With all of the continuing hype surrounding social media and digital marketing, there is a strong temptation to try to tune it all out and focus on building your business instead. But that would be a big mistake for you as well as your company’s future growth.
Why? Simply this: consumers have an unprecedented ability to learn more about your business than ever before as well as sharing their opinions and perspective (both favorable and negative) with the entire world. And they can do this with the simple hit of a “send” button.
So what’s the one thing that every business needs to do with their marketing today? It’s what I was taught as a Brand Assistant at P&G: “Listen and Respond To The Voice Of Your Customer”. Social media and digital marketing are now part of our everyday “toolkit” and the way we do business. But that doesn’t mean all companies should have an on-going, proactive social media effort. That requires a serious commitment of resources, especially the human kind, if you’re going to do it right (and there are a lot more companies doing this poorly compared to the ones doing it well).
In fact, the more “mainstream” social media becomes, the more likely a lot more companies are going to launch their own Facebook/ Twitter/ YouTube/etc. campaigns (and do them quite badly since they won’t be based on a sound strategy as well as being seriously underfunded).
Rather, the prime directive for all businesses should be a willingness to “commit to the dialogue”. Companies should be doing this on a regular basis as a fundamental part of doing business. Actively listening to what their customers are saying about them online can keep a business focused on what matters most to their customers (and not be distracted by their competitors or other issues).
For example, a powerful tool for active online listening is from Netbase (www.netbase.com, follow them on Twitter @Net_Base). By using NetBase, you can easily analyze millions of online social media conversations and determine the “net sentiment” for your brand (i.e. percentage of consumers with a favorable perception of your brand minus the percentage of consumers with a negative perception) in close to real time. By tracking a brand’s Net Sentiment Score over time along with the factors driving these sentiments, you can get a very clear idea on what’s attracting fans to your business (and what’s bugging your brand’s detractors). Full disclosure: I’m on the Board of Directors for NetBase.
There are an abundance of examples where listening and responding to the Voice of the Consumer pays big rewards for companies (and has been one of the keys to P&G’s success over the years, both before and after the advent of the Internet). Ideally, you should develop a strategy and game plan that goes beyond listening and actively engage with your target consumers online using the wide variety of digital marketing tools available as part of an integrated marketing effort.
There are many ways you can benefit from initiatives such as these, including increasing traffic (and leads) to your company’s website, increasing your brand’s visibility online, enhancing your company’s reputation, etc. But at a minimum, you should be using the powerful online tools and best practice available today to regularly monitor what others are saying about your brand as well as your competition. There may have been a time a long time ago when “ignorance is bliss”, but in today’s hyper-competitive business environment, those days are gone forever.
The fundamental role of a marketing executive on the senior leadership team is to make sure your brand’s consumer has a person dedicated to making sure they are represented in the executive conference room. Think about it….if Marketing doesn’t do this, what other function will? (hint: it will not be Finance). By listening and responding to the Voice of your Customer using the amazing online listening tools at your disposal today, you can learn and apply what your consumers are telling you is needed to do to profitably build your business (which will make Finance happy as well).