Stop Worrying About Sales and Build Relationships

When was the last time you saw a billboard, TV or a print ad and said to yourself, "Wow that brand really cares about me and I am going to buy that product?" Let me guess: Never. What is stopping brands from reaching out to consumers personally and actually helping them out?

Most big corporations are generally risk-averse and like to play it safe, when it comes to engaging with customers in public. Giant billboards, TV/radio ads or print ads on newspapers/magazines are all safe ways to market to people. It does not involve any direct interaction with customers and hence very little chance of a negative reaction, but the problem is consumers of 2013 are all blinded by traditional ads. Revenue from traditional advertisement channels are at an all time low.

It's important to not only look at social media as a channel to get your message out there but also as a way to truly build meaningful relationships with potential and existing customers. Here are two ways that your company can make the most of your social media marketing efforts.

Related: 6 Steps to Finding Your Twitter Audience

Look beyond direct brand mentions.
Instead of simply monitoring and taking a passive approach to social media, businesses need to start being aggressive. Everyday there are thousands of people inquiring about potential purchases on Twitter but the brands are overlooking these conversations.

Watching for brand mentions and measuring sentiment is great but it doesn't always lead to results. For example, in the U.S. alone there are about 6,500 posts on Twitter everyday where people are talking about buying a car and asking for suggestions about car make/model. This statistic shows a significant number of opportunities for every single major carmaker.

Unfortunately, most brands are currently happy to only listen to their brand mentions and respond to customer service issues, which significantly limits the potential of the brand.

Start a conversation naturally.
Many brands simply do not know how to start the conversation. They think that because a person did not mention the brand specifically or the company's Twitter handle that it is not proper to start a conversation. An important thing to keep in mind is that sparking up a conversation on Twitter is sort of like dating. The first thing you say to someone you find attractive or somewhat interesting isn't going to be “will you marry me?" Instead, you're going to enter that conversation with a sincere smile and start to nurture the relationship with some meaningful conversation.

Sparking up conversations as a brand works the exact same way. Brands should avoid seeming too pushy so the best bet is to engage with people without going for the immediate sale. In some situations a customer will be further down the buying process and in those cases, it's perfectly fine to go in for the sell. But when that's not the case brands need to focus on establishing trust and validation. If you look at the network structure of Twitter it is indeed ideal for having a conversation and not just "pushing" one way content to your followers.

Related: A Social-Media Marketing Primer Even Your Mom Can Handle

For example, if a potential customer tweets "Thinking of getting a car this summer. Any suggestions?" This person is not talking directly to any specific car company, but if a representative from any major car brand reached out to him and just offered a suggestion, it might be well received. The best case is he will engage back and go into a local dealership of the brand that engaged with him. The worst case is he or she will ignore the Tweet. But even if it doesn't result in making a sale, that person might broadcast the conversation to their followers by retweeting or liking it.

This type of interaction is known as "earned media" and is an extremely powerful form of "word of mouth" marketing. The power of engaging with your customers is endless, but the core lies at simply getting closer to them and genuinely helping them out. Yes, it will take time and effort to engage with people one-to-one, yes you will not start counting the dollars from the first engagement, but what you'll do is set an everlasting impression in the mind of the consumer, in a way no TV/Billboard/Print Ad ever could. What are you waiting for? It's time to get into the game.

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