Setting SalesBy Samuel Greengard Print
Using social media to attract and retain customers and drive revenue requires more than a simple online presence: It requires a focused, well-planned business strategy.
Successful marketing and communication has always relied to a certain extent on human interaction and word of mouth. But interacting with customers, partners and employees has taken on a new meaning. eMarketer predicts that 88 percent of businesses with a hundred or more employees will adopt social media for marketing purposes by 2012.
What makes social media so powerful—and scary—is that a hot product or service can go viral within hours. Conversely, a customer revolt or backlash can materialize out of thin air. In the age of the Internet, it’s nearly impossible to sweep an issue under the rug.
“Companies finally have a way to reach out to their audience,” Dempski says. “For ‘followers’ or people who click the ‘Like’ button, communication is not perceived as spam. It’s entirely welcome.”
Using this medium effectively means connecting with the audience through feeds, microblog posts and other tools. It’s also about offering promotions and incentives that bond customers with the brand. Stuart Crawford, senior advisor and partner at consulting firm Ulistic, puts it this way: “Social networking is very much a sales tool. Sales and marketing professionals can engage with their market and become a trusted resource.” However, it’s about soft sell rather than hard sell, he advises.
A prime example of this concept is Adagio Teas, a 12-year-old retailer that sells premium teas online and in Chicago area stores. The Website, which runs on a Linux server and uses Perl and Mason (the company builds all functionality in-house), offers a spate of social media features.
Customers can post product reviews and ratings, read blogs, participate in “Tea Chat” discussion groups, share information about teas with friends by inputting their Gmail address and password (the site automatically promotes “friend” selections and preferences.), and receive tweets for their order and shipment status. “Social media is at the center of the business,” says CTO Ilya Kreymerman.
One thing that makes Adagio unusual is that the company doesn’t filter reviews for the 200 teas and other products it sells. “Everything is displayed in real time,” Kreymerman says. “Once a customer orders from us and has an account, [the customer] can post at the site.”
This approach, which many companies avoid, actually benefits Adagio in a big way. “We’re able to use the data as market research, he says. “We make decisions about which teas to offer and which to kill off based on a combination of sales and customer feedback.”
Adagio has also tied together an array of other capabilities. For example, customers can create custom tea blends—which the site then shares with other customers. When another customer buys a blend, the creator receives points that lead to a gift certificate. This spurs competitions among customers.
Likewise, Adagio offers points and discounts for sending friends a free $5 gift certificate (once it’s redeemed) via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. Finally, the retailer provides a Facebook “Like” button for all its products, and it uses Twitter to engage customers more fully. “Our goal is to get people passionate enough to visit the Website regularly and talk about us with their friends,” Kreymerman explains.
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