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4 “Free” Ways to Connect with Customers for World-Class Understanding

Last week I spoke about five of the most important actions you can take when starting your journey to improved customer centricity. If you missed it, you can read the post  here; it will be good background information to build from for this week’s ideas and suggestions.

In this post, I would like to continue to support your efforts with some suggestions on an area that many struggle with, that of connecting with and underst anding your customers.

I believe that one of the main reasons for this, is that the target customer segment has been poorly defined. Perhaps it is too wide, such as all category users, or only superficially described just in terms of demographics. C³Centricity’s 4W™ Template, free to download in the members area, will provide a simple way for you to complete a more detailed description of your customer. Once you have that, you can then start to connect with them to deepen your underst anding of them.

1. Retail connections

There are numerous ways that an organisation can connect with its customers. If you have a retail presence, then this is as simple as going to a few of them  and then talking to the customers present. If you yourself don’t own the outlet then you will need to ask permission of the owner, but since retailers are also interested in getting to know their customers better, they will usually accept in exchange for your sharing any learnings with them. (>>Tweet this<<) Customers are more sensitive to value than price

Another opportunity to connect with your customers in retail is through promotions, demonstrations and sampling activities. These have the added benefit of being able to speak with customers who are already interested in what you have to offer, because they have stopped beside your st and. They also are generally more willing to take the time to talk to you even if they are busy, something which can be a struggle if you are just walking up to customers in the store. (>>Tweet this<<)

In addition, I have found that both these exercises can be a great way to improve your image with the retailer and may even warrant special treatment for your br and.

2. Secondary connections

If you don’t have the luxury of meeting your customers in person, then there are still ways to learn more about them. If you have a call centre, then why not listen in or even spend time answering calls? It is both a rewarding and useful exercise to do. This is why many organisations such as Zappos, make their new employees do just that in their first few weeks after being hired.

Market research can make you more customer centricMarket research projects are also another easy way to observe and listen to your customers, although in general you will be a silent observer behind the interviewer, who is asking the questions. Some people prefer to follow focus groups or in-depth interviews, even from behind the two-way mirror, since they will have the opportunity to impact the discussions by feeding questions to the moderator.

A third way for you to make these less direct connections is by following social media discussions. These can either be on the major platforms such as Twitter, FaceBook, Pinterest and Instagram, or your company’s own panel if you are lucky enough to have one. In either case, I would encourage you to observe and not get actively involved in the conversations. There have been many infamous embarrassments caused by under-qualified people responding to heated customer conversations on social media. DiGiorno (Nestle) and Progressive are just two of the more recent examples; this post gives many others that can heed as a useful warning should you be tempted to get personally involved.

3. Website connections

Today, most organisations rely on some form of online presence, to be available wherever and whenever their customers would like to connect with them. Understanding why your customers need to contact you is important to providing them with the best experience. 

Understanding why your customers need to contact you is important to providing them with the best experience. Click To Tweet

The first place to ensure you are supplying the right information is on your contact page. Are you requesting customers to complete an online form where you request many details from them? If so, it is definitely worth checking if everything you are dem anding is really necessary for that first connection. Name, email address and perhaps telephone number if you plan to call them back, should be sufficient, together with the reason they are wanting to contact you.

Connect with customersSecondly check that you are giving your customers multiple ways for them to contact you. (>>Tweet this<<) The form mentioned above is a rather anonymous connection, since there is no way for the customer to follow up, other than by sending a second completed form. The vast majority of consumers hate such forms with a vengeance and prefer to chat directly, or at least to be given alternative contact choices. Therefore you should provide your email address, telephone number and ideally a postal address. How many times have you been interested in a company only to find that you don’t know in which country they are based? Frontiers today are more linguistic than geographical, so your customers have the right to know whether or not they can visit your offices in person.

One area where this becomes vital is in online purchasing. Ensure that you make it as easy for customers as possible to shop your website. Enable them to check-out as a guest if they want, rather than imposing the completion of a long form of their details. Kissmetrics wrote a great post on this topic, with good and bad examples, which is worth a read if you are selling online.

Finally you should check the performance of your website; how many visitors do you have, where do they come from and what are they looking for in terms of information? This underst anding could be a whole post topic on its own, but since there are many already available, suffice it to say that if your website is getting few visits or your customers are bouncing away quickly, then it is not serving its purpose of building a relationship with your customers. (>>Tweet this<<)

4. Sharing connections

Meeting and getting to know your customers is probably one of the most enriching and inspiring experiences an organisation can have. (>>Tweet this<<) There is so much you can underst and about your current category and br and users by talking to them, that everyone should find ways to do so on a regular basis. As already mentioned, this could be by speaking with them directly whilst shopping, during a market research project, or over the internet. Share experiences when you connect with customers

You won’t be able to speak to everyone, so you will also rely on your colleagues to make such connections, or even external hostesses. This is why it is important that you get a full debrief, ideally in person, whenever you can.

It amazes me every time I speak to demonstrators, that they just go home at the end of the day with rarely any sort of debrief back to the client. On the rare occasions when they do tell their supervisors something of interest that they discovered, they are generally met with a lack of interest and enthusiasm. What a waste of intimate knowledge about the customer, their likes, dislikes and unmet needs and desires! Therefore share whatever you learn with your colleagues and ask them to do the same.

