and the company as it was before you bought the product? In most of the cases, the answer is no, and that’s unfortunate. Just at the very moment in which you’ve the opportunity to share with the company your satisfaction (or not) with using the product, at this special moment, there is no energy, enthusiasm, contact. There is no one there to share with.

What happened then? Why the change? Is it because the transaction is already done, the money out of your pocket, the sales rep already made his commission and reached his sales goal of the month, and that’s it? Is it that the company’s goal was simply to make you buy the product to generate profit for them and nothing else?

Companies spend around 90% of their marketing budgets talking to their clients instead of listening. And that’s the problem. Once the sale is closed, very little effort is done to stay on the client’s side. Sometimes it’s fear of having a customer complaining, other times companies are scared of having customers changing their minds and returning products… and we can keep going on mentioning reasons, some better than others, but at the end of the day what it indicates is how little importance companies place on customer service after the sale.

A few days ago I was on the phone with my local mobile carrier sorting out a technical issue I had. It caught my attention to listen to an automatic message with something like “Before your call is finished, we will give you the opportunity to evaluate our services” and even though I do find such option awesome and different from what I normally receive, it didn’t go unnoticed the fact THEY were giving ME the opportunity to evaluate their services.

Shouldn’t it be something like “Before your call is finished, WE will have the opportunity to know YOUR opinion in regards to our services”, because to be completely honest, I do believe the opportunity is not for me but for them.

If I don’t have such an opportunity and their service is bad, I switch companies and go to their competition and that’s it. It’s really simple, isn’t it? If you, as the company, think that having me share with you my experience with your product, is an opportunity for me, you got it all wrong. It isn’t. Or at least, there is something you do not understand completely: after-the-sale customer service is not a favor you do to your customers, it’s your obligation. You have to service your customers after they buy from you.

Only through real post-sale customer service you, as the company, will have the opportunity to get to better know what your customers’ experience is with your products, if they like it or not, if they will recommend it to others, if they will buy it again, etc. Bottom line, that opportunity is not for them, is for you. At the end of the day, your customer doesn’t care if, after calling your 902 (about which we’ll be talking later) for the hundredth time, he doesn’t get a response.

If he gets upset just a little bit, you might have a second chance. If he gets really upset, you lose a client and that’s it. A happy customer will recommend you to 1 or 2 more people at least. An unhappy customer, on the best case, will talk with 10 and putting a strong effort in showing how bad it was. In either case, you don’t get to know! Your customer moves on to your competition and that’s it. It’s really simple without further complication.

I do believe it’s important to realize you don’t get a happy customer BEFORE the sale is done, but afterwards. If you clearly understand this, you’ll make a better effort in your after-sales customer service area and will probably stop thinking that offering good customer service is a favor you’re making to your clients.

It’s the other way around. It’s you who has the opportunity to gain a customer for life.

What do you think? Do you make your best efforts before or after the sale? Have you noticed how important post-sale customer service can be?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ROI in Social Media: When 2 + 2 doesn’t equal 4.

When you listen to people talking about “Return On Investment” in social media, you will realize is kind of a complicated subject.

And it’s so because there are several different opinions: some people want to measure your social media efforts the same way they did newspaper’s ads or commercial spots on TV. Others talk about brand recognition, influence and recommendations.

My opinion is that we are not dealing with an exact science, like mathematics; therefore I have to say that 2 + 2 is not always 4. I will try to explain myself through an example:

You set up you social media promotional campaign with a 50 € budget. That’s all you have. You place your ads in Google and they do generate 1,000 impressions, out of which 100 people click on the ad, and out of those, 2 become your customers and buy 75 € each. Total: 150 € on sales! Easy, isn’t it?

We then calculate ROI for this campaign. You are thrilled, really happy because it turns out you ended up putting down less money than expected and the total campaign cost is only 45 €, (keep in mind, it’s just an example) and you made 150 € on new sales. Awesome, right? Your campaign has had a 233% ROI.

Up to this point, lovely, everything adds up: 2 + 2 equals 4!

Now, let’s continue a little bit further and see what happened with those two customers you made.

Customer A is a regular human being, like you and me. He bought your product and a month later he did have some difficulties using it. He then called customer service and was treated on a wonderful way. He was so pleased that he emailed three of his closest friends recommending your product, and his friends showed up directly in your store, also a month later, and each one bought 100 €!

Were you able to measure these results within your campaign? No, you weren’t. Would you’ve been able to predict these results to some extent? Well, if you weren’t listening to what was going on with your customers, you couldn’t. Were these results positive for you? Of course they were. In this case, 2 + 2 was even better than 4, much better!

