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Build Relationships and Sales Will Follow

What is stopping brands from reaching out to consumers personally and actually helping them out?

Tukan Das

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When was the last time you saw a billboard, TV or a print ad and said to yourself, “Wow that brand really cares about me and I am going to buy that product?” Let me guess: Never.

Most big corporations are generally risk-averse and like to play it safe, when it comes to engaging with customers in public.

Giant billboards, TV/radio ads or print ads on newspapers/magazines are all safe ways to market to people.

It does not involve any direct interaction with customers and hence very little chance of a negative reaction, but the problem is consumers of 2013 are all blinded by traditional ads. Revenue from traditional advertisement channels are at an all time low.

It’s important to not only look at social media as a channel to get your message out there but also as a way to truly build meaningful relationships with potential and existing customers.

Here are two ways that your company can make the most of your social media marketing efforts.

1. Look beyond direct brand mentions

Instead of simply monitoring and taking a passive approach to social media, businesses need to start being aggressive. Every day there are thousands of people inquiring about potential purchases on Twitter but the brands are overlooking these conversations.

Watching for brand mentions and measuring sentiment is great but it doesn’t always lead to results.

For example, in the US alone there are about 6 500 posts on Twitter every day where people are talking about buying a car and asking for suggestions about car make/model.

This statistic shows a significant number of opportunities for every single major carmaker.

Unfortunately, most brands are currently happy to only listen to their brand mentions and respond to customer service issues, which significantly limits the potential of the brand.

2. Start a conversation naturally

Many brands simply do not know how to start the conversation. They think that because a person did not mention the brand specifically or the company’s Twitter handle that it is not proper to start a conversation.

An important thing to keep in mind is that sparking up a conversation on Twitter is sort of like dating. The first thing you say to someone you find attractive or somewhat interesting isn’t going to be “will you marry me?” Instead, you’re going to enter that conversation with a sincere smile and start to nurture the relationship with some meaningful conversation.

Sparking up conversations as a brand works the exact same way. Brands should avoid seeming too pushy so the best bet is to engage with people without going for the immediate sale.

In some situations a customer will be further down the buying process and in those cases, it’s perfectly fine to go in for the sell. But when that’s not the case brands need to focus on establishing trust and validation.

If you look at the network structure of Twitter it is indeed ideal for having a conversation and not just “pushing” one way content to your followers.

For example, if a potential customer tweets “Thinking of getting a car this summer. Any suggestions?” This person is not talking directly to any specific car company, but if a representative from any major car brand reached out to him and just offered a suggestion, it might be well received. The best case is he will engage back and go into a local dealership of the brand that engaged with him. The worst case is he or she will ignore the Tweet. But even if it doesn’t result in making a sale, that person might broadcast the conversation to their followers by retweeting or liking it.

This type of interaction is known as “earned media” and is an extremely powerful form of “word of mouth” marketing.

The power of engaging with your customers is endless, but the core lies at simply getting closer to them and genuinely helping them out.

Yes, it will take time and effort to engage with people one-to-one, yes you will not start counting the dollars from the first engagement, but what you’ll do is set an everlasting impression in the mind of the consumer, in a way no TV/Billboard/Print Ad ever could.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to get into the game.

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Tukan is the co-founder of LeadSift, a platform to identify actionable business opportunities from social media. At LeadSift, he is the hacker, hustler and the dreamer where he is working with his team to make social sales a reality. Outside of work, he likes to watch cricket, soccer and Jon Stewart.

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On Top Of Their Game

Innovative and focused on always providing superior solutions to the energy sector, Karebo Group works with top-quality providers to ensure 100% service delivery to its clients.

TomTom Telematics

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As a provider of dynamic professional services and products to the energy sector, Karebo Group’s core focus is delivering high-quality services and products to its clients.

“Our team has a long-standing and proven track record within the energy market,” says Ravi Govender, owner of Karebo Group. “Our in-depth knowledge and experience enables us to offer innovative and superior solutions to our clients. As a team, we thrive on the intellectual challenges that energy markets present.”

