Communicating With Customers
Moderated by ClickZ Editor Rebecca Lieb. Welcomes everyone. Will be taking a broad view from a variety of perspectives on new ways to communicate with customers. These ways transcend email, such as RSS, feeds, podcasts, syndication. Looking from perspective of an Ad Agency (Organic), a PR agency(SEO-PR), and client-side look of things (TerraPass).
Rick Corteville from Organic They look to create empathy with target audience that leads to a customer’s delight. “Always give people more than what they expect to get” – Nelson Boswell. People often do not take this into account when communicating with customers. Some guideposts for customer communication: Be Organized, be relevant, and be flexible. Being relevant: uses tackle-box analogy: there are many types of customers (fish) need the right lure to draw them. Finding the right lure includes examining dbase and establishing a high level of relevancy.
Showcase a connection to the customer needs. Message targeting via SIC code, geography, or zip codes. Look at registrants: newspapers and portals. Look at events and target RSS feeds through particular events. Position self as a resource: social community such as 20th Century Fox’s X-Men 3 community. What they built in conjunction with myspace.com was a custom profile for fans of X-Men to visit. They can download IM skins, screensavers, etc. Obtained approximately 1.7 million friends prior to movie launch. After launch, skyrocketed to over 3 million! The largest myspace site at that point. This also relates to search. In the case of someone who is searching for product/brand name plus “broken,” the ads should be targeted to them instead of simply broad matching an ad with a description of the company as if they are a new customer.
“Bend like the reed.” Testing is the key to find out what are the types of media vehicles that are the best fit for a particular client. Start small, “you are not behind!” People feel tat they are somehow behind, when in fact there aren’t even a large amount of companies doing email marketing, for example. Do not expect results, but be happy if they come. Tells of an example where the person pitched a test to their superior and promised no returns. If you are holding something like an RSS feed to a high pedestal, you may be disappointed. All or nothing: don’t just do a blog for one-way communication, encourage responses/comments, etc and the customers will appreciate it more.
Types of things to do: frequency caps such as click to call pop-ups every fifth page. Is this a positive experience for the user? If you are utilizing video or another more engaging rich media unit, are you pushing it too far? RSS feeds within banner ads, HTML emails. Mobile: SMS for support information (like the ability to add a support Number to their address book) or ideas such as IPSH, which does mobile marketing campaigns. Social networking, desktop applications and other “widgets” to get feedback on products from the community.
Jamie O'Donnell of SEO-PR Discussing a “panoply of offerings and options” for communicating with customers. Set’s up an example by describing how in the early 20th century countries pushed-for adoption of telephone networks. Russia, instead, pushed for loud speakers. So do people look at RSS feeds as telephones or loudspeakers? RSS technology allows you to ID content that interest you and have it delivered directly. Average Blogline user tracks about 20 feeds, one example he has seen is someone that tracks 1440 feeds! (That may be Barry?)
So they tested creating 6 RSS feeds and optimized titles and descriptions for Consumer Reports. News, ratings/reviews, cars, press releases, tips and buying advice, and health guide. He wishes that we could find out the volume of searches taking place across all the aggregators. Difficult to do this. They mapped what categories where in the top ten popular. “They added the feeds to their site and we submitted them to 80 directories.” They use press-feed.com and RSS Submit product. They then monitor to ensure content is being correctly pulled into searches. The key to the Consumer Reports RSS feeds success was “can we provide the potential reader with news that they can’t get anywhere else?” According to research in March 2005, 73% of people read blogs for this purpose (sorry missed the source).
Results: daily blog citation and LinkRank (Pubsub.com free tool, sounds cool - keeps track of your link building efforts as explained by Greg Jarboe) jumped when RSS feeds launched. By putting out really valuable content, they saw great increases in citation, and grew search rankings for the core domains. Second analogy is that there is a tendency for some organizations to want to lecture while others want to hold conversations. Provided Wharton School MBA example: testing a blog in 2005. Did potential MBA students want to hear lectures or hold conversations? Asked: who is the target? Let’s try a model for trying to create a conversation with the audience. Created “student2student” discussion board where students can blog about the experience of getting the MBA, and thereby attract others to want to do so. They actually created an “optimization guide” for the students that were participating. (great idea!) This was critical for that group in helping them to create the conversations they wanted. In order to get traffic, one recommendation is to “think about terms users would type to find your post and actually use it in your post.” One and a half years later, the blog ranks #2 for “mba admissions.” Building on this, they can further track results to data like 94% of students seeking full time employment received offers.
Adam Stein from TerraPass Will present a case study. He feels that there are some great tools out there to help communicate with customers that are “very cheap.” TerraPass is a web retailer that sells an environmental “product,” that is, they ask for donations to help create more sources of alternative power to counteract pollution. They are a small start up, and face the same challenges as any young “pre-profitable” retailers has – they have no money. (laughs) The problem: size, no money, no technical team, no awareness, selling an intangible product to a skeptical audience. Goal is to figure out a cost-effective way to reach their audience using SEO and PR. They need to engage (trying rich content) with the potential client and develop an ongoing relationship (trying social media). Type of audience is difficult to reach in a low-cost way.
Their main marketing outreach tool is their blog: terrablog, with an RSS feed. The content is good. Also has a newsletter and uses email marketing. “Email is king” 16,258 subscribers to email, and only 233 RSS subscribers. He does note that only about one third of emails are opened. They strive in their email newsletter to have the tone of a blog. They promote reader comments from the blog into the email newsletter. Certain advantages to communicating via email: you get very granular statistics, such as links clicked-on, etc. They have incorporated Google Analytics and use them for good details on high-converting blog posts. They can see in a tangible way what effect each post has versus another in terms of converting customers. They are basically spending nothing on the whole email and newsletter package ($100/month).
Some other things they did included emailing other related blogs with an introduction to Terrablog. This led to some nice posts, including one at “Green Car Congress” which was read by an LA Times writer (Dan Neil?) who wrote an article (a flop in terms of conversions), but then led to an article which was written at Wired magazine which actually led to sales. Also, Ford contacted them from the LA Times article which led to a huge business development deal with them. All thanks to the one blog post at Green Car Congress that they had written after receiving an email about the TerraPass product. Also shows some examples of top page Google searches, thanks to G “loving blogs.” Even though the terms are obscure, they lead to some relevant traffic. For example, “TV standby mode” is actually #4 at Google, and this term is becoming more popular. Apparently, leaving TV’s in standby mode is a big waste of energy, and England is even thinking about outlawing them.
They are also very interested in myspace to reach the college market in particular. Will also look at Youtube and eBay “widg-it” and developing interactive games.
QA Rebecca asks “what should marketers be looking to invest?” (On a larger scale.) Rick: depends on the goals and objectives of the particular company. Overall, he sees 5-15% of marketing budgets used for these types of consumer-reaching efforts. Jamie: the biggest cost is the front end design of the feed and feed landing pages. Once design, optimization, and registration is done, it can be “turned over.” We have clients that spend between 5 and 10 thousand dollars over the first few months, but then are pretty much on their own adding new content etc.
How do you see optimizing podcasts as an actual enhancement to blogs? Jamie: finds that if they are helping client leverage all emerging trends, then they will be ready when they hit the main stream. Recommends spending an extra few dollars to optimize the podcast content as well as the feeds and blogs. Adam says that they don’t podcast yet, but are planning to eventually.