How many followers do you have? You don’t have a fan page yet? How do I get more reviews on Yelp?
About a decade or so ago, those questions were typically the center of conversation among rock star promoters. Fast-forward to today’s world of e-mail and social media and we’ve got an entirely different context for them.
E-mail marketing and social media are just an extension of what you do every day when you connect with customers. What’s different now is that you can continue those conversations in different ways.
The combination of e-mail marketing and social media is like a dream come true for small business owners because it levels the playing field by allowing genuine connections and those with small budgets to effectively reach target audiences.
Except when that dream inadvertently becomes a nightmare. How this happens isn’t surprising, yet it often takes business owners by surprise. The biggest disconnect leading to discontent is when the business owner assumes that customers are happy and that the company’s reputation is sterling.
Before you post another status message on Facebook or hit the send button on your e-mail marketing campaign, there’s a fundamental business principle that must be addressed: Marketing is not a cure for having a bad business.
Yes, that’s a little blunt. However, you need to be mindful of the fact that if your customers don’t know you, or have had bad experiences with your business, no amount of marketing online or offline is going to change the fact that they don’t like, trust, or appreciate what you do. In fact, your e-mail and social media marketing efforts will only amplify their ambivalence or disdain.
How do you determine whether customers are genuinely satisfied with your products and services?
While the really good and really bad customer experiences tend to stand out, it’s the ones in the middle that are hard to gauge. These are the ones that can have the most impact on your business. Especially when you consider that for every customer complaint, there are 26 other customers who have remained silent, according to Lee Resource, Inc.
Imagine the compounded impact on your business from the more vocal dissenters. Dissatisfied customers will tell between nine and 15 people about their experience and approximately 13 percent of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs.
There are ways to right the course before you see a significant defection among your customer base. You can use a free tool like BlogPulse, NutshellMail, or Social Mention to monitor who’s saying what about your company online. There are also industry-specific online directories and communities, such as Yelp.com and RestaurantTracker.com, that will let you know where you’re getting it right and where there are areas for improvement.
Along with online monitoring, there’s also the old-fashioned approach of simply asking customers how the service is and what they would like to see improved. Since you’ll almost always get a positive response when asking customers for their opinion when you’re face-to-face, you can encourage them to write an anonymous review online or drop their thoughts into a suggestion box.
By regularly taking the pulse of your customers instead, you can more immediately address concerns and squelch the potential of earning a bad reputation.
While every interaction can’t be perfect, there is some comfort in knowing that, according to a recent Harris Interactive study, 92 percent of consumers said they would be willing to go back to a company after a negative experience. Of those consumers:
- 63 percent would return if they received a follow-up apology/correction from a person in charge.
- 52 percent would return if they were offered a discount.
- 49 percent would return if they were offered proof of enhanced customer service.
Before you dive into your next marketing campaign, you may want to first test the waters to make sure your audience will be receptive to your messages.