Up until 5 years ago advertising has essentially been a monologue, a one-sided conversation with the advertiser only speaking to the target audience. There was very little conversation. The goal of advertising was to create a resonating brand message and repeat it as much as possible so that the company’s message was “branded” in the audience’s mind. With the rise of social media, a brand cannot rely on a monologue anymore. It used to be very easy for a brand to create and amplify a message without much challenge from customers. Now consumers talk to one another and no matter how much money a brand has to allocate, they can’t create a brand story without it being true. As a B2B company, you need to have a dialogue with current and prospective customers. Traditional “monologue” advertising should still be an element of an integrated marketing plan, but part of your tactical marketing mix must be dialogue related activities. The following are some excellent methods for a B2B service company to spawn a dialogue with current and prospective customers-
Social Media- Social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook are excellent branding vehicles that help position your company as a thought leader. These platforms are also effective ways to start a conversation with your professional network. From developing new product ideas to discovering new networking venues, you can learn much from your network on how to service your customers. Keep in mind that you have to “give to get” – make sure to offer feedback to others if you are soliciting feedback from your network.
Ongoing Customer Surveys- It’s a good practice to regularly solicit feedback from past and current customers. An effective way to gather feedback is through a phone or email survey. This way it does not cost you too much time but you can still gather quality feedback. It also positions your brand properly – showing that you care about customers’ opinions.
White Paper- As you position yourself as a thought leader, it’s important to give 25% of your expertise for free. Talk to your customers about topics they would like to know more about. Create white papers covering topics that allow your network to implement some of the ideas on their own without having to hire someone.
Event Marketing- Hosting regular events like customer appreciation parties and expert discussions is a great way to stay in front of your customers and keep a conversation ongoing. As you think of event ideas, always keep in mind topics your customers are truly interested in.
Email Marketing- Email marketing is best utilized as a lead nurturing tactic, not a lead generation tactic. As a lead nurturing tactic, email newsletters serve as an ongoing conversation with your database. This allows your customers to ask questions on particular email newsletter topics and gives your your business the opportunity to provide solutions.
To practice what I preach, I would like to solicit ideas from our blog audience…how do you keep an ongoing dialogue with your customers?