Hush! Let Your Customers Do the Talking

Yesterday, I was flipping through Dr. Liz Alexander’s #Thought Leadership Tweet book and found a statement that really stuck out to me: “If you want to make a real impact with clients, constantly ask if your thought leadership is about them. Does it address their needs?” On one hand, that means making sure the content you produce is helpful and meaningful to your customer/client. On the other, it means being cognizant of their below-the-surface needs. In a marketing sense, that means looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and paying attention to the top layers labeled ‘self-esteem’ and ‘self-actualization.’

Maslows

Deep down, whether you or your customers realize it, they want more than good marketing, quality content, or entertainment. They want to feel important, appreciated, and satisfied. Products and services can provide every ounce of functionality customers are looking for, but unless you address their deeper needs, you are missing out on the bigger picture.

Cue the good news: You can reach some of those deeper needs and improve your thought leadership/brand image at the same time. It begins with releasing some of the control and letting others do the talking for you.

Let Customers Do the Heavy Lifting

While businesses can spend all of their effort and energy talking about how great they are, self-promotion can’t begin to compare to the credibility that comes from customer testimonials. Satisfied customers make the best billboards, and the best part is people love to talk. I’m convinced it’s everyone’s favorite thing to do. People love to talk about themselves, what they bought, how they feel about it, and whether they will buy it again. When a customer feels like their opinion matters, it boosts their self-esteem through the roof. That’s a win-win situation for a company – effective marketing and deeply satisfied customers. Why not let your customers do some of the heavy lifting for you?

How to Relax Your Grip

Most people like the sound of pushing some of the weight onto their customers, but the hard part is deciding which channels of communication to let them have. What do you continue to hold tight to and where do you relax the grip? The way I look at it, there are four ways to begin:

  • Ask. Have you tried asking? Customer feedback surveys are a classic example of letting your customers talk, but are you using them properly? Take the time to develop a unique way of asking and then find a way to use that positive feedback to market your products and services. If you’re stopping at collecting feedback, it’s a missed opportunity. Think about book reviews as an example. If an author were to solicit reviews, but never use them for marketing purposes, what would be the point? Authors want positive reviews to be posted on websites, printed in magazines, and quoted on the back cover of their latest novel. Make sure you’re taking full advantage of feedback by making it seen.
  • Build Communities. Online communities can be a great way to let customers speak up. Create a forum or website in which customers can interact with your brand, share ideas, and give feedback. This allows you to satisfy their need to be heard and lets you collect valuable feedback at the same time. People are more likely to talk in a group setting where everyone shares a mutual interest. Below, I’ll provide an example of how one major company effectively uses online communities to promote customer conversation.
  • Evoke Emotional Response. Emotion is at the heart of every purchase decision, whether we realize it or not. If you can find a way to strike an emotional chord with customers, you can expect positive conversation to follow. Proctor & Gamble was very successful with this approach at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
  • Offer Rewards/Recognition. Sometimes it takes more to turn customers into active ambassadors for your brand. This could mean spending a little more money and effort on engaging customers through a reward system or program. By showing appreciation for loyal customers, you are satisfying a person’s need for self-esteem and self-actualization.

The Professionals

Here are three well-known companies that do an excellent job of letting their customers talk for the brand:

Chick-fil-A-Logo

Chick-fil-A provides us with an outstanding look at the value of evoking emotional response with customers. Their advertising campaigns are unique, humorous, and simple; three things that get people talking. According to Chuck Bradford, Manager of Media Integration at Chick-fil-A, emotion inducing ads should be focused, simple, memorable, likeable, and contain a big idea. Chick-fil-A has been quite successful at hitting each of these key points and has consistently encouraged conversation around the brand.

Coca-Cola-Logo

According to Coca Cola’s Content 2020 advertising strategy, one of its core goals is to “provoke conversations then act and react to the conversations 365 days a year.” This is great example of encouraging conversation and remaining active. The idea is to keep conversation going once it starts.

Starbucks-Logo

Here’s your example for effective community building. Understanding the value in communal conversation, Starbucks developed MyStarbucksIdea.com. This website is an online tool where customers can submit ideas and suggestions, discuss them, and look at previously implemented ideas. The company looks at each submitted idea and determines whether or not it could be helpful. Those little green spill protectors you get in your latte at the Starbucks drive thru? Those are a direct result of the Starbucks community in action. Starbucks’ ability to engage with customers on social media is also worth taking a look at, if you are interested in learning more.

It may be time to start letting your customers do some of the talking for your company. If the successes of Chick-fil-A, Coca Cola, and Starbucks are any indicator, your company could benefit as well. You’re satisfying customers’ emotional needs and gaining exposure in one sweeping effort.

How do you encourage customers to talk about your company?

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Schuyler Richardson

Schuyler was born and raised in Marietta, GA and attended college at the University of South Carolina, where he received a degree in Marketing and Management. He has always enjoyed writing and is now happy to do it professionally. Some of Schuyler’s previous job titles include landscaper, retail sales associate, and marketing intern in a Division I college athletic department. Outside of work, Schuyler has a wide range of hobbies and interests. He is a self-taught guitar player, novice woodworker, and avid sports fan. You can often find him watching his favorite teams: the Atlanta Braves and South Carolina Gamecocks. Additionally, Schuyler lives for the fall, because it means two things: good weather and college football.

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