With the emergence of new technologies, consuming and disseminating information has changed over the last couple of decades. Recently, I was speaking to one retailer who asked “What happened to the time when good products, customer service and a few flyers around town was enough to advertise my store?”
New technology, social media tools and social networking sites like Facebook.com, where users can join and create groups, has certainly changed the landscape. Now with a new generation of customers becoming parents who expect a successful business to have a solid Internet presence; it may seem more difficult to market your business.
Although the means to communicate with consumers have evolved into more options, I must slightly disagree with my colleague’s statement above. The core competencies of your business should always be to provide customers with high quality products and outstanding customer service. No matter how many cool new web sites pop up or new tools created, customers will become loyal customers if and only if you have good values. Just as it has been in the past, if customers have a good experience they will share it with their network of family, friends and co-workers. But it is in this Digital Age where customers’ networks have now become exponentially larger.
The very existence of blogs and social networking sites promotes finding, sharing and connecting with those of the same interest. Networks are no longer formed by only those you interact with face to face; networks have now been formed and solidified online. For many industries especially retail, this provides an excellent medium to generate business. Excellent customer service is even more important than before as customers will share their experiences with networks online. Word of Mouth is growing and customers are taking notice. According to NOP World, 93 percent of people believe that Word of Mouth is the most reliable way to find out information on products and services. Conversely, customers will share bad experiences and in some cases even more so than positive experiences.
There are so many stories of businesses both big and small who have taken lightly the power of the Internet and how messages can be distributed virally. One example that specifically relates to the baby industry is Motrin. The Motrin online banner ad suggested that Moms who wear baby slings experience back pain all to look like an “official mom.” It also suggested that moms look tired and crazy. Moms were outraged, so outraged that they set up Twitter accounts and frequently tweeted. Mom bloggers also highlighted the ad negatively. Within 48 hours the ad was taken down and an apology was posted from the Vice President of Marketing at McNeil Consumer Healthcare on the Motrin site.
On a smaller scale, a friend of mine recently posted a bad experience she had at Starbucks as opposed to a good experience she had at a smaller coffee shop downtown. My friend is an avid reader of the New York Times. When she visited a local coffee shop in downtown Atlanta, she noticed a copy of the New York Times on the counter and asked if she could purchase it. The employee informed her that they did not sell the New York Times and it was her personal copy. However, after seeing how disappointed my friend was, the coffee shop employee offered my friend her personal copy of the publication.
A couple of days later, my friend visited Starbucks. It was about an hour before closing and she asked if she could purchase the New York Times at a discounted rate (she knew at the end of each day Starbucks trashed the days recent publication). The store manager adamantly refused and wanted her to pay full price. Put off by this experience, she blogged about it on Facebook and tagged her network. In the blog post she gives praise to the small local coffee shop and provides a link to the shop as well as directions via Google maps, while she negatively reviewed Starbucks. While she might have shared this experience with one or two friends a couple of years ago, more than a couple of hundred people now have heard about her negative experience at Starbucks.
Negative reviews and word of mouth won’t necessarily shut your business down, but in this digital age now more than ever it is important to invest in good people who will provide great customer service. It is also important to know what people are saying about you and your competition. This is a way to give your company a competitive edge. A great social media network is Twitter. Twitter is a social networking that allows for you to connect with others online by “following” or to be “followed.” Twitter only allows for 140 characters with each post, therefore messages must be short and concise. Through numerous Twitter applications, business can monitor their online reputation, answer questions related to their business or industry and answer customer care related questions. Another simpler approach to online reputation management is through Google Alerts.
Through a Gmail account, Google alerts provides you with updates on certain terms/keywords you would like to know more about. Several employees at Regal Lager have alerts for our company as well as the brands we distribute. This has been a phenomenal tool in answering questions about our products and gaining customer insights. Google allows you to select how frequently you would like to be updated (daily, as it happens, weekly) and will email you with a link to the specific mention of the keyword. This will help you know what products and brands customers are looking for, shape your marketing message to gain new customers and improve upon consumer experience.
There are many remarkable tools and technology that are very helpful in conveying your message as well as connecting with others. These tools are instruments that should build upon the solid foundation of your business – providing customers with an exceptional experience through products and services.