Saying no gracefully

When you get a message that doesn’t make the grade (seriousness, dollar value, time frame), it’s very tempting to ignore it. After all you get so many messages, and you’re very busy. It’s only reasonable, right? You have to prioritize how you spend your time… right?

What we often forget is that someone, a potential customer or maybe just a window shopper, said “Hello!”. If you’re not careful, by ignoring them, you’re leaving them with a negative image. Think about their perspective! By not replying, you’re sending a message that they’re not worth your time, you can’t be bothered replying, or worse, that your pre-sales is so poor they shouldn’t bother buying (imagine the post sales experience!?).

You need to treat every inquiry, whether it’s a web form inquiry, email, direct message, forum post or tweet, critical or not, with as much importance as a walk in customer. These are your customers, and your response (or lack thereof) if going to determine what they think of you, and what they communicate onwards.

A well received negative response can be worth more in positive brand image than an actual low value customer.

Beta Marketing

One of the speakers at the Gaming Conference India 2011 this morning, mentioned as an aside that it was important to have high quality products when you launch, because not unlike the case of WarHammer, bad press can destroy your product. This is something that has never been more true! News travels quickly on social media, and bad news always travels faster than good.

What does this have to do with my beta release? Today a lot of software gets released as beta, with developers believing that users will help refine the bugs and contribute to the development. Whilst this is still true, today your beta needs to be really well finished.

A polished, easy to use beta, that evolves quickly in response to users concerns and comments may earn positive reviews, more beta users and hopefully customers. A poorly finished beta, may very quickly earn the opposite – bad reviews, user drop off and worse a strong negative sentiment before the actual release!

You can’t hide behind the beta tag anymore. Today a software beta release is akin to the pre-launch of a new restaurant, an enormously powerful marketing tool if done right, and nothing less than a catastrophe if it goes wrong.

Listening to Customer Feedback

Are you listening?

Businesses spend a lot of money on polls, customer surveys, satisfaction reports and other forms of market research. Which is why it’s surprising that so few invest (a comparatively small amount) to use social media tools to analyze customer feedback. Listening & understanding client opinions should be the first stage of any marketing campaign, and with social media, it’s possibly one of the easiest campaigns to implement. Unlike other mediums it’ll also get you real-time feedback.

I’m not going to go into the details of how to listen, Chris Brogan, and many others, do a good job of providing tips on which tools to use – whatever your budgets are. Be warned though, the old rule of garbage in – garbage out still applies! You still need to know where to look, whom to ask your proverbial questions to (prospective clients, dell evangelists vs the dell-hell group), what questions to ask and most importantly you’ll need to be able to interpret your findings into meaningful information, which can be harder than it looks.

The skills you’ve developed from traditional marketing still apply, and you’ll need to use them regularly. Social Media is just a medium, not a substitue for analysis, interpretation and applied intelligence.