The New Marketer - Part 1 of 4
Add to del.icio.us
Gone are the days of simple marketing where you could depend on a radio spot or a television commercial to sell your product or service. Our filtering system has become amazingly adept at maneuvering through the massive amount of information overload advertisers thrust upon us daily. We have become desensitized through repetition and have changed the ways that we make our purchases.
Today, more and more we are listening to other consumers before we make a purchase. In a recent survey of online shoppers, 76% relied on customer reviews, and over 50% regarded the reviews as critical to their purchase. Customers are telling other customers what products to buy.
Recently I needed to purchase a GPS device for my car. I looked through the print ads that arrived with the Sunday paper, and realized quickly how little information was really provided. Many of the devices had the same features and cost about the same. I decided to go online and read customer reviews about the various GPS products.
Reading dozens of customer reviews helped me quickly make a decision. Simple comments such as, "The plastic attachment that holds the GPS unit to the windshield cracked after only 3 weeks of use." "The map software that comes with the GPS is outdated and it costs $80 to get current maps." "Satellite connection may take as long as 1.5 minutes." Some customers gave extremely detailed description as to how the GPS device performed as they traversed through multiple cities and rural areas. The information that I gained from the customer reviews was invaluable. I was quickly able to make an informed decision, and as a result I feel I received the best product for the best price.
Customer's reviews are only the tip of the iceberg; we have seen them on websites for years in the form of 'testimonials'. There is however a big difference between a testimonial, and an active community of customers discussing a particular product. Building an interactive forum where customers can discuss a product, gives validity to the product. People tend to buy from people that are like them.
So, how do we apply some of the new marketing techniques to sell our products and services? How do we get the attention of consumers that are already fighting advertising sensory overload? The answer is simple; we need to get involved, and to make our advertising an experience that is beneficial to the consumer.
To be successful in business today there is a myriad of responsibilities that we need to address to facilitate the sales of our product or service to the consumer. The basics are, an easily navigated website with good content, an informative blog, a forum, press release service, newsletters, webinars and customers that will evangelize for you.
I realize that this may seem overwhelming at first, but once in place, with the proper planning you will develop a community that will be a powerful voice for your product. Thanks to open source software, 99% of the tools that you need are free. Let's begin our discussion with the use of forums.
Well-designed organized forums can be extremely beneficial towards the success of your business. Forums can be a way for you to not only communicate with new customers or prospects, but they enable you to engage in long-term relationships with your current customers. Forums can be used to collect extremely valuable information; your current customers can even help you invent new products and services. Current customers can also help you company be more productive and profitable. This is called 'crowd sourcing' where the business turns over tasks traditionally performed by the employees to the Internet multitude. Why does this work? Individuals on forums many times create an online persona and part of that persona is to play the role of an expert. People want to be known as gurus, they want to be seen as knowledgeable in their field.
People generally like working with other like-minded people and helping them solve problems. Think about it, every time you pick up the phone, or have to send an email to a potential client or to a current customer, you are spending money. Phone support can cost a business $25 - $35.00 and hour while emails generally cost about $4.00 a piece. The cost is of course the time invested in each of these. This is another reason why you should invest the time to build a strong cohesive community around your business.
Once you create a community of customers discussing and supporting your products, you will need to begin rewarding those members that go out of the way to help others. Special recognition on the forum in the form of a special symbol or you can even award them a point value for each question they answer. You can also make your forum more interactive by giving the ability to rate the experts. Ask visitors to your site to the quality of help that they receive. Forum volunteers that consistently perform well should be rewarded publicly. These elite members of your community can help you grow your business by evangelizing on other forums and spreading the word about your products and services.
Setting up a forum is very simple. Check with your web-hosting provider, most hosting companies include free forum software with their services. Be sure to create an announcement section followed by separate categories of all of your products and services that you offer. In our next series we will discuss blogging as a powerful marketing tool. We will also discuss creating profitable businesses with little overhead but create great financial rewards.
Copyright 2008 FMWebschool Inc. http://www.fmwebschool.com Written by Stephen Knight