Who Are Your Customers Listening To?

21 07 2009

When your customers look to make a buying a decision, where do they go for their information on your product? Your Web site or somewhere else? There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that many of these information searches start with Google. So what sources are your customers using?

The 2009 Nielsen Global Media Survey summary published by NetworkWorld reported that:

  • 90% of Internet consumers worldwide trust recommendations from people they know.

  • 70% of Internet consumers trust consumer opinions posted online.

  • 70% of Internet consumers also trusted brand Web sites.

This is good news and bad news for professionals who are marketing and selling technology products and services to enterprises.

Things are not as bad as some other articles would have you believe. Consumer Generated Media (CGM) is not the only source that customers trust anymore. The survey above is of all Internet consumers. It is reasonable to assume that enterprise technology consumers will be somewhat more conservative than the general population. This means that they have not discarded brand Web sites. The challenge for enterprise marketeers, is to win and keep their customers trust. That requires a marketing commitment to truthfulness, openness, and fact-based information.

The other inescapable trend here is that your customers are also look at other sources of information before they make a decision. It’s a clear case of “trust but verify” out there and nobody is more trusted than respected peers who have direct experience with the same technology and products. As early as 2004 Forrester Research reported that “Recommendations from other Consumers” was the most trusted form of advertising.

Download the full Nielsen Report including the Forrester Research survey results.

This presents yet another challenge for enterprise marketing professionals: How do you find out what information sources your customers and prospective customers are using and trusting?

Five Ways to Find Out Who Your Customers Are Listening To:

  1. Ask them every time you have a customer meeting or customer call.

  2. Ask them when you interact in online customer forums.

  3. Ask them every time you have a customer council. You do have customer councils don’t you?

  4. Ask them in an online survey. Two rules: a) Keep to a few very short questions , b) Give them an incentive to want to participate (opt-in)

  5. Travel to live events, conferences, trade shows, and forums and ask the attendees what information sources they trust

Suggestion: Track your results and keep a separate count for Current Customers and Prospective Customers. If there is a difference between the two groups, that will be critical to the success of your marketing plans.

Aside from knowing who your customers are and what their business problems are, this is probably the next most important thing a marketing professional can know.

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