10 Steps if you start from scratch
1) Find your customers in the social web
If your customers and more important, the influencer of your customers are not at least somewhat active in the social web, you can relax. But don’t superficially look around and ‘hope’ nobody is there and leave. We can tell you right here they are there.
How do you find out?
1) go to LinkedIn.com. If you don’t have an account create one for free.
2) Take 50 of your customers (companies) and type in their names – yes, one after the other.
3) If less than 50 % of those companies are not present or those companies are very small, use the contacts you have instead.
4) Back to companies: You will see a list of names. See who you know. It may surprise you that you don’t know most of them. Now think of it: These are active users and influence others. You will want to get to know some of them.
5) You may extend this first exercise and do the same for other sites like Facebook or Twitter. Check SlideShare.com and Youtube.com Here you can only look for names.
2) Get to know your clients
The beauty of those sites is that you very quickly get an idea what your customers are busy with. In order to have a better relationship and faster access to market and influencer, learn what’s on top of their mind. You may even hear them speak about you, your product or service.
Very quickly you know their hobby, you know about their families and much more than you ever imagined.
Already in this second step, you will have ideas how you can be more helpful, and how you can better service them.
3) Remember the profiles of your clients
You may create a spreadsheet with all their locations and make notes when you visited them last time. Keep track of the number of visits and start all over in a few days. Keep in mind the social web is a “real time” engagement. That means in a week from now things have already changed. This gives you new opportunities to interact.
Instead of a spreadsheet you may take a social address book like xeesm.com to keep track of the clients.
4) Visiting your clients
Now try to “visit” your top customers almost daily. Get to know them, leave a comment, be helpful.
There is no other way to be so close to so many customers every day than here. Did we say efficiency? You may already envision how the relationship between you and your client develops with just a few nice notes.
5) Ask questions
Many of the network sites have groups where everybody can ask questions. Use it for your own skills development. You may want to ask how others use social media. You may ask if anybody knows how farmers collaborate when they buy seeds for the next season.
You may be interested how technology reseller service their customers. You may want to ask… You get the idea.
Did you recognize, it’s all about your customers and conversations. We didn’t ask you to blog, we didn’t suggest you go to Twitter and grow your followership. We haven’t suggested you do a video clip or run a “campaign. We also didn’t talk about SEO, RSS or any of the other wide spread technical social media chatter at this point. Why? We want you to walk – before you run.
Now let’s keep going
6) Take a moment to think
By now you have a good idea about where you find your customers. You also probably realized that blasting your promotion into those groups and networks is just not appropriate. So think a moment what you want to do with your experience.
How about taking your customers conversations into two major buckets: Problems and Excitements. On the problem side you will find people who are just having an issue and want to find a solution all the way to those who are really attacking your brand, products or team. But at least by now you know. And then you have people telling other how they use your products or services and why they chose you over others – because every customer had choices. Now work with those two groups. Be available and approachable to both groups. What you see is basically the representation of your end to end customer experience.
7) Solve Problems
We all know that problem solving starts with listening. So you will want to let everybody know that you listen and are trying to fix the problems. We all know that nobody is perfect, even the most frustrated customer knows. Most will calm down as soon as they know that you care. Now try to explore with those customers a solution. And also here an honest discussion where you tell them your limits is much better than new promises that just pushes the issue out and increases frustration. From now on you are off the hook of marketing BS – you are developing a social relationship.
8) Amplify Excitement
OK – You may say there is no excitement. Of course, your customers wouldn’t pitch your product like a sexy blond in a commercial. And if they would, it would be rather suspicious than helpful. If a customer tells a prospect “Well, this product is pretty good. It doesn’t quite do what the add sais but here is why I decided to use it…” This answer has more power than any commercial in the world. All you have to do is amplify the conversation.
This brings you to a point where you will want to do more than just exploring the space but hey – see how far you came!
9) Getting serious
With what you learned so far you are probably at a point to make a well educated decision. GO or NO GO. If you decide NO GO – you do that based on all your experience not because you “felt” it is “probably” not of interest to engage. If you decide for a GO, you have at least quite a good base, you know more about your clients than you did before and get a much better picture when people talk about having a fan page or listening into Twitter or not. At this stage you will probably engage your team – only 20 Minutes a day to meet and converse with your customers, partners, prospects and other player that are relevant to your business.
With the above techniques, an experienced person can visit 50 clients in one hour – there is no other way to be so close to your market.
10) Join the Social Minutes Initiative
Welcome to the club. You learned that you don’t have to be a blogger or twitter rock star to turn social media into a powerful way to do business with your customers. You also probably recognized that you will rather encourage your team to use 20 minutes a day to be present in the web – rather than just guessing whether social media is meaningful for you and your customers.