From Customer Conversation to Conversion


For many organizations, integrating the customer experience with social media remains a challenge. The teams in charge of advertising, product marketing, and public relations are still learning to work together. While those discussions are taking place, the customer is the driver's seat.

Marketing that makes business sense, means taking a look at how you design and build the entire organization, nnot just the promotional end of things. Solid execution is key to results. How do you get all your marketing and communication to work together to deliver performance?

For starters you design a product or service the market wants — use research and feedback to gain insights to learn what works and the promises you were able to keep and look to make better ones in the future.

You may be covering the same road, yet the customer experience will be different each time — for starters, the value you deliver should be different and set you apart.

Just like a good Pininfarina design, you want to have beauty, elegance, and functionality in your marketing and communications to convert content — value proposition expressed with the promise you make, which fuels your business — into performance.

Start by discovering who needs your services.

Since it's possible to take analogies too far, please don't take them for a ride. Allow them to test drive a day in the life of a customer using your product or service. The authentic impressions will help you convert them faster than showing a polished front with no backing.

And while we're talking about cars, is it not time to get a bit more creative with test drives? How is anyone going to switch from a known (read safe/the one they already drive) brand by kicking the tires and taking a 15-minute drive around the block with you?


Where can your organization go when it aligns the teams who are good at creative, those who excel at building relationships, and those who improve products and experiences work together?

Take five areas of opportunity overlap and start looking at tactical improvements to integrate — online and off line. How would you buyers and customers respond to relevant experiences throughout?

Some ideas to get started:

(1.) provide enough information so they can make up their own minds while you get to be useful (the point formerly known as thought leadership)

Think of information, stories, data, product and industry knowledge as the fuel. With the social Web this is more important than ever because your customers are searching online and asking their friends.

Valuable content attracts and spreads.

Who says you can lead only with articles in the Harvard Business Review? Useful information is judged by the reader (your customers), the community (their peers), and the industry (your peers). It equals valuable information and insights.

Once you invested in content, give people ways to share it. Use bookmarking widgets, email to a friend option, syndication (RSS) feeds. Also use outposts with embed codes like YouTube and SlideShare.

(2.) be findable (this is not a hide and seek game)

This is not just SEO. Be where your customers are and give them a compelling reason to invest their time and attention with you. This is not just about reading your message, think kicking the tires on a product demo or checking out your service with you.

It's being in the right place at the right time to get them acquainted with the experience behind the brand. Note to brands: If you use a toll free number, pick up the phone… on the first ring. Every time.

Give people ways to find you online and visit you offline. Participate by bookmarking articles, helpful Q&As — yours and those of others — commenting, using tools suitable for storytelling like Pinterest and Instagram to tell a story.

(3.) listen (this time for real)

If marketing's fuel is content, its engine is sales. Listening occurs between fuel and performance. There are plenty of tools available to start a good listening program and online it's easier than ever to identify who's talking about you and help them talk with you.

In addition to the mechanics of tonality and sentiment, time frame, quality of mentions vs. competition, potential for response and by which department, reach of mention within each network (link backs, retweets, followers, web traffic, subscribers, etc.), you can take action within your listening program.

Give people easy ways to talk with you, then do something with it. Enable comments and trackbacks on your blogs, implement chat boxes on your site, and take action on behalf of customers.

(4.) be responsive (this is an opportunity)

We described before how being responsive increases your reputation index. Let's separate for a moment public display with responding. You don't need to look responsive (public display) to be responsive. A personal email that communicates how you're going to fix the problem is a much better option, for example.

Showing true responsiveness by taking action will give you better mileage with a customer.

Give people ways to know you're responding and where. They may be monitoring only Facebook, for example. Answer online and then follow up with details by email, if the issue involves personal data.

(5.) be of service

This means leaning forward and having that interaction with your customers.

Without this the rest is a house of cards carefully constructed but not believable. A very smart and practical business leader I talked with recently described it this way — lean forward, take the initiative, listen aggressively.

The one time when you have the opportunity to really appreciate your car make and model is when you take it in for service. Is the interaction going to cost you a customer, or is maintenance an opportunity to deepen the relationship with the brand? My car dealership service department makes the brand just by doing this right.

Give people an exceptional experience. Period. No matter where they contact you, lean forward and embrace the conversation. While you're at it, share with them the data you have about their purchases and transactions to help them continue to choose you.


Do you design an experience like this beauty up here? As a customer, I'm pretty sure you still find a way to make that purchase when the experience is worth it. Am I wrong?


[image of marketing-refurbished 2006 Ferrari 612 Kappa, special build by Pininfarina]

[updated from archives]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a speaking engagement click here.

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