Today’s consumer marketing landscape is not as straightforward as it used to be. Before the internet age, before things like Facebook, Snapchat, and Yelp even existed, you could deliver impressive results with a catchy 30-second ad on FM radio, a prime time TV spot capped off with your clever slogan, or a half-page placement on a glossy, niche magazine.
But these traditional tactics no longer cut it. Consumer marketing today requires consumer brands to be more data-driven, socially savvy, and customer-centric than ever. Equipped with and empowered by tools and apps for actively sourcing information and making educated decisions, consumers are now in control of the buying process far more than brands are in control of the selling process.
As business author Jim Blasingame wrote in Forbes, “The Age of the Seller is succumbing to the Age of the Customer.”
It’s high time for your brand to transform into a customer-focused organization. Here are 6 essential tools to help you do just that.
1. Listing Management
Planting your flags across digital properties is fundamental to the success of your campaigns. Back then, a yellow-page listing on a physical phone book might have sufficed, but in order to market effectively to today’s consumers, your brand must be easily discoverable across multiple platforms and channels, including search engine results, mobile apps, and social media — as well as the real world.
If customers can’t find you using their preferred way of finding businesses, they’ll look elsewhere.
We know it takes time, but you have to create or claim your business listings on all the sites where people may look for you. Google My Business, Moz Local, and KnowEm are some of the tools you can use to make listing management easier and less time-consuming.
2. Customer Surveys
Key to becoming a customer-centric brand is your ability to capture feedback and understand the needs, expectations, and thoughts of your customers. Customer surveys help you develop that ability, while also providing a simple yet effective method for measuring satisfaction, identifying who is happy (and who isn’t), benchmarking your performance, and gaining valuable insights that help you deliver on your brand promise.
3. Social Listening and Engagement
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other popular social media websites and apps can serve as a great platform for you to engage and develop meaningful relationships with your target audience. Social media has even transformed how brands handle customer complaints and respond to needs and expectations.
The good news is that there’s a wide range of tools for building your brand presence on social media — without having to manually log into each site. Some of the most widely used social listening and engagement tools include Sprout Social, Buffer, Hootsuite, and Mention, all of which also have robust analytics and reporting capabilities.
4. Reviews and Feedback Management
Online reviews on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, and Citysearch heavily influence modern consumers’ purchase decisions — even more so than branded social media content, natural search engine results, advertising messages, and information provided by salespeople. And just like customer feedback shared in survey responses, reviews also serve as a valuable source of information that you can use to foster business improvements.
The world’s most customer-centric brands recognize the importance of embracing, instead of fearing, online reviews. A tool like ReviewTrackers enables your brand to consolidate online reviews and customer feedback from all the sites and channels you care about — in one easy-to-use dashboard — while also providing access to features that help you analyze customer sentiment, respond to reviews, and protect your brand reputation.
5. Influencer Outreach
Celebrity endorsements used to be one of the most effective tactics for improving brand visibility and acquiring new customers. In the Age of the Customer, this falls under a broader marketing category — influencer outreach — which involves cultivating relationships with opinion leaders, industry experts, social media stars, bloggers, reviewers, and other influential figures (celebrities still count), then persuading them to promote and become ambassadors of your brand.
6. Cause Marketing and Community Involvement
While it may not seem clear how being socially responsible and community involved can equate to being customer-centric, you must recognize that the goals and values that your brand shares with the community can positively impact your customer relationships.
- Recent research published in the Advanced Science and Technology Letters shows that a company’s demonstration of corporate social responsibility has a positive effect on brand image, consumer trust, and customer loyalty.
- Nielsen, meanwhile, found that 55 percent of global online consumers are willing to pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.
Simply put: customer-centric brands with cause marketing, corporate social responsibility, and community involvement initiatives give people a social reason to become and remain loyal. To help you organize and manage your campaigns, check out tools like CafeGive, Facebook Causes, and Google for Nonprofits.
Having high-quality and competitively priced products and services are always going to be fundamental to the success of your campaigns. This is not going to change. But you can gain a competitive advantage by crafting brand experiences that leave a lasting impact on your customers. With these essential marketing tools, you can quickly build a customer-focused brand that succeeds and thrives in the “Age of the Customer.”
Brian Sparker is Head of Content Marketing for ReviewTrackers, the award-winning review management and customer feedback software that elevates the voice of the customer and enables brands to innovate based on customer feedback. The ReviewTrackers platform empowers businesses with data analytics and actionable customer intelligence to help them manage online reviews, improve brand reputation, optimize the customer experience, and make data-driven decisions that result in increased profitability.