Just because you have been speaking to your customers in the same way for the past decade or two, doesn’t mean that the way you communicate with them is still relevant today.
Communication best practices, trends and and preferences evolve at a rapid pace, and it's your responsibility to ensure that you effectively utilise the communication platforms available to you.
Current state of customer habits:
A recent study conducted by GfK South Africa shows, among others:
- More South Africans have access to the internet than not.
- Customer experience is important. Consumers expect products and services to be available when they want them – at any time, at any location, and on any device. Around 57% of consumers expect service or customer support to be available at all times. The demand for instant access to services and products is higher among people below 35 years of age. This means that you should focus on ensuring that your shop and services are front of mind at all times, on the platforms utilised by your potential customers.
- Due to the economic situation, South African consumers are becoming less loyal to brands and seek the best prices. Around 70% of local consumers say they shop around for the best value. Consumers also embrace the internet for bargain hunting:
- 88% of connected consumers use the Internet to find products they want;
- 45% use the Internet to purchase a product or book a service
- 40% check prices and services online before contacting or visiting a store
- 65% have used a mobile phone to help them shop in the recent past.
- Customers demand transparency when they make their choices, and are more eco-conscious, with considerations including:
- Buying products and supporting businesses that match their values;
- Where and how a product is made;
- How ecologically responsible the brand or business is.
How do you measure up?
Based on general consumer behaviour, you must ask yourself the following questions:
- Does your panel shop address the needs and wants of your customer? Are you present online? Can your potential customers find you on social media, and read more about your services on your website?
- If you don't have a website, are you effectively utilising the space available to you on the SAMBRA website, where each member has access to a one-page business page that they can fill with content?
- Why do you shy away from using social media for your business, when you may be an active user in your personal capacity?
- Are you utilising smarter ways to communicate with your customers?
- Are you tracking, measuring and analysing your communications (website, email and social media activity), and are you making the necessary adjustments to cater for your customers' needs?
Imagine knowing that the client who never reads your mails is the same person who complains about never receiving any notifications from you? Imagine realising that the page on your website that requires the most work to update does not generate any traffic? Imagine knowing that your Twitter account is being followed by some of the most influential motoring journalists in the country and that your posts can make or break your business reputation?
If you are an association manager or business owner who regularly engages with your audience via email, your website or social media, and you do not measure your messages’ performance, you are doing it wrong!
Social media: Where do you stand?
Consumers are increasingly expecting businesses to extend their customer service to social networks? And as illustrated in the consumer behaviour research above, customers want access to your shop's news, services, and customer support tools at all times.
In addition, it is now commonplace for consumers to use social platforms as their soapbox for complaints because they believe that a public complaint will generate action, while a telephonic or email complaint will remain hidden.
Social media isn't just a place where you dump everyday information. You can promote specials, engage with your customers on a personal level, respond to queries, compliments and complaints and – most importantly – you can share information and news with your customers that will give them insights into your business, and how you appeal to their values.
If you are proud of your green practices, talk about it! If you won an award, write about it! Customers want to connect with you. Engage.
How social media savvy are you? 10 signs that your social media strategy needs an intervention:
- You don’t use social media as a business communications tool, or you don't believe that your business could benefit from a social media presence.
- Alternatively, you have jumped on every single social media bandwagon without really knowing where your customers are most active.
- You're all about the likes and followers (and you may even be buying followers), but don’t care about engagement.
- You don’t know how important (or even what) engagement is.
- You don’t want to start a social media page for fear of negative comment.
- You don’t recognise the majority of these terms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat.
- You don’t know how many of your members or customers use social media, and what their vehicle of choice is.
- You believe that the majority of your target market don’t use social media, but can’t prove this fact.
- You casually use social media for your business but don’t know how to roll out a social media communication plan or measure your activity. And you definitely don't know how to live stream, add to your stories, or even whether photographs or videos work better on your social platforms.
- You don’t see the value in sharing value-adding industry information with your customers.
If you recognise yourself in any of the above points, you may need to speak to a professional about helping you up your online game.
Listen to Jenna Gross, chief marketing officer for Moving Targets, who shares some insights into forming your social media game plan, and how to target your social media and online ads.
Email & Newsletters: Signs that you are out of touch with your customers’ needs:
- You still think it’s appropriate to send an overload of information to your audience by means of a PDF attachment.
- You still use the CC or BCC field in your email client to send a mass communication.
- You do not see the value of driving traffic to your website or social network via your email or newsletter.
- Your email signature is currently just an image with no links to your website or social media profiles?
- You haven’t updated your email list in months.
- You send out blanket newsletters on a weekly or monthly basis but have no idea how many of those email addresses are still valid.
- You have no reporting tools in place, so you don't know how many people - or who - read your newsletters, and you don't know which articles you share are most popular.
Lift the curse of bad email marketing practices
If you said yes to at least one of the above, you need to rethink the way in which you communicate.
- Simple changes like using a bulk mail tool manage your sends, or splitting up your list to send region-centric content will make a world of difference.
- Try splitting your content into more readable segments that will entice your readers to click through to your website for more information (which is where those PDFs can also be saved for future download).
- Combine the use of email, SMS and social media updates to spread your message more effectively.
If you speak to your audience in the way they want to be communicated to, and you have the right bulk mail tool to give you the appropriate reporting back-up, your communications will suddenly become much more valuable. In addition, the insights you will gain from your newsletter analytics will drive your content plan going forward.