These are four ways for you to get a deeper underst anding of your customers  and which are probably already available to you today. How many are you using on a regular basis? Which have you found to be the most useful or inspiring. Please share your experiences below; it would be great to hear about your own successes.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post has been inspired by the first chapters of Winning Customer Centricity and includes images from the same book. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will usually find a discount code. It is also available on Amazon, andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”>Barnes and Noble, iBook and all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle with Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient a little longer.

8 Marketing Essentials for 2014

Over the past few weeks I’ve been in the US catching up with a few C³Centricity partners about marketing priorities for 2014. The meetings were as inspirational as the new products being presented at the Las Vegas CES (Global Consumer Electronics & Consumer Technology Tradeshow)!

We discussed some of the most important challenges marketing will be facing in 2014 and brainstormed some possible solutions. If you are having any of these difficulties then I’m sure you will find the following ideas useful:

Social Media Metrics

Email is a popular customer service connection pointAs many companies transfer budget from traditional to online advertising, it is essential to also shift some of your funds to measuring its impact, even if some people do question the validity of such metrics. However, the most important thing to do is to link the metrics to what is happening in your business. Your CEO isn’t interested in how many Facebook Likes you’ve managed to get, but he is interested in knowing that you gained x% in awareness. Some st andard numbers often followed are mentioned in “ 10 Social Media Measurement Best Practices” but remember that engagement and listening for better customer underst anding are also (more?) important, as mentioned in this Business Insider post. What everyone does agree, is that every campaign must have objectives and metrics to gauge their efficacy; do yours?

Storytelling

There is so much (too much?) information flowing into organisations today, but it is not being sufficiently accessed because most of it is not being integrated and analysed. Even when it is, sharing the insights is often a challenge because of the complexity of the process. Turning knowledge and underst anding into stories and then visualising or videoing them is a better way for both sharing and getting participation in actioning them. Why not review both your insight development and your knowledge sharing processes this year? If you’re comfortable with where you are, perhaps now is a good time to start storing your information and insights in easily-accessible libraries?

Showrooming & Virtual Reality

Virtual realityIt has been suggested that showrooming will be the end of retail outlets, but I believe there will be an integrated, rather than an either / or future. Virtual reality enables shoppers to see how products could be used, or how they would look in their homes, office or even on themselves. It also allows both retailers and manufacturers to improve their offer by identifying any pain points, and enables them to hold less stock and still offer maximum choice to customers. How about going online with 3D catalogues or providing in-store areas to offer your customers product trial and experience?

 

New Communication Opportunities

According to Jay Walker-Smith of Yankelovich

“We’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970s to as many as 5,000 a day today.”

Whether that second number should be 5,000 or 20,000 as I’ve also heard mentioned, it suggests that little can or is being retained our customers. Since this is unlikely to change in the future, as attention spans shorten even more, finding new messaging opportunities that resonate with our customers is vital. Why not use social media to track your target audience’s expressed wants and needs, and then compare them to what your key competitors are communicating. This will help you to uncover hidden communications’ gaps which you can then use to connect with your customers.

Adapting Communications to Personas

Don't alienate your business from its customersAre you dissatisfied with your current segmentation efforts? Creating personas can already add interest and thus actionability, by visualising their similarities and differences. Have you thought of taking the same approach to your communications too? By crafting personas built from your existing data on media habits and going beyond traditional segmentation, you can focus your attention on how to actually communicate with these different groups.

Channel Management

Mapping your br and’s story as told by the br and across channels can provide a “mosaic” of its communications and quickly highlight areas which need attention.Successful campaigns work across multiple channels but it is important to examine the contribution of each to avoid overlaps and gaps. Why not make 2014 your year of br and building through improved channel management?

Better Communications for Organisational Strategy

Following on from the above point, people’s attention spans are diminishing and we are all skimming rather than reading today. This means that companies need shorter, more impactful copy, for advertising and websites, but also for internal newsletters and communications. Analysing the content of communications can be very informative in underst anding the messages our customers, employees or consumers are receiving. We can no longer be satisfied with knowing just what we are sending out. Make this year the one in which all your communications resonate and provide the right messages to your targets.

Disruptive Innovation

Trends around the worldCustomers are becoming more and more dem anding – no news there! They don’t stay satisfied or surprised for long. What was novel yesterday is normal today and boring tomorrow. I suppose that’s why shows such as CES get so much air-time on local, national and even international media. We all love to dream and imagine a better life just around the corner. The same goes for our customers, who are always open to new and better propositions.   What are you doing to meet these increasing dem ands? Is your innovation linear, exponential or disruptive? If it’s not the second and hopefully the third, you are probably missing out. Why not make 2014 the year you disrupt your innovation process?

These were eight of the tens of ideas that I discussed with my partners to help companies identify their marketing priorities. Have a look at your plans and see whether you are still playing it safe by just repeating what you did last year? The same number of campaigns, the same promotions, even the same type of innovations. There’s still time to make 2014 the year of exponential growth and change for your company. 

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