Today’s consumer demands a little give and take – a two-way dialogue between them and the company. A traditional one-way sell just won’t work. This represents a shift in the way marketers have traditionally thought about selling their products and services. However, with the rise of Facebook, Twitter and the like, this new model is here to stay. Social media provides the easiest two-way communication vehicle and not surprisingly, it’s what moved the power from the advertiser to the consumer.
Just taking the time to listen to and converse with your consumer can pay off in the form of tangible marketing results. The insights that can be gained by simply having a dialogue with your audience can help you understand their problems, concerns, needs and wants. It can give you the feedback necessary to create messaging that resonates, produce products that satisfy their needs, and develop experiences that reflect their perception of your brand. Not to mention the fact that it can just plain serve to strengthen your relationship with consumers.
However, achieving true engagement and consumer-centric marketing goes beyond just the sales and marketing departments. It takes initiative and a buttoned-up approach inclusive of all parts of the organization that touch the consumer. The insights any team member gets from consumer interaction needs to be shared so that your company can deliver on the full experience.
When we engage with our audience and share with each other, some exciting things will happen:
- Messaging will become more fluid and therefore, more relevant. Consumers are always changing, so continuously talking to them helps create messages that are at least “temporarily relevant” to them.
- Consumers will feel more valued and will begin to value you. Because they are being listened to, your consumers will become more receptive to listening to your marketing messages.
- Chances for repeat business will increase. Nurturing relationships with the insights you gain will help create a satisfied customer that keeps coming back.
- You’ll be ahead of the curve when negativity arises. Consumers are self-educating themselves through content on the internet. However, you have limited control over what is being produced and what it says about your brand. Having conversations with your audience can keep you in the loop and abreast of anything you should be concerned about.
- Personalization goes to the next level. Personalization allows brands to increase conversions and the average dollar amount spent. Based on the information gained, you can better model what content or offer will be most relevant.
While the benefits of two-way engagement are clear, many companies are still taking baby steps or eschewing the process. Why? Because talking to consumers isn’t as easy as it may sound. Many feel intimidated by the practice, are afraid of what they might find, or simply don’t know how to get started.
For those in the latter category, here are just a few ways in which you can truly engage with consumers:
- Practice participation. Invite consumers to participate with your brand through new and fresh experiences that earn their trust. Some activities might be in-store and some might be online, but no matter how you do this, display your engagement through your social media outlets so your consumers see that you have listened. While this might or might not result in a direct conversation, the sharing back and forth and their direct involvement in your brand are priceless.
- Take advantage of existing opportunities. You are already communicating with consumers in some way. Through customer service calls, a company blog, perhaps through email marketing. Take a little time and infuse those touch points with an opportunity for your audience to speak out. Solicit their comments and input on your blog, train your service people to open up the conversation a bit more, direct email recipients to a place where they can make their voice heard. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel, just make what you have work harder.
- Start a community. Whether formal or informal, creating an online community or several communities of consumers is a great way to engage and communicate. Ask questions, solicit feedback, and have them come up with ideas. Just be sure to nurture whatever you create, or instead of brand ambassadors you will surely create a community of brand detractors.
- Be socially responsive, not just social. The brands that truly converse with consumers via social networks don’t just post and disappear. They actively monitor what consumers are saying, embed themselves in the discussion, offer help, and speak their language. By doing so, they are speaking on their turf, on their terms. Sound difficult? There are services to help, but if you ask around your organization, you might find people more than willing to assist until you’re ready for a more put-together approach. Remember, a 140 character conversation is better than none at all.
- Talk with them on-on-one. There is perhaps no better way to make a consumer feel special than engaging with them individually. Too much work you say? Online one-on-ones don’t just have to be utilized to gain insights around ad tests or tracking studies. A subscription to a bank of professionally moderated conversations makes it easy and affordable to utilize this research tool as an everyday conversation and feedback tool. With minimal effort you can chat with your target audience in real-time about anything, anytime.
Whichever way you decide to strike up a conversation with consumers, the important thing is they’ve talked, you’ve talked and hopefully you‘ve listened. Once you have curated the insights, don’t get analysis paralysis; use it to take some positive action. Make improvements and adjustments to your business or concept out new products or services. Then be sure to communicate to customers what you’ve done thanks to their insights, make them a part of your story. Consumer-centric marketing can sound daunting, but if you start with a plan to simply engage with your consumers more often, you’ll be amazed at how easy and fruitful it can be.