Karebo Group’s value proposition is to always deliver within time and budget, 100% customer commitment according to contract; operations must deliver consistently; and the entire team must be committed and 100% professional in delivery.

Because Karebo Group provides a turnkey solution to its clients, managing its own fleet enables the team to provide the best and most efficient service possible. “We’ve learnt the benefits of controlling the entire value chain,” says Ravi.

“In the past we have outsourced our logistics, and it impacted both our costs and our service delivery. By managing our own fleet, we can reduce costs and have happier clients.”

Cost-effective solutions

Karebo’s customers face significant challenges related to energy costs, which means it’s essential for the business to offer its solutions as cost-effectively as possible. Controlling transport and logistics costs is one way to do this, but it’s just one factor that the business considers. “We have solutions for all of the cost challenges that our customers face,” says Ravi.

Related: Is It Time To Consider Renewable Energy To Power Your Business?

“The problem is that while these solutions have a great return on investment, the ability to raise or channel capital to them is a challenge. General market conditions are also contributing to the indecision on allocating limited capital to these projects.”

In response, Karebo has overcome many of these challenges by assisting its customers to raise their own capital for projects. “We have moved the conversation from a CAPEX conversation to an OPEX conversation,” he explains.

The TomTom Telematics Difference

In order to keep its own operating expenses as lean as possible, it’s essential for Karebo to work with suppliers who understand their business and its needs. “We’ve been working with TomTom Telematics for three years and in that time we’ve reaped the full benefits of using the system to its full potential.

“WEBFLEET’s features include loading orders, geofencing, tracking and reporting, all of which have assisted us in optimising routes and working efficiently to see more customers, thereby increasing productivity.

“The order dispatch features via navigation device enable our teams to keep to their schedules, while address-visit reports help our teams to be more efficient by eliminating unnecessary visits to the same locations. The onboard navigation system also assists in communicating with our teams via a messaging service — teams can message our head office via the system if they need immediate assistance with correcting addresses or if any vehicle maintenance required. In addition, head office has a full view of the location of all of its teams across Africa, at any given point in time.”

According to Ravi, TomTom Telematics has played a significant role in the overall business, not just in terms of monitoring vehicles, but on bottom line costs as well.

“We chose TomTom Telematics based on its services, which met our specific requirements. Thanks to WEBFLEET, our company has seen a reduction in fuel costs, increased productivity and vehicle maintenance costs have been reduced as we place all driver behaviour reports on our company chat to correct driver behaviour.”

The leading edge

Ravi Govender was part of the national steering committee that put together the M&V framework that the original Eskom DSM programme was measured against. He also led the UKZN M&V team from January 2002 to December 2003 before joining Karebo in 2004.

Related: How do I start a retail energy business with Eskom being the only provider in South Africa?

Since joining Karebo, Ravi has ensured that his passion in developing solutions that transform and promote DSM has helped to place Karebo at the forefront of energy efficiency in South Africa.

Under Ravi’s leadership, Karebo has been focused on increasing the penetration of DSM in the South African environment and beyond. As a result, Karebo has been involved in several notable projects in this arena, including developing the framework and methodology to develop and implement large-scale mass rollout programmes.

Karebo pioneered the mass rollout of CFLs for Eskom and through this foundation several other programmes that been implemented, from the mass rollout of solar water heaters and residential mass rollouts, to developing the first large-scale LED programmes that were funded by Eskom. At that point it was the first and largest LED rollout approved anywhere in the world.

Karebo was also involved in both of Eskom’s Residential Mass Rollout phases; was contracted by the World Bank to assist Malawi on an advisory basis for the first CFL programme rolled out in that country; and was recently appointed by the EU through the European Commission to implement Solar Power Lighting to Communities and Schools in Lesotho.

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Techniques

How To Win Trust And Wax Sales

Small changes to your ecommerce platform could transform your turnover.

Daniella Shapiro

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Any ecommerce business venture is risky. Your products are not going to walk off the site by themselves from day one.  You have done your market research. You have identified and targeted consumer needs. You believe in your product.

