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Knowing What Customers Say Privately, Means Sales and Profits for You

More than six-in-10 business-to-business buyers listen to colleagues on social media before making a business purchase. Right now, some may be talking about you.

KSocialListeningPlusnowing what they’re saying can help you build business and keep your customers.

We call this Social Listening.

Social listening programs:

  • Increase sales by identifying issues most important to potential buyers and creating strategies to reach them, not only through social marketing but through all marketing channels
  • Retain dissatisfied customers, identify problems while there is still time to solve them
  • Identify competitors’ dissatisfied customers, “low hanging fruit,” and strategies to reach them
  • Identify unmet needs to develop new products and services; it’s not unusual to read a post asking, “Does anyone know a company that…”
  • Identify emotional “hot buttons"

About 60 percent of B2B purchase decisions are motivated to some degree by personal emotional motivations (security, trust, ambition, etc.), sometimes higher even than company considerations.

  • Give you a head start on identifying and exploiting industry trends; customers and potential customers talk to each other about what they’re seeing and experiencing before they speak with anyone else
  • Helps make your social media campaigns more successful by identifying content buyers find interesting, useful and educational, setting your company apart from competitors

There are many other benefits of social listening through Social Listening+ (SL+), from Integrated Marketing Services. Perhaps, few are more important than generating real-time intelligence from actual current and potential clients so you can make real-time decisions.

What is Social Listening?

Social listening is a proactive process of tapping into conversations on social media platforms and forums to determine what customers are saying about your company, products and brand, almost equally important, your competitors.

SL+ uses key words and phrases, company and product names, industry sectors, services and other indicators to seek out social media conversations about your company, your industry and your competitors. More than just verbatim comments, you receive a market analysis showing trends, strengths and weakness; also, a real-time warning of any specific problems or issues.

Social Listening vs. Social Monitoring

Some marketers confuse social listening with social monitoring. There’s not just a difference in wording.

As the name implies, social monitoring is reviewing social conversations and then replying to specific posts. Social monitoring is a common practice for such companies as shops, hotels and restaurants to answer specific complaints and comments made by customers.

But social monitoring is reactive, it is designed to respond to comments.

 Social listening is proactive. Comments are aggregated and analyzed to create new strategies, and identify potential clients to increase sales and market share.

  • Social monitoring gives you snapshots
  • Social listening gives you a complete picture

It’s the difference between hearing and listening.

Through SL+, urgent issues are also red-flagged and immediately forwarded to clients to help ensure a problem doesn’t become a crisis.

Social Media Has Revolutionized B2B Buying

More than six-in-10 B2B buyers say their purchasing decisions are directly affected by comments they see on social media, both positively and negatively. They read reviews from peers, pay attention to others’ experiences, and then make decisions such as which vendors to consider, and which to reject.

This is particularly true in the “weeding out” phase, when purchasers decide which suppliers to consider.

Positive comments on social media can bring customers to you, even as you go after them.

Knowing what customers are saying is vital. Companies have reported up to 200 percent return on investment from their social listening programs.

Social Listening Success Stories

Staying Ahead of Competitors
Social listening among medical purchasing agents, doctors, hospital personnel and insurance payers allowed a global manufacturer of medical devices to identify customers’ unmet needs. The analysis was used as an important part of its new product development program.

This information allowed the company to develop more useful, innovative products, as well as better forecast industry trends. This is particularly important in the health care industry where technology is profoundly affecting patient care and costs.

Overcoming Opposition; Winning Product Approval
A social listening campaign conducted by Integrated Marketing Services helped an international pharmaceutical company overcome fierce opposition from an advocacy group and win U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for a new drug. Analyzing comments and conversations on social media platforms tipped us to the group’s strategy, its expert witnesses and what their arguments would be.

Integrated Marketing Services was then able to identify expert, pro-client witnesses, handle media relations and train clients (including mock “ambush” interviews with our clients) to effectively deal with reporters’ questions.

Social listening will help your business grow and help buyers succeed.

The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll start collecting the information that helps grow your bottom line.

