Craig’s List has been in the news recently, and not for the wholesome side of their site. Rather, it’s simplicity in connecting buyers with sellers has led it to be one of the major sources nationwide for peddling prostitution. Other more wholesome sites have also done well to connect serious realtionship-minded people with others who match their tastes simply because they offer safe and easy ways (“safe” meaning you don’t have to leave your home) to narrow down the dating prospects without having to sit through one bad date after another. Most of these virtual daters spend a great amount of time communicating online with serious prospects before taking the big step and meeting in person. It just makes sense.
So what do online romances have to do with advertising or selling? Well, a lot.
Thanks to the power of the internet, people today are not responding to direct messages (meaning, they’re not ordering a product or setting up a sales call) unless the product is inexpensive and deemed worth the risk, like a Shamwow or those blankets with arm holes. In those cases, people understand they’re taking a risk and simply hope it will work out.
But with bigger purchases, like anything from electronics to homes, people are researching — online — and they’re collecting info in order to limit the number of stores they visit or the number of salespeople they see. Like the online dating sites, they want to know that you have what they want before they step forward and declare to you that they are a sales prospect.
So what’s a good marketer to do? Romance them.
It’s not hard. Like an online suitor, you need to demonstrate online that you not only have what they want, but that you’re an organization that is worth their time and attention. And the only way to do this is to build an online relationship where you are not only selling your products and services, but also providing helpful information in areas related to your business (think Macy’s in Miracle on 34th Street).
First, you need to ASK for viewers of your sites to opt-in to your communication. Do this everywhere you can, without looking desperate. Getting someone’s email address for future communication is like getting a phone number. It’s worthless unless you use it — so use it, and give them a clear picture of how much you know about your industry and how easily you can help them.
With frequent eblasts that link to blogs and special offers, you will be giving people more than they expect from you, and that’s good. You will be seen as an expert that loves your industry, and that passion cannot be underestimated. Think of it: who wouldn’t prefer to buy their home theater system from a company that passes along cost-saving tips, model ratings and reviews, customer testimonials, and even special offers and events? Sure, cost matters. But consumers also know that a responsive company often matters even more. And that’s the image you’ll present when you communicate often.
And don’t be afraid of unsubscribes or even complaints, although complaints must be looked at closely to see if there is a pattern. Instead, focus on those who regularly open and read your eblasts. Those are your most likely short term customers. It’s a little like focusing on the people who laugh at your jokes, rather than the ones who are always checking their watches.
Also, send online surveys via Survey Monkey or a few other sites that do this for you. While surveys can provide good information about your market, they also present a strong statement about your firm’s interest in satisfying customers and prospects. So for little cost and little time, you’re building a better brand in the minds of your customers. Don’t ask more than 5-7 questions though. Research shows that lengthy surveys can actually harm your brand, rather than help it. So keep it short, and simple.
So now as you move forward in this strange economic time, remember to romance your customers. Gone are the days when you can say how much something was and people would buy it. Now you have to get them to allow you to “talk” with them — and then you have to talk your way into a sale.
Best of luck as you move forward.