There’s a lot of power in being able to speak to our customers and end users directly, especially as suppliers. There’s even more power in listening.
People say what they want to say about brands in social media whether we’re there or not. People act as brand evangelists and spread positive comments about our products. They shake their digital fists at us for long queues and faulty goods. People have feature requests or easily-solved hiccups on the journey to making a purchase. All these opinions and comments are free for us to access. All these things are lost data, if we’re not listening.
The power of listening
Imagine, as a brand, the power of listening to what people are saying about your competition. What if, for example, their customers are constantly complaining about poor after sales service? In that case, think about the power of being able to make a big deal out of your strong customer service in your marketing.
Imagine, as the supplier, the power of listening to what the end user is saying about your products. If, for example, people are complaining about the environmental impact of your packaging - this is essentially free focus group testing, albeit in a live environment. Being able to speak to these people and say: “We hear you, we’ve made changes…” builds relationships and humanises a company. Being able to speak to your clients (the supermarkets and wholesalers) and to be able to tell them that you’re reacting to an ever-evolving market, by listening, is invaluable – it means you are making your product more accessible and desirable to their shoppers.
So where do we start? We have access to a vast pool of commentary and data, but where to begin? There is a fine crop of social media listening tools available. Some, like Hootsuite, Topsy, Tweetreach, Klout, Social Mention, Google Alerts and Twazzup are even free or mostly free (and a good place to start). You will need to spend half an hour fiddling with them at first, but it will be time well spent. Alas there’s no free solution that does everything, but it’s a good place to make a start and once you’re ready to spend some pennies - take a look at the likes of Brandwatch, Sysomos and Simply Measured.
Building communities of value
If we can grow or support communities there is a lot of power in this as suppliers. For example, I worked with a wine brand that wanted to get into Target stores in the US. We built a community and gave the end user ownership of the brand. We let them design labels and pick product names. We listened to the community and asked them what new products they wanted. We supported them. We created brand evangelists by listening and asking their opinion. We made the end customers our friends. That community now stands at 401,081 people. Imagine the power of being able to turn to a buyer and say: “We have a community of 401,081 people and we’ll tell them all our wine is in your stores if you stock it.” Needless to say, they are now in Target stores. They got there because they listened.
The power of one view of product performance
Having seen the power of listening to the customer in action, I am not surprised to see the success that S4RB has had with its UBX Cloud Services. Allowing retailers to consolidate not only social media input but also data relating to product sales, complaints, returns and product benchmarking all into a single view of product performance gives them a true picture of what the customer thinks.
If we know what people are saying we can react. Customers use products in a variety of environments and situations that a supplier can rarely predict. Speaking to them directly and asking them to fill in short questionnaires (especially with small rewards) and nurturing relationships is a part of the modern supply chain, and it’s growing. People are talking about our products anyway. If what they’re saying is falling on deaf ears, that’s a wasted opportunity.
Digital Strategist, Tank PR.