Focusing attention on the consumer has always been one of the essential marketing credos. This usually involves market surveys by phone, e-mail, or interactive websites. Some large companies like Nike and Apple get marketing people to work together with hand-picked consumers and form a direct sharing environment, which stimulates the creative juices and affords immediate feedback from a less biased source. Small businesses can always learn from the big boys, and deploy a scaled down version. Using volunteers from the employees’ family is a cost affective way to form this kind of customer/user group. Picking people with some expertise in the products and services offered by the company gives this process a more valuable input.
Photo by: Jack Moreh
Customer/User centered marketing has become particularly important with the shift to digital marketing on the internet. With the amount of data that is being generated on social media sites and search engine activity, combined with the technological breakthroughs in data storage, data processing, and machine learning, even the most seemingly innocuous bytes can be transformed into useful marketing information. It is useful to keep a careful watch on developments that are often initiated by the well funded large players and scale it down to affordable strategies for small businesses:
Going viral – This is sometimes totally attributed to pure chance, but new platforms like Buzz Feed have shown that this is not entirely so, and that a viral take-off can be manipulated by promoting massive social media participation. They stimulate user sharing of interesting content through various networks. Algorithms can now determine with more accuracy whether a particular posting has the ability to reach viral proportions. This is not foolproof, but it certainly raises the odds. Small business marketing strategists can align themselves with data harvesters of virality to improve their chances for a mega hit.
Big-Seed marketing – Although this is more suited to big budget firms, a growing small company can utilize this form of advertising within their budgetary restraints. This strategy involves a cross-feed of advertising launched simultaneously over multiple media – television, e-mailing, radio, and multiple website postings – aimed at user sharing.
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Align user interests – This should always be foremost in the mindset of any marketing strategist, but sometimes they get too involved with content and neglect checking the reasons for why their customers buy their products and services in the first place. In today’s internet environment getting feedback from a loyal base of customers is not that difficult. All it takes is a well-designed contact page on the company’s website, with chat capabilities, FAQ responses, and access to a customer service representative. This information has to flow upwards to the decision-makers for further analysis and decisions.
Open up to crowdsourcing – Because the internet is a communication medium that can be accessed anywhere in the world, it has the potential to attract useful input from unexpected sources. Open source software platforms such as Linux have taken full advantage of this kind of global sharing to improve their software design. Most larger internet companies have come to a realization that sharing and paying for useful applications speeds up product and service development. Any company with new and interesting concepts can turn for help in this way, create a following, and even attract seed capital from venture capitalists.
Create a user-to-user environment – When you expand the horizons of your website to a user-to-user platform you are opening the door to more sharing of information, and this is what the proper use of social media is all about. It allows your content, whether advertisements, articles, or videos, to take on an expansionary dimension. Encouraging users to share should be a part of the design objective. This is fulfilled by making the content fresh and beguiling, and openly inviting people to share their opinions with other users.
Know what makes for a user friendly ad – As a user you have an experiential sense of what works on the internet, and encourages views and sharing. Humor always gets a reaction, awe and anger gets more attention, and surprising or useful information is almost always shared to some extent. Stay away from extremes of expression, don’t arouse sadness, and over-the-top shock.