Times have changed. The days of pushing out marketing messages are long gone. Marketers send messages vertically and most often one-directionally, for example commercials, billboards, banner ads, etc. Social media enables a two-directional conversation both vertically and laterally. Vertically through conversations on social media channels, in email, and over the phone, and laterally through conversations that take place between your customers without you. Sites like Trip Advisor, Yelp, Urbanspoon and even sites like Twitter and Facebook enable this lateral spread of ideas and messages. Lateral conversations take place daily about your brand with or without you, so how can you reward customers that value your brand and how can you convert haters into lovers? The answer is through stalking your customers.
Now I realize that saying the words “stalk your customers” sounds odd and I am sure many of you are thinking, “did she mean to say that? Was that a typo?” No, it’s not a typo and yes, I meant to say that. But when I say “stalk your customers,” I don’t mean find out where they live, work, eat, sleep and play and then follow them around in a trench coat with a video camera following their every move. What I mean is get to know your customers through their posts, tweets, updates on social media, and use that information to build trust, loyalty and intimacy with your customers.
When social media sites first started popping up in the early 2000s, I am sure you all remember how fun it was to stalk your exes, your childhood friends, that barista you had a crush on from your local coffee shop. And you loved social stalking didn’t you? So why not use your investigative skills to find out more about your customers?
I recently watched Gary Vaynerchuk’s 2011 keynote speech at the Inc. 500 seminar and was blown away by a story he told about how he gained a lifelong customer just by stalking them on Twitter. In case you aren’t familiar with Gary, he is an entrepreneur who turned his family’s liquor store into a household name by using the power of social media to drive sales, brand awareness and customer loyalty. Today, he is the president of his own social media marketing firm and was a featured mentor on Bloomberg TV’s start-up accelerator show, “TechStars.”
During Gary’s speech he talks about how his social media marketing firm, VaynerMedia has a department called the “Thank You Department” and that it isn’t a customer service department. To use his own words, “I think of customer service as offense and not defense.” Most businesses’ customer service departments are utilizing defensive tactics, fielding complaints, fixing issues, solving problems while for Gary’s business his “Thank You Department” focuses on offense. What that means is that they actively reward their customers without receiving any feedback either positive or negative from them. In the example he gave of how stalking a customer on Twitter led to gaining a lifelong fan of his business, he demonstrates this idea of having a customer service department focus on offense rather than defense.
From his example, a customer placed a sizeable order to his online wine store. He instructed one of the members of his “thank you department” to find out everything she could about this customer. They spent a month following the customer on Twitter and listening to their tweets and what they heard time and time again was that they loved the Chicago Bears and more specifically quarterback, Jay Cutler. He then had his team member order a signed Jay Cutler jersey off of eBay and send it to the customer. The customer later wrote them an email saying how much he appreciated the jersey and how much it meant to him. He then stated that he has been a regular shopper at a wine store in Chicago, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that the store in Chicago doesn’t even know his name. He is now going to buy all his wine at Gary’s store and that they have gained a lifelong customer. Gary’s wine store now stands to make hundreds of thousands of dollars just by sending this customer a couple hundred dollar jersey. Now that is how you can turn your social media stalking skills into driving sales for your business.