And what happened with customer B? Well, more or less, the same with a slight difference: When he called customer service to request assistance in solving his problem, he was treated like nobody deserves, basically being told to work things out by himself. Results? Of course, customer B got really, deeply upset, so upset that he promised not to buy from you again.

But he didn’t stop just there. He felt so frustrated that he twitted about his bad experience with your company to more than 500 followers and commented it on his blog, which gets around 1,500 visitors a month, because it happens customer B was a very influential person.

So, what happened then? Well, you’ll never know, because there is no way for you to find out how many of those 500 followers or 1,500 visitors will take his advice and not buy from you. Maybe just a few, maybe all of them, in the worst case, all of them. You will never know.

Unfortunately on this case, 2 + 2 didn’t make 4. It did much less than that!

Return on Investment is a subject you should look at carefully and consider analyzing your social media efforts from a different prospective, and based on your goals. It’s for sure you’re going to get measurable results. That is definite, but you shouldn’t measure results the same way it was done on traditional venues, like newspaper, magazines, TV or ecommerce.

Social media have something that makes them unique: they allow you to build bi-directional, mutually beneficial relationships with your customers, listening to what they’ve to say about your product, offering them relevant information so that they become loyal customers, or in the worst case, to be able to predict any potentially negative situation and act accordingly.

What does it have to do with you? Had you been monitoring what people were saying and sharing about your company or products online, you would have been able to do two very valuable things:
  • Thank your customer “A” by referring you with his friends, turning him into a loyal brand prescriber.
  • Offer your customer “B” an early compensation for his bad customer service experience, keeping him from turning the situation into a reputation problem.

What do you think? It’s 2 + 2 always 4? Or it depends on…?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Who follows who in Social Media?

Who follows who in Social Media?
Over the last few days, a thought has been circling on my mind, endlessly: Who follows who in social media?

As I understood, and according to many bloggers I regularly read and follow, today’s market is about “conversations”. We all agreed on that. And that the consumer is now The King. We all agreed on that too!

But apparently, there is a gap between what is said and how it gets done. ¿Why do I say so? I have been noticing that what I thought was supposed to be a conversation has turned, again, into a monologue: the company’s monologue!

Word of caution: I am not trying to say, neither I mean, everybody does it. Of course I don’t. As a matter of fact, there are companies doing an exceptional job, but they are the few. I want to go through, with you, what the new trends are indicating, especially among those companies which embark in social media efforts with no guide, no plan, not even properly defined goals, and they do it only because it’s trendy and everybody is doing it.

¿Which appears to be the goal of those companies just getting started to experiment on social media? To have a lot of “fans” or “followers”, who get connected with their company’s social media accounts and start to virtually eat all content, relevant or not, generated by the company. The more “fans” you have, the more “followers” you get, the more successful your campaign is going to be. That appears to be the goal.

You, as the user, get to receive whatever the company you became “friend” or “follower” with produces, supposedly with you on their mind, and that’s it. That’s the conversation. That’s why I consider it a monologue: the company proposes its content (funny, entertaining, dynamic, innovative, etc.) and you simply digest it.

And I ask myself: What’s the difference between this and Web 1.0? Weren’t we supposed to be on a 2.0 environment? Would it be that we are on 2.0 environments with 1.0 mentality?

¿Where is the other side? Where is the user? Where is the conversation?
In all conversations there must be an exchange, an interaction: I tell you something, you either agree or disagree, like it or not, understand it or not, but there is always a reaction on the other side. Conversation takes place right there when you, that have been listening to me with all your attention and respect, then have the opportunity to say what you think, feel, believe, whatever comes to your mind in regards to what I said.

At that point, real interaction happens and conversation takes place: the real heart of social media. How could it be different? It’s about a social behavior, interactivity, exchange, mutually, freely and transparent.

That is why I think something is not being done properly. We’re missing the company looking to “follow” its customer, to become “friend” with its customer. We’re missing the company which is really interested in “user generated content”, not “company generated content”. Where did we leave the “active listening” part of the social media story that is so highly recommended?

You, and your company, can also learn a lot if you become “follower” and “fan” of your customers on social media networks. There is so much to learn from a consumer who is willing to engage with you, participate, relate, because now he knows that, due to the Internet and multiple 2.0 existing tools, he’s got a voice and that you, as the company, and if you wish to, can get to know him really close, truly.

