To learn what customers really want, ask them!
To learn what customers really want, ask them!
Communicate with customers. That includes your best customers, your squeaky wheels, and the great silent majority. In the wired world, word of mouth spreads faster and carries greater clout than any marketing. Over 20 percent of consumers will contribute over 1 billion unique pieces of content to discussion forum posts, online reviews, and blog entries in 2004, according to Intelliseek.
Consumer-generated media is projected to increase 30 percent annually, and blog content at an even higher rate. Intelliseek's Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing and customer satisfaction officer, believes "feedback and customer service are the new marketing opportunity."
"Consumers rule" isn't just a mantra, it's reality. Engage customers in a dialogue using on-site feedback and real-time conversations to determine what they want. Don't assume you can guess what they want. Each customer contact is an opportunity to extend the relationship and increase lifetime customer value.
Responding to customer feedback within 24 hours is policy at WeatherBug,. The company is dedicated to listening to the "voice of the consumer." According to Senior VP and General Manager Andy Jedynak, "The real value of our business is in pervasive customer relationships and making them last."
When consumer desire for an ad-free environment surfaced in email correspondence as a reoccurring message, WeatherBug used customer input to develop and test a paid-subscription product. WeatherBug monitors key customer feedback indicators with a page-and-a-half report issued weekly to senior management. For hot, new areas of concern, WeatherBug's CRM system quickly delivers raw feedback, categorized by topic.
A senior executive at an online travel startup with limited resources regularly spoke to a cross-section of his customers. Without significant costs, these conversations yielded valuable feedback. The firm adapted its Web site and offering in ways that would never have surfaced in focus groups or market research surveys.
For example, the firm originally assumed the flight schedule was business travelers' primary driver. Customer interviews revealed frequent flier programs' interaction with different travel options was a stronger, yet unknown, preference driver. By providing customers with the ability to search for travel services that maximized their frequent flier awards, its heaviest business travelers were converted to loyal customers.
Communicate with customers to:
Ways to reach out to customers:
Follow up customer contacts by:
Analyze consumer input:
By communicating with customers directly, you open a channel that allows you to tap into customers' feelings. If you know there's an issue with your offering, technology, customer base, or competitors, you can deal with it. The sooner you identify a problem, the more quickly you can respond to it.
This isn't the time for an ostrich approach to marketing. In addition to building old-fashioned relationships, listening to customers directly provides a mother lode of information to help improve your offering, Web site, and marketing.
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Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital, AccuWeather.com, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.
Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.
Heidi is also a popular speaker on current industry topics.
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