The mainstreaming of social media has offered customers the opportunity to interact with companies' brands differently. They can now access brands in near real-time collaboration as well as get feedback from other customers.
As a result, customers are able to make decisions about a product or service at an earlier stage than before. Given such new realities, marketers need to revisit long-standing models of customer engagement and find opportunities to proactively interact with prospects while driving existing customer loyalty through engaging, relevant dialogue.
Even with direct feedback from a social network, a prospect will also likely seek candid feedback not just from the big platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) but also from specialized professional online networks and forums that provide product reviews (like engineering, design and UI forums) customer support and expert user tips.
Understanding the broad influence these far-reaching channels have on your customer behavior is critical. Marketers need to stay hypercurrent about the relevant networks customers are active on; develop efficient, comprehensive listening strategies; and incorporate both channel-specific and broader multichannel analytics to better understand and drive customer behavior.
Examples of these analytics include channel-specific metrics, such as sentiment measures; influence measures, such as interaction; and conversion/impact measures, such as sales made.
The changing multichannel marketing landscape will likely necessitate adjustments to an organization's multichannel approach, with such considerations as whether the direct sales team's compensation is linked to influencing channels and how “influencing” is defined.
Another relevant factor is the technology enabling multichannel marketing, which allows for the capture of customer-provided information about their online presence.
While the customer pool is usually smaller for b-to-b organizations than for b-to-c companies, the stakes are larger. Therefore organizations must keep their proverbial fingers on the pulse of the customer. Marketers may want to consider adding these strategies to their arsenals of holistic multichannel marketing endeavors:
- Understand and capture. Understand customer profiles, including their pain points and where they congregate virtually. Identify and monitor the social spaces your target audiences use, especially for buying decisions. Here, an industry-specific, user-authenticated forum may be more relevant than a Facebook group, although tracking both should be considered. And start capturing customer conversations with a listening and analysis tool that suits your needs.
- Incorporate social media. Create and disseminate relevant content that addresses user pain points, remembering that best content is usually sincere and engages in the discussion. Make sure brand messaging and product positioning is consistent, and that access to product-specific information is easy. Be proactive in customer support to strengthen loyalty.
- Integrate social analytics. Develop processes to analyze data, building analytics that considers the behaviors exhibited in each channel where you do business (e.g., social, mobile, online, call centers). Determine the measurements that will help you to quantify social media's impact on the company.
- Stay vigilant and experiment. This is an iterative process: Given the fast pace of social media and broader digital marketing, the landscape will change. Don't be afraid to test the water, and don't assume that once you have set up a social media program it can continue on autopilot.
As a result of your hard work incorporating social media into your marketing mix, you should see tangible value, profound insights and higher customer engagement and conversions.
Shamez S. Dharamsi is global head-CRM, social media and business insights at eClerx. He can be reached at email@example.com.