Posted by Pamela Swift in Branding
Do you feel that your audience isn’t connecting with your brand? If you believe this is the case then it’s because of one reason, and one reason only: you’re not listening to your audience.
The marketplace today has greatly changed in the last 20 years, and that’s for the better. Thanks to developing technologies, high-speed Internet connections and constant communication, consumers expect a personalized experience. They want to feel as if they’re the only customer. And if they aren’t getting this vibe from your brand then they’ll feel disengaged and indifferent.
If you’re purposely despondent with your clientele then those same customers will head on over to your competitors. You’ll lose out on sales and revenues and your bottom line will diminish. This is how the marketplace works nowadays. Prices matter, but so does customer service.
At the same time, however, perhaps you are connecting with your audience. Or, at least you’re trying too. This can feel rather embarrassing for your brand. What are you doing wrong? Maybe you rub your customers the wrong way or maybe you’re trying too hard. Here are a few reasons, according to Entrepreneur magazine, why you’re not connecting with your customer base:
- Your business lacks a target audience.
- Your brand seems too self-centered.
- Your company doesn’t have a unique selling proposition.
- Your content marketing isn’t compelling or emotional.
- Your employees aren’t the right fit for your firm.
- Your firm doesn’t engage with your audience.
Listening to your customers can turn things around rather quickly. To start engaging is to begin reaching out to your customers. Consumers feel valued when businesses reach out to them for feedback. Ben McConnell, co-author of Creating Customer Evangelists, writes the following:
“Research firm TARP has found that for every person who complains, there are 26 who do not. That means if 10 customers complain, another 260 may have quietly dumped you, never to call again. To know what customers are thinking, ask them.”
That’s pretty important and powerful information. It’s something that could revolutionize your overall business model.
Now, let’s look at the six reasons why you should start listening to your audience:
Improving Your Product
Indeed, you may think that you have the greatest product since sliced bread. Of course you’ll say that. You’re biased since you’re the one selling the product, or you’re the inventor of said product. If the sales sheet contradicts your viewpoint then perhaps it’s time to start finding out why customers aren’t buying the product. Is it too expensive? Does it serve no purpose? Is your rival invoking better promotional values? Your customers can give you the answers you’re looking for.
Loyal Customers Are Crucial
Once you have one or two loyal customers then the rest will follow suit. Loyal customers not only provide you with a steady income, they’ll serve as your advocate. Word of mouth is the bread and butter for startups and small businesses. If your most loyal of customers are recommending your product to another person then that person will suggest your product to somebody else. It’s a ripple effect and you’ll enjoy the fruits of such a tidal wave.
What About Your Rivals?
First, if you don’t listen to your customers then they’ll head over to your rival(s).
Second, your customers can tell you what you need to know about your competitors. Take the time to start asking your customers about the business that just opened up across the street. They’ll likely give you the truth, even if it’s bad news for your business. Think of them as your own personal Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot or Philip Marlowe.
The Feeling of Feeling Valued
One of the reasons why some customers are so loyal to a company is that they feel valued. When a customer feels valued then that feeling invokes reciprocation. Just by listening and understanding their needs and wants will make them feel valued and return to your store.
A Focus on the Customer
The primary objective of any business is to satisfy the consumer. If you’re not looking to keep the customer happy then you should close up shop and move to Northern Canada in an igloo.
From Dissatisfied to Advocates
Are your customers dissatisfied? Well, you have a lot of work ahead of you. Your aim now should be to transform your unhappy customers in to advocate customers. Whether they’re displeased with the customer service, the product or the aesthetic value of your store or website, you have to listen to them. Once you address their dislikes, and you work to improve them, then you can succeed in having a brand advocate, loyal customer and another steady income source.
How to Act on Listening
Now that you understand the reasons for listening to your audience to grow your business, the next step is to act. Are you going to act? You likely will, but how? Let’s look at how you can:
The easiest and most effective way to listen to your shoppers and to garner valuable feedback is to create and hand out surveys. The reasons why surveys are superb techniques to generate opinions is because they tell you what you’re doing right and, more importantly, what you’re doing wrong.
