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The lost art of talking to customers

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The lost art of talking to customers


When was the last time you talked to your customers?

I’m talking about real conversations with customers, where you actually listen — not just slapping a chatbot on your website with some predefined responses, or sending out an NPS survey via email.

If you’re like most companies, it probably wasn’t recently enough. That’s because talking to customers has become a lost art.

Marketers forget that marketing is about people. We hide behind our demographics, psychographics, segmentation analysis, and other tactics to distance ourselves from the very people we aim to serve.

It’s time to surrender the tactics, forgo our excuses, and begin authentic conversations with customers so that we can serve them better, create meaningful connections, and drive tangible business results.

Your customers are waiting

Since no one is talking to their customers as often as they should be, your customers are waiting to hear from you. They want your help, and they want to be helpful to you.

Is that surprising? It shouldn’t be. People love to share their opinions and give feedback; all it takes is asking them for it. 

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Including users in creating your marketing is the fastest way to guarantee success. Whether you’re launching a campaign or optimizing the performance of an existing experience, make your customers a part of the process.

Not only will it increase your clarity and improve your performance, but it also increases customer loyalty and makes your customers feel like a VIP who gets to see behind the scenes.

The soft side of marketing: look at the big picture

As marketers, we love to measure tangible, quantitative metrics. It’s why we love our KPIs and dashboards so much. But real insights come from understanding, and quantitative measures don’t often answer the question of “why.”

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Disciplined marketers should always be asking “why?” but experienced marketers are the ones who have the tools to answer the question.

Analytics tools like Google Analytics, heatmaps, eye-tracking, and NPS surveys are insufficient. They often raise more questions than they answer and fail to deliver fundamental insights.

It’s not that these tools aren’t useful — they’re essential. But they’re only half of the insights equation. Talking to your customers and using qualitative analysis is the missing link to transform analytics into actionable insights.

Measuring the intangible

As data privacy becomes more prevalent and important, marketing attribution becomes more complex and ambiguous. Instead of investing in expensive and complex solutions, start by going to the only source that matters — your customers.

This six-word question and its variations are perhaps the most powerful, yet often underutilized, in all of marketing: “How did you hear about us?”

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The answers to this question provide tremendous insight into the customer journey and their perception of the discovery process. And it’s another source of truth that can be used to validate or influence your marketing investments.

Despite the simplicity and ease of effort required, few companies ask customers this powerful question. Yet asking it can lead to some profound observations and insights.

Reading your customer’s mind

If you want the power to read your customer’s mind, usability testing is the simplest and most effective way. And — no surprise — it requires talking to your customers.

Usability testing involves recruiting a handful of users and giving them a series of tasks to complete. They are observed as they navigate the experience and “think out loud” to explain their thought process and the rationale behind their actions.

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The usability testing process is fairly straightforward, extremely inexpensive, and yields ground-breaking insights in record time. It’s an ideal way to talk to customers and learn how to improve perception and performance.

It doesn’t require many users, either. Often interviewing fewer than ten users is sufficient to gain an abundance of valuable insights that can be prioritized and addressed. And then you can repeat the process, ideally at least every quarter.


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Fueling insights with technology

Gathering insights at scale is a challenge that grows with the size of the company and the number of customers. Fortunately, technology advancements have given us tools to engage and capture insights in large quantities with relative ease.

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Tools like UsabilityHub and dscout are great examples of usability testing and customer research tools that leverage a massive audience of eager participants who can provide valuable insights. In addition, these platforms, and others, allow you to BYOA (bring your own audience) by inviting customers of your choice to participate.

Extracting and surfacing insights is another challenge that technology, particularly artificial intelligence, can help marketers solve. GoBright.ai is another research platform that uses AI-powered virtual assistants who engage with customers conversationally. Artificial intelligence allows for natural language processing which can be used to enrich customer data and identify trends among the insights captured.

Although the landscape of tools is constantly evolving, as is the technology itself, marketers must embrace both to communicate with customers effectively and at scale.

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The customer isn’t always right

Henry Ford allegedly said that if he had asked customers what they wanted, they would’ve asked for a faster horse.

When you talk and listen to customers, you will certainly hear lots of crazy things. The marketing idiom that “the customer is always right” isn’t true. But don’t let that deter you from talking—and listening—to them.

The more you engage your customers, and the more you make them a part of the marketing process, the more successful your marketing will be.

It’s undeniable that your customers are talking. The only question that really matters is: are they talking to you?


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

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About The Author

Tim Parkin is a consultant, advisor, and coach to marketing executives globally. He specializes in helping marketing teams optimize performance, accelerate growth, and maximize their results.
By applying more than 20 years of experience merging behavioral psychology and technology, Tim has unlocked rapid and dramatic growth for global brands and award-winning agencies alike.
He is a speaker, author, and thought leader who has been featured in AdAge, AdWeek, Inc, TechCrunch, Forbes, and many other major industry publications. Tim is also a member of the American Marketing Association, Society for the Advancement of Consulting, and an inductee to the Million Dollar Consulting Hall of Fame.



