PR is Only Dying If It Isn't Evolving

Marketing podcast with Brian Solis (Click to listen, right click and Save As to download – subscribe now via iTunes

For this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast I asked Brian Solis, Principal of FutureWorks and co-author of Putting the Public Back in Public Relations, about the future of the PR industry as we know it.

There’s plenty of doom and gloom surrounding the practice of public relations in the social web world, but Solis suggests, and I totally agree, that there’s a tremendous opportunity if firms and departments understand how to evolve and grab it.

In a sense, old school PR was about control of the message, but ironically, we lost control the minute the press release went to distribution. In PR 2.0 we can listen, in real time, to how a message is being received, accepted and talked about. With that aspect in play we actually have more ability to jump in and shape or reshape how a message is perceived and shared – actually more control.

Social media has evolved to the point where it impacts every department, whether they choose to participate or not. The new PR agency and department must embrace the social web as an umbrella that links HR, Interactive, Marketing, Management and Finance. The role of the PR agency should expand in this new model.

The new PR firm has the awesome responsibility of helping every department realize that real people exist on the other end of every interaction and message.

GoToWebinar is the presenting sponsor of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast.

5 Questions You Should Ask Every Customer

Constantly seeking feedback from your customers is a great way to learn how to market your business more effectively. If you’ve never done this before, do it immediately as it is one of the best ways to discover what you do that actually differentiates you from your competition.

questionsI can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with a small business that had no idea what its competitive advantage was until we heard it right from the mouths of happy customers. Seeking feedback is also a great way to get better and plug gaps. I can tell you that if you’re not receiving a large amount of your business by way of referral or word of mouth, you’ve probably got some gaps in your processes.

Below are five questions I like to pose to customers as they can provide a great discussion base for getting at what’s truly important to you and your customers. Create a form and get in the habit of surveying a handful of customers every month. I think you’ll be rewarded with tremendous insight and you’ll also find that your customers enjoy being asked what they think. One word of caution, don’t accept vague answers like “you provide good service.” While that may be true and good to hear, you can’t work with that. Push a bit and ask what good service looks like and maybe even if they can tell you about a specific instance in which they felt they got good service.

1. What made you decide to hire us/buy from us in the first place?

This is a good baseline question for your marketing. It can get at how effective your advertising, message and lead conversion processes are working. I’ve also heard customers talk about the personal connection or culture that felt right in this question.

2. What’s one thing we do better than others you do business with?

In this question you are trying to discover something that you can work with as a true differentiator. This is probably the question you’ll need to work hardest at getting specifics. You want to look for words and phrases and actual experiences that keep coming up over and over again, no matter how insignificant they may seem to you. If your customers are explaining what they value about what you do, you may want to consider making that the core marketing message for your business.

3. What’s one thing we could do to create a better experience for you?

On the surface this question could be looked at as a customer service improvement question, and it may be, but the true gold in this question is when your customers can identify an innovation. Sometimes we go along doing what we’ve always done and then out of the blue a customer says something like, “I sure wish it came like this,” and all of a sudden it’s painfully clear how you can create a meaningful innovation to your products, services and processes. Push your customers to describe the perfect experience buying what you sell.

4. Do you refer us to other, and if so, why?

This is the ultimate question of satisfaction because a truthful answer means your customer likes the product and likes the experience of getting the product. (You can substitute service here of course.) There’s an entire consulting industry cropping up around helping people discover what Fred Reichheld called the Net Promoter Score in his book The Ultimate Question.

Small businesses can take this a step deeper and start understanding specifically why they get referrals and perhaps the exact words and phrases a customer might use when describing to a friend why your company is the best.

5. What would you Google to find a business like ours?

This is the new lead generation question, but understanding what it implies is very important. If you want to get very, very good at being found online, around the world or around the town, you have to know everything you can about the actual terms and phrases your customers use when they go looking for companies like yours.

Far too often businesses optimize their web sites around industry jargon and technical terms when people really search for “stuff to make my life better.”

Bonus: I’m a big fan of building strategic partnerships and networks. Another question I would suggest you get in the habit of asking your customer is – “What other companies do you love to refer?” If you can start building a list of “best of class” companies, based on your customer’s say so, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve got a list of folks you should be building strategic relationships with.

Image credit: Karen Elliot

Weekend Favs February Six

I’ve added a weekend post routine that I hope you enjoy. Each weekend I write a post that features 3-4 things I read during the week that I found interesting. Generally speaking it won’t involve much analysis and may range…

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