Talk to Your Customers, Not at Them

It’s not a big revelation that the world of marketing, particularly customer engagement, has dramatically shifted in recent years. No longer can web marketers talk at customers, or disrupt their daily activities or entertainment with digital advertisements.

While there are plenty of studies to prove this, you don’t necessarily need to refer to survey results to know that people hate it when companies disrupt TV shows or general web surfing with annoying display ads. Rather, the new age of web marketing means talking with – in other words, talking and listening to – their customers.

Today’s most successful marketing campaigns are those that simply invite customers into meaningful dialogue.

Why Conversational Marketing Works Better Than Disruptive Marketing

When a display advertisement disrupts a user experience online, it communicates one thing: Our company is more important than your time. It isn’t that hard to imagine that a customer experiencing this type of B2C engagement would have less-than-amicable feelings towards the company in question. Conversational marketing implies that the customer’s time is just as important as yours, and the only way to engage them is by making their lives better. This means providing useful, engaging content that talks to individuals, and not the masses of web users all over the world.

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Tweaking Your Approach: Inviting Customers into the Conversation

The bottom line is customers are living, breathing human beings. They don’t like feeling like a sales statistic or a percentage on a demographic report. Conversational marketing is simply inviting and engaging customers with your content. Social media is one of the greatest tools to accomplish this. Companies can now reach out to individuals and engage in a conversational tone. If executed correctly, the same can be true for blog posts and email newsletters. Again, the key to all of this is understanding exactly who your customers are and engaging them on topics that matter to them.

Three Conversational Tools You Probably Use Incorrectly

1. Social Media – Start by throwing out the idea that social media is a marketing tool. Unlike a traditional marketing tool, social media platforms don’t belong to you. For instance, you can’t simply use social media as a means of reeling in customers to make a sale. Social media is a relationship builder, pure and simple. The idea behind social media, be it Facebook, Twitter or Google+, is to build long-lasting relationships. Trust, in any form, always converts.

2. Blogs – While there is any number of reasons customers are not reading your blog, one reason could be that you’re overthinking it. You don’t have to write a novel explaining every reason why your company’s products are amazing. In fact, this absolutely the wrong way to begin a conversation. Think of a successful day trader at a cocktail party going on and on about how great he is at his job. People smile politely, but quickly look for a more interesting – read: mutually beneficial – conversation. Assume that your customers already know what you think about your own company. Your blog’s job is to present answers to your customers’ real-life problems through your amazing knowledge base.

3. Webinars – While it’s great to speak to a large number of customers and potential customers at once, sometimes it’s even better to scale it back and just do video conferencing with a select group of your customers. This is especially effective in B2B marketing, since you can deliver industry-relevant news to the people who need to hear it most. Don’t be afraid to tailor your message to each individual client to get everyone involved and invested.

The temptation is to view conversational marketing as a complete abandonment of traditional marketing tools that have worked for decades. The truth is simply that the rules have changed. You have little control over market engagement platforms. The web provides customers with a myriad of choices. No matter how great you think your product is, chances are another company is doing a similar thing, and possibly better than you are. The new customers are tech savvy and able to dig into your reputation. Are you trustworthy? Do you treat your customers well? Again, it’s all about relationship building. Build trust, and you’ll build an empire.

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