Ask and You Shall Receive

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with companies that were frustrated with the lack of interaction they were getting from their marketing efforts. They created what they felt were engaging contests, content, and images; they developed strategies and identified milestones and key metrics. And they failed miserably because they missed out on an important first step.

They forgot to ask what their customers want.

It seems so simple, but it’s a step that many business owners and marketers take for granted. Being so close to the product and services that they’re promoting, they feel they ‘know’ what their customers want.

Even worse, sometimes they feel they know what their customers ‘should’ want.

So when a project doesn’t bring the results that they expected – or completely falls flat – they look for reasons why they failed to find their pathway to success. And, often, the reason is because they started along the wrong path in the first place.

Your social networks are a ready-made focus group opportunity. They represent a perfect (and affordable) forum for you to poll an engaged segment of your audience.

And it’s just so easy to do! Facebook polls are idiot proof (I say that because even I have created them), and there are numerous on-line survey tools that are available for you to poll your database of customers.

But even before we get all fancy-like with polls and surveys, social networks afford you the wonderful opportunity to use the most simple and most effective marketing tactic at your disposal.

They let you ask a question. And then get a response.

What do your customers think about your new flavour? Just ask. What line extension do they want to see? Just ask. How are they using your current product? Just ask.

It’s simple, it’s effective, and it also gives you and your customers a chance to interact. It increases the brand fidelity your customers have because they feel valued and engaged in the process. And, hopefully, you actually do value and want your customers’ feedback – both good and bad (this is not a slam dunk assumption, though. I have seen companies that ask for show, but have already made up its mind).

The bad responses (assuming they meet your interaction guidelines – another “first step” that I’ll be discussing in a soon-to-come blog post) can be just as valuable. Finding out what people don’t like about you and your product provides you with just as much potential for growth and success as learning what they do like.

Now, there is one huge caveat. There is a risk in feeling that your socially active customers represent a majority opinion of your overall customer base.

In journalism, there’s a general rule that states for every letter to the editor sent, it represents the views of 10, 50, or (insert whatever number you want to believe) other readers who don’t speak out.  Conversely, one can make an argument that just because an idea isn’t expressed doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. After all, most of us are quick to fire off a letter or Tweet our righteous indignation when something upsets us, but we tend to remain silent in our satisfaction.

Think of when you go to a restaurant. If you get bad service, chances are you’re calling for the manager; but if you get good service, what do you do? Leave a generous tip and maybe return again in the future.

The squeaky wheel often gets the grease. From a business perspective, it’s important to remember that social media is a tool – just one of many on your corporate tool belt. It would be just as folly to base your entire business plan based upon a handful of uber-active Tweeters, as it would to cancel a solidly performing product line because of a couple of phone calls to customer service.

It’s a start, though. And your social networks can be a fertile breeding ground for new ideas, concepts, and marketing strategies.

All you need to do is ask!

Questions Answered

How should I use polls?

How do I survey my customers?

How do I use social media to solicit my customers' opinions?

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