Today I was reading this article from @toprank, Essential Online Marketing Shifts: Optimization & Adaptability. In that article Odden wrote,
…I saw a video on the Inc. Magazine website titled, â€œIncrease Your Search Engine Page Rankâ€. Is that really what a business needs to succeed online? An inflated PageRank score? What about understanding how to attract more customers? What about engaging customers who are inspired to refer your brand to even more customers?
I love Odden’s last two sentences (questions) above. They kinda got me thinking…
Why is it that we get so caught up in the robotics of things? I know our human nature is not robotic, in fact it is far from it. But sure enough, business owners become businesses, losing their human appeal and human nature. Driven by the growth, demands, sales, and results of their business.
I encounter business owners every day that inquire about SEO, website enhancements, and blogging. They want the latest and greatest advise on how they can improve their page ranking and what SEO tricks they can do to improve their findability. And although I’m big on blogging for findability, and I know SEO is important. The key is to focus on the right strategies for your business. And implementing a Content Marketing Strategy or SEO campaign may not be the most effective thing you could do to enhance your business and sales.
Whatever strategies you use, be it online or offline, it should be designed to engage with customers, attract new customers through happy customers, provide value to your market, and improve the consumers experience of using your PSI (product service or information).
1. Engage Customers
Consumers, your customers, they want to be engaged. They want to know that, if they reach out to you, they’re going to get a response. Having a live chat option on your site does you no good if you’re never there to communicate. Having a support forum or email is worthless if you’re not responding to comments and feedback people are sending you.
If you make it easy for your customers to get involved in the discussions about your company, they’ll participate. And you want, wait, you NEED your customers to get engaged. When they get engaged they become your most effective marketing tool.
To engage your customers you’re going to need to provide a bunch of value. You’re going to need to make sure you know your customers hot buttons, and that you are pushing them, often (at lest once a month, like in a newsletter).
Something that will really set you apart and boost your customers engagement level is to do something offline. Get involved in your community and encourage your customers to join you in the “cause”.
There is a great article on Inc.com about how Tony Post, CEO of Vibram, used customer engagement to save his company. Post’s advice: Act fast, and don’t underestimate the power of your customers. “If you allow them to participate,” he says, “they’ll be your greatest ally.” (taken from the article)
2. Attract New Customers with Happy Customers
If you’re doing a good job with number one, this one will naturally start to happen. You may need to encourage your customers at first, or give them subtle reminders, but eventually they’ll start telling more and more people about you and your incredible PSI. They will brag about you and how you’re so much better than anyone elses _______. It doesn’t matter if you’re in pest control, Consulting, Web development, Beauty, or Health, people will brag about you. And their excitement, enthusiasm, and satisfaction will lead to new customers.
People will start doing business with you completely based on trust. Because you have a happy customer who they trust and now they are coming to you for what ever PSI you provide.
I love this stage. I was always taught, “people do business with those they know, like, and trust”. And when I started discovering that, it isn’t me they need to know, like, and trust…it’s other consumers, it’s their friends, I made a huge shift in my thinking and in the way I marketed my business and built relationships.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t need to provide an outstanding PSI, because that is huge to generating the engagement. What I really need to be focusing on is killing it in the “customer service” department so that my customers will get to the point that they know, like, and trust me, because then the people who know, like, and trust them will instantly put trust in me, at lest enough trust to try my PSI.
3. Provide Value
I touched on this a bit already. The “customer service” part is a great place to add tremendous amounts of value. Think about it, how often do you get on the phone with a customer service department only to find out they don’t speak your language, and they clearly don’t care so much about providing a quality resolve. Customer service outsourcing has led to automated responses and cold shoulders. I think many people expect that calling customer services will result in the previous statement, so wowing your customers with outstanding customer service will really add value to what you do!
You customers want to know you care and that you understand their needs and concerns. They want to know that you are sincerely interested in helping them.
Another place to add value, typically the starting point to developing a relationship with a prospect, is in the free PSI you distribute. This could be done through your blog, or an ebook. It could be a trial of your product. It could be the willingness to provide a service without expectation of compensation.
I’ll give you an example: Did you know that Inc Magazine, sells a subscription, but that you can read the articles that are in the magazine online for free? So why do people pay for the subscription? Convenience! I have the magazine because I want to read it in bed before I go to sleep or on an airplane. I don’t want to have to be dependent on wi-fi and my iPad.
I try to provide valuable content and tutorials on my blog to help add value to people’s lives. To help people improve and grow their businesses. I try to share my experiences with anyone interested in learning from my successes and failures. My thought process is simple, I ask myself, “Is this information something I wish someone would have shared with me? Does this information add value to my business or life?” If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then I share it, who knows, it could actually help someone!
4. Improved Consumer Experience
The experience your customers have when they use your PSI. The experience they have when visiting your website or store. The experiences they have interacting with you, your employees, and other customers.
All of these experiences are important! And it is important that you are always evaluating and improving these experiences for your customers.
If you want to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and referrals, then you must increase the level of positive experience your customers have at every touching point! What is a touching point? It’s any situation where there is physical or virtual interaction with you or your company in any way.
Let me give you an example: The company Build-A-Bear Workshop. They have done a superior job of creating touch points that provide a great deal of positive experiences for their customers. The whole experience of actually going through the “workshop”, like Santa’s elves, kids get to create their own Bear. But the experience doesn’t stop there. Once at home the kids can go online, register their new “friend” and use them as a character (bringing their bear to life) to interact with other kids in an amazing virtual world. To complete the circle, and to continue the experience, as these kids play in their virtual world, they can earn rewards, discounts, and coupons which get them back to the store for another amazing experience. And the cycle continues, at lest until they reach a certain age…or so I’m hoping!
The bottom line
Ultimately it is up to you! You’re the business owner, so you have to take ownership of what you’re going to do to improve your business and add to your customers satisfaction.
You’ve got to do something different, something that will enable you (your company), to stand out, to make people want to talk about you and ultimately use you for the PSI you provide. And in 2012, there is still plenty of opportunity to win if you place the focus on your customers and ultimately improving their experience.