“Customer 2.0″ is a term that describes consumers who employ Web 2.0 technologies to make their buying decisions. The “2.0″ implies “new and improved,” and information seekers who use these technologies would likely agree that Web 2.0 enabled them to become better, more savvy consumers.
Web 2.0 and social media gave rise to “Customer 2.0” about five years ago, forever changing how goods are bought and sold. In the age of Customer 2.0, the customer is in charge and information is a commodity. Thanks to the internet and digital media, customers and prospects now have unlimited access to information about you, your company, your products and offerings of your competitors. And they’re getting it from every source but you.
To put things in perspective, Customer 1.0 reads papers and magazines. Their purchasing decisions are informed by traditional advertising and their complaints are handled by phone or face-to-face interaction. In contrast, Customer 2.0 gathers information from Google, Twitter, user groups and online communities. They (for the most part) completely bypass traditional avenues such as salespeople, product brochures and company websites.
Where the web used to be a place only for the passive viewing of content, Web 2.0 is about sharing information in a social media dialogue – information that’s consumer-generated and disseminated in ways companies, for the most part, have little control over.
Today, if a business owner wants to buy a new computer system, they will ask fellow CEOs what they use and recommend. They’ll compare pricing online and read user reviews. They’ll scan their favorite tech blog for expert opinions. What they won’t do is call a computer company and request a brochure. At least not right away.
To stay competitive, companies must reach Customer 2.0 in the places where they look for information. Simply relying on a corporate website won’t cut it – your marketing and sales tactics must change. Here are three ways.
Monitor what target audiences are saying are saying on their company blogs, on Twitter, and in forums and user groups. Listen for clues about their company, like new product releases, new hires and fires, travel schedules, partnership developments and more. Use this information to time your sales approach accordingly. If your prospect’s blog just announced a new VP, look them up on LinkedIn to see their work experience and if you have any shared connections. You might find a common interest that could serve as an ice breaker.
2. Give without taking
Position your company as an expert, and provide knowledge without asking for anything in return. Identify thought leaders in your organization who can provide expertise in a given subject and get that information in front of the right audience. If your company sells software, find a technician who fields customer service inquiries and help them author an FAQ blog or write it with their input. Set up a Twitter stream to troubleshoot common issues. Become a resource for your customers, and when they have a need, you’ll be the first person they call.
3. Start conversations worth having
Simply having an ear to the ground isn’t enough. Companies need to be out there pounding the virtual pavement. Join groups on LinkedIn or a user community, but don’t just answer questions – start conversations. Back to the software company example – ask group members what they like and don’t like about their current systems. What would they like their software to do that it can’t? Pose questions your brand has answers to and link the discussion back to your products or services. Use caution, however. Spouting sales messages right out of the gate is a big no-no in the social sphere.
Get to know your audience on a more intimate level first – without selling. You wouldn’t ask for marriage on the first date, would you? Join online conversations to help others problem solve. Offer your expert advice. If someone wants more information about your products or services, they’ll ask.
In what ways has Customer 2.0 changed your marketing strategies?