I believe you do. But you need to be an expert at knowing “where” impressions are being formed online about your brand before you have any chance of making a positive impact that your customers will appreciate.
We know the ways to make a bad first impression…that’s easy…fill up people’s in boxes with emails….create annoying banner ads….write content by committee….this list is long. It would be funny if it wasn’t so true.
The analogy of how to do this well online is remarkably similar to offline. It’s not rocket science. For example, I give full credit to the offline experts who have never assumed that a customer’s first impression occurs when they walk in to a store to buy a product. They know you need to reach the customer many times pre-purchase via advertising, circulars, the phone and much more. The only problem, of course, is that virtually all of these ways to reach folks offline involve raising awareness or creating a call to action that is fairly routine. They don’t involve the building of a relationship with the customer.
Fast forward and here we are with a wonderful basket of tools, techniques and platforms to help companies talk directly with customers. We can learn from their insights, help with their issues and provide them the content they want, rather than the content we hope they want.
Progress leads to raised expectations on what to expect from a brand interaction online. And, as it becomes increasingly easy to find the content you want wherever you want it, customers are realizing that it is far more effective to form their own impressions, at their convenience, ask their friends for insights and buy when they are ready. The customer is in charge.
This rather important shift in where impressions are formed speaks to the need to know where your first, second and third impressions are formed.
Here’s what we know. In the online world, less than 1% of a person’s time will ever be spent buying products in their entire lifetime. 99% of their time is spent browsing and socializing. The first impression is formed by search for the majority of the world, whether it is Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Baidu or other local search engines. We know that 3 out of 4 people ask their peers, not companies, for advice before they buy.
So if peers influence is increasing and most of one’s time is spent outside of your site or store, where are folks? We know this answer, of course. Facebook has surpassed 200 million users which would make it the 5th leading nation, larger than Brazil…..Twitter is adding millions of users…and there is LinkedIn, Orkut and much more. Our “hang-out” is becoming a normal part of our lives.
Leading companies have realized that peers can include people at companies, who are trusted sources of information and are a real part of the community. Examples range from Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos to RichardatDell to Scott Monty at Ford to Frank Eliason at Comcast. I know I pay attention to what they say. I trust them.
If you work at a company, here are a few questions to think about.
Who at your company is part of your customer’s communities every day?
What are customer’s saying about your product right now?
How are your products being reviewed and rated, formally and informally?
What will be the first impression of your brand today?
There has never been a better time to engage directly with your customer. Think twice about your next email or banner ad and think about the impression you are making. Is it the right one?
All the best, Bob
Note: I’ll be participating on a panel at the Interactive Austin ’09 conference Monday, April 27th.