Entrepreneurs are regularly engaging with customers through digital marketing applications. Corporate businesses’ sites are enabling interactive information sharing, inter-operability, user-centred design and collaboration. Some are even allowing customers to interact and collaborate with each other in social media networks, blogs, wikis, video sharing sites, hosted services and web applications.
The companies that embrace such innovations are those that will be successful in leveraging themselves against competition.
They will be rewarded by the marketplace as a result.
Multichannel communications, particularly through mobile technologies, reach customers in a timely, relevant, personal and cost-effective manner. Therefore, digital marketing comprises a set of tools that allows people to enhance their social and business connections as they can share information and collaborate together on projects online.
Millions of people have increasingly become familiar with blogs, wikis, social-networking sites and other online communities.
A growing number of marketers are active on social media including Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter. They use these networking sites to collaborate with consumers on product development, service enhancement and promotion.
Not all entrepreneurs are well versed in information-communications technologies, yet some are becoming quite successful in consumer engagement. Nowadays, it is relatively easy to build your own web page through blog sites like wordpress, blogger or posterous to name a few.
The tools of production (e.g. content editing software and blogging tools) are widely available and are very user-friendly. In addition, customers have become increasingly acquainted with the marketing tools of distribution (e.g. amazon, ebay, itunes).
These days, marketing is all about keeping and maintaining a two-way relationship with consumers. Digital marketing tools are a powerful way to do that.
A growing number of businesses are learning how to collaborate with consumers about product development, service enhancement and promotion. Successful companies get consumers involved in all aspects of marketing. They listen to and join online conversations about products outside of their sites, as they value customers’ opinions and perceptions.
The firms that respond quickly to their customers’ pleas will inevitably lead in customer satisfaction and retention
Many businesses use web 2.0 tools to forge collaborative relationships with business partners including customers in their value chain. Their employees are often involved in this process.
Moreover, it seems that customers are willing to participate by giving their feedback. For instance, consumers can possibly provide invaluable insight during the research and development phase of a product.
In a sense, customers may help companies to improve their existing product or service offering. The firms that respond quickly to their customers’ pleas will inevitably lead in customer satisfaction and retention.
Apparently, consumers trust each other’s opinions more than a company’s marketing pitch.
It goes without saying that there is no shortage of opinions online. For instance, blog sites like digg and delicious are continuously tracking the most popular topics on the web. Such blogs often feature the latest buzz about new product propositions.
Commentators can often help to generate favourable remarks and positive reviews – which are always beneficial for businesses’ reputation. This may result in free publicity for brand awareness.
Blogs, wikis and online communities are among the tools that companies are increasingly using for marketing, but there are other ways to reach consumers. For instance, many companies are resorting to instant messaging on their websites, where shoppers can chat online with customer-service representatives.
Arguably, websites and blogs can provide invaluable support to businesses in their endeavours to attract new customers. Yet, the businesses’ corporate image can easily become tainted with negative reviews (and comments) at some point in time. It is important for businesses to address and recover from such poor feedback.
This contribution suggests that digital marketing tools can possibly be used to reinforce existing promotional strategies. These tools complement quite well conventional advertising tactics as they raise awareness of the company’s presence. Needless to say that social media networks are used by millions of customers every day. Similarly, entrepreneurs can write numerous blogs to remind customers about their products or brands. However, the successful businesses are the ones who are capable of forging relationships with customers through digital marketing tools, including social media.
Perhaps, consumers ought to be involved in marketing and selling activities; from product development to after-sales feedback.
Companies can gain sustainable competitive advantages only if they value consumers’ opinions on various aspects of the marketing mix (including product, pricing and distribution preferences).
In Kotler’s own words, “the marketing organisation will have to redefine its role from managing customer interactions to integrating and managing all the company’s customer-facing processes”.
Mark Camilleri lectures at MCAST and the University of Malta.
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