|Business is personal. My mid-year prediction is exactly the same as my annual prediction – that it will soon be essential to personalize your business if you expect to be relevant with your customers. To succeed today, you have to remove traditional barriers and work with your customers on a personal level – more as an understanding friend than a business.
We all have to be investing more in our relationships with customers. This takes time – either by getting out of the office for a personal visit, picking up the phone or reaching out through the social networks. Of course, the most effective approach is to use all three.
Technology for acquiring and tracking customer data is now incredibly powerful – and within the reach of every single small business. The social customer relationship management tool I use costs just $10 a month. In addition to effectively managing customer contact information, my favorite feature is how it automatically serves up what my customers are sharing on the social networks.
Social search is personal. I’m not the only one eavesdropping on my customers’ online conversations. Google is aggressively indexing as much of that personal data as possible to prepare for the inevitable face-off with Facebook. Facebook has not yet launched its social search engine, but when they do, it will surely present us with some breathtaking search capabilities.
The timely and contextual information that is being shared among your customers helps Google and Facebook to sell advertising to companies that want to target the demographic they represent. You should be using that information to take actions that keep your business relevant. And keep in mind, your competitors have access to this information too.
Google recently introduced a new feature known as +1 that is going to make this even more interesting. The +1 button is similar to the Facebook Like button. You will begin seeing it in search results when your friends use it to recommend a piece of content on the Web that they found helpful, such as an article or video.
Presumably, some of your friends are your customers. Knowing that customers are always searching for personalized solutions, leading companies in every industry are creating educational (not promotional) videos, blog articles and other content with the hopes that it will be freely shared – and ultimately earn a vote of recommendation with the push of the +1 button.
What matters most is personal. Life in general is a search for what matters most. Google has made billions of dollars helping people find what they are looking for. What matters most to your customers? It’s not your business – it’s what you can do to make their life more enjoyable.
Stop marketing your business and start personalizing it. I’m quick to admit that much of the marketing methods I learned to earn my MBA are irrelevant today. What matters for businesses now is discovering how to be personal and trusted sources of relevant solutions for the communities they serve.
If you can make that shift, I predict you and your customers will be pleased with the results.