You often hear about how to leverage data from your private online customer or member community to inform decisions about product strategy, customer retention, or which customers are your biggest advocates.
However, you don't hear as much about how to use the behavioral information in your online community to create more effective marketing strategies.
Our friend Amanda Kaiser, an expert in leveraging customer insights in both the business and nonprofit arenas, has kindly provided some tips for how to use social data and trends in your marketing plan.
The stakes are higher. Customer expectations are greater. Competition is savvier. Despite this pressure some organizations are thriving. They are thriving because they are embracing modern marketing. As mass marketing's heyday comes to a close modern marketing revolves around niche audiences, tribes and individual influencers.
Modern marketing demands empathy, connection and insight. What better tool than your online customer community to drive some of your marketing strategy?
Online Community Members Are More Engaged
If you think of the natural progression as customers move from awareness to loyalty the steps go something like this: awareness, interest, affinity, purchase, sharing, engaging, and finally loyalty.
Members of your online community are at the far end toward the loyalty end of the range. Online community contributors are your most engaged, interested and knowledgeable customers. Using insights from these high potential customers to create your marketing strategy will help you attract more customers like them.
Online Communities Can Drive Innovation
You probably find that users tend to talk about short-term tactical problems in your community discussions. They ask, where do I find a resource for this? How do I do that? This is okay. While they may not be talking about their biggest challenges you will still get clues about how to help them. The key is to notice both frequency and emotion.
While you scan discussions look for often mentioned problems, questions, resources and topics. Also try to pick up on the underlying current of emotion. Are community members proud, angry, fearful or worried?
As you identify these hot buttons and top topics think about whether they would best be addressed by a new product launch, content creation, training or event. I keep a running list and periodically sort and rank each idea by merit and feasibility.
Online Communities Can Help With Storytelling
One of the hardest parts of marketing is finding the words and the story that your customers care about. Fortunately, your online community can help. There are three parts of storytelling:
- Knowing who you are creating the story for
- Understanding the problem they have
- Understanding what about your product they think is most important
Watch your online community for a while and you will probably start to see some personas emerge. Are some more helpful and supportive? Are some cheerleaders? Are some members conservative?
Watch these personas and see if you can give them more color and detail. Maybe even name each persona. As you are writing your story keep a persona in mind and write for that person.
Craft Your Main Message
Next develop the main message of the story. Think carefully about how you have seen community members articulate their problem. Use the words and key themes that they have already highlighted in your marketing story.
Align Your Message With Solutions
Finally, still in your member's shoes, decide which one or two product benefits matter most. Let them know how your solution can help solve their problem. Again let insights from your online community (and perhaps other sources) guide you.
Online Community Insights Takeaway
The old model of make it and they will come is now defunct. You have to connect with customers in a far more personal way. Customers want you to solve their problems and tell the stories they need to hear. The unique insights and empathy you gain from your online customer or member community will help you boost your marketing strategies.
Amanda Kaiser is a customer insights expert. She uses qualitative data to get the context and details needed for business strategy, innovation and storytelling. Read more articles like this on her blog Smooth The Path and follow her on Twitter.