Steve Jobs famously said, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them.” When it comes to envisioning new products, he might have been right — customers don’t always know what they want until you show it to them. However, marketing is different. It’s about building relationships. If you expect a relationship to succeed, you have to listen to what the other person wants.
As a marketer, you can model potential customer buying paths, but guess what? Your customers may or may not comply with them. Perhaps it’s time to stop modeling and start asking them what they want. They just might end up doing your marketing for you.
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1. Make It Easy to Give Feedback
Create easy ways for customers to give feedback on your company and your product. Here are a few ideas from David Politis, CEO of BetterCloud:
Surveys. Keep them short (five to 10 questions), and easy to use. Google Forms can collect survey data and analyze it for you.
Forums. Let customers help each other with product support questions, and pay attention to their feedback. Software like Zendesk can help you manage support tickets, but it offers additional tools for creating community forums.
Contests. Show customers wireframe ideas for your product before releasing it. Then, have a contest asking them which features they’d like to add. The winning feature(s) gets incorporated into the product.
If you operate brick and mortar stores, ask managers to track customer interactions with a product like EZ Forms. When they’re writing shift notes, managers can report customer feedback back to the home office. The feedback can then influence how you market and create your products.
2. Ask Them How Often They’d Like to Hear From You
Many customers exit your lead-nurturing funnel by unsubscribing from your emails. During the unsubscribe process, companies often ask why the customer is leaving, but by then, it’s too late to do anything about it. Instead of waiting for the customer to select “too many emails” from your exit survey, why not just ask them how often they’d like to hear from you at opt-in? Then, if they say they only want weekly emails, don’t bombard them with daily messages.
3. Solicit User-Generated Content
When customers do your marketing for you, you get all of the benefits without having to pay for content. “Customer stories come from the heart and connect with others in a way that corporate marketing departments cannot,” says Ekaterina Walter, co-author of “The Power of Visual Storytelling.” “You just can’t fake sincerity.”
Here are two ways that brands have gotten customers to create content for them:
Tiffany&Co. Tiffany’s “Love is Everywhere” page allows customers to pin a heart to a map and leave a note on the page. Some of the notes are for lovers while others are descriptions of true love moments. Customers can also take photos of true love moments and post them on Instagram using the hashtag #truelovepictures.
Airbnb. Airbnb decided to create a short film consisting entirely of Vines — six-second videos — that were created by their customers. They hired a screenwriter to create a story for them and then released a list of the shots through Twitter. Customers created the Vine shots and submitted them, and Airbnb incorporated their favorites into the movie.
4. Involve Your Brand Evangelists
Find people who are active on social media or in your local communities who also love your products. Think about who these people are what they have in common. Ask them what they’d like to see from your products, and find ways to involve them. For example, if you have a brick-and-mortar store, ask a brand evangelist to come in and do some live product demos, or ask them to host an in-store Q&A. Online, you can invite your evangelists to guest blog, host Twitter Q&As, or judge contests on social media.
5. Create Innovation Circles
As you establish thriving customer community, start going to people with ideas about new products, services, packaging, marketing campaigns, and pricing. Let people beta test them, and make changes using their feedback before the final release.
Let Your Customers Cheerlead
Instead of passively marketing to strangers, get to know your customers, and involve them in your marketing. It will transform both your marketing strategy and your company’s culture.