Great business is all about being social.
It's an incontrovertible fact that has not changed since the days of trading chickens and clay pots in ancient market places. Technology may have made that trading process easier in the centuries, even millennia since those historic times, but the fundamentals of trading relationships and customer loyalty have not changed.
Yet 'technology' is one of today's most popular buzzwords. Adding the word 'tech' to the generic description of your business is a growing trend, akin to a fashionable community movement and badge of honour.
Customers expect ...
It's true that customers increasingly expect the businesses from whom they buy to be using technology, in any, if not all of its myriad forms, to customer benefit and competitive advantage. So businesses, new and old, increasingly rush to demonstrate technological innovation as part of their sales and marketing messages, including when it comes to communicating those messages.
With the burgeoning growth in media channels to choose between, even selecting and then expertly using the right technological methods of communicating on behalf of a business has become an ongoing challenge, resulting in the creation and recruitment of designated roles for individual experts and a vast spectrum of consultancies to whom these challenges can otherwise be outsourced, for a tidy sum.
In the linked article, Bryan Kramer briefly and helpfully explores what's really essential and where the opportunities lie when it comes to using digital and social technology to communicate successfully on behalf of your business.
Importantly, as Bryan points out: "Technology is great, but a human-to-human approach is essential for any effective marketing strategy...Put simply, technology on its own can't make people feel connected."
So if you're harnessing social media as part of your communications and sales and marketing strategies, you need to make sure it's making the right connection with your target audience.
Great business is (and feels) personal
And this is where customer loyalty is bred.
Amidst this maelstrom of technology-driven communication possibilities, it's vital not to lose sight of what really drives business; more specifically, what really creates enduring customer loyalty to your brand: the human touch. Business is still very personal.
I particularly like Bryan's observation that "we're all humans that want to connect with each other and that's an idea that should never be lost in translation."
Customer loyalty is often people-driven
If you stop and think about why you're personally loyal to certain brands or places, invariably, while product or service quality and functionality will influence your decisions, people will play a huge part too.
It might be the excellent service of the barista in your favourite coffee shop, the philosophy or visionary approach of a particular business leader, the customer service from a particular supplier, the content that the employees within an organisation blog on behalf of it.
We're all brand ambassadors for the businesses that we represent and we are all people. People buy from people, it's really quite simple. You could have the best product or service on the market, but if your customer service is shoddy, the growth of your business will rapidly become imperilled because the personal acquisition and interaction experience is just as important to purchasing behaviour as the performance and impact of the product or service once acquired.
A question of trust
Did you know there are now therapists that advise people on their unhealthy relationships with chatbots (a particular problem with certain dating sites, apparently)? Or that there's growing distrust amongst many consumers of anything that sounds like machine-generated conversation and that might be looking to harvest their personal data and exploit it?
A sad side-effect of increasingly technology-driven businesses is that it comes with potentially greater data protection risks and customer cynicism.
Keeping things personal and palpably human typically helps to instil and maintain trust in your business relationships.
So where does technology fit?
Well, first off, it's not a quick fix to address wider business challenges. Using technology, especially of the digital and communications-based variety, is not a sticking plaster for a ropey sales period or a panacea to address a lack of customer engagement with your business. Communicating digitally takes a proper and considered investment of time and effort. You won't see overnight sales success.
However, social media is a great example of how technology, when used really well, can very effectively keep things personal, even in spite of the act that it feels more remote and has us all typing, liking and swiping rather than talking directly for far longer than is sometimes healthy.
Grow your network, create more sales leads and learn new things
I've lost count of the valuable business leads and new relationships, even partnerships, that I've forged this year entirely through social media contact. Technology facilitated those connections, for sure. But the relationships grown through it, the content shared and learnings made, the excitement of engaging with like-minded people (local and abroad) who have been willing to contribute ideas and make recommendations and referrals to mutual benefit, so that we all thrive ...well, besides being fun and efficient, it's genuinely been a personal experience and authentic.
Gain unique data insights to enrich your USP
Bryan also explores how you can use social media technology to gain rich data insights into your customers, enabling you to segment them, identify who is worth spending effort on and who is not, who responds best to certain offers or particular content; all of which can help to drive even deeper and better, more tailored and personalised engagement with those who hold the power to make your business stand out and grow.
From experience, I can tell you that these insights are hugely valuable.
Your voice, your story, your USP is richer and more compelling than a technological tool, or two
While technology is a terrific asset to business progress and growth, make sure that you always 'stay human' in the conduct of your business. Technology, whatever form it takes, from chatbots and robots to automated messaging and marketing campaigns, definitely has its place in economic progress, but never let it be at the expense of the human personality underpinning your brand. Business is still very much personal.
You have to work on bridging the gap between you and your customers. At an essential level, we’re all humans that want to connect with each other and that’s an idea that should never be lost in translation. If your brand distances itself from your customers, then they’ll find it more difficult to feel loyal to you or like they have any relationship with you at all. Using complex jargon can make you inaccessible to your audience; it may make you look authoritative, but it isn’t inclusive to every one of your customers or someone trying to get involved with your brand for the first time. You might recognize a few of these examples. Communication should be genuine and simple. Use the language your customers speak and not the language you believe they should be hearing.