And by knowing him really close, you will have a better chance to strategically relate with him, offer added value to the relationship, differentiate yourself from competitors, and develop a long lasting relationship based on mutual benefits.

Now that you are approaching social media, or if you have already been doing it for a while, don’t forget that it’s not about your customers following you or becoming your fans. It’s about you following them, to get to know them better.

Have you ever thought about this before, while developing your social media presence? Have you been willing to follow your customers or have concentrated your efforts on having them follow you?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

¿And you? Which side are you on?

¿And you? Which side are you on?
Probably your natural answer would be: On my company’s side! And with all reason.

You have invested so much money, efforts and time in bringing your company to life. You are so familiar with your product, know it from A to Z, and you know your product is a good one, because you are an honest business owner. You have teamed up with highly qualified professionals, have designed an efficient distribution network, your pricing policy is competitive because you know what your competitors do and offer, you know your product is doing good because sales are moving good as well, you take care of making your business’ operation profitable because, at the end of the day, it’s about making money!

And that’s all good. As a matter of fact, if you weren’t so closely involved with your company, things wouldn’t be going that good. Would they?

But now, just think for a second what’s inside your customer’s mind. Put yourself in their pants for five minutes. What kind of information could you find?

If you take your customer’s seat for a moment, you can discover very interesting things, for instance, why does he buy from you and not from your competitors, if he thinks your product is really good or just cheaper than others, if last time he bought from you, he wasn’t properly serviced by your representative, if he is pleased enough with your product as to recommend it to others, and much more.

Can you see the difference? I bet you do. If we take it from the fact your company survives because there are customers out there paying for your products or services, then we can come to the conclusion it’s more relevant, strategically talking, to be on your customer’s side for a while than in your company’s side. Why? Because on your customer’s side is where the money is, not because of other thing.

If you just keep thinking it’s all about you and only you, well, maybe your customer is simply going to say: No! It’s about me, my satisfaction, and benefit and, in a market so highly saturated with products I can choose from, I can buy from somebody else. And that’s it. And maybe you will never know what happened!

The important thing to understand is the market has changed, and if you keep your product oriented position, for sure you’re going to end up facing difficult challenges, because the market is simply different.

What’s the difference? That now people have a strong capacity to get connected with others, friends, acquaintances, coworkers, family and, thanks to the Internet, they can do it at no cost. Additionally, there is a lot of information available on the Web for everybody, to help them make purchasing decisions. You have forums, discussion groups, and social networks, tools to compare prices and recommend products, many things.

This ability to “get connected” means everybody can share experiences and talk about anything, whether it’s a product they are buying, a trip, a hotel, a place they visited, an accident, anything.

Have you ever arrived to your office, on Monday morning, mentioning to a co-worker that you did have a wonderful time during the weekend on a little cabin on a mountain park, and recommending him to go with his couple? Well, on the Internet, and especially on social networks, it happens the same way. An email you send, some pictures uploaded on Facebook, a video on Youtube, thousand different ways!

So, what do you have to do then? Keep your position and say “We’re the company with the best product you will ever buy”?

Unfortunately, that’s not going to work, because if you stick to the same old thing, you’re going to fail. What if your competitors are already focusing on their customers and finding out, for them, new opportunities to grow their business? Whoever is first to find out what to do, and does it the right way, will be the winner, not only making new customers but also developing long term relationships.

It’s about giving up on the “I’m the company, you’re the customer”, egotistical and blind set of mind, only taking into consideration your efforts and going out there, to the streets. Go out to see what’s happening in the world around you, your industry, and your customer, to learn what people say about you, your company and its products, not only on social networks but everywhere, even in your own backyard.

Only listening to what’s going on out there, you will be able to plan your strategies much better. Only taking your customer’s place for a while, you will be prepared. Think of it as going into war with some other country. You’ve designed the ultimate weapon, unbeatable, capable of targeting a mouse in the Moon’s surface… wow, fantastic! You are so deeply sold on the idea you’re the best that you haven’t found out your opponent, six months before, did already design a special counter-attack weapon that beats yours, and at a lower cost! How would it make you fell?

It’s not about you anymore, but about what happens around you, on your customer’s side. Effectively and carefully listening to what happens on their side, will allow you to fine tune your marketing and merchandising strategies, and what’s better, you could end up saving money by cutting down on things you don’t really need.

Sit on your customer’s side for a while; try to look at your company and product from their point of view. You will sure learn positive and interesting things.

Related posts: http://meethenewbuyer.blogspot.com/2011/07/are-you-listening-but-really.html