“Excuse me, may I ask you a question?”
Distracted from her search for office supplies, a lady of mature years looked up at the young man who had just spoken. Dressed in black athletic wear, he and his backpack were blocking the back-to-school aisle in the neighborhood drugstore.
“I was thinking you could, um, take me home with you,” he crooned, raising a practiced eyebrow. “You’re real attractive.”
“No, thanks,” replied the lady, rather surprised. What on earth does he want? she wondered, walking off to the prescription drug counter. I’m old enough to be his grandmother. Why would I give a stranger access to my house?
Let’s call this a lesson in how not to engage your audience. Anyone can walk into a drugstore, log into Facebook, send off a tweet. It’s all too easy to “target” a customer, tell them what you presume they want to hear, and “hit them up” for whatever resources will bring you the greatest short-term benefit.
Successful social marketing doesn’t work that way.
“You have to authentically believe that being active in growing your social network will lead to deeper, stronger relationships with your customers,” writes marketer Dave Kerpen in Likeable Social Media. “You have to be interested in your consumers and prospects, and the creation of a solid bond with them must be your goal.”
When she got home, the lady telephoned the drugstore manager. “I’ve been shopping in your store for many years now,” she explained, “but this is the first time I’ve been solicited there.”
“I’m terribly sorry,” said the manager. “We want our customers to feel comfortable and safe. Can you give me a description of the man? We’ll check our security cameras in case he tries to bother anyone else. Thank you for letting us know.”
What did the manager do well? She listened. She cared. She apologized. She connected the values of her organization to the needs of the customer. She engaged that customer’s support in mutually solving a problem. She expressed gratitude. Above all, she was sincere.
Different approaches, opposite results. The anonymous hustler acquired nothing but a bad reputation. The responsive manager retained a loyal customer and elevated the good name of her neighborhood store.
Successful social marketing works the same way. Online or offline, high-tech or high-touch, great customer service is based on values that endure. Courtesy can be practiced by anyone and costs nothing, but the price of rudeness these days can be astronomical.
How do you engage your audience? It’s not a technique, but an attitude. In the social space, every business is a service business, and your neighborhood is the whole world. (LA)