What Do You Think?

By Caroline J. Beck
June 19, 2012

We learned the value of this simple question in May, when we asked Pressing Times subscribers to share their opinions with us. The response was more than we expected. The input was thoughtful and provided us a great deal of direction for the coming months. We are so appreciative to all who took a few minutes of their time to help us out.

The survey process reminded us of an important marketing lesson: the best way to learn what your customers think is to simply ask them. Before the internet, this was almost impossible. You could reach your customers through one-way advertising, but they couldn’t reach you. Now, the tables are not only turned, they are fitted with a “lazy susan”. In this “always connected” age, there are few things more important to attracting and retaining customers than establishing a two-way line of communication.

The best part about this “give and take” marketing approach is that, while it takes some regular care and feeding, it does not have to be expensive or time-consuming. With your own customer database, simple online surveys can provide you with all kinds of important advice. Trust us. We know. But you don’t have to wait for an opportunity to conduct an occasional survey.

Start by establishing your business presence in as many social networks as you can comfortably manage. It is more important to be present where your customers are than expect them to seek you out in just one venue like your website.

To understand the social media flow, think of niche networks like Pinterest, DIGG, and Twitter as “feeders” to your website. For many small businesses, their Facebook business page is their website, for others it is another “feeder” to a dedicated website.

But do you have to spend hours every day managing all these networks? Absolutely not. There are all types of tools to help you manage multiple platforms. Free social media dashboards like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite (my favorite) make it possible for you to schedule your messages and broadcast them to all social networks with the click of a button. Bottom line, you really can be in more than one place at a time.

Now that you’ve established a presence, make it simple for customers to join in the conversation about your brand. Put social media buttons up front where they will be easy to find and use – give them the opportunity to tweet your story, to “like” you on Facebook, to share your story with their Google+ circles.

Most importantly, there is a huge benefit from all this cross-talk. You are building brand loyalty by showing customer loyalty. Nothing generates better goodwill. Ask for opinions, open the dialogue and suddenly you have customers who feel attached to your brand in ways that no simple store visit can generate.

Two-way communication is always about give and take. The goal is to build a better relationship with your customers. And the new social media tools available now to everyone make it incredibly easy to do. Learn a bundle from listening. Share “inside” stories. Offer special discounts. In no time, you will start to build an army of brand advocates and influencers out of repeat customers. And you can trust that they’ll keep the message spinning.