What you need now is for consumers to believe in it too. But that is not enough. Your consumers also need to believe in you and your brand. Your ecommerce platform is the vehicle which allows the consumer to experience an insight into the quintessence of you, your product, and your brand.

Take your ecommerce experience from ‘what?’ to ‘wow!’.

The voice

Your ecommerce platform is a place that gives you, your brand and your products a voice. Your voice needs to speak out and tell your story. How you came to this point with your product. How and why you know it is the best on offer. Who you are.

What your brand stands for. Drive engagement with your voice through blogging. Show your investment in remaining relevant and meeting consumer needs. Invite feedback to build diversity and growth. Your products need a voice too, but they cannot speak for themselves. Let customers know your products’ worth by offering clear, detailed, jargon-free descriptions.

Give your customers pictures. Lots of them. From every angle. Show what you and your products are made of. Bring your products right into the customer’s home. If your products have got it, flaunt it. Convey an effective message that unites you as creator, your creations, and the lifestyle your brand is offering.

Authenticity, honesty, and clarity of purpose will connect the consumer to your brand in a real and relevant way.

Related: The Future Is Now – Ecommerce Retail Trends For 2019

Tell all, on call

Respond to consumer enquiries with as little delay as possible. These are personal interactions with the consumer that build relationships. Excellent customer service boosts positive feedback. Aim to provide as much detailed information about your business as possible. Be transparent, and proud of it.

An FAQ section is professional and helps address recurring questions regarding your products, services and business practices. Use the opportunity to provide further info about your brand’s integrity and professionalism. Refer to certifications and licenses. FAQs indicate honest, reliability and well-established business procedures, which further builds consumer trust. 

The allure of secure

A steadfast returns policy cuts the risk for consumers when making a purchase. It is far easier to commit if you are assured you can return the product with a full money back guarantee. Make this policy evident from the outset. Include a link to your returns policy on your landing page. Address all returns related queries in your FAQs. Consumers will also trust your ecommerce platform if you guarantee safety and security of information.  

Less is more!

Shipping costs are a turnoff. Many consumers abandon their carts just at the finish line because of this final hurdle. So, offer free shipping and seal the deal. Discounts and sales items must be in your face. Feature deals and reductions on your landing page with hard-to-miss, easily understandable images of slashed prices. Build some buzz around sales items with a sense of urgency.

Small trial samples in exchange for email details or a quick survey are another sweet deal. Everybody loves a sample. And you score business leads to follow up. The info you gather can help you to personalise user experience, and fine tune focused target marketing.

Related: Tips On How to Build Your First Ecommerce Business

That big red button

We have all encountered an enticing call-to-action button. One that offers the promise of a new start, that opens doors, that kicks in the rush of actualisation. A CTA that makes the customer feel like that button has their name on it is what it’s all about. ‘Buy Now’, ‘Add to Cart’, ‘Get Started’. The brand and lifestyle you are selling needs its own effective CTAs. They are the final frontier between deliberation and diving in.

The quick or the dead

First things last: Your ecommerce site had better load, and fast. This is vital. Already, 5 years back, failure to load with sufficient speed meant 1.73 billion GBP in lost sales. Consumer impatience is a fact. There are loads of options out there. Don’t be left dead in the water.

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Techniques

How You Can Guarantee Customer Satisfaction

Customer service is no longer a differentiator. Every business makes the same promises, and everyone says that they put their customers first. But do you? Here are three ways to up your customer-centric game.

Basil O’Hagan

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“We implemented a money-back guarantee at the Brazen Head at the Leaping Frog Centre, Fourways, offering a money-back guarantee on all our meals. Staff were reluctant at first, but the guarantee forced us to maintain standards at our front and back of house. In the end, we only had to honour the guarantee once in eight months.”

It’s a stock standard differentiator that every company uses: Customer service. And yet so many businesses are anything but customer-centric. Whether you’re in a B2C or B2B environment, here are three areas you could improve today.

1. Guarantee Your Service

If you don’t believe in your service, you can’t expect anyone else to. So, guarantee your service. This should not just be an empty phrase — back up your guarantee with a money-back promise.