Lois Kaufman, Ph.D.
President, Integrated Marketing Services

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Keeping Customers Longer

KeepingCustomersLongerEvery company wants to attract new customers and build market share. But sometimes they forget one of the cardinal rules of marketing: it’s easier to keep a client than attract a new one.

This is particularly true for business-to-business marketing. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to acquire a new client (sometimes six to 10 times) more than keeping a current one.

We conduct customer engagement studies in all types of industries; pharmaceuticals, medical devices, education, media and many others. In virtually every industry we are able to identify “customers at risk,” (those most likely to stop using your products or services) and develop strategies to retain them. However, engagement research goes well beyond typical customer satisfaction research.

Often, the main reason customers leave has nothing to do with quality or service.

We’ve found:

  • The old cliché, “Out of sight, out of mind,” is the kiss of death for retaining customers. A frequent complaint, “They only come to see me when they want an order.”

Retention is all about engagement, and keeping in touch with your customers is key to engagement. It doesn’t have to be every day. A regular phone call, providing helpful information (white papers, issues in the news, “how to”, industry intelligence, and industry stories in the news) will help make a client believe you care.

  • Remember to thank clients for their business.

Sales people sometimes do this (but just sometimes), but rarely do executives bother to contact a client and thank him or her for their business. This will set your company apart from others.

  • Monitor customer experiences.

Identify customer problems before they become a crisis, and then fix the problem. You’ll find out customers stick around longer.

Anthony Casale
CEO, Integrated Marketing Services

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The Truth About the Research “Black Box”

Market research firms sometimes claim they have a unique, super accurate analysis tool housed in a mysterious “black box.”

That black box doesn’t exist.

Most research companies use the same approaches to data collection and analysis, whether it be multiple regression, discriminant analysis, conjoint, cluster analysis, MaxDiff or another one of the variety of analytic approaches.

Clearly, analytics is at the heart of effective research. But the success of a project depends as much on what happens at the beginning of the research process, as at the end; and this is what really separates one research firm from another.

Here, based on our experience conducting hundreds of research projects, are some issues and solutions to look for to get the greatest return on your research investment and make your research more actionable:

1.    The need to better understand the client’s business and industry

Understanding the goals and objectives of a research project is absolutely essential, but you can’t stop there.

If a firm conducts secondary research as part of the process it can learn more about:

  • Industry concerns and opportunities
  • How the client positions itself and its products/services
  • How competitors position themselves and their products/services
  • Corporate and product image among current and potential customers

These secondary issues can be researched online, but a growing source of this intelligence is “social listening.”

By monitoring relevant social media conversations, we can learn a lot about the industry, the client and competitors. This information; alone, helps get the research project headed in the right direction.

2.    Questionnaire design: The key to successful research

Researchers often focus on the technical aspects of market research, and rightfully so.

However, when research projects don’t succeed, it’s usually because the exact questions needed to get the exact information needed to make informed decisions are not asked.

Some common issues:

  • Not prioritizing the most important issues

In too many studies, questions are asked because they are “interesting.” Interesting doesn’t always mean useful. We often ask, “What exactly can you do with the results?” If there is no good answer it generally means it’s not a good question.

One way to prioritize issues is to make two lists. In one column note the top five problems, concerns, or important questions you need to answer within the next two years. Then, list very specific information needed to make each decision. Compare the priorities, selecting the most common, and you also have the questions you need to ask.

This is a simple, but effective approach.

  • Avoid the smorgasbord approach to market research

It’s common for researchers to deal with client teams, members of which often have different interests and concerns, many of whom want to see those concerns included in the research project. Too often, this results in asking a little about a lot, but not in enough about on any single topic to provide the answers you need to make accurate decisions.

It’s important to begin at the very start with the most important issues, cover them in enough depth and, if questionnaire time allows, start adding other topics.

3.    Consider, in advance, which analytical approaches may be used

As stated above, there are many analytic approaches available. Considering which one(s) you may use is not only vital to questionnaire design, it helps keep focus on the prime objective throughout the research process.

4.    Don’t settle for data dumps

Anyone can present numbers, and that’s what many presentations are.
Insist your presentations include specific findings, conclusions and recommendations as part of the report.

Remember, it’s not the numbers that count, but what they mean.

Anthony Casale
CEO, Integrated Marketing Services

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