While marketing tools and technologies have evolved, one golden rule of marketing has not: Brand loyalty and reputation are still based on the quality of the customer experience. And there’s no better source to tell us how we’re doing than the customers themselves.
Whether on social media, consumer review sites or retail sites, customers are likely to be talking (or squawking) somewhere about your business. Are you listening? The following four steps can help you engage your customers more effectively.
1. Learn where you stand
Gain a sense of what’s already being said about your business online now.
- Comb the Internet. Do a search of your business name plus the word ”reviews.”
- Check consumer review sites like Hellopeter.com.
- Explore directory and mapping sites like Yahoo Local and Google Places for your business name and reviews.
2. Get people talking
If there isn’t much buzz about your business yet, stir up some. Engage customers in a two-way conversation by asking for their opinion.
- Ask customers to review your company on the sites that matter in your industry.
- Request feedback in your email newsletter and across various social media.
- Start, monitor and participate in conversations about your business on Twitter.
- Find out what’s on your fans’ minds by using Facebook’s Questions feature.
- Survey customers to learn what your company does well and where it falls short.
- Solicit feedback at the close of sales and client projects. Place links with a phrase like ‘Tell us what you think‘ on your website and in email newsletter.
Remember: Phone and in-person contact still matter. Pay attention to what customers and others tell you when you speak to them by phone, in your store, or at the office and events.
3. Actively monitor and listen
Entrepreneurs who care what their customers think make listening part of their marketing. Ask for consumer opinion and feedback while also tracking everyday conversations about your business.
- Monitor mentions of your brand on Twitter using Twitter’s search tool.
- Stay on top of comments and questions on your Facebook page’s wall. Use Facebook search to find other pages with mentions of your brand.
- Set up search queries related to your business on Google Alerts or Social Mention and receive the results by email.
- View all the social media activity concerning your company via a web-based dashboard like HootSuite or an email tool like NutshellMail.
4. Respond to feedback
They’ve talked. You’ve listened. Use that customer feedback to take action:
- Make improvements and adjustments
- Introduce new products or services
- Identify niche audiences.
Then be sure to communicate to customers what you’re doing with their feedback.
- Share those stories across media channels, with links on Twitter to your Facebook page, blog, website, and email newsletter’s sign-up page.
- Recruit your company’s most enthusiastic fans to be in customer testimonials, so their story becomes part of your story — in video, web and print media.
- Thank individuals who give you feedback, even if it is hard to hear.
While you can’t control everything consumers say about your business, you can control the quality of your products and services and the customer experience.