I recently went to the Social Customer Service Summit run by Our Social Times. The event was attended by major brands and technology providers in the social customer service space and looked at all aspects of social customer service in relation to larger organisations.
But if you are a small business or an entrepreneur is this relevant to you?
Let’s assume you have a social media strategy in place. No doubt you have read plenty of hints and tips about social media etiquette; how Facebook and Twitter differ from LinkedIn; how Pinterest, Instagram and Vine will transform your business; and you are up to speed with what you need put on YouTube.
But you may still be wondering if social customer service really is relevant to you and your business. Here are some facts to consider:
So what needs to be done to make social customer service in your business a reality?
Well, it depends on who your customers are and how they behave. As a small business, the chances are you know exactly who they are, whether they are active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and you also know how they like to interact with you. Some will prefer email, others will prefer to use the phone or they may — lucky them — get the chance to talk to you face-to-face.
As a small business you can control exactly what sort of customer experience your employees give your customers, and the fact that you treat your customers in such a personalised way is something they value as much as you.
The challenge comes when your business starts to grow. At present you probably use Twitter and Facebook to get the message out and hope that people hear what you have to say. The question of how to deal with customers who complain on Facebook or Twitter probably isn’t front of mind at the moment.
But as your business grows it has to be.
So think ahead to avoid disappointment and consider the following:
Marc Duke is a marketing consultant.
It’s funny how coming out of the recession hasn’t got nearly as much media coverage as when we went into it. Right now, savvy salespeople and companies are taking advantage of the upturn. But are you fully prepared?
If you’re a salesperson, you need to have a written sales plan of how you’re going to exceed your sales target. If you’re a sales manager, you need to have a written sales plan. If you’re a sales director, you need to have a written sales plan. If you’re a business owner, you need to have a written sales plan. There is no excuse for not having a written sales plan.
The next step is to make sure you’re focused. Most firms have had to be more focused than ever during the recession as they have faced a drop-off in enquiries and sales leads. This forced their sales team to concentrate harder on new opportunities and focus on how they were going to get it to convert into business.
If the market is starting to pick up, make sure you don’t fall into the trap of taking those enquiries for granted — as some companies had done before the recession really hit them. If you’re starting to get lots more enquiries, your sales plan will help you focus on the best opportunities, and the ones you and your team are most likely to convert.
This is an important point and one that’s often missed. The important thing is to be aware of your energy levels. Back when I was a sales manager, I had one rep that truly was a morning person — jumping around at 8.30 in the morning, yet when 3pm came he was almost asleep!
We decided to play to his strengths and arranged his diary to take advantage of his energy levels. We made his new business activity (cold calls, new business appointments) in the morning, and existing client calls and paperwork in the afternoon. Month on month his sales went up 50%. Amazing.
Are you playing to the strengths of your team? Think about how to best use your resources right now and play to the strengths of your staff.
I’ve lost count of the times people have said to me, “We don’t have time for prospecting/cold calling” or “I know I should have made some calls today, but things just got in the way”.
There is no excuse for not prospecting. Sales managers continually get frustrated with salespeople who “ride the sales rollercoaster” — a good month, followed by a bad month, followed by a good month, followed by a bad month.
This is usually because the salesperson has become so busy dealing with their leads that they haven’t had time for prospecting, which means less leads the following month — and that leads to a lack of sales.
Everyone should make time for prospecting. It should be the most important thing in your day. Too many salespeople don’t prospect because it’s easier to deal with existing customers but then they complain when they miss targets the following month.
Already this year, lots of companies have asked me to come in and help motivate their sales team. Companies that want to steal a march on their competitors are looking to get better results from their teams.
Motivation is vital to your success. Many firms make the mistake of assuming that their salespeople are already motivated. Yet in my experience, most salespeople generally work between 30-50% of their potential.
If you’re a manager or a director, what steps are you taking right now to work on the motivation of your team? If you’re the salesperson, what would it take for you to feel more motivated right now? And don’t say “more money”. That’s known as commission!
Finding your content on the internet is almost as difficult as looking for a specific star in the Milky Way. It would take you over 340 years to peruse the 2.15 billion actively indexed web pages out there — even if you just spent five seconds on each one.
