When the money’s pouring in and the economy is booming, almost everyone seems to flourish. The demand for products and services is high; there are more pieces of a bigger pie and more businesses can be involved. Of course, this isn’t so true when the economy “drags butt”, as so many eloquently put it.
“Well, duh,” you say, and start roaming around the page to see if there’s something here you don’t know. How about this – did you know there’s a way to succeed while other people/companies are dropping like flies?
You did? Oh. Well, do you know what that way is?
Problem: When the economy slows down, many small businesses are left holding an empty box. Consumers have too many choices, and we’re more meticulous in a slow economy than in a smoothly rolling one. We’re less likely to make impulsive decisions.
Solution: Interesting, not interrupted, marketing. A business that stands out from its competitors is a growing business – even in a slow economy.
Wait! Don’t roll your eyes – you’ll miss the slight of hand act!
Can I, with all the information and competition out there, really do something unique?
If not, the next question is:
Can I do something interesting?
Standing Out From the Rest
Standing out could mean a lot of things, and not always good things. You can stand out for poor customer service, for example, where you actually just stick out like a sore thumb.
Outstanding, however, means a lot more. It means being exceptional and the exception to the rule. It means excelling at being excellent. It means trying harder. Because you have to be doing a) something the competition isn’t doing or b) the same thing in a more interesting way. c) using the magic bullet (hard work).
How do you do that? Here are a few ideas:
Give ways to continue the conversation
That thank you page after the sale is SO important. What do you have on it? Is it just “Thanks, we took your money and we don’t need you anymore,” or is it exceptional? Does it allow customers a way to connect with you after the sale? For example:
- Remind them to bookmark the page with all your contact details
- Remind them that they can follow you on social networks
Excellent customer service
Do you respond quickly to customer service queries? How many ways do you provide for them to reach you if they have an issue or question? A few examples of what you might offer:
- phone number for sales
- phone number for support
- @social account
- http:// link to monitored Q&A or FAQ site/page
- contact areas that report to a monitored email address
When we had a problem with AT&T, and then a technical issue with Empire Avenue, we took it to Twitter. Both responded promptly with ways to resolve those issues. This type of customer service – prompt, helpful, courteous – is outstanding. It sets, in the mind of the customer, a sense of trust and reliability towards the company.
Social monitoring and reputation management
To be able to provide that level of customer service, you have to know when people are complaining. Unfortunately, thanks to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, as well as blogging opportunities galore, you’re probably not going to be able to hide your dirty laundry.
The best you can hope to do is monitor your online reputation and respond quickly. Not only does this give you the opportunity to turn an angry customer into a happy one, but it also shows potential customers that you care enough to “send the very best”.
So how do you monitor? A few ways include:
- Search Twitter using your @brand or #brand
- Watch your Twitter mentions
- Setting Google Alerts for specific brand words
- MonitorThis, which scans for terms across several types of search engines
- BlogPulse, which you can use to track conversations, find blogs based on a term, follow the conversation around a specific URL, etc.
- Use social search and specific hashtags (if applicable)
Go the extra mile
One of the most effective things you can do to stand out from the rest is go that extra mile. “What does that mean?” you ask. Well, again, let’s give a few examples:
Write real reviews – take the time to review products, books, etc. that will be helpful to your target market. Share your insight into these products. Did you like it? Why or why not? What stood out most? This type of helpful information – unpaid, unbiased – can help you develop a trusting relationship with your customer base. It teaches them they can count on you to give an honest, in depth, unbiased opinion.
Create helpful videos – Do you sell a product that takes more than two steps to use? Even if you think something is obscenely easy to operate, there is at least one person out there, staring in confusion at a page of directions. There are tons of video creation products out there; if you have a little bit of time and initiative go that extra step and create a “how to use this product” video.
Build relationships – Easier said than done, you say? Pfft. Building relationships is easy; it’s keeping them that’s hard. Maybe it’d help to treat social media like a tactical exercise. Lure people in by following them on Facebook and Twitter. Buy them on Empire Avenue. Then, when they least expect it – as soon as they follow or buy you back -, attack them with engaging, witty repertoire! They’ll be so surprised, they’ll be sure to join your side.
Sometimes, you can’t beat out the competition in the SERPs. Sometimes you can’t beat the competition online at all. What you can do, however, is create a small niche – not a niche market, but a small niche of friends, satisfied clients, engaged readers and happy followers.
These people turn into your personal cheerleaders. They’re your small, yet effective marketing team. They say, “Ooh, have you checked with good products, awesome customer service… Maybe you can buzz them on Twitter with your question.” In fact, they say a lot of really nice, really helpful things – AND, they say these things to people who trust them. You can’t beat that kind of marketing.
In conclusion, don’t be afraid to go the extra mile. Don’t be afraid to give extraordinary customer service. In this economy or any other, the extra touches really make a difference.