Most successful businesses are as such because they meet or even anticipate customer needs. How do they know what their customers think? Simple: they listen to them.
Some companies have resilient and productive relationships with market research companies, or similar in-house systems and teams to provide prospective / customer feedback. Many face-to-face research and evaluation projects within businesses provide useful insight. To complement this, many are turning to the fast moving and engaging tools offered by social networking.
For many small businesses social networking provides one of the most cost effective ways of passively and actively engaging with customers.
The need for customer insight is one of the key reasons that I encourage clients to engage with social media and specifically social networking as a route to listening rather than just a broadcast tool for sales or marketing campaigns.
Listening on social media is vital. This is about getting into the depth of published material (in a range of forms), and offering conversation. In terms of relating this to product or service development, this is essential to informing your companies direction of travel. Engaging with prospective / customers in their own environment, on their own terms is a valuable opportunity.
As well as generally engaging with prospective / customers, by offering advice or information within conversation you profile your products and company with much more integrity. Relationships are developing and already you are likely to be closer to anticipating and meeting customer’s needs but without a brash sales push.
Starting to introduce elements of your company into conversation on social media, brings us back to broadcasting on social media (i.e., promoting events, offers, products etc without invitation or as a means of engaging). Stay with me here please because I admit that many marketing companies don’t agree with this: Values-led businesses should not rely on promotions through social media as the foundations of their social networking activities.
Remember, people form relationships. On social media you need to give your potential customers something to relate to within your business. As a brand or company on social media it can be useful to consider it as much like a person. So if you broadcast on social media as a brand consider the elements that attract people to people: humour, reality, usefulness, meeting of minds… Use this to form relationships with customers and potential customers. Key to any relationship in the ‘real’ world is listening – the same is true ‘virtually’.
In some ways managing a life of a brand or product on social media takes some mindfulness. The brands I relate to best show a humbleness and wiliness to engage before they directly talk to me about what I should buy from them. Are these not worthy human characteristics? In short therefore, if you treat your brand like a modest, sociable person it is likely to form relationships with potential customers for much time to come.