There’s a paradigm shift in marketing that is slowly taking place — marketing tools are focused more on helping the customer, and less on selling to the customer. A great Harvard Business Review article, “Invest in Your Customers More than Your Brand,” sparked this post.
For the past few years, I’ve been telling clients that they should be spending less effort and dollars on clever advertising and promotions, and focus more on helping their customers. Too often that’s met with puzzled looks.
Which businesses excel at helping?
Amazon is a master of this concept. By giving their customers tools to make the most educated, best purchase decision, Amazon benefits with increased transactions and profits as a result. Apple’s success has also been rooted in how they touch customers with real-life service people in their stores — through hands-on troubleshooting at the Genius Bar or by helping you decide what product to buy. They are friendly, approachable and knowledgable. They are stewards of their brand and helpful at every turn.
It’s the same reason neighborhood plant nurseries, hardware, pet or book stores survive. It comes down to the people and their ability to do a better job in helping you make a purchase decision or solve a task. I’d gladly pay more at a store that greets me with an expert who smiles and answers my questions.
If you are an online business, how can that translate to you?
I would suggest you look at all your customer touch points and invest in making those experiences truly helpful. Here’s a short checklist:
- Website Navigation: Is it intuitive? Is information easy to find?
- Your Story: Are you sharing with your prospects and customers the fundamental reasons for your company’s existence? Research shows how important this is.
- How-To Videos or YouTube: Have you created videos to show your customers how to use your product or service?
- Access to Experts: Do you have a blog or other material that helps customers learn about your topic area from experts, either internal or external?
- Reviews or Testimonials: Are you showing potential customers what ALL your customers are saying?
- Social Networks: Are you available and responsive on the networks where your customers spend much of their time?
- Customer Support: Is this easily accessible either through phone, chat or email?
- Frequently Asked Questions: Do you answer basic questions for your customers?
I understand why many traditional marketers don’t feel comfortable investing in these areas versus spending dollars on more “proven” methods like advertising and promotions. They view the traffic that traditional tools can drive as incremental awareness. They can point to an ROI. But too often, it’s a wasted and limited-time effort. Instead, why not invest in helping those customers you do attract, and let their positive word-of-mouth spread again and again and again?