By MIKE GINGERICH
It is no secret that online marketing today is different from traditional marketing.
Gone are the days of simply putting up a website with a, “if we build it, they will come” attitude. It is important in the online marketing scene to intersect with potential customers. By engaging, interacting, and offering tips and ideas, trust can be built that results in sales.
In social media marketing this type of online interaction has been coined “relationship marketing.” What makes relationship marketing different from traditional marketing is its focus on customer acquisition and retention through satisfaction rather than direct sales tactics. It emphasizes the necessity of maintaining long-term customer relationships beyond intrusive promotional messages. Both inbound digital marketing efforts and social media fall within the realm of relationship marketing.
So how exactly is modern marketing different from its traditional counterpart?
While traditional marketers conveyed their messages through direct advertising, relational marketers engage their prospective customers through meaningful conversations that makes the company more human, and approachable. This approach realizes the value of relational equity with current and prospective customers, and uses technology both before and after sales to reach and retain them.
Having outlined an overview of what relational marketing is, here are a few common errors that marketers tend to make today in the digital arena. These happen mainly when companies try to apply the old principles of traditional marketing to modern digital and social marketing. Three common mistakes are:
The hard sell
The hard sell does not work in social media very well simply because an intelligent customer is alert to the ways and tactics of salesmen and gets turned off by being sold. As well, users of social media are on social media networks to socialize, so a hard pitch to “buy now” is disruptive and often unwanted. A customer prefers information on the ways in which a product can solve the problem. This calls for marketers serving as a industry resource with the information they share.
The key is offering value and assistance, basically being helpful as opposed to high pressure and totally product feature oriented. People will want to learn about your product if they feel the company is reputable and friendly. This means the social perception of a company is growing in importance. Not simply a online review, but based on real and current interaction. The information you offer should speak of your unique value proposition and competitive advantage in ways that solve buyer problems, not as a infomercial. The difference between the two is critical to understand.
If you are only broadcasting information and not responding to questions and comments, you’re going to lose in the new digital marketing arena! The key is to have active conversations with your prospects on the social networks where your prospects spend time. Conversation means dialogue that is two way.
Asking questions to find out what the needs and problems are that prospects face, and then offering insight and solutions is truly valuable. The days of one way pitches are over when it comes to social media marketing. Do not make the mistake of simply queuing up a series of messages and auto-deploying with no plan to monitor, respond, or attempt to engage. Creating dialogue is critical in the social sphere and in the Facebook world in particular.
Removing negative comments
No one really likes interacting with disgruntled customers. The fact is, though, that it happens, whether it is from no fault of the your company or actual product problems. A big way to escalate a situation, however, is to delete negative social comments. In today’s day, deleting is not going to work or last. Someone, somewhere likely saw it and by deleting it, it only raises the question of whether the company is hiding something. Instead, negative comments must be dealt with. A good tactic is to try and post a public reply that is helpful and that attempts to direct the user to off-line methods to move the conversation out of the public sphere so that the details can be addressed. Something like, “I’m sorry to hear of your issues, if you can send the details to firstname.lastname@example.org” our team will be able to review and look into it.” This offers the public a way to see your response and can actually build credibility. I have seen where loyal customers come to the aid and chime in with comments and assistance as well, thus making a social “issue” actually into a show of community strength and loyalty to the company.
The bottom line: be real, authentic and helpful. A prospect is looking for help or suggestions to address their problems, not hype or hard sell. While they may not be ready to buy at the moment, positive interactions can make them come back to buy when they are ready. It’s time to focus on marketing that the customer wants, and is comfortable with. Make way for relationship marketing in your online plans.
Mike Gingerich leads the Social Application division of web design company, Digital Hill Multimedia (http://www.DigitalHill.com). He is a co-founder of TabSite.com, a leader in Facebook fan page tools for businesses. TabSite offers brands the power to boost Facebook marketing with contests and promotions. For more information on TabSite, please visit www.tabsite.com.