Whether or not you believe in the social media hype, one thing is certainly true – the way people deal with companies from whom they purchase products and services has changed. No longer do customers rely simply on your ads, your website, or their in-person meeting with you at a trade show. Instead, your customers are relying on a new source of information, and one they probably feel is much more reliable and credible. They’re talking to their professional peers. In other words, they could very well be talking to people who are already your customers. This has probably always been the case to some extent, but now it’s easier for people to keep in touch via social sites like Facebook, Twitter, or forum boards.
You can look at this in a negative way. You can feel like you don’t have control. But the fact is that customers talking to each other can be a very positive benefit for your company. If you can connect your brand advocates with people who may be considering your product, you are essentially creating an environment where a customer can help sell your product or service to others. How can you create friendly situations in which loyal customers can help sell your cause to others? Here are 7 ideas to consider.
1. A Facebook Page: If you do want to dive into the social media waters to help build connections between your customers, Facebook can be a great place to do so. Unfortunately, fan comments are now (inexplicably) harder to find, so it’s important to highlight fan comments so others can respond. Facebook creates a more social atmosphere where people will feel like they can talk more freely.
2. A Blog: Building a blog community can take a very long time – sometimes more than a year. However, if you encourage conversation in the comments section, readers will begin to feel more comfortable about talking to each other and not just to you.
3. An Open House: Inviting customers to your office or factory can be a great way for them to meet each other while also getting a better feel for how you work.
4. A Video Conference: With increasingly effective video conferencing technology (GoToMeeting, Skype and Google+ Hang-outs come to mind), it’s now possible to moderate conversations between small groups of customers. This could come in handy if you want to present a new product idea to a group of long-time customers, for example. They can get to know each other and will also feel special because you are gathering them for their expertise.
5. A Trade Show: Is one of your customers looking to expand his or her footprint in the industry? Why not invite them to do a presentation at a trade show? That way they can connect with some of your other customers while also building their own position.
6. Video Testimonials: Although not as effective as real-time, real-life communication, offering video testimonials on your website allows customers to receive the spotlight while also showing other prospects or customers that a “real person” liked your product or service.
7. A Seminar: Is there information you can offer that all of your customers would benefit from? Create an event where customers can meet each other and also walk away with valuable information.
If you create situations where customers can talk to each other, you not only will make it easy for advocates of your product or service to “evangelize” to other customers, but you will also plant the seeds for a growing community that can grow around your company. This community can exponentially spread the word (in a positive way) about your products and services, protect you from negative feedback, and enrich your ability to conduct product research, among other things.
Have you tried to connect your customers to each other? What has worked for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/21555127@N00/295475666 via Creative Commons