Be where your customers are.
It’s a simple concept, yet one that marketers have struggled with since, well, long before they called it marketing. How can you find an audience, and once found, stay engaged with them? After all, customers change. Their interests shift. Where they congregate and what they do in their free time is always in flux. And marketers are always trying to stay one step ahead.
In today’s increasingly fragmented and media-driven world, driving sales is harder than ever. But it can be done as some enterprising companies have shown. Here are five new and unique ways that businesses are reaching customers today.
Social media is the next great frontier in e-commerce. Brands have already been connecting with their customers directly – the extremely popular Taco Bell Twitter account and Oreo’s “you can dunk in the dark” post during last year’s Super Bowl being two standouts – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With the popularity of social media, this is the ultimate example of “be where your customers are.”
And this is why we created Shoppost, a free, easy-to-use app that gathers your product information and pulls it into a beautiful presentation window that posts to your social channels in just a few simple clicks. At its heart, it’s a way to make your products a natural and seamless part of the social experience. After all, customer X may never go to his local bike shop’s website with the fancy online store, but he definitely will spend time on Facebook. And if he sees that bike he’s been looking for at a great price, and all he has to do is click “Buy” while browsing in his Facebook stream., It opens up a whole new (and easier) world of e-commerce for buyer and seller alike.
Many brands have jumped on the video bandwagon, which we love and highly recommend (in fact, check out our latest video – we think you’ll like it). But if you don’t have a knack for creating viral content, getting your video in front of eyeballs is a difficult proposition at best.
Eric Siu over at Forbes recommends jumping into YouTube advertising, listing a host of different benefits. We like this idea a lot – YouTube has worked hard to make sure its advertisements are as unobtrusive as possible, and you won’t be competing for spots the same way you might with Google Adwords.
Crowdsourcing is all the rage these days with hundreds of projects being funded via Kickstarter campaigns, which is great for small businesses and startups. This has limited application for larger businesses that already have sufficient capital to fund new projects and R&D. However, crowdsourcing remains a viable and potentially hugely profitable play for these companies if they shift their focus to something else entirely – ideas, rather than capital.
My Starbucks Idea is probably the best example of this method – a quick glance shows tens of thousands of ideas for new drinks and in-store ideas. While not every idea is bound to be a good one, it’s a great way for brands to actually engage with their customers – not just sell to them. And who knows – one of those ideas may end up in your cup one day when you’re blinking sleep out of your eyes at 7 a.m.
What’s the easiest way to win over your customers? Give them something that’s actually useful and relevant to them. That’s the essence of content marketing. An increasing number of brands are making use of this method, from consumer brands like Red Bull, to B2B companies like Ricoh. As a brand awareness tool, this is an outstanding means to reach potential customers who might have never even heard of your business.
When the New York Times is doing it, you know that there’s something behind it. Advertorials have been around for a while – take a look near the back of your in-flight magazines – but the increasing use of native advertising online has renewed focus on this customer outreach method. Advertisements designed to look a part of the site took off with the exploding popularity of BuzzFeed, and an increasing number of sites (primarily in journalism) are utilizing this method. While this method has met with some criticism, there’s no denying its effectiveness.
What do all of these have in common? They’re focused on the customer and their experience, rather than the product itself. They’re also seen as tools of engagement – to connect and really have a conversation with the customer. Somewhere along the line, companies figured out that they actually needed to listen to what their customers were saying. And when there are a million different things competing for the customer’s attention, it’s the companies that can cut through the noise to establish a real connection with their customers that will end up being most successful.