Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Know Thy Customer

This post was originally published in the September 09 issue of the P29 Consulting e-Journal.

The effective use of social media is to understand your customer before implementing a social media plan. Whether you sell B2B or B2C, having a fundamental understanding of the buying process of your customer is as imperative for social media as it is for any other form of sales, marketing or PR.

Best Buy and Ford Motor Company are two large corporations that have implemented social media programs that work to reach their customers.

Best Buy gives us a great visual of their “TwelpForce” in a television ad that shows one person getting advice from a stadium of Best Buy employees. Best Buy stock has shown gradual growth over the last six months and in July implemented “TwelpForce” .

What is Twelpforce?

According to the company website posted on 08-21-2009 04:08 PM

“Twelpforce is a new service from Best Buy for people to ask tech questions to Best Buy employees via micro blogging site Twitter.

The promise we’re making starting in July is that you’ll know all that we know as fast as we know it. That’s an enormous promise. That means that you will be able to ask us about the decisions you're trying to make, the products you're using, and look for the customer support that only we can give. And with Twitter, we can do that fast, with lots of opinions so you can make a decision after weighing all the input. It also lets others learn from it as they see our conversations unfold”

Best Buy employees sign up to be part of the TwelpForce visiting this website http://bbyconnect.appspot.com/about/ .The process, as well as Tips & Expectations are posted for employee reference.

Best Buy encouraged its employees who are already using Twitter and familiar with the practice to participate; the corporate office monitors the activity through the hash tag #Twelpforce. (A hash tag is the practice of using a # in front of a word to make it more searchable on the web.)

Best Buy understands that its customers normally go to their stores and ask the staff to help them make decisions about purchases. The customers believe that the staff is knowledgeable and can assist them in making an informed decision about a variety of products.

Ford Motor Company has approached their social media plan by recognizing that most customers are researching vehicle options prior to an automotive purchase, have strong brand loyalty and that our cars become part of our lives.

Facebook and Twitter profiles have been set up in the name of separate divisions and Models.

On Twitter: @FordDriveGreen addresses environmental issues and plans that are so important to car buyers recently. @FordCustService is monitored Mon-Fri 8 am - 5 pm EST by Shawn and Mike. They tweet about car maintenance and specials being run. Followers will begin to know Shawn and Mike as well as their local mechanic, thus making a huge corporate machine seem close and in touch with their needs.

@FordMustang and @FordTrucks have Twitter identities as well as Facebook pages. Information about changes to upcoming models is released. Pictures and video of the exceptional performance of their products are posted as well as pictures comments of their raving fans. Ford has been able to bring the local car show to the internet.

The best businesses are built on fulfilling customer needs. What do your customers need? If they need a lot of input and guidance, do as Best Buy has done and find a way to get them the assistance of more than one customer service representative. If your customer needs to be approached on many different levels, consider a segmented approach such as Ford.

The beauty of social media is that it is as flexible as you need it to be and can be customized to showcase your brand or product to your customers in a way that is best for them.

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