When we reach a level of consistency in our sales or conversions, we tend to think we’ve got our customers all figured out. But what if we’re still not getting the whole picture?
It takes time to get to know customers well, and if our audience is constantly evolving, there’s always something new to learn. One of the main reasons why customers are so hard to gauge is that they often won’t tell you when you’re bugging them – they’ll just stop listening. And that’s the last thing we want.
Check you’re not doing any of these five things that customers generally hate. If you are, it might explain why you’re seeing consistency – not growth.
1. Confusing communication with marketing
Customers don’t want to be sold to every moment of their lives…despite what businesses might think. A study by Harvard Business Review involving 7000 customers revealed that only 22% want to have a relationship with a brand. The other 77% said they prefer to save relationships for friends and family, whilst brands are there to provide a service.
For the average person, weekly or even monthly emails can be too much. Watch also the nature of the content you’re putting out through social media. How much of it is product or marketing-oriented? Facebook is now clamping down on businesses that use their pages primarily for selling by making changes to the news feed. It may be wise to read up on these to see how it could affect your strategy.
Why not start up a real conversation with your customers instead? Social media, comments, blog posts and forums are all great ways to gain insight into what they really want. Use email as a way to get your customers’ opinions on new product releases, or get an idea of what problems they’d really like solving.
2. Neglecting the bigger picture
How does your product fit into the ‘grand scheme of things’? How does it help to improve the welfare of society; does it serve a greater purpose other than making sales for the company?
Customers are now becoming more conscious about the sort of enterprises they choose to give their money to, and these will likely be some of the questions they’ll be asking. People want products that are not only good, but also do good…for the world around them. Brands like eBay, LUSH, the Co-Operative Group, Ford and Accenture etc have remained popular and grown their market share, partly because of the way they do business and the ethics they uphold.
Shared values are now one of the biggest influences when customers are deciding who to give their money to, so have a think about your brand’s motives; morals; practices, and the consequences of each of these. You also might want to consider how well you are communicating these to your customer.
3. Failing to see past the products
Customers don’t like it when brands can’t see past their own products. With the rise of social media and content marketing, brands now need to work harder to maintain their customers’ attention, and going on about your own services won’t cut it.
In order to remain a consistent presence in your customers’ peripheral awareness, you should be providing an underlying service other than the one you’re marketing. Whether its help, advice, entertainment, life tips, insight, you name it…giving that ‘little bit extra’ though social networks and blogging platforms is the key to getting more followers (and, more importantly, keeping them).
A LoudDoor study in 2014 discovered that the brands that did this well had the most loyal social followings, including Tide, Reese’s Candy and Costco. It also helps to establish your brand personality in the eyes of the public, as Innocent and Cadbury have shown.
4. A lack of expert knowledge
Your frontline staff needs to be trained to a high standard on the ins and outs of your products, otherwise they won’t be much use to customers when they inevitably experience a problem. Equipping your phone lines with a base level collective knowledge is not going to cut it – the chances are the customer will have already tried the simple troubleshooting protocol outlined in the manual and will require more help.
If you can’t supply the knowledge or guidance your customers need – particularly in a crisis- they’ll be pushed to go elsewhere, like peer sites, external blogs and forums. It takes traffic and authority away from your brand’s site and, perhaps more worryingly, deter the customer from ever buying from you again.
Experienced product knowledge is key.
5. Fudging the facts
Are you being straight with your customers, or do you prefer to leave them in the dark? A 2014 Cohn and Wolfe study revealed that honesty is what customers value most when dealing with brands, and forgoing this can only mean disaster further down the line.
Whether it’s your marketing claims, or in the way you conduct you business, dishonesty is one of the fastest ways to damage consumers’ trust in you and risk losing them forever. At best, you’ll receive a negative review about a product not performing to expectations.
At worst, you’ll suffer major public outing that’s likely to take a great deal longer to recover from.
Adele is a writer and researcher for Customer Service Guru, specializing in consumer advice, retail trends and brand culture. She is a regular contributor for a number of B2B websites and enjoys participating in ongoing debates related to marketing, social media and brand strategy. She is particularly passionate about content marketing and the power it can bring for companies. Follow her @gurucustomers.