Surveys, particularly anonymous ones, allow customers to be open and honest about their experiences with your business. So, what should you be asking your customers who are taking your survey? Here are just a few questions that you can put forward:
- On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate your experience today?
- What was the intention of your visit?
- Did you complete your visit as you intended?
- Would you recommend our business to your friends and family?
- Is there anything you would change about our company?
A survey shouldn’t take longer than 60 seconds, unless you’re offering an incentive, like $3 off your next order or a chance to win $1,000. They can be done online or in person. It’s best to avoid doing it over the phone because consumers generally dislike telephone interviewers.
Any veteran business owner will tell you that customer service is a valuable point of interaction with shoppers. It’s a superb opportunity to elicit feedback so don’t waste it. You don’t know if they’ll ever come back to your store or website. Remember, the best companies listen at the front of the line, and employees embark upon one-on-one conversations with customers.
Listening to your customers during the customer service experience understands what they value, what they want you to deliver and what you can improve upon. Active listening, not pretending to listen, can showcase to your customers that you’re valuing their time and ideas.
Indeed, many shoppers dislike being approached by sales staff so be diplomatic in your approach.
Ah, social media! The greatest invention known to those participants in social media. If you’re an avid social media user then you realize just how much you can listen to your audience on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networks.
To succeed in this realm, you have to really know what you’re listening for. According to PR News Online, there are seven things you have to be on the lookout for on social media:
- Early warnings based on product quality or service matters.
- Learning keywords customers type to improve SEO campaigns.
- Monitor conversations during a campaign.
- Hone in on websites to increase your level of engagement.
- Offer a level of support to customers and answer questions or concerns.
- Grab ideas from users to improve or innovate products, services and marketing.
- Connect and build relationships with your fellow industry competitors.
The main objective of social media is to converse. In no other time in history has business been able to garner instant feedback, instant customer service and instant adulation (or criticism). Social media also allows you to target your audience like never before.
Simply put: social media is very beneficial to business owners.
Did you know email still plays an important part to a business? Yep, email hasn’t died.
In an email marketing campaign, you can show to the world that you are actually listening to them. All of your emails in this campaign can actively highlight the fact that you welcome feedback, you listen to it and you are actually working on improving or introducing your products and services to ensure the customer is always 100 percent satisfied.
To gain immediate and direct access to your shoppers’ attention, you can always request that they submit their email addresses for future newsletters, promotions, corporate updates, discounts and free products, like ebooks, whitepapers and case studies.
In these emails, you can also spotlight certain customers and their reviews, whether it’s good or bad (see below). This is where you can take advantage of negative reviews. Let’s say Katherine Baxter wrote a negative review about shoddy customer service. You then tell your audience that you revamped customer service training and refunded the customer’s money.
Also, you can occasionally send a note to your audience asking how you’re doing. You don’t have to do everything manually, try to incorporate into your marketing plan an email marketing platform so you will have a better control over your campaign.
Online reviews are windows into your customers’ souls. Well, let’s not get too dramatic.
But customer testimonials are very valuable in various ways. They can improve your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, they can enhance your online reputation and influence the decision of other shoppers. Although you want positive reviews as much as possible, negative reviews can prove to be very valuable to your business.
A negative review tells you what you’ve done wrong. This may anger you, but don’t let it. Consider this poor review as an opportunity to do better next time. Here are a few things you can do with this negative review (besides throwing it in the trash or recycling bin):
- Respond to the negative review and apologize to the customer.
- Ensure to the customer that you will do better next time.
- Take their complaints and find out what you can do improve your business.
- Produce content that shows you’ve taken the complaint and did something about it (see above).
User reviews are meant to be seen and heard (or read). The next step is to act upon them.
If your objective is to open up a business and then shut your doors within a year then by all means you shouldn’t listen to your audience. Avoid them like the plague. However, if your objective is to start a business and make it succeed then you should definitely listen to your audience at all times. Be very attentive to them.
You can either fail or succeed based on their dollars (or yuan or euros or pounds).
The customer is the key to growing your business. Go ahead, start listening!