Blogging to Connect with Customers

PatrickThose that have begun the process of using social media, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. start by being driven by a desire to get their name out on the web. They understand the value of being visible and being found but still use the tools as one way – push your message out there, vehicles.

The reality is that social media is a powerful, real time, opportunity to connect with customers. To showcase your knowledge and to invite questions, comments or opinions.

In a recent blog post writer Lisa Barone asks the question “should you blog to consumers or contempories?” In other words – who are you writing for? 

One school of thought has the purpose of blogging to be connecting with others in the industry – to be a thought leader to your peers. To be the one others “retweet” or comment about.

Lisa has a different view – one that I tend to agree with wholeheartedly:

For a small business owner, I think your blogging investment is far better spent producing content for your customers, not for your colleagues in the industry.

She goes on to list some very compelling reasons:

  • Your customers are the one performing searches – looking for a person or company  with your expertise.
  • You need to build authority with customers, not colleagues. Afterall – who is the one buying from you?
  • You want to start conversation with customers, not colleagues.  – So true!
  • Your customers are checking for your pulse, no one else. They want to buy from someone they like and trust and what better way to learn more about you, what you know and what you stand for then by reading your blog posts?

Read Lisa’s entire blog post here.

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Coke Connects with Customers

Today reporter Melissa Lee showcased a new coca-cola machine called the FreeStyle.  Located in Manhattan, the machine allows you to mix and match Coke products to make a drink all your own.  There are over 104 possible combinations.

Why?

Coke wants to know what consumers find interesting; when they drink, what they mix, how often.  By bringing the machine out to the streets, they will capture valuable consumer data which will help them in configuring their next great Coca-Cola combination.  As a kid we called that the “suicide.”  We’d take our cup to the soda fountain and put a little of each choice in the cup and ooh and ahh over its unique and wonderful flavor.  I’m not so sure I’d do that now, but the options do set your imagination reeling.

Tomorrow, Wednestday night at 9est. there is a special called The Real Story:  Behind the Real Thing in which viewers will have the opportunity for the first time to enter Coke’s innovative lab. 

As I researched this post I took a trip out to Coca-Cola and discovered a webland of fun.  I had no idea you could accommulate points to win stuff – not just a hat or t-shirt but game stations.  The website offers Coke Worldwide – the chance to connect with the product at charity functions, to see how coke can be used in recipes.  They’ve done a great job of taking a simple product – the beverage I personally can’t live without – and turned it into an entire entertainment for the whole family.

Impressive.  Coke makes an effort to connect with customers. 

How are you connecting with customers? 

Do you make it easy to try? 

Do you help them give back to the community? 

Do you invite suggestions?

In what ways do you connect with customers to grow your business?  If you made a freestyle machine of your products and services so customers could mix and match – what might they select that would surprise you?  hmmm. 

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Mars Reaches Out to Customers

Ever wonder what the difference is between  brands of chocolate?  You don’t have to wonder any more.  Mars has a new campaign designed to let their customers know the quality and value of their product – made only with REAL CHOCOLATE, they are giving away 250,000 coupons for a free Mars candy bar EVERY Friday between now and the end of September.

Simply go to their site:  Real Chocolate and register each Friday starting at 9am EST.  If you’ve won, you’ll receive a confirmation email followed a few days later by a coupon in the mail.  Those who register can win up to 4 times – just in case you weren’t convinced with the first three free candy bars.

It is a great way to differentiate themselves from the competition – and boy isn’t there a lot of competition?  But Mars uses only real chocolate – no fillers.  Did you know that it takes all of the little cacao seeds in a single cacao pod(roughly the size of a football) to make one bag of M&Ms?  I just learned that tonight from Mars Independent Dove Chocolatier, Shelly Mortensen of NE Ohio. 

How can you differentiate yourself from the competition? Jason Kiesau just posed that question on his blog and offers some suggestions.  Share your ideas here – and then go register for a free chocolate bar!

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Make or Break Moments Online

Early Bloomer, a fellow twitterer, asked the question “What is a make or break moment for an online store.”

That’s a great question.  We may think of customer connections as only happening in person or over the phone but it today’s technology age, the Internet is a key way that our customers find us/do business with us.

So how do we ensure our customers have a make or break moment on our website?

Yesterday I talked about the fact that customers come to us with historical moments they draw on for comparison and so we need to take that into consideration when viewing our website from the customer’s perspective:

  1. What experiences do they have at our competitor’s site?
  2. What is the customer looking for?
  3. Is it easy to find on our site?
  4. is our homepage inviting with content that addresses their needs?
  5. Do the links work?
  6. Is it easy to find our contact information on every page?
  7. Do we offer a variety a contact vehicles?
  8. Do we provide something unexpected: information, free white papers, additional resources, coupons, humor?
  9. Do we make it easy to do business?

View your site from the CUSTOMER’S PERCEPTIVE and ask the question “is this a site that appeals to me and makes it easy to do business?”

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Age of Conversation2: Why Don’t They Get It

 

I’m so excited to be part of this incredible book.  This past spring I learned that Drew McLellan was putting together a sequel to the first successful volume Age of Conversation – this one with a subtitle “Why Don’t They Get It?” 

 

I quickly responded that I wanted to participate and throughout the summer emails have traveled between the groups – with Drew the concert master behind this great endeavor.

Guess what?  The book is now available. 

 

From a press release written for each author – here is the back story which brought this book to life:

 

The book has an unusual story behind it, involving online connections between people around the world who have never met each other.

