Imagine you are at a party and in walks a handsome newcomer that looks like they’d be an interesting conversation. The person next to you tells you how accomplished they are, how well traveled they are; they are pretty much the most intriguing person you’ve come across. They finally make their way over to you and….talk about themselves constantly for about 20 minutes straight. Any sane person would take this moment to say, “I need another drink, excuse me.”
This scenario illustrates how marketing has changed. People are no longer that interested in listening to all of your attributes, accomplishments and awesomeness before making a decision to come to your business. They want to know what you think of them, what they’ve been up to and what you can do for them. You are the person asking the questions, not making the statements, and ‘listening’ is now a huge part of marketing and will make or break your strategy.
This can be a huge departure from traditional marketing for some, where before you were the most awesome person in the room and you stood there telling everyone so. Think of a billboard; a radio ad; a TV spot; a print advertisement. All one-way awesomeness. In walks the digital age with online reviews and ratings, social networks and online platforms that give your consumers a voice that travels farther, faster and in stealth mode if you aren’t in the game. In 2012 you will have to face it: you are no longer in front of the microphone, your clients are.
Smart marketers will go with the flow and ensure they are maximizing this shift in the consumer mindset, because this sort of marketing has the potential of being bigger, better and more efficient than the old school methods. After all, the only thing you are now responsible for is joining and creating conversations – in EVERYTHING you do. Even in your traditional methods, like advertising – how can you make this a conversation? Conversations in the salon, on your social pages, on your blog, via email and most importantly, when you’re not there. It’s now about creating, nurturing and developing a relationship with clients, prospective clients, loyal brand advocates and your industry at large to build a community aspect to your business. Your new focus isn’t about pumping out those postcards, it’s about being the liaison of conversation.
Just take a look at some of the other industries that are adapting and thriving with this new approach, like live television programs. They are now taking real-time feedback from social media and incorporating it into the show. Now, I don’t want to get too ‘Hunger Games’ on you, but this is where it is going – your clients want to be involved in what you do and if you don’t let them, someone else will make them feel much more welcome.
So what do you do about this?
- Ask more questions. Lots more questions! If you are worried that you won’t be getting many responses on your page at first, start by asking questions on other pages. This starts the ball rolling and you begin to create dialogue amongst various groups. For example, log onto your Facebook page and ‘Use Facebook as Page’ so that you can go and network with other pages in your community as the business and start some cross-chat. Twitter makes this easy, allowing you to pose questions to specific people, DM people, etc. Bottom-line: start talking about other people already!
- Follow some other people professionally and finally acknowledge that you will have to dedicate time to simply researching, also known as listening. Spend the time to build a relationship and develop dialogue. Watch what they do, what works, gather ideas, etc. Paying attention is the key to this new marketing strategy and getting your toes wet is crucial to being successful here. You cannot ‘hate’ social media and still be good at it.
- Use an online program to help you ‘listen’ more effectively and to interact in one place. For example, Social Manager allows you to follow different blogs and post them to your channels, follow different people on social networks and respond to them in the same place, etc.
- Sometimes communities are easier to start locally. Start a book club, a social hour, a wine tasting, happy hour, games night, recipe swap…whatever fits your brand and is of interest to your crew, do it. Then start talking about what you’re doing online subtly, like “I wonder what all the Facebook fans would think about this recipe.” At least some of the ladies at the group would put their opinions out there if they tried it and you can be certain the person that brought it would pipe up.
- Start doing a few surveys, both formally and informally, just to start building momentum. You want your brand to be more approachable overall so that your clients and fans feel comfortable saying EVERYTHING to your face. Trust me, you want people saying things both good and bad about you on your pages so that you’re in control of the conversation.
- Building a business around your clients sounds easy, but the devil is in the detail here. It is the little things that count and will make things memorable. You want to have a strategy for taking clients from a newbie in the conversation to a brand advocate and the little things you do for clients will really help in this aspect. Think about ways to give back to clients, like little goodie bags on key visits, personal thank you notes, VIP parties, exclusive access to community giveaways or events…You get the idea. All you’re looking to do is to make them feel special and to remind them that they’ll never get the same experience somewhere else.