Change can be hard. It may be uncomfortable. Plus, as marketers we always want to recreate that big win – preferably by dusting off and repurposing something we’ve already done (why reinvent the wheel, right?).
However, everything old isn’t necessarily new again – particularly when your industry has disintegrated.
For over a decade, I’ve been a marketer in real estate/mortgage related businesses, in start-ups (SmartZip.com) and with the Big Guys (GE & Fidelity), B-to-B and B-to-C.
With real estate and mortgage businesses in a state of flux (how’s that for PR speak) change is essential so I may continue to grow professionally (not to mention keep a roof over my head).
The obvious first place to grow: Web 2.0.
People are flocking to blogs, social-networking sites and virtual worlds leaving a lot of marketers behind the curve. Think of it as a new way to engage, but you need to change your mind set and engage new principles to do it. Here are a couple tips:
Your customers expect to be part of the process
From product development to package design and communication – get your customers involved! Center your marketing strategies around building two-way relationships. Invite them to participate and provide feedback as much as possible.
Remember: They could be your future evangelists.
Don’t be a broadcast brand
Make your communications two-way. Listen more than you speak. How? Set up a mini site where you can talk to your customers and they can talk to each other! Ask for opinions on everything – and don’t edit! Poor feedback is where we learn the most, plus it’s more authentic when someone has contrary opinions. Asking your customers to build basic profiles is also a great way to understand your demographic and who you’re speaking to.
* Tip: you may learn as much from your customers conversations with one another than direct conversations.
Give them a real reason to participate
Is your customer at the center of the initiative? Are you thinking “what’s in it for them?” They are. Make sure they have a reason to participate: networking, Allow them to give their peers recognition for participation. That way it’s about them more than the company, which will endear you to them. And don’t forget your channel partners! Ask them to participate. Whether it’s contributing to your Wiki, or commenting on your blog.
Resist the urge to SELL
This will be the most difficult, since top line revenue from our programs is how we benchmark our successes (and justify our existence). Don’t beat your customers over the head with ads and marketing-speak. It will feel unauthentic to them, and they will form an adverse opinion. They want you to listen and consider their ideas, but not feel like fish in a barrel. As crazy as it sounds, embrace your community as a “no-marketing” zone.
You are not in control. Get comfortable with it
They’re your customers, not your children. You can not tell them how to respond or act (lewd or uncalled for behavior not withstanding). While as marketers it’s natural to want to steer the conversation back to our products/services – resist. Let the conversation flow freely – even when it’s (gasp) negative. Use a moderator to keep it clean and on course, but don’t control it.
The beauty is one strategy does not fit all and since these are web based, they are easy to deploy measure and change as needed. Test and learn. But most important – learn, or you may perish.