 

Drew McLellan, who heads an advertising agency in Des Moines, writes a blog online.  Drew’s Marketing Minute is among the 25 most-read marketing blogs, and a regular reader is Gavin Heaton, who works for global software giant SAP in Sydney, Australia.  Heaton writes a blog called Servant of Chaos

 

Nearly two years ago through a chance online conversation, McLellan and Heaton decided to invite fellow bloggers to participate in writing a book about conversation and how it impacts us in marketing, in business and in life in general.   “Blogging, after all, is about conversation,” McLellan said.

 

More than 100 bloggers from the U.S. and eight countries responded by contributing essays on conversation.  The book, published in the summer of 2007, earned $15,000, all of which was donated to the international children’s charity Variety.

 

 “Gavin and I were overwhelmed with the response,” said McLellan   “Almost as soon as the first book was published, we heard from bloggers asking when the next book would be published so they could contribute essays.”

 

I contributed an essay titled Put Your Advertising Strategy in the Hands of Your Customer, which offers the suggestion that you partner with your best customers when creating or revising your marketing message or even your strategy.  If the idea is to “get more customers” just like your best existing customers, then why not ask them for advice. 

 

Blogging is a wonderful way for professionals to share ideas, learn from each other and connect with like-minded spirits around the globe.   Collaborating on a book about conversation is a perfect way to share among ourselves and among others who don’t read blogs.  And we have the added incentive of helping a charity that does important work around the world.  I am thrilled to be a part of this project.

 

The Age of Conversation 2 is available as a downloadable e-book beginning TODAY, at a cost of $12.50, of which $10 will be contributed to Variety.  Beginning on the same date, orders will be taken for a limited number of printed books in hardcover ($29.95, with $6.04 to charity) and soft cover ($19.95, with $8.02 donated to charity).

 

Purchases can be made online at http://stores.lulu.com/ageofconversation .   More information can be seen online at www.ageofconversation.com .

 

The Art of Conversation 2 is a unique collaboration via the internet, involving 237 marketing professionals who blog from 29 states throughout the U.S. and from 14 other nations from Australia to the Ukraine.  Here is a listing of all the great contributing authors:

 

 

 

 

Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi, Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brett Macfarlane, Brian Reich, C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley (CK), C.B. Whittemore, Chris Brown, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson, Daniel Honigman, Dan Schawbel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Dave Davison, David Armano, David Berkowitz, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Douglas Hanna, Douglas Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner, Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Eric Peterson, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller, Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson, Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, G.L. Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going & Kathryn Fleming, Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber, J. Erik Potter, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne & Todd Cabral, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Heilpern, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, John Herrington, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Burg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Foster, Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kristin Gorski, Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux, Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Matt Dickman, Matt J. McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel, Neil Perkin, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice, Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz, Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman, Rachel Steiner, Sreeraj Menon, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, Robert Hruzek, Roberta Rosenberg, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen, Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood, Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tim Brunelle, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman, Uwe Hook, Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau, Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, Yves Van Landeghem

 

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Connect with Customers: Social Media, The Ultimate Customer Service Tool

I discovered a new blog today:  Customers Rock! written by Becky Carroll. She’s written a two part posting offering suggestions for using social media to enhance your customer service offerings.  Social media – great tools for your customer toolbox.

In part one of Using Social Media to Build Customer Loyalty Becky talks about using social media to keep customers informed and to strengthen relationships.  The beauty of the new interactive qualities of Web 2.0 is the ability for customers and prospects to respond back; offering opinions, questions and comments.  If we are OPEN to the conversation- this two-way relationship will only make us a stronger more customer-focused business.

Yesterday on Twitter Guy Kawasaki – a professed Obama supporter – left a tweet stating that he planned on flooding Twitter with value based tweets just to frustrate those McCain supporters who took offense to the fact that he’d changed his Avitar to the Obama logo.  He reached out with both hands to his followers and said “This is who I am, this is who I support and hopefully you can look past that to the value that am about to bring to the conversation.” (actually he didn’t SAY that – I’m reading between the lines.)  What transpired was more than an hour of tweets from Guy pointing followers to video, blogs, articles and more.  His followers began to weigh in – commenting on people who had stopped following him because of his political beliefs.  They commented on the great stuff he was sharing and one follower said “I don’t care who you vote for; value is value and I’m enjoying what you have to say.”

Social media allows us to have on-going, honest exchange with our audience, our customers.  Connecting around the world with kindred spirits.  Are you using social media to reach out to your target prospects, customers and peers? 

In part two of using Social Media to build Customer Loyalty, Becky shares the story of how Zappos is using Twitter to connect with customers:

The culture at Zappos.com is very people-focused and empowers employees.  Zappos.com has many of their employees Twittering; 448 to be exact!  You can track their tweets via this microsite, where you can also track mentions of Zappos.com and some of the brands they carry.  Using Twitter is encouraged as a great way to stay transparent and authentic with customers.  Tony is their CEO, and he leads the way by tweeting about his travels, tours he gives of the Zappos.com headquarters, requests for feedback from customers, and contests he runs.  Customers even make suggestions via Twitter, the most recent of which was to list a short url on each product page that can be easily cut and pasted into blogs, email, Twitter, etc. so they can be shared with others (it is called zapp.me).  Tony has over 13,000 people following his Tweets to get this kind of information.

Customers Rock! take on Zappos.com and Twitter: Zappos customers are extremely loyal to the company for several reasons: great customer service, an easy return policy (free shipping on returns!), and employees that care.  Social Media at Zappos.com, including Twitter and their blogs, has been a great way to put a face on the company, make them feel approachable, get instant customer feedback, and create a two-way dialog that builds customer relationships.  Zappos is truly a Customers Rock! company.

 

Yesterday, John Jantsch announced the upcoming conference in San Jose that will feature how Big Companies are using Social Media to grow their business.  If you aren’t actively using social media to reach your customers – what’s stopping you?

Time?

Knowledge?

Desire?

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