The times are unrecognizable for some given customer use of mobile devices and all the ramifications – showrooming, price checking, instant scan of reviews, and more.
Still, for SMBs and others, a fundamental hasn’t changed – the need to listen.
I made this point in a recent presentation, going so far as to say that it’s asinine to run a business without full understanding of the target audience.
Then I saw a post on inc.com that asked the question, “Why pay customers to talk about you when they will do it for free?” http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/5-ways-to-make-customers-ambassadors-without-a-referral-program.html
The piece is about referral programs, but the more pressing point made is how businesses of any size have information at their fingertips.
The first tip was to monitor who's talking about you, then get in touch.
Granted, as we’ve said many times on this site, an SMB’s core job is to make sandwiches, dry clean clothes, or turn out lattes that bring us back for more.
But in these days of social networks, the job is incomplete without a review of the chatter on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere.
The Inc. article says that businesses must take the next step and interact with those who are talking. That’s critically, important, of course, but for many SMBs who are overwhelmed, listening is all that can be accomplished.
That’s fine. It’s better than having your head buried in the sand – or whole wheat bread and a wide variety of condiments.
There are certainly other ways to get feedback. Try striking up a conversation. The customer might actually look up from his or her device and see value in voicing an opinion or like the fact that you care enough to ask.
Then there are other communications channels, including opt-in mobile programs. The conversation takes many shapes – if an offer is redeemed or you can fill a room after sending out information about an open house, you have information. Other times, there’s an avenue for the customer to answer a survey or respond to a one-off question.
There is ample proof that we’re listening less in our own homes. In a connected society, we’re more disconnected. That’s certainly not good news for the family unit.
But in business, not listening is a recipe for disaster.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program http://Goo.gl/t3fgW, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.