Advertise that promise in your business, on your website and in your communications. That tells your customers, “We have such confidence in our service, and we’re so determined to be great that we put our money where our mouth is.”

Related: 5 Techniques To Leave Customers Grinning And Vowing To Return

The benefits of a money-back guarantee:

  • It encourages first-time customers to try your services.
  • It forces your team to keep standards high and focus on results, as slip-ups will hurt your business immediately.
  • It fosters pride in your business. “Our service is 100% guaranteed to be great!”
  • It is a selling point. “At Venus Video Games, satisfaction is guaranteed, or your money back!”
  • It sets you apart from your competitors. Would you rather try a new store that offers a money-back guarantee, or one that doesn’t?

We implemented this at the Brazen Head at the Leaping Frog Centre, Fourways, offering a money-back guarantee on all our meals. Staff were reluctant at first, but the guarantee forced us to maintain standards at our front and back of house. In the end, we only had to honour the guarantee once in eight months.

2. Complaints: Relate and Recover

Often, what a customer wants most from a company is to be treated like a person. They want real, authentic, human interaction.

Mostly, this human kindness will come while you cater perfectly to their every need, deliver the goods and services efficiently and then send them on their way with a massive smile on their face.

But every now and then things will go wrong. The customer won’t get exactly what they were looking for, the service won’t be 100%, or there will be some kind of misunderstanding.

This is unfortunate and of course nobody wants it to happen, but occasionally it does. If handled properly, these hiccups can be an opportunity to improve customer relations, build real human interaction and turn an unhappy customer into a happy one.

When a customer calls into your bank branch to complain that an unauthorised debit order was taken off her account, treat the person like you would like to be treated. Here is a good procedure to follow that fixes the problem while building a real human interaction.

  1. Understand the problem. Listen carefully and make sure you know exactly what the client’s complaint is.
  2. It doesn’t matter if they actually signed an authorisation and it’s technically their fault. This isn’t about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about building a relationship of good customer service.
  3. Take immediate action to fix the problem. In this case, reverse the debit order.
  4. Ensure it doesn’t happen again. That means working out who authorised the debit, and why and adjusting your systems.

If you go through this process as efficiently and as pleasantly as you can, you might find the customer comes out the other side in a pretty good mood. Their complaint has been acknowledged, they’ve got an apology and it’s been sorted out.

Service Tip: Don’t take customer complaints personally. They are part of your job, and your role is to handle them professionally. When a passenger of your airline says, “You’ve lost my bag!” they don’t mean it was you personally who lost it. But in this case, you represent your airline, so you should take responsibility, apologise and sort it out.

Related: Demanding Customers Are The Ones Who Motivate Innovation

3. Use Your Own Services

There’s no better way to check what your company’s service is like than by being your own customer. Of course, if people recognise you as one of their colleagues, they’ll be on their best behaviour, so use one of your digital channels, phone up or use a branch where they don’t know you.

Now pretend you’re a customer looking to make a purchase, but without too much knowledge of your systems. You’re a person off the street, as it were. What is your service experience like?

Here are some ways you can use your own services:

  • Try to get hold of your company. How easy is it to find your details? Is your website clear and logical, is your phone number prominently displayed? How is the phone answered?
  • Try to make a purchase. Is it easy? Is your query handled efficiently and quickly?
    • Most importantly, what’s the service like? Are the staff friendly, positive and dynamic? Do they go the extra mile to deliver exceptional service? Do they build relationships, do they provide help beyond just making the sale?
  • Phone to complain. Use the customer-care line, or website. You’ve been advertising this channel for years — what actually happens when someone uses it? Are complaints handled efficiently and in a positive spirit?
  • Leave a message. You can do this by voicemail, text or email. Does anyone get back to you?
  • Be inconvenient. Call over the weekend, after-hours, during lunch, or even during a busy period. Are the staff just as keen to help you? Can you even get hold of anyone?

Try to get hold of yourself. When last did you listen to your own voice message? What does the signature say at the bottom of your email? What does your switchboard operator say when answering the phone?

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