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How to Use Product Synonyms to Build Use Case Awareness & Scale SEO

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How to Use Product Synonyms to Build Use Case Awareness & Scale SEO

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Let’s move back in time to your third grade English class — lesson of the day: synonyms.

Synonyms (not to be confused with cinnamon) are words that have a similar or the same meaning as another word.

But, you already know this. What you might not know is how synonyms help you build use case awareness.

It all comes down to talking about your product in multiple ways, all of which are useful to your target audience. By expanding the ways you talk about your product, you attract more users, which in return scales your SEO strategy by giving you more relevant keywords to rank for (ideally even with high purchase intent – yes please!)

In fact, by finding and targeting product synonyms, you can even tap into a new unique selling point for your target market.

Let’s find out product-led SEO with synonyms can slingshot your growth forward.

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What is the value of synonyms for SEO?

First off, using synonyms is a common SEO best practice recommended by Google.

SEO guru and webmaster trend analyst, John Mueller, explains how synonyms work, particularly in connection with search intent and context:

…especially when you’re looking at something like ‘edit video’ versus ‘video editor,’ the expectations from the user side are a little bit different. On the one hand you want to edit a video. On the other hand you might want to download a video editor. And it seems very similar but… the things that the users want there are slightly different.”

So, when it comes to using product synonyms to scale your SEO strategy, the key is to align user search intent with a product use case that helps them.

I’d like to highlight how well this works not just for e-commerce, but also B2B, because those are the businesses that often struggle the most with low product-related search volume, making it seem like SEO just isn’t worth it. To add to that, there’s often a gap between what your audience calls your product and what you call it internally, so this strategy ensures both angles are covered.

Do this over and over again and not only will it expand your brand awareness, but it’ll also take a niche product with low search volume and turn it into a lead and sale generator — all from compounding hundreds of thousands of organic monthly searches (or more, depending on the topic).

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Let’s go over some examples.

Examples of product synonyms for SEO

A use case (or a roadmap for how your audience will interact with a product) is a fantastic way to apply product synonyms. If people learn how they can use your product, the more likely they’ll feel it’s relevant to them. The more detailed the use case, the more personal it feels to the reader.

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Examples of product synonyms in e-commerce

Product synonyms for e-commerce are pretty straightforward. For example, “occasionwear,” “wedding guest wear,” and “party wear” are all product synonyms that can be found as focus keywords at a made-to-order men’s suits store.

An online sport store may use synonyms such as “tennis shoes,” “sneakers,” and “trainers” to capture all target markets, for different levels of athletic wear.

Now let’s put it into practice.

What product synonyms would you use for “webcam” and “Bluetooth headphones”?

Maybe, “streaming camera,” “e-meeting camera,” or “Zoom camera”?

For Bluetooth headphones, what about “impermeable headphones” or “running headphones”?

It’s all about the use case that matches the same search intent.

Examples of product synonyms in B2B

In B2B, use cases become even more relevant, because one of the most common questions in the buying cycle is: “Is this truly relevant for my particular business?”

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Take a look at these phrases:

  • Conversational AI chatbot

  • Customer support automation

  • Product recommendation software

  • Omnichannel engagement platform

Even though these have vastly different use cases and are semantically different, the technology used produces the same outcome as what each phrase describes. In fact, it’s actually the exact same product (in this case a chatbot), only described with a different phrase. 

The trick in this particular example is to talk about how the main product, the chatbot, relates to all the above phrases. Rinse and repeat and now you’ve gone from a niche product with limited search volume to HubSpot level organic traffic — all of which is highly relevant for your target audience.

How to find & rank for product synonyms

Finding synonym opportunities for products requires a deep understanding of the market and the search behavior of buyer personas. In other words, learn what your audience wants and explain how your product gives them that in multiple ways.

Understand your product use cases

Let’s start with your product use cases. Where should you begin?

First, compile all related brand themes and then build topic clusters based on that.

Let’s say you sell eco-friendly swimsuits for all types of bodies and your topic clusters focus on eco-friendliness and swimsuits per body type. All topic cluster pages are connected to the central brand themes and your products, but talked about from different angles.

In B2B, it’s common to cluster product use cases by industry or method. For example, the “conversational AI chatbot” mentioned earlier might target e-commerce managers, while “customer support automation” is a use case aimed at customer success. In the same way, “product recommendation software” grabs attention from a product team and an “omnichannel engagement platform” captures the marketing team.

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With only these few keywords, we’ve described how nearly an entire business benefits from using a chatbot — sales here we come!

Benchmark competitors

Aside from generally making note of words that are being used on their website, it’s helpful to perform a competitor keyword gap analysis. This helps you determine words they’re ranking for that you aren’t (yet), which helps inspire new use cases.

Moz Pro dashboard for ranking keywords

Understand the language of