Customers are the most important asset that any business has. Without enough good customers, no company can survive, and to survive, a firm must not only attract new customers but, perhaps more importantly, also hold on to its current customers. Why? Because repeat customers are more profitable. It’s estimated that it costs as much as six times more to attract and sell to a new customer than to an existing one. Repeat customers also tend to spend more, and they’re much more likely to recommend you to other people.
Retaining customers is the purpose of customer-relationship management—a marketing strategy that focuses on using information about current customers to nurture and maintain strong relationships with them. The underlying theory is fairly basic: to keep customers happy, you treat them well, give them what they want, listen to them, reward them with discounts and other loyalty incentives, and deal effectively with their complaints.
Another advantage of keeping in touch with customers is the opportunity to offer them additional products. Amazon.com is a master at this strategy. When you make your first purchase at Amazon.com, you’re also making a lifelong “friend”—one who will suggest (based on what you’ve bought before) other things that you might like to buy. Because Amazon.com continually updates its data on your preferences, the company gets better at making suggestions. Now that the Internet firm has expanded past books, Amazon.com can draw on its huge database to promote a vast range of products, and shopping for a variety of products at Amazon.com appeals to people who value time above all else.
Social Media Marketing
In the last five years, the popularity of social media marketing has exploded. Most likely you already know what social media is—you use it every day when you connect to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or any number of other online sites that allow you to communicate with others, network, and bookmark and share your opinions, ideas, photos, and videos. So what is social media marketing? Quite simply social media marketing is the practice of including social media as part of a company’s marketing program.
Why do businesses use social media marketing? Before responding, ask yourself these questions: How much time do I spend watching TV? When I watch TV, do I sit through the ads? Do I read the newspaper? What about magazines—when was the last time I sat for hours reading a magazine, including the ads? How do I spend my spare time? Now, put yourself in the place of Annie Young-Scrivner, global chief marketing officer of Starbucks. Does it make sense for her to spend millions of dollars to place an ad for Starbucks on TV or in a newspaper or magazine? Or should she instead spend the money on social media marketing initiatives that have a high probability of connecting to Starbucks’s market?
For companies like Starbucks, the answer is clear. The days of trying to reach customers through ads on TV, in newspapers, or in magazines are over. Most television watchers skip over commercials (or avoid the ads by using TiVo), and few Starbucks’s customers read newspapers or magazines, and even if they do, they don’t focus on the ads. Social media marketing provides a number of advantages to companies, including enabling them to.
- create brand awareness;
- connect with customers and potential customers by engaging them in two-way communication;
- build brand loyalty by providing opportunities for a targeted audience to participate in company-sponsored activities, such as a contest;
- offer and publicize incentives, such as special discounts or coupons, which increase sales;
- gather feedback and ideas on how to improve products and marketing initiatives;
- allow customers to interact with each other and spread the word about a company’s products or marketing initiatives; and
- take advantage of low-cost marketing opportunities by being active on free social sites, such as Facebook.
Social Media Marketing Challenges
The main challenge of social media marketing is that it can be very time consuming. It takes determination and resources to succeed. Small companies often lack the staff to initiate and manage social media marketing campaigns. Even large companies can find the management of media marketing initiates overwhelming. A recent study of 1,700 chief marketing officers indicates that many are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of customer data available on social sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.
This is not surprising given that Facebook has more than eight hundred million active users, and two hundred million tweets are sent each day. The marketing officers recognize the potential value of this data but are not capable of using it. To understand what real-time information is telling them, companies will use analytics software, which is capable of analyzing unstructured data. This software is being developed by technology companies, such as IBM, and advertising agencies.
The bottom line: what is clear is that marketing, and particularly advertising, has changed forever. As Simon Pestridge, Nike’s global director of marketing for Greater China, said about Nike’s marketing strategy, “We don’t do advertising any more. We just do cool stuff…but that’s just the way it is. Advertising is all about achieving awareness, and we no longer need awareness. We need to become part of people’s lives and digital allows us to do that.”