As I sit here riding out Hurricane Isaac in New Orleans, I'm learning some valuable lessons about all of my one client's customers. Giving them what they want has become essential to getting them to return to all of our locations here in the French Quarter. It's a lot easier and cheaper for us in the hospitality industry to keep recurring customers than to acquire new ones, just like it is for any other industry.
While small businesses might feel overwhelmed by all the social media options open to them that allow them to connect with their customer base, by utilizing analytics on both social and website channels they can narrow their focus to connect where their customers are rather easily. Google Analytics is a great tool for this as is Facebook Insights, YouTube Analytics, etc. It just takes a little bit of time and monitoring to understand what succeeds and what doesn't.
Optimized Content Is King and a Knowledge-Giver
Customers crave knowledge! They want to be in-the-know as much as possible because it makes them look great to all of their own social networks. Through that knowledge they share your content with many more people than you can reach on a personal/business level. That's why it's important to not just create media and content, but to make sure that it's optimized for what your potential customers could be searching for.
Knowledge isn't just text either. As I'm now even more acutely aware of, knowledge can be a simple web camera that shows the street view of Bourbon Street, or a live stage on Bourbon Street during a hurricane. That type of knowledge is power to your customer base, especially if you have an event going on and they've already connected with you. (Note: The site is about to be updated; we do know this site is bad for customer experiences and are about to launch a new one!)
Within the last two days (as of this writing), our traffic has exploded because we know what our customers want and understand that videos and photos are key to getting them to interact with us.
When you give customers what they want they return the favor.
The analytics shot above shows what can happen when you learn from your customers. We came to understand that one of the biggest drivers of traffic and sales on our site is for our customers to be able to connect with us when they aren't in New Orleans. Our new site is going to take advantage of this knowledge even more. However, this hurricane was a true test of how giving our customers what they want worked; the traffic to the site has increased exponentially because our customers want to know how we're surviving the hurricane and they care.
You Learn What Works Best Through Analytics
We learned that simple implementations of online marketing tactics worked best for us to connect with our customers. Trying to be in all social networks didn't produce the connections we needed to drive traffic and sales (both online and off). Our customer base wasn't active on all of the networks so we learned to dedicate our resources to what worked the best to drive customers both to our locations and to our websites. We learned this through using analytical tracking with all that we did.
It's not just web analytics either; it's analytics you get through social networks you choose to work with as well. Facebook Insights can be an invaluable tool in understanding what makes your customer connect with you. Pictures and videos are great ways to connect with your fans.
Sure, they want to know what's going on and text updates work, but when you incorporate video or photos, they catch the attention of your audience a lot quicker and it entices them to share what you've "given them" as knowledge about you.
Don't Be Afraid to Experiment and Learn
We learn every day from our customers. They tell us on Facebook through comments and messages, on our contact form on our site, and through our service staff how much they love what we're doing to connect with them and offer suggestions. We make sure to listen and consider their suggestions carefully. When we hear one suggestion over and over again, we know we have to take the next step and implement, test, and perfect it so that our clients will like it even more and share it with their friends. The biggest thing to take home is being willing to experiment with your customers and listen to them. You don't always have the best ideas - and they will let you know that!
Don't get tunnel vision with your online marketing. It could be SEO, PPC, social media, or generating different types of media that will be the door that opens up that allows you to connect much better with your customers; you just have to be willing to listen and learn.
Liana "Li" Evans is the author of the award winning social media marketing book, "Social Media Marketing: Engaging Strategies for Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media" and she is the president and CEO of Da Li Social, as well as an adjunct professor for Rutgers University's Mini MBA Program. Liana has also been featured in the books "Online Marketing Heroes" and "Video Marketing An Hour a Day." As an established online marketing industry veteran with over 15 years of experience she's focused her unique skillset to specialize in integrated marketing and how companies can successfully strategize integrating all online marketing channels as well as offline traditional media. Her deep technical combined with a public relations background enables her to partner with clients for establishing successful online marketing campaigns that combine cross-channel tactics cohesively.
Li was the search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing architect for such companies as QVC and Comcast (Fancast) and has consulted with several other different sized companies such as AOL MovieFone. Her wealth of knowledge in dealing with large e-commerce and content sites allows her a wider perspective into what it takes to launch successful marketing campaigns in the online space.
June 20, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT