When it comes to getting to know your customers, knowing how to "look people in the eye digitally" has never been more important.
Picking up the phone is often the last option for most consumers today. They can get everything they need to make a buying decision online for all but the most complex sales.
See "Secrets Of A Social Media Manager" for tips on how to manage social media and connect with your market.
So how can marketers stay close to the customer without having a lot of one-on-one interaction? How can they discover the customer's pain points and glean enough information to say the right things without a lot of face time?
Become a Digital Listener
Digital conversation is happening all around us at a breakneck pace, yet many marketers barely scratch the surface when it comes to plugging into those conversations.
Trying to pull meaningful information from a river of fast-moving conversation can be difficult—rather like trying to catch fish in a waterfall with a net. To be effective, digital listening needs to get more personal—and that means person-to-person listening.
Social listening tools are getting more sophisticated at picking out phrases and hashtags in social conversation. Even CRM and work management tools give us unprecedented access to the thoughts, interests, and needs of our customers.
But we need to do more than just respond to an individual tweet or update—we need to dig a little to understand the prospect and gain some context first. This is where empowering your customer-facing employees to follow conversations back to the source is important.
If you want to know what motivates your customers, take a look at their social profiles. Look at their bios. Watch what they post. What do they complain about? What do they like to share?
When we're talking with someone in person, we depend on visual and auditory cues to learn a little about them, and we listen and look for commonalities.
Do they have an accent? Where did they go to school? Do they have children? Are there hobbies you share?
If you happen to be in someone's office, you can find some of this information by just looking at photos on the wall or the desk, or simply by asking. Sometimes this information isn't easy to uncover in person—but there's no such barrier on social channels.
Even the most sparsely filled out profile gives you a name, a hometown, and a profile photo. You can find plenty of common ground even with that.
Use What You Learn to Enhance Customer Experience
What do you do with this information?
Populate your CRM with it, so anyone else in the company who touches that customer has access. Also, consider making this information available on your work management tools, especially when those tools are a touchpoint for your customers.
This kind of information gathering should be an integral part of your workflows, so everyone is armed with the kind of information that helps facilitate human-to-human connection.
In order to make this work, however, your employee communications need to be as open as possible (aside from proprietary and/or private information). As far as your customer is concerned, from marketing to sales to customer service—the entire customer journey needs to seem effortless.
After all, there's nothing worse than trying to deal with a brand where the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.
Having the right information available to everyone who interacts with your customers can make all the difference in their perception of your brand, and it's one of the best ways to build loyalty and advocacy.
It also makes your employees' jobs easier and more satisfying. Who doesn't like happy endings?
So, empower your employees to listen for digital conversations about your company, product, or service, and follow those conversations to individual profiles to gather more information.
Build Better Marketing Personas
Digital sleuthing can also add the kind of texture that helps your marketing team build more useful marketing personas.
Personas rich with insights and customer mindsets help your marketing team come up with more relevant, compelling content that has a much higher likelihood of resonating with your audience.
This is absolutely necessary if you want your content to cut through the noise, grab your prospect's attention, and keep it long enough to generate action.
Put it All to Work
"Looking people in the eye digitally" really isn't all that different from face-to-face listening—but it's a faster way to glean the kind of information that makes relationship-building easier and communication more effective.
People share more information about themselves online than they think they do. Making it a point to search individual profiles for those clues is a type of digital listening that can make a huge difference for your company.
It can help you create more compelling marketing materials, ensure excellent customer experience, and provide greater job satisfaction for your employees. Everybody wins!
To see more of what Ted Rubin had to say about connecting with customers, watch the interview we shot with him:
About the Author
Ted is a leading Social Marketing Strategist, Keynote Speaker, Brand Evangelist and Acting CMO of Brand Innovators and in March 2009 started publicly using and evangelizing the term ROR: Return on Relationship™... a concept he believes is the cornerstone for building an engaged multi-million member database.Follow on Twitter More Content by Ted Rubin