In short, people aren’t going to simply stumble upon your content. Even though you’ve created an interesting, relevant, high-quality article, you’re still going to have to do some legwork to make the most of it.
Continuing to market and track your content helps deliver reach, targeted delivery and increased credibility. Here are some free ways to increase your content’s exposure after publication.
If you’re on a budget, there are still lots of ways to get your content in front of relevant audiences — you just need to tap into your networks.
Using your article as a resource in LinkedIn Groups can be effective for sharing your expertise without seeming too promotional. Find like-minded groups and make a habit of joining their discussions before you share your own content. Likewise, don’t overshare and keep it professional.
Adding your most recently published article to your email signature functions as an instant credibility badge. I almost always follow a link like this if I want to know more about someone who has emailed me. It demonstrates thought leadership in your industry and it gets your message in front of the people you’re trying to reach.
This is a good place to extend the conversation about a published article without duplicating content. Can you follow up on your original blog? What did you learn from the comments on your article? Are there any comments you’d like to respond to? Be sure to include a link to the original article.
In addition to getting your content maximum exposure, it’s important to follow the data and use metrics to drive your decisions. With Google Analytics or a similar platform, you can track your leads and conversions by source. If one source stands above the rest, you know you’re effectively reaching your audience, either with your content or the publication.
Tweak your content marketing strategy by immersing yourself in the metrics and making positive changes. Set a goal for your content, whether it’s increasing visits to your site, starting more conversations with prospects or converting more leads that find your site through your content.
Content marketing isn’t a vanity exercise. If you’ve ever done it, you know it takes time, effort and strategy. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your content’s journey ends once it has been published. You’ll be missing out on an opportunity to keep your content working for you.
Mark Hodges is a brand strategist at Influence & Co.
It’s almost impossible to succeed as a business today without having a website. But just having a website is no longer enough — SMEs in the UK are missing out on up to £77bn in annual revenues as a result of not having mobile-optimised websites, according to research commissioned by Hibu.
Despite the growing popularity of mobile browsing — fast becoming the main way that we access the internet — the Hibu research found that just 10% of UK SMEs have optimised their websites for mobile.
This is despite the fact that research by Google in 2012 found that two-thirds of smartphone users believe a mobile-friendly site would make them more likely to buy or use that business’s service.
By not having a mobile site you are not only losing out on potential business, you are giving your competitors a distinct advantage. It’s like opening a shop that you can only enter by way of a series of ropes, pulleys and ladders.
Luckily, creating a mobile website need not cost the earth.
A large budget isn’t necessary for a smart and elegant mobile site, but it’s important not to attempt to go all out. We recommend using a pre-existing theme for a content management system like Wordpress. There are plenty of systems to choose from, but Wordpress suits simplicity and a lower budget.
Using pre-existing themes will give you out-of-the-box mobile functionality with minimal fuss or start-up delays. It doesn’t mean that you’re short of options either — there are thousands of themes available. Sites like Theme Forest have many different options to choose from and all are relatively inexpensive. With so many on offer, you’re sure to find something you like, but it is important to be selective.
Once you’ve made a choice on what sort of plugins, features and themes you want to use, you then need to make sure that they are the right fit for your business, that they are installed properly and that they are optimised. This is the process that you may need help with. The end result will be a smart, functional and simple mobile website that will offer all basic features to mobile visitors.
With a higher budget, you have space to make your mobile responsive website more dynamic, more reactive, and more likely to convert visitors into customers.
With a higher budget you can work with complex, but highly beneficial tools that allow you to test for a multitude of browsers and mobile devices visiting your site. That way you can optimise your website for all possible mobiles. It will also give your site a personalised feel — it won’t look like any other mobile website out there.
Being selective is even more important with a bigger budget, simply because you’ll have more to play with. Set objectives for your site and then evaluate which features and options will best help you achieve this. You need to think about what your user will be looking for, and what features they might want on a mobile site.
In short, you need to take a thorough look at your user experience (UX). This way your end result will be an entirely user-focused site that keeps visitors on the site because every aspect is geared toward delivering smooth, easy and attractive usability.
