Social is such a hot topic these days that it’s understandable that it is the first thing we think of when addressing customer issues. But good business people don’t stop there.
They take a broad view of all the things that might be impacting business and customers and they try to synthesize something that uniquely fits their businesses.
Finding Your Secret Sauce
There’s good reason for this approach. Another way to express uniqueness is with the phrase “defensible market position” or something similar, because at the end of the day that’s how you make your secret sauce. It’s not simply about your adoption of the new shiny object. So when I hear someone talking about social as a panacea, I am always tempted to say, and?
In this case, answering the “and” question can be very productive for some companies. For instance, right up there with social is the idea of subscriptions. You know, buying the use of a product as a service rather than paying big bucks for the whole thing. In the last five years, we’ve seen subscriptions go way beyond their initial market in software (as a service) to populate some very unconventional spaces.
ZipCar let’s you rent a car by the hour for that errand you can’t get done any other way. It’s great in an urban landscape where gas, maintenance, insurance and even parking can bleed your wallet dry. With ZipCar, you pay a flat hourly fee when you need the car and you don’t worry about anything else for the rest of the time. ZipCar is a great example, but did you know you can get really nice clothing and accessories the same way? It goes on and on so let’s just posit subscriptions as a good thing.
Social Media Drives Customer Insights
But guess what? Subscription companies have a huge need to know what the customer thinks, wants and craves so that they can be ready with the right product (served up as a service) whenever the customer wants it. That’s how they retain customers and gain share. How do you do that?
Well, increasingly it’s done with analytics applied to data collected on social media. If you are a subscription company you live for retention and renewals so how do you goose the reaction in your favor? You collect customer data. If you are a B2B business serving many people inside a customer entity, how many end users are you serving daily? What’s that ratio in comparison to the total number of subscribers in the organization? What’s the moving average? Is it going up or down?
Answering those questions can tell you if the customer is going to upgrade soon or take his or her business elsewhere. In either case, knowing the answers can help you to be prepared to take appropriate action. Ain’t that wonderful? You bet it is!
What about a B2C situation? Collecting customer data will show you who your best customers are, who the repeat customers are, who needs more after sale services and who might be most interested in a discount offer. Knowing all that will help your company to be there with the right offer at the right time and at the right price. Isn’t that what retailing is all about?
Now, a lot of these observations come from seeing how this kind of data gathering and analysis works for subscription companies and there’s nothing that says it won’t work in a more conventional setting. So take a page from the subscription playbook and develop some customer metrics you want to run your business by, collect the data that will do the trick and find an analytics package that works for you.
When you do all this, you will discover that you have happier customers who stick around a long time. One more thing -- this approach won’t cost an arm or a leg.