One thing is certain: the way people are interacting with customers is changing. The advent of the internet has brought a huge change to the world of marketing. We know this. You, as a marketer, have probably experienced it first hand. You are not just talking to your customer over a television screen and on billboards anymore. Now, your customers are talking back.
Some marketers view this as a problem, or as an obstacle to be dealt with. But this could not be further from the truth. Constant connection to your customer and his/her opinions, wants, and needs, is a blessing for anyone trying to construct a successful marketing campaign. Why? Because it exposes you to a wealth of customer knowledge.
What is Customer Knowledge?
Customer knowledge is essentially the science of knowing your customers- who they are, what motivates them, what they want, need, love, or hate. Customer knowledge takes a marketer and makes him into a psychologist. It forces you to get to know your customer as more than just a number, understanding their buying patterns and consumer needs. In today's market, you cannot successfully sell to your customers without first acquiring customer knowledge.
Back before the internet, marketers would obtain customer knowledge in person, because nobody was buying products or services over the internet. It was easy to know who was buying your products, because they had to appear in the flesh in order to shop for them, or at least speak to somebody over the phone.
But now, many times companies sell their products almost exclusively online. This means that they don't know who exactly they are selling to unless they make direct efforts to acquire customer knowledge. So how do they do it?
Send out Surveys
One of the most common and effective ways to acquire customer knowledge is to send out surveys. With this tool, the options are endless: you can structure your survey as a customer satisfaction survey, asking them questions about their experience with your company and what new things they'd like to see. Within a customer satisfaction survey, you can ask for your customers age, profession, interests, etc. Using their demographic information combined with their customer satisfaction responses, you can usually piece together a pretty good picture of who they are and their customer journey.
You can put this kind of survey directly on your website, send it in an email after someone makes a purchase, or have it exist as a pop up on your products page. Not all customers or potential customers will fill surveys in, but many will, and the information they give you is always, always useful.
The most important thing about surveys is taking the feedback you get seriously. Not only should you use the customer knowledge you receive to help build buyer personas of who your customers are, but you should respond to any and all customer concerns immediately. Your customers will be far more likely to fill out surveys in the future if they know that by doing so, their voice will be heard.
Use a Good CRM
Because of the unique challenges that online sales and marketing create, Customer Relations Management software is extremely common today for all size companies. In the past, it was easier to keep track of your customers and their habits because you had a brick and mortar shop for them to visit. Now, customers are much more elusive. It drives many marketers crazy knowing how many potential customers they have out in the interwebs at any given moment, browsing their website or clicking through their newsletter. CRM systems help you to capture these people.
Good CRM's essentially track your buyer's every click. They keep track of each person's interactions with your website and with your employees, inputting it all into a cohesive "buyer journey" that your sales department can look at whenever they need it. Having this smart technology to help you keep track of the actions of your customers is very helpful at a time when it's important to know what websites your customers are visiting AND what link they used to get there. This kind of customer knowledge is helpful for nurturing campaigns and closing in on deals with new customers, as well as keeping track of your retention rates and churn.
And Get a Good CRM Manager
CRM software is helpful, but it won't replace a human CRM manager. A lot of companies hire a customer relations management manager to collect customer knowledge, monitor customer relations, address customer related incidents, create strategies for customer surveying/polling, and maintain a positive customer experience in general.
A lot of CRM managers obtain customer knowledge by having a strong social media presence. By keeping track of what people are saying about you online, you learn a lot about your customers and can get a feel for who your general demographic is. You can also directly ask for feedback if someone is talking about your company and you think they might be willing to further the conversation.
Another thing CRM managers can do to obtain customer knowledge is create a sales strategy that involves personally connecting with customers. When your sales people are taking interest in your customers lives', it makes your customers feel good, and helps you to acquire some useful customer knowledge.
One thing is for sure- marketing in today's climate without good customer knowledge is impossible. If you don't know who your customers are, your sales and marketing efforts will be wasted on catering to the wrong people and solving the wrong problems.