The Internet has made the world seem smaller, while allowing for businesses to grow larger in knowledge, understanding, and profits. There’s no question that the Internet has knocked down the towering, thick walls that separated companies from their customers for centuries. Now, unlike ever before, businesses are able to connect to their clients and customers from across the globe on a far more personal basis.
Snapshot of How Businesses Are (and Should) be Using Technology
- 50% of effective businesses have created groups for their online customers (HBR, 2011)
- Three out of the top five Fortune 500 businesses have blogs, with 90% of all of the blogs owned by Fortune 500 companies having their blog comments enabled (Society for New Communications Research, 2009)
- Video (i.e. vlogs, video marketing, etc.) will equate to 90% of consumer IP traffic by the end of 2013 (Cisco, 2009)
Improved Marketing Research
In the past, to obtain marketing intel from and about customers, companies would need to place unwelcoming cold calls to customers, mail out polls and surveys, or even sink thousands of dollars into hiring a marketing research company to do the work for them. Today, learning about what your customers want from you may only take simply logging onto Twitter and Facebook and seeing what your and your competition’s customers are saying online. In a single click, you can discover:
- What people think about you and your business
- New and innovative product ideas
- How your customers prefer to communicate and how they communicate (i.e. What language and verbiage they use)
- Important demographic information about your customers (i.e. age, gender, location, education, etc.)
- How your customers feel about your pricing, customer service, branding…
…the list goes on and on. And it’s incredibly easy to run a poll or survey through social media sites, or via email through a number of online survey companies who’ll do most of the work for you. It’s no wonder that over half of businesses now use social media to research new product ideas and monitor trends amongst their customers (HBR, 2011).
Not only does marketing research help you build a company that your leads and customers want, but it will also help you best create and craft messaging and content that they can relate to and that engages them.
Tailored Marketing Campaigns
A decade ago, most marketing campaigns were all about telling YOU why YOU need product “XYZ” without really understanding what your needs actually were. Consumers felt almost assaulted with the number of radio, television and print ads that were constantly being thrown at them, with products promising to deliver a bunch of benefits that most consumers didn’t even need. The result: millions of dollars wasted on useless marketing campaigns, and millions more annoyed customers.
As we touched on above, marketing research allows you to create content that your leads and customers want. The best online businesses out there know that there really is no such thing as a “quick sale”. For the most part, if you want to make a sale, you need to nurture your customers.
How do you do that?
By giving them compelling, quality content that helps them solve their problem, or at least content that makes their lives a little easier. Not only that, but you can actually break down what content each lead will want to see as they progress through each stage of the sales funnel (this can be based on topics, or the type of media they prefer such as video or images), and couple that content up with an effective CTA (call-to-action) that will have those leads providing you with their email address, their location, phone number… any information you’ve deemed necessary to keep in contact and further nurture them along the way.
Superior Customer Service
We can’t possibly touch on this topic without discussing perhaps the most revolutionary part of businesses and customers coming together online: customer service. Most of us remember the days when we used to have to send off a letter via the post to voice a concern, or spend hours upon hours on the phone, waiting to speak to a “real person”.
While those lines of communication still exist today, most customers prefer to communicate with companies in a more direct, convenient, and effective manner. Customers can now send their questions, concerns, and accolades over to companies via:
- Social media networks (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
- Blog comments
- Web forms
- Video chat
- Online videos (i.e. YouTube)
There are a number of reasons why customers prefer these ways of communicating. For one, it’s quick. Secondly, it holds businesses accountable. If you post a concern that you have online about a product that you received from a company, potentially millions of people are going to be able to see that comment, and they’ll likely be waiting for a response. The business has no choice but to respond and then work with the customer to find an amicable solution to the problem.
Lastly, though we are becoming increasingly immersed in technology, these tools listed above have made companies seem more “human”. When done right, technology can put the humanity back into a business, give it some more personality, and make that company more likable and more trustworthy. This all amounts to a better ROI for the business, and a more happy and satisfied customer who’s likely to return to that business again in the future.