Where are your customers?

It amazes me that in this day and age companies don’t want to engage their customers on the Internet, despite the fact that this is where a vast majority of them are and where they are actively discussing companies and their products.

They place all their efforts in two key areas, shouting loudly at them while keeping their fingers in their ears through advertising, and manipulating them, telling then what they think they want to hear through their front line sales. Then they sit back and wait for them to call if they get stuck with anything, and usually farm that process out to another company.

Meanwhile customers both current and potential are on the Internet with growing numbers and frequency talking about the company, their products and reviewing them to their friends, family and whoever else is listening.

If someone was standing outside the front door of the company’s headquarters with a big plackard shouting about how they were badly treated would the company ignore them, view the sign dismissively and just tell the staff they aren’t allowed to read it or they’ll be in trouble and close all the blinds?

That’s a great policy. It might stop your staff from seeing it but what about the customers and potential customers reading the sign and walking away from the company? What about the media seeing it and picking it up, building it into a bigger, more unmanageable story and rebroadcasting it to more people?

Well that analogy applies to how many companies are viewing the Internet and the people who use it. Except these people are affecting sales directly and their voice is growing, and that can genuinely do harm to a company these days.

The answer is simple. The company needs to wake up and join the growing number of organisations who address their customers and potential customers on the Internet.

They need to get a team together to look after brand and reputation management online. Get involved on social media, allow their customers to engage the company through these channels and offer pre-sales and support. Address negative comments directly and work with these people to change their opinion or to solve issues and do it publicly so it can be seen by others as a positive, they really do listen.

Monitor blogs, review sites and social channels to find out what the comments are about their company and others so that they can adapt quicker and make themselves better than the competition in the bargain.

Never let a negative comment go undiscussed or unchallenged, for that’s how your reputation can get hurt. Merely being there can increase awareness and show a more positive and willing attitude than not.

Then they need to start some of these channels of their own and get their message out there, directly to the customer. Free, direct sales and marketing with additional direct and quick feedback. Companies pay millions for that currently.

Where are your customers? Where you should be. They’re talking about you and your products. Discussing them with others, broadcasting to the world, and adding reviews of you for others to read. How many customers could you lose through keeping the blinds shut and sticking to the way you’ve always done things?

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