Don’t Get in the Way of Your Customer Online

We are all products of our environment and experiences. And recently I experienced a confluence of events that brought me back to the fundamental issue found in most marketing efforts – you.

Our animal instincts tell us to protect ourselves, to look out for danger, and to better our situation. To that, no one can be faulted. But it’s when we look at how to do so beyond the instinct and transition to intellect that we fail. Failure was witnessed first hand when speaking last week at the Conversion/eMetrics conference in a “Website Audit” session with Tim Ash. We reviewed websites and provided a live audit on best practices being broken…and before we did so, we asked, “What do you want the customer to do?” Universally, the answer was “I want them to fill out the registration form.” I will come back to this in a minute.

Next, I had an opportunity to speak about e-mail marketing at the same conference. Again, the “you” issue arose when talking about e-newsletters. Folks in the room began asking, “What time of day is best? What is the best subject line? What is the right frequency?” and all of those are items that need to be determined, but why not just ask your customers?

Lastly, the conversation about analytics came up at a social media training done on behalf of the Online Marketing Institute and its new social media certification program when asked, “How do you measure the value of social media?” Another excellent question that preceded with answers like, “Retweets per 1,000 tweets,” CTR on bitly URLs created, reach, followers, etc. Then, I stopped and asked, “What is the cost of not engaging in social media?” And the picture became clearer, not in the fact that much of marketing is not measurable back to ROI (define) and just the cost of doing business, but that the question was focused around the concept of what do “I get” out of social versus what do my customers want and do they want us in their social stream.

OK, so here’s the point À la President John F. Kennedy: Stop asking what your customer can do for your online marketing efforts and start asking what you can do for your customer online. Novel, I know. So on your next landing page or website review, ask: “What can I give my customer that would add enough value to their life that would encourage them to engage more (or register)?” For e-mail, how about “How can I determine what types of customer (segmentation) I have to e-mail and what they want, how frequently they want it, and when?” And on analytics, it’s only a relevant point of data, not an absolute measure and all we need to get qualitative feedback to understand what they want and why. Analytics is only a post-op prognosis report, not a preventative care type of understanding. Our site’s conversion rate went down 2 percent last month. Cool. Now answer “why?”

Obviously, social media accentuates this need to know the customer even more. Knowing the customer is not a numbers game, just like knowing your spouse is not about the number of times you see them smile. It’s knowing why they smile, what will make them smile again, and understanding their needs, wants, and desires. The smart marketer will take the time to answer the why, the rest will regress to the Neanderthal ways of only testing, analyzing simplistic data points, and then guessing what customers want.

The books you read and the people you meet.

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