By David Hall, Vice President Sales
and Marketing, Pro-Active Websites
Social networks now dominate the Internet, and retailers are scrambling to find ways to cultivate relationships and, ultimately, market through these channels. End users are experiencing a new sense of power and are changing how they shop and interact with retailers online. Many retailers are confused about what to do and are feeling the pressure. Some are literally frozen from taking action.
This article will provide you with insight to both sides of the customer/retailer relationship, as well as give you some solid advice that you can begin to incorporate today! Don’t wait around and see what happens; take action now to cement your place within these social networks as a trusted retail source for your prospects and customers.
Then And Now
The creation of the “social customer” has forever changed the way we shop and sell. It used to be that your sales staff held the “keys of knowledge” and used that power to influence their customer’s buying decisions. Today, the power has shifted to the consumers. They are now armed with extensive pricing and product details, all validated by powerful and influential social networks and trusted connections.
With all the resources available to consumers today, such as blogs, status alerts, tweets and “likes,” the total number of social-networking users has surpassed e-mail users. More importantly, they spend approximately 25 percent of their online time using social Web sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. Online shopping ranks second at 10 percent and e-mail use is third at eight percent.
Although this might seem frustrating for retailers, in reality, it puts you in a better position. These same tools can help you do a better job gathering information, targeting effective resources and reaching more prospects than ever before.
More than 2,000 organizations were surveyed by the Harvard Business Review and were asked to offer feedback and advice on how to understand the potential of social media and measure its effectiveness. Some of the findings include:
- 75 percent of companies do not know where their most valuable customers are talking about them.
- Less than a quarter (23 percent) use social media or analytics tools (such as Google Analytics).
- Only seven percent are integrating social media into other marketing activities, such as retail analytics and CRM integration.
In my daily interaction with music retailers who sell online, the general consensus is that more than half of their customers expect the store to cater to their preferred methods of social contact. This means that they want to be contacted by retailers through social networks, because it is the most convenient and familiar vehicle. It’s time for retailers of all sizes to hop on the bandwagon and set up their Facebook and Twitter accounts today!
Remember this above all else: This has nothing to do with your eCommerce Web site. That part of your business follows a completely different set of rules. Your objectives are, first, to establish a presence in these social networks and, second, to build credibility and relationships with your prospects and customers. Once you’ve built this foundation and earned their trust, then eCommerce can be integrated methodically and carefully into social marketing.
Create A Central
Clearinghouse Of Information
Social-networking Web sites can provide you with an incredible amount of information about your prospects and customers. Start using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program to store these details and records of communication. Many CRM services are Web-based, and there are many free versions available. Simply search “free CRM” and explore the options.
The most effective retailers keep records and track their results. If your crew is still using personal organizers, notebooks, piles of papers on their desks or notes posted in their work areas, consider getting on a CRM system. Don’t become wrapped up in trying to document and migrate all the old information. Rather, use your new CRM to help drive sales moving forward. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of entering information immediately after a call or contact. Most CRMs include tools that will allow you to send scheduled e-mails automatically at designated intervals. Make sure you use the calendar functions to schedule follow-up calls and tasks. Soon, you will have a valuable resource that is accessible by all your employees.
Go Where Your Customers Are
Now that you have the tools with which to communicate, document and manage your contacts with customers and prospects, it’s time to target the places where they go online. The real challenge is how you engage with these people without it coming across simply as a ploy to get their money.
Start participating in the online community, answer questions, initiate discussions and offer your help. Build trust from your fellow users and, after you feel that you’ve gained it, try your first offer. Position it as a thank you for their ongoing support and keep it simple. This is your first introduction to your eCommerce Web site. Perhaps a discount code for any Web site purchase will do the trick. Remember, many people have preconceived ideas about salespeople and don’t like to feel pressured into buying something. Don’t act like a mediocre salesperson and you won’t be treated like one.
The Value Of Building
Trust And Confidence
It’s in a salesperson’s nature to start selling whenever a receptive audience is available. Instead, take a step back and focus on cultivating relationships. Surround yourself online with people who will want to buy from you. The best way to help them do this is by building your credibility and positioning yourself as a trusted advisor. As your reputation grows, so will your sales. Social media can help you quickly establish credibility, interact with people on their own terms and build meaningful, long-term relationships.
I Just Want To Be Liked!
The real key is to use all these tools to present a favorable profile to visitors that makes them feel comfortable interacting with you and builds trust in your business. Examine your online profiles and add whatever information is needed to make them complete. Reach out to everyone you know and prove to prospects and customers that interacting with you will provide a valuable return on their time investment.
Embrace these new technologies, and you’ll experience a greater reach into your customer base. Your customers will appreciate that you want to communicate with them utilizing these new methods. You’ll strengthen your relationships and, invariably, sell more in the long run.
David Hall is Vice President – Sales & Marketing for Pro-Active Websites. The company specializes in Web development and network building for dealers and vendors within the music products industry. Contact him at dhall@pro-ac tivewebsites.com.