Every day, new online marketing fads are released that ‘promise’ results fast. The fact is, marketing is often a long-term process of testing, measuring and tweaking to find what works for your business in your industry. AI (Artificial Intelligence) is an exciting new space, driving an increasing number of marketing decisions. EyeQuant has invented an algorithm that claims to tell you how exciting your website is. Google has also announced they are using AI software called RankBrain that will better understand what users of search engines are looking for. This data is also changing the way many market their businesses online, however nothing will beat real, face-to-face interactions with your customers.
The secret in marketing is to listen to your customers, yet Marketing departments around the globe often forget to simply ask their customer service teams what common feedback they are hearing. Marketing departments are often disconnected from the coal-face of customer interaction and therefore don’t get the real life feedback that people in sales or customer service do. Sure, you can run surveys and try to extract some kind of meaningful data from that information to help make better marketing decisions. The problem is that people are in a different mindset while filling in surveys – they become analytical – yet when they are shopping they are often making emotional decisions. What’s the solution you ask? Simple! Get away from your PC monitor and go and talk to people on the shop floor, in the call centres, in the sales meetings, find the people who provide face-to-face customer service and ask them what feedback they are hearing.
- What are the common complaints about your products, service or business in general?
- What do people compliment the business on?
- What are people saying about your industry or your competitors?
It’s pretty simple stuff and valuable information for online marketers. Sure, we can use sophisticated online analytics to improve our systems and that’s helpful, but we often make assumptions about our customers that are simply not true. In his book “The Lean Startup”, Eric Ries explains how startups make assumptions about what the target market wants, yet these assumptions can often be very misleading. Even with ample customer research, incorrect assumptions are made. It’s not until tests are carried out that the feedback-loop begins and you start to gather meaningful data about your market. Even if you are an established, healthy business and feel you understand your customers well, you still may be mislead by data. Nothing beats getting in front of real customers or at least listening to those that do.
Taking lessons learned offline, and applying them online is an often neglected way of increasing your marketing success. AI tools like EyeQuant and RankBrain are trying to understand and interpret human interactions online in an attempt to improve the customer focus, but nothing beats listening to real humans.
As online marketers, there is shift in thinking and its more customer focussed. It’s about changing our mindsets from ‘hunting’ for customers to ‘gathering’ customers. The key is bringing human relationships into your online experience. Social media is a leader in this space but it’s also influencing online marketing in a more holistic sense. We are moving away from the “Broadcasting” model of marketing and considering the customer as an individual. We are rethinking our marketing based on how we interact with customers.
Old school strategies have evolved, they are now more about the customer being heard. Take Public Relations (PR) for example. PR refers to the ways you can use the media to promote your brand and maintain a relationship with the public. In the old days, the media could be manipulated. Social media now makes us all ‘the media’. We can all be heard so the crowd is now the media. Anyone can jump on a social media platform of their choosing and tell the world about their experience with your company. Online marketers can monitor these tools to learn what their customers are saying. The trouble is you’ll only ever hear extreme views on social media. They will be sharing how much they love or hate your company, yet the masses probably don’t feel strongly enough to share their experience about working with you. Relying on online platforms for your customer feedback in this way is likely to give you a distorted perspective. Again, get in front of people who have first hand interactions with your customers. The sales guy on the floor might be able to tell you 99% of customers are completely satisfied with your company, yet you might only be hearing from the few whingers who take to Twitter if you rely on online tools alone.
You can try to influence the media (including social media) and it’s great if you can attract an endorsement from a magazine or newspaper, but don’t believe your own hype. A couple of years back I was able to get myself featured in one of the largest newspapers in my city, the Herald Sun. The journalist had picked up on something I had shared in my blog that fulfilled a story she wanted to run. I still feel a little fraudulent being featured in this article because while I had some thoughts around the topic, and certainly believed in what I shared, by no means am I an expert in that space. I simply was in the right place at the right time and prepared to listen to the need the journalist had. No algorithm or AI tool could help me with that. It just goes to show, listening to real humans will always be the key to marketing. AI is exciting and creates a lot of buzz, but nothing will ever beat human interactions.
Bio: Wes Towers’ mission is to empower a new breed of entrepreneurs with cutting-edge websites that attract more leads, graphic design that converts more sales, and systems that multiply results affordably and fast. He is also the owner of Omnific Design and author of: The Simple Manifesto – Marketing principles to save you time, increase profit and create your dream business in a SNAP!