No, I did not abandon my blog series! Pneumonia struck me in April and it took a few weeks to recover but I am back to my full schedule. Thanks to everyone who expressed concern!
This is the third installment in my ten part series regarding the biggest mistakes small businesses make when it comes to implementing social media technologies. Mistake # 3 – many small businesses forget to develop and implement a participation marketing strategy that engages the customer and enhances the brand message at every stage of the customer experience.
Traditional marketing and advertising programs focus upon creating awareness via a variety of shout techniques: advertising, promotions, public relations, etc. The concept is that the more the prospect hears your message, the more they trust you and the more inclined they are to buy. But social technologies empower the prospect in ways unseen until this time. Most people research your name and your brand on the web before they make a purchase decisions. Most prospects consider ratings and reviews as influential in their purchase decisions. For you to be successful with social technologies, you must have a marketing strategy that creates awareness, educates the prospect through consideration and preference, encouragers purchase, and ultimately fosters loyalty.
Awareness: You may have a Facebook page and a website and a twitter account. Are you using these platforms as a way to engage in 2-way conversation or are you simply sending status updates all day long? Again, are you taking traditional shout marketing and transferring it to the web? Expect to be blocked and dropped from friend’s lists. Try joining groups and twitter chats. Provide value in the conversation so your readers want to know more about you.
Consideration: By this point, you are connected in some way. They know your name and may consider buying from you. Your target prospect is a “friend”, or “follower” and they may have actually subscribed to your newsletter. Again, making connections is not good enough if all you are going to do is send sales messages all day long. Ask questions. Create surveys and ask your readership for feedback. See who is following your competitors and who the influencers are for your industry. Befriend them and engage them. Determine what kind of information and content you can provide to help them make a purchase decision. Educate them with product information.
Preference: Follow-up on your conversations. Thank them for their ideas. “I enjoyed your participation in this class or this tweetchat.” Comment on their blogs. Send them bookmarks and articles that provide value, content created by yourself or others. Your prospect has given you permission to begin a conversation so inform them about ratings and rankings. Let them know what others are saying about your company and brand. Follow-up on prior conversations.
Purchase: Ask for feedback on the purchase process. How do you like our product? How has using the product been for you? What uses have you found for the product that we did not consider? Consider a targeted promotion for the customer asking for their feedback and providing a discount on one future purchase. Ask them to join your loyalty program!
Loyalty: At this stage, the customer is a fan. Whether they purchase from you or not, you want create campaigns that encourage them to make future purchases and refer others to your brand. Develop a loyalty program that provides customers increased value for engaging with you as a member or affiliate. Their value to your business increases as they refer you to others and become a repeat purchaser – make it worth their while. Continue to survey. How is the brand working for you? Target promotions for loyalty members only. Create an affiliate awards program. Encourage them to write online reviews. Ask them to join a focus group, a collaboration team to develop new products. Create communities and engage the membership! Remember their birthdays and anniversaries or provide other personal promotions.
Keep in mind all the systems and processes of your business that touch the customer experience from pre-sale awareness campaigns through point of sale emails and communication and finally through distribution and reflect a consistent brand message at every customer touch-point. At every stage, ask the question – how can I provide value? Better yet, ask your customer.