Do you remember this 1989 commercial from United Airlines? The quality of this copy is not very good, but take 30 seconds to listen to this video before reading this blog.
How does this video make you FEEL? Can you relate? I love how the actor refers to his customers as “Friends” and explains the reason they lost this account was because their customers “just didn’t know us anymore.” He laments on how business had been reduced to a phone call or fax, followed by another fax. Sound familiar? Except now we would say we sent an email, followed by a text, then a comment on LinkedIn. The times have changed but the problem has not; business relationships still need the human touch.
Throughout my career, I got clients (and kept them) based on the relationship and trust we established through times of talking, planning, and being with them when they needed me. Yet, over time, and as our businesses get larger, it is a tendency to rely on things other than human interaction to cover the minimum required touch points that make us feel like we’re doing the right things.
We see examples of companies that seem to have lost touch with the pulse of their market. This week Nintendo was chastised as being “Tone Deaf” and we saw what happened as JC Penney took a path that their customers did not want to to follow. We know where that got them.
So how do you keep connected to your valued customers in this digital age?
Go Where Your Customers Are
I’m not saying that we abandon the use of digital marketing, but I am saying that we need to know our customers we’ll enough to connect to them where they want to be connected, and with a message they will receive. If you’re on using Social Media like Facebook or LinkedIn, don’t constantly push your message or products. Engage your market by offering information they are interested in and invite them to get involved in the conversation. Find things THEY care about and become a help to them. Step into their world and they will be more likely to step into yours.
Listen to the Market
Social Media is a great way to learn about your market, but far too many companies use this as a place to do all the talking, and they forget the real value is in listening. You can get great insights into customer sentiment, trends, competition, and creative new ways to connect with prospects. Use search tools like Transgility Review Engine Service or even a simple cruise through Twitter feeds to see whats going on. This will help you keep up with the needs of the market and be ready to offer what they will want.
Don’t forget about Face-to-Face
Find creative ways to get in front of your customers. Exhibit at Trade Shows and conferences for your industry. Set up events of your own and invite your customers and prospects to come learn about something THEY would find valuable (don’t make it a sneaky sales pitch, offer real value). At US Leadership, we had quarterly breakfast events that highlighted a dynamic guest speaker. This would bring our customers together to keep them engaged, and we would invite prospects to come see how things can be once they join the program. Stu Schlackman, The Sales Synthesizer, once came and taught our attendees how to better understand the customer in order to sell more. Everyone thought it was a great event and we got to spend quality time with our loyal customers, and even some prospects. It was a low-cost, simple time of meeting together but it had great results.
The Analog Version of Social Media is Best
I am obviously a big fan of Digital Communications, but at the core of every really great business, there is the need for Human Connection. (Read this blog on the Real Value of Networking.) We often remember the people in the process more that the stuff. That’s why having a team of people who believe in your vision and culture, and are the “face” of the company, is so important to your success. Train your team to live out the level of care and excellence that is your vision, and empower them to do what it takes to deliver on the promises of your company. Then every truck driver, customer service agent, account receivable clerk, and sales person, can be the Human touch to your market that builds the loyal customers and brand advocates that you always wanted.
To steal a line from this great United Airlines commercial, if you’re the kind of company that believes “Personal Service” deserves more that “Lip Service”, take steps today to evaluate how you are doing in this area so you never lose the Human Touch in your business efforts. If you want an objective opinion, call me and I’ll come visit you to give you help.
by Robert Hunt of Hunt Consulting DFW
MORE IMPORTNAT LINKS