With your mobile site sorted, you can rest easy in the knowledge that those who visit it will be happy that they’ve arrived.
Rudi Hoppe is chief technology officer at content marketing agency Southerly.
There’s a small independent toy shop near my home that I often walk past. I am always really impressed by just how well the staff dress the windows each season or tie in with key events and dates. I particularly loved their recent Six Nations window.
This shop is rightly aware that their window is prime real estate for the business. Make a splash with a fresh display and heads will turn. Dress it once and only make minor changes once in a while and people will walk past without noticing.
Rugby may not be everyone’s cup of tea but change will attract attention and create awareness. And one day, someone who noticed a Welsh flag one week will notice the push-along horse on display a few weeks later — and that would make a perfect gift for their nephew’s birthday.
Now why am I banging on about shop window displays? It’s because the home page of your website is your online shop window. And you can apply the shop window thinking to your own website.
Did you pat yourself on the back for a job well done and breathe a sigh of relief when your website first launched? How much work have you done on it since? Has the home page changed at all?
I meet so many small business owners who treat their websites as a one-off exercise and believe that an online presence is all that is required. Your website is like a living creature that needs to be constantly fed and cared for, if it is to do everything you want it to do. And that means regular updates — especially if yours is an ecommerce business.
And remember, it’s not just website visitors that love fresh, engaging content — so does Google.
It was while enjoying a series of single malt whiskies, in the Three Crowns Pub, that I was reminded of a marketing lesson that too many businesses are missing in this new digital world.
On finishing our drinks, I asked my brother if he wanted another round. After agreeing to have “one more for the road”, I duly went to the bar and ordered another couple of doubles of Glenlivet. The price I was charged would have made the bottle of Glenlivet just over £100. Yet it is widely available to buy by the bottle for around £30.
Why spend so much extra? I could have easily bought a bottle of Glenlivet in my local supermarket and sat at home with my brother. The drink would have been of equal quality.
The point is that the value was not in what this pub supplied — the drink. There are other pubs that sell the same brand, and there are also many other ways I could have purchased the whisky, many of which would have been more cost-effective.
Rather, the value was in how the pub delivered the product. In supplying pleasant surroundings, a comfortable place to sit, a good atmosphere, a log fire and showing the football, the pub created an experience that was bigger than just the quality whisky. The totality of the experience made the cost of the product acceptable at that moment in time.
Moreover, although this particular pub’s main product is beverages, the landlord had thought about other items a customer may want during their visit. Snacks including crisps, nuts and bowls of chips were available. There was also a quiz machine to play. OK, this is pretty standard inventory for a pub, so why the big deal?
The digital economy has seen the increasing commoditisation of products and services — whether you are a business-to-business company, or a business supplying consumers. We are all now working in the experience economy. Of course, products and services have to be delivered to a high standard in order to compete. However, today that is just the price of entry into any particular market.
The value for the customer is no longer in what you do. Your clients will, more than likely, have a multitude of options, of which you will be just one. The value is in how you deliver the product or service. It is the experience that will differentiate your business. It is also the experience that is more likely to be talked about, shared and which will generate referrals.
Moreover, what you deliver is likely to be the same as a number of other suppliers. This being the case, this is not where the value lies in your business. The most precious resource today is people’s attention. So the value in your business is more likely to exist in data and the customers you supply.
In other words, the real worth of your business is in the engagement and trust you have with your client base. The more you can deepen this, the more valuable your business becomes. Being able to provide added value to “the experience” enables an organisation to earn more money while creating more engagement and value for the customer.
Understanding your customers’ challenges and the contexts in which these occur, will enable you to create new offerings and obtain a greater share of a customer’s wallet. It means being truly customer centric and understanding what else a customer may require when they engage with your business. In other words, what is the equivalent of your crisps and nuts?
When jazz musicians Melvin “Sy” Oliver and James “Trummy” Young wrote the song ‘T’ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It) in the 1930s, little did they know they would be providing the perfect comment on marketing in the digital economy.
Ultimately, what you do allows you to exist, how you do it enables you to compete and differentiate. Too many companies focus all their energies on what they do, rather than how they do it and for whom.
Now that is sorted, I am off for a well-deserved single malt! Three Crowns anyone?