Old Wisdom: Listen to Customer Experiences.

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”  ― Ernest Hemingway

Business priority review.

What matters most at your company? Great products? High productivity? Strong culture? All are important, to be sure.

As a digital marketing agency, we’ve learned that the most valuable role we can play for our clients is to learn everything we can about their customer or consumer. How can we do that more effectively than our clients? Don’t companies know their own customers best? In a paradoxical way, companies tend to forget their original commitment to understand their customers, and the insights that got them into the business in the first place. Instead they find themselves focused on their products and services.

Running a business is complex and detailed, and the time and attention required to manage operations and deliver products and services becomes the priority. With that, marketing and sales communications tend naturally to also focus on the product, not the customer. In time a gap grows between customer needs (always evolving) and product offerings.

Sometimes companies also become obsessed with their competition, which leads to marketing and products that look more like reactions to competitor offerings than an answer to real customer need.

Discovering customers with social media.

Thats why social media marketing—the way we practice it—has such potential. This experience is fresh in my mind because we just ran a client strategy workshop and observed this very thing. Torque’s social media marketing process is built on the pillars of discovery and learning, planning & execution, and teaching. These three aspects are interconnected and ongoing.

Discovery and learning.

We start with the business fundamentals, to understand the most important customer, the value our client provides, and how that’s different from other available options. We also look at the competitive environment, the business goals, and capabilities and resources of the company.

Studying stakeholders.

Stakeholders are groups or individuals with the biggest potential for having an impact on the business. We can learn a great deal by studying them online, with the use of very specific Google searches across social media, forums, blogs and other sites. This works especially well for finding professionals, experts and influencers in B2B categories. What we learn is often up-to-the minute current and very authentic, and unobscured by research processes or small sample sets. And it’s fast.

Analyzing the stakeholder workflow.

The most valuable groups and individuals we’ve identified are busy doing many things, not just buying our client’s products. We want to observe them in the process of looking for information or help to solve the problems where our client’s products or services can be used. What we find are candid, detailed discussions, requests and interactions. We summarize our findings and also show examples to our clients. These findings are consistently met with two reactions: 1) wow, this is new information, and, 2) our competitors are not doing this!

Finding high-traffic destinations.

Social media and the Internet is a vast place. Organizations need to be selective and focused on where they spend their time. Once we’ve come to a new understanding of each of the important stakeholders and the workflows that are important to them and related to our client’s business, we can quantify how frequently they occur on specific social media platforms.

Back to basics.

These three steps are part of our social media and integrated marketing planning process. The outputs of our discovery and learning guide our interaction and content planning, as well as an overall integration with other marketing. That’s what our clients hire us to deliver. But what we give them is a back-to-basics trip that refocuses the management team on what really builds brand, drives profitable growth and sharpens competitive advantage.

Teaching.

Of course new insights and new practices take time to be understood, adopted and put to consistent use. That’s why we’ve set up our process in a teaching format, so that our client teams can develop full proficiency alongside our agency work in managing social media programs. Future posts will explore how interaction and content practices lead to engagement with key stakeholders.

Until then, we are learning about our customer, and our customer’s customer every day. Please share with us: what are your experiences with understanding customers and evolving products, services and marketing practices to be increasingly relevant?