2013: The Rise of Customer Service Marketing (and Techipedia’s New Direction)

The social media marketing landscape has changed in the past 3 years.

With intermittent signal, you’ll struggle to build momentum around your product or service.

If you don’t do it right, you might not even want to do it at all.

Social Media is an Answer but it’s Not THE Answer

Those of you who know me know me as someone who was an early proponent about the importance of social media. I was selling social media services before most of today’s practitioners even realized what social media is. My book, The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web, which was published by top tech publisher O’Reilly in 2009, was one of the first books about social media and was translated to German, Italian, Chinese, and Portuguese, becoming a best seller on digital marketing in a number of countries.

Social media marketing still is incredibly important, yet difficult, for businesses to embrace. Many don’t do it well, mostly because they are hiring an outsourced company with staff that doesn’t necessarily have the same passion in a company’s mission as the company members themselves. Most don’t really know what they want out of their engagement; they don’t set clear goals and set themselves up for failure. At the end of the day, social media is important. It can be difficult to do it right between the snake oil salesmen making all kinds of promises and the amount of noise out there compared to the amount of signal. To do it well, a company needs a full time person spending every hour of the workday (and nights and weekends too) engaging in online networking. Small businesses in particular don’t have the manpower for it. Most large businesses have several people doing it. Not everyone will gain their footing and give up altogether. For some, social media simply isn’t worth the effort that it would take.

Clients who have worked with some of the big names in the social media industry and have had miserable results have approached me. I end up being hired to suggest the appropriate direction or to fix the problem. But I realize that the problem may go beyond any social media marketing strategist. Unless you’re able to eat, drink, sleep, and breathe social media, it just may not work for you.

The truth of the matter is, people still think social media marketing is the answer to everything they need for their business, and that can’t be further from the truth.

Social media marketing lets you market (read: raise awareness) for your company using available online tools and platforms. But what it isn’t is an ideal tool for customer service, and social media marketers often are focused on marketing and not on support.

Social Media Marketing is Only as Good as Your Customer Service

Why do companies with poor customer service think that social media marketing will change the public perception of the company? It won’t. If you don’t respond professionally, you can lose a customer and maybe a boatload of other customers too. After all, a satisfied customer tells 3 friends, but an angry customer tells 3,000.

Moreover, we live in a real time society now, thanks to Facebook and Twitter. Being responsive everywhere, especially email responsiveness, is paramount. These days, an email that is responded to quickly is extremely well received. It also still, quite honestly, surprises people. A lot.

I’ve surprised many people with my response times. I also have seen that my promptness has caused people to come back to doing business with my clients again and again over the competition.

I want to continue to surprise people on a slightly larger scale. I want them to be excited to be doing business with you too.

Therefore, I announce the launch of Real Time Email, my new venture with the goal of working with a few select clients to offer real time email support. Email organization is my forte and it’s something that I can easily respond to quickly. Instead of being focused on ROI for programs that may not even amount to anything, we can focus on real problems needing real solutions.

Marketing often loses sight of that.

Companies jump to market their business without addressing communications internally and externally. That’s a fatal flaw.

 

Customer Service? That’s it?

Exactly. But it’s so much more. Let’s go back to the Cluetrain Manifesto. Markets are conversations. In many cases, those conversations need to touch upon the root of the problem, customer service, before they even think about marketing. If we’ve learned anything in the last decade, it’s that those conversations are happening at a very rapid pace. Now’s the time to outshine the competition by doing the responsiveness in real time.

I thought of Craig Newmark the other day. You know him, right? He founded Craigslist. Instead of electing to run his powerhouse, he decided to work behind the lines, solving real problems worth solving. This is what I aspire to be — and I even told him so.

Customer service often falls by the wayside because people are chasing what’s bigger and better. These days, it’s social media marketing. Social media marketing is put in the spotlight while the customer is ignored, but hey, companies are doing their best at that marketing so it’s okay.

It’s not okay by me.

I find myself more excited about going to work when I am solving problems for customers, the true nature of customer support, than when I am trying to figure out a marketing plan that doesn’t necessarily meet expectations.

Social media isn’t necessarily the answer. Those resources would be better spent with Real Time Email.

Marketing Works, but it’s Not a Silver Bullet

I remember talking to one of my colleagues back in the day and asking him how he addresses his clients as it relates to fulfilling guarantees and promises within social media marketing campaigns. He replied matter of factly, “social media marketing is a gamble. Our efforts may or may not be well received. We can do what we can and fulfill our end of the deal, but it’s up to human psychology to respond to our overtures.” Another one of my colleagues in the digital marketing space worked on an AMAZING charity campaign just a few months ago that I personally was really excited about. The collateral was great. The messaging was great. I observed it from the sidelines and it flopped. It failed miserably. It was then that I realized digital marketing is a substantial investment for which unless you have hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars annually (or a GREAT idea), you will have a hard time seeing the success you’ve invested so much in. Why pour all that money away when you can focus on doing a great job at getting a satisfied customer to actually tell 3,000 friends?

