Surprise! Conversations with the customer pay off!

What has been the most effective thing you’ve done to grow your business?

What tools, software or otherwise, have been invaluable to you? Have you used any social media tools?

I asked this in LinkedIn this past week, and I got news for you, Just when my faith is beginning to waver in how business is conducted these days, I got alot of great answers. Here are some snippets of those responses. see if you can come up with what the end all be all answer is yo the question.

Tim Brown of In The News “Number one with me sounds SO much like “consultant-speak”, but I stop myself and think about how the customer experience is working. I’m constantly trying to make that emotional connection and deliver an enjoyable buying experience. Our product is a non-critical item, easily deleted from the budget. If we build the relationship and make it easy, customers will still buy.”

Brian McCarthy of Tipping Point Media “Build a solid engagement strategy for business development that can be repeated within the sales organization. Once everyone is speaking the same language, it’s easier to push new customer development.”

Jolie O’dell “IRL conferences, LinkedIn, Twitter, and (surprisingly) Chatterous. Through these tools, I was able to start my own business and network with people who could tell me how to do that in all the right ways. The three social nets I named are repositories for best practices in new media, marketing, and technology, the latter two because they’re teeming with brilliant early adopters.

And immersion in the right kinds of social media can make things happen very quickly, as well. It’s often like being at an IRL conference 24/7… As long as you learn how to use it properly!”

Kent Lewis of Anvil Media puts it this way:  This may not be the answer you’re looking for, but I would advise you not to be distracted by tools, software and social media. They are enablers, but not solutions. Start with a unique vision and world class product, then market your story. Oh, and read Good to Great and First Break All The Rules.

Second, we spend a great deal of time evolving and perfecting our product offering and ensure we provide world class service. The end result is that we’ve averaged 75% annual growth over the past 3 years, without having a sales staff or a marketing budget. Our team and our clients are our sales force and with high retention in both areas, it makes the work easier and much more enjoyable.

That said, the more pat answers to grow a business have largely been answered, but I’d say:
-public relations (builds a brand)
-search engine and social media marketing (go hand-in-hand)
-online and offline advertising (protects the brand)

Just make sure all of your marketing efforts are fully integrated…your Twitter and LinkedIn profiles are embedded in your email signature file, etc. It’s a brave new world, and everyone knows your a dog these days, so be authentic and remarkable

Or maybe Lisa Van Allen nails it on the head with her short but succinct list?

Most effective (in order):
1. live (in person) networking
2. public speaking
3. publication of articles in local media and online (blogs, e-newsletters)
4. website
5. social media (LI, Facebook, Twitter)

I think we’re getting warmer, Look what Karen Schultz says: “Listen without selling. Learn what works toward the customer’s team’s success. Choose a customer who matches your definition of partnership. Have their healthy growth in mind. How can you help their success. Be prepared to embrace the customer needs while exceeding their expectations, not yours. It is all about the customer. You are the customer’s advocate. Without the customer, you are not in business. The business you are in should be your passion, not about the weekend, not about the money ( I believe it will come in a fair fashion and you will feel great for your accomplishments, people will like to do business with you, people will advertise for you, and your customers will grow your business for you).

Ultimtaley they were all great answers but I will leave you with Tina Indalecio’s response: To be honest – the most effective thing I’ve done to grow my business has been offline.

My firm consistently used social media, blogs, html newsletters, surveys to get feedback on customer experience, etc. But those have really just been ways to stay in contact with the customer so they don’t forget us.

The conversion to actual business has always been through face-to-face interactions. I always asked for referrals and repeat business (online and offline). I created incentive programs to increase repeat business and referrals – then used online tools as one way to deliver the messages – but always followed up with a call or face-to-face meeting.

We would also hold a client thank you mixer every year and invite our clients and encourage them to bring a friend that could use our services. It was a great way for them to get new business as well from our other clients and they all loved it.

Ultimately, personal interaction has grown my business and the “phone” has been invaluable. For online items, they have helped in the following ways:

– Survey’s have been good at getting feedback. (I’ve used survey monkey regularly during and after each project closed)

– Html newsletters have been good at staying in front of the customer – but be sure to ask them what they want in the newsletter and then deliver it. (I’ve used constant contact and cooleremail)

– online social networks have been valuable at bouncing ideas off other professionals, etc. (like linkedin)

– offline social networks have been valuable for keeping a presence in the business community (like membership to your local business association)

Good way to head off into the weekend I think!

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4 thoughts on “Surprise! Conversations with the customer pay off!

  1. Fantastic. They all light the way to connecting and maintaining the conversation using a wide range of social networking tools. Bravo for your ‘survey’ and Encore for the answers.

    Rodger

  2. Sorry I missed your question on LinkedIn. I must add that to my Outlook and remind myself to reveiw the questions each week.

    I agree with Tina and say that my best efforts this quarter have been with an offline tool we use…..called SendOutCards.

    I also make an effort to personally invite everyone I meet to join me on Linkedin, which I think starts the process of deepening the relationship.

    This is difficult, but finally, my newest focus is to listen without an agenda. To call and chat, without bringing up my company.

    Relationship marketing is the key, so, it’s back to school for me. Thanks for your article, now I know of two more social media communities to connect to.

    Andrea (visit me on Linkedin…..
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/askandreapage

  3. @Andrea, it’s funny But I know some people who can’t sustain a conversation without mentioning what they do and how great things are. It makes me wonder what would happen if things ever turned sour. Talk about someone who is in dire need of listening without an agenda!

    Relationship marketing IS the key not only with old school practices but also when utilizing social media tools. It’s still imperative to have one to one conversations and not be afraid to listen before speaking and asking questions without fear of being judged.

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