Three ways to grow your total customer community

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Experts predict that there will be a greater emphasis on social business this year, thus making it more imperative for marketers to cultivate strong connections with their total customer community.

Retailers have long used loyalty cards and now phone apps to forge close bonds with customers. Similarly, Google is able to capture discrete customer data and use that to improve its products, and to generally improve their customer’s experiences. Through smart devices, manufacturers can now do the same thing.

I saw a great article in The Economist that discussed this titled Smart Products, Smart Makers.

In short, the article makes the case for manufacturers – alongside retailers (think Starbucks) and platform providers (think Google) to begin building direct relationships with customers through smart devices.

What does this mean for marketers?

Most significantly, it means you’re under the gun to create strong relationships with customers right now.

It means understanding your customer journey and the way which customers find their way into and then bind tightly to your products or services via the loyalty loop – a sort of upgraded purchase funnel that recognizes the value of customer advocates.

Make 2016 the year you embrace your total customer community, which is essentially everyone who interacts with your brand, product, or service. This includes customers, influencers, business partners, and employees.

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It’s a powerful enabler of close connections. Why? Because seeing your marketplace as a whole means understanding how customer experience is created via employees and partners, talked about by influencers, and used to make purchase decisions by your customers and prospects.

The challenge is harnessing the power of this collective set to consistently deliver excellent customer experiences and build strong brand advocates, and then further enable your advocates to, well… advocate!

Tapping this collective has benefits beyond marketing gain. For example, you can build your social business platform to measure each of the following:

  1. Improve margin by reducing the cost to serve
  2. Enhance satisfaction by facilitating customer-led innovation
  3. Drive revenue by enhancing sales and lead conversion

Here they are, one at a time:

1. Improve margins by reducing costs

Long a standard business driver for social customer care cost reduction (versus phones-based care, for example) has been documented by many firms.

Of course, you can take this a step further. Rather than simply offering social alongside other resolution channels, you can actively push customers to social.

For example, a telecom provider that I worked with in the U.K. integrated its IVR/phone system with its support community. The goal was to come up with an ability to notify customers on hold that solution was available in the support community.

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This resulted in a documented reduction in callers holding for agents as they opted instead to hang up and visit the support community. And, because they were able to observe and track discrete calls, they were able to positively identify the savings associated with call deflection.

Thus you get direct measurement with no hand waiving involved (unless you count high-fives).

2. Drive revenue by enhancing sales and lead conversion

Built around intelligent listening and domain-experts tapped to assist social customer care agents, social lead generation is an application that was waiting to happen – and in 2015 it finally did.

Especially applicable to B2B, major brands are now spotting and engaging with early-stage conversations in forums, discussions, and professional communities where purchase options are being discussed well ahead of the sales cycle.

Again, measurement is the key to proving efficacy. By combining social and web analytics, it’s now possible to track these conversations and the conversions they drive to prove real ROI via enhanced sales.

3. Enhance satisfaction by facilitating customer-led innovation

Customer satisfaction is a clear key in building brand advocates.

Engaging and connecting with customers and employees enables conversations that lead to innovation, so that better products can be crafted.

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This is precisely the end-goal of the manufacturer’s efforts to incorporate sensors and similar into smart devices, as cited in The Economist article. If failure can be spotted sooner or if alternate uses can be captured while still live, then manufacturers can build better products.

Think about how Google Maps uses the GPS data of traffic to optimize your route in real-time; better products mean better experiences. And we know what better experiences lead to – more advocates.

To sum up

So make 2016 your year of social business powered by understanding of total community. This is a prime time to embrace customers and pull them into your business.

Enable your deep expertise to flow to them. Also, learn from your domain experts, product managers, and business partners. The result will be better experiences and better business results faster than you ever thought possible.

Article images via Flickr.

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