Do Your Customers Have Unmet Needs?

Our new series, Ready to Roll, is all about how to act on everything you’ve been planning for the last few months. You now have your course of action for your business, all the tools you need to succeed, advice on where to go, what to do and how to adapt. Now it’s time to take action. This series is all about helping you optimize while on the path to success. What kinds of questions do you need to ask in order for your business to get better? We’ll be asking (and answering) those questions. Do your stretches and blast the music; we’re ready to roll.

Ask not what your customer can do for you, but what you can do for your customer.

Ah, the elusive “what do my customers want?” question. These days, it doesn’t have to be a guessing game. In fact, there are ways in which you can listen to your customers, trend their conversation volume + sentiment, and enact changes in your business from month-to-month or year-to-year to better serve their needs. Serving the customer is what will lead to an uptick in sales and conversions, so it’s important that you find out what they want. How do we propose you do this? Through social research.

Social research is a process in which you collect data about your target customers. You aggregate conversation on social networking sites, forums, blogs, blog comments, and more with an online tool. But now what? Here are a few quick tips when implementing social research + making it work for your business:

1. Remember: the tools are not perfect

Related Resource from B2CWebcast: PR Hacking: How Ideas Spread And What Marketers Need to Know

Let’s face it, tools are not perfect. Though they’re a big help, they can only do so much. It’s important that when mining social conversation for actionable insights, you have the right sentiment for each comment. A tool simply may not be able to code it all correctly. For example, if a tool sees this comment: “Don’t you just love how ice cream melts so quickly? #theworst,” it might code it as a positive comment about ice cream. It may not be able to ascertain sarcasm. Therefore, it might be important for you to comb through the conversation and have a human assign sentiment.

2. Look for trends

Keep a running tally of trends from the past few months or over the past couple of years. What might you be looking out for in the coming months in terms of conversation volume? This can help you make better business decisions throughout your initiatives. You don’t have to wait until the end of a campaign to assess how it’s going. For example, if it’s fall, maybe you should watch for conversation surrounding your winter product line. Are people planning to purchase ahead of time? How might this affect your promotional deals or marketing messaging? You can suss out trends in conversation about things other than your products or services, too. What are people most excited about regarding your industry? If you’re an eCommerce business, maybe it’s free shipping or a “ship to store” option. If you’re B2B, maybe it’s new software or a platform that makes their day-to-day easier. Either way, use this data to capitalize on these trends.

3. Enact change throughout your business

It’s not just about marketing. Insights gleaned from social conversation can help you make fundamental business decisions that impact staffing, finances or pricing. Say, for example, that conversation surrounding your brand is low April-June of each year. How does this match up to sales? Could your business operate more efficiently with fewer people during these months? When you look into competitors’ conversation volume, you see that it is high. Perhaps running a promotion during this time, or tailoring marketing efforts, could take business away from your competitors.

4. Find out what else your customers care about

Perhaps you have higher operating costs than your competitors and cannot edge them out with just price. In what other ways can you provide value to your customers? In recent years, customers have placed more of an emphasis on things they care about. Does your brand give back to the community? Does your company recycle or aid ecological initiatives in some way? Can you provide excellent customer service? It’s things like these that communicate added value to consumers, and that can create brand advocates. With social research, you can find out what your customers care about and who they’re sharing it with.

5. Anticipate their needs

One really great thing about social research is that if you log trends each month, you can see more and more what is important to the customer. And this means that you are able to anticipate what they will want next (and in real-time, depending on how often you pull reports). Gone are the days when you have to be reactive; you can now be proactive. If you see a new trend of people responding to a certain marketing campaign or hating a new product line, it can inform your future business decisions.

It’s important that you find out what your customers want, so that you can be prepared to meet–and exceed–their needs and expectations. This is just the beginning of what insights social research can provide with the right tools and the right team.

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