As a small business owner or marketer, the best marketing tactic you can use when looking to find new customers is to create online conversations with buyers. You’ll benefit by engaging with decision makers that are searching for answers and help on the issues and problems that your products and services solve.
There are two secrets to success in the new business battlefield of getting found online.
Secret 1: Create and publish exceptional, problem-solving content regularly on your company website.
Secret 2: Start and participate in engaging, authentic, no-hype online conversations with buyers that search online for products and services like yours.
Buyers Evaluate You Without Contacting You
In any type of economy, decision makers carefully evaluate solutions by researching online extensively before buying. It’s really so easy for buyers to get answers to most questions about products—simple or complex—by using search engines, YouTube, social networks like LinkedIn (business-to-business) and Facebook grows more influential daily. Soon Facebook users will ask each other more and more for opinions on purchases of all kinds instead of going to a search engine to sift through tons of information. Empowered buyers have multiple online options to learn about yours and your competitors’ products and services from trusted sources —not necessarily your business website.
Because the information-overloaded Internet provides every possible type of content about products, buyers can learn most of what they need to make a purchase decision, before contacting your company directly. Your solution may be added to a buyer’s short list and evaluated without ever contacting your company.
From YouTube videos, to audio Podcasts, archived and live webinars, there are endless options for buyers to seek opinions and recommendations from industry websites, friends, family, and colleagues.
Consumers and BtoB Buyers Look for Online Opinions
Then there are strangers who have posted their opinions of products and companies online. Consumers can click over to Yelp or Urbanspoon.com for reviews of local services or restaurants among others.
Technology decision makers use ITToolbox.com for peer opinions about the quality of each vendor’s products/services and even about which company’s white papers are valuable. BtoB buyers also ask their LinkedIn connections for recommendations on which companies are best for specific products and services. Lots of other sites provide user and buyer evaluations: Epinions.com/btech, Consumersearch.com, Toptenreviews.com and Buzzillions.com are just a few of the popular sites that offer reviews.
Time to Go Beyond a Basic Business Website
How do you make your business stand out? Wouldn’t you like to host a website that prospects and customers trust for real help in solving problems? A website that goes beyond datasheets, specifications and product descriptions and offers valuable help and assistance to solve real-world problems?
What would happen to your sales and business growth if you built an online gathering place where your customers come for answers? And then these loyal customers pause to post a comment on your site and rave about your products/services? Publicly? Online? Or send their colleagues and friends a link to your website? What’s not to love? It’s time to rethink your small business website and marketing strategy. Don’t just think business website. Build an online community around your products and your services.
7 Reasons To Build An Online Customer Community
1. Rise above the clutter of your competitors. Traditional one-way marketing effectiveness is completely over for all but the largest brands with the biggest budgets. Corporate-speak press releases, run-of-the-mill Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), advertising, trade show exhibits and 4-color brochures alone won’t bring in the suspects, prospects and leads. Your website must be packed with valuable, educational, non-self-promotional content.
2. Two-way conversations are the key to successful small business marketing. You’ll benefit from providing as many opportunities as possible for getting closer to the ‘3-foot sales conversation’ with prospects who visit your website. The Internet is now another channel to engage in conversations of all kinds, especially business conversations.
Your goal is to start authentic conversations that result in customer relationships, sales leads and prospects. The best way to create an online conversation on your website, is to offer trustworthy, non-salesy content. Lots of rich, no-one-else-is-sharing-it kinds of content. The kind of content that none of your competitors offer.
3. Encourage word of mouth marketing by making it easy for your raving fan customers to tell others about how valuable your company is. Word of mouth marketing by your customers to their friends and coworkers is (still) the best marketing ever. Most of us prefer to have a recommendation about a company or product from a trusted person (word of mouth).
According to Erik Qualman, author of the book, Socialnomics, How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business, 78 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations and only 14 percent trust advertising when making purchase decisions.
An online community website that allows visitor comments makes it convenient for your best customers to post testimonials about great experiences with your company. Check out Service-Now.com, a business-to-business service provider for examples of recorded, innovative webinars that include customer testimonials. They’ve also built an exceptional, content rich, online IT Services Management community for their customers and industry.
4. Build trust and credibility among your prospects, customers, suppliers, and partners. Be the first one in your industry or area to offer a community website that provides genuine’ above and beyond the call of duty’ help. You’re not just selling at your online community. You’re building trust and credibility by taking the time to offer unbiased help for the community of buyers facing the kinds of problems your products and services solve.
5. Deepen customer loyalty and enjoy the profitability of retaining hard-earned customer relationships. In addition to helping you attract new customers, an online community provides value to your existing customers. Your website becomes an ongoing trusted resource for information. Your company becomes known for more than just great products and services. Wouldn’t you love for your company website to be the definitive source for help and answers when customers’ and users have issues to resolve?
6. Get your website found by buyers at the right time. The more often you create and publish, exceptional how-to articles, case studies, instructional videos, insightful interviews, and authentic customer testimonials, the better you’ll rank in the search engines. The more frequently you publish fresh content on your site, the greater your chances are of being indexed regularly by the search engines and being found when a potential customer types in keywords or sentences related to their problem or goal.
7. Turn customer support into a competitive advantage. An online community can differentiate you from the competition and result in savings on customer costs. Go beyond the everyone-has-one ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page. In an online community, or forum, customers can answer each other’s questions. Sometimes the best answer will come from your customers and not your staff. Combine customer service and social marketing like Zappos (blog posts by customer service employees) and Freshbooks’ Community Forum. (Fresh Books provides cloud accounting.)
Make it your mission to transform your small business website into a valuable, problem solving resource for prospects, users and customers. Then watch your website visits increase and your business grow.image: istock