That’s my goal with Real Time Email. Together, with social media marketing, companies will shine again. My goal is to put your company in the limelight again to wow your customers similar to the Zappos experience (without really being Zappos).

Who’s with me?

14 Comments

  • andrew says:

    Brilliant. Saddling up the old work horse (email) and focusing on the core of business (the customer experience). Well done, you genius you. Can I say that I called it when this is uber successful? I said it first … on this thread, anyway.

    • ha, thanks Andrew. :) Very excited for this venture.

      • Gail Gardner says:

        Doing email marketing better is the main topic in the MarketingSherpa post I shared and what I emphasized in Small Business Priorities for 2013.

        Too many people think that just setting up a list and sending out any old email = email marketing. Every company can keep improving what they’re doing. It isn’t simple, but it is essential for growing your business.

        I believe we will see many more agencies learning to integrate email marketing with social media marketing. Constant Contact has moved in that direction and offers excellent content on their blog. Many of us are learning to use FeedBlitz because it integrates smm and email marketing.

        I finally identified the best resources for email marketing and that is how I am learning it so that I can then mentor others in how to do it better. I listed them in my post yesterday on Excellent Small Business Writers.

        That post proves what we already know: that even if you hand them a tweet through adding their Twitter username on it, most don’t even know to retweet it – not even the brilliant people I name in that post. :-)

  • Gail Gardner says:

    As usual, you are absolutely right. For many years now huge numbers of people have been “doing” social media – trying to figure out what will work – when the answer was right there in front of us all the time: customer service.

    Every company gets complaints – some deserved, many not. It is what they do to RESOLVE those complaints that will get “a satisfied customer to tell 3000 friends”. Customer service WILL make a comeback as people stop focusing on cheap and start focusing on relationships.

    Ironically, social media online has taught us what the media has conditioned us to ignore: that relationships with other people are what matters.

    I know you don’t really want to write another book, but you could benefit the world by mentoring a few in what you’ve learned in social media – or writing some posts on how you organize Hootsuite accounts or what strategies you use on each platform.

    They would benefit people like me who will use them to support small businesses. I realized years ago that small businesses are NOT going to be able to blog and do social media right. I have been promoting the solution to social media savvy bloggers for years and they honestly are still not really understanding so we’re rolling out turnkey sites to SHOW THEM what I meant.

    I lay that all out in the interview MarketingSherpa published last week on Small Business Marketing in 2013.

  • scott graham says:

    First of all great article & love your website to, as a business that manages websites & facebook pages for small business’s in Ireland, it really does amaze me how many people do not reply to mail, especially facebook mail. I have seen a potential customer email a client to there facebook page and the hours have dragged on & eventually I have called the company and asked them to respond to the potential customer.

    Will be looking more into the real time email.

    thanks scot

    • Hi Scott,

      Yeah, this is a big problem. In the Page’s defense, though, this is a bug with Facebook in that messages aren’t visible and can often take time to show up on the page — even while the poster is able to see it. It’s very strange.

      If Facebook would make sure all messages got sent to email, that would solve a lot of this problem, but Facebook thinks the solution is to make you go to Facebook.com, which they’d be doing anyway. :(

  • Nick Huhn says:

    Very cool, Tamar. I think you’ll find success in surprising and delighting your clients’ customers on what I’d consider their primary and preferred means of contact. Rock on!

  • Jamilali says:

    Awesome post. I believe getting a satisfied clients review always helps in increasing sales and creditability.

    Editor’s Note: Thanks Konnektor, but I’ve edited your comments in accordance with my blog policy. Please use your name. Not a huge ask.

  • Jacobus says:

    You are so right about some of the things above Tamar. Customer service is so incredibly misunderstood, it isn’t even funny. But what I also want to note is the need for a good customer service is to a certain degree the lack of a good quality control on all levels within the company. And yes, you are right that social media is by no means a replacement for customer service. Customer service is hard work. And what you say about “relationships between people that matter” I can give you an example. I was doing what I call “damage controle customer management” (which is basically getting clients back that decided not to use your company anymore because of upsets) for a client. He had a printing company. His biggest client of all a sudden quit buying. I visited the client and asked a simple question: “Why?” He first didn’t want to tell me but finally he showed me some crappy product. I told him: “Really? And you accepted this? This is a piece of crap! Whatever happens, I will make sure he is going to produce a decent product for you first!” Guess what, the guy needed some more and I walked out of the door with an order of tens of thousands of dollars extra. So you are right! It is all about building relationships and sometimes really telling the client he is absolutely right that he doesn’t want to buy from you (if you screwed up) and then FIX IT! Anyway, my two cents. Enjoyed reading your post.

  • Joel K says:

    It’s all about the customers. It always has been and always will be. We tend to try and do things the way we want, and not in the way that the customers want. Thanks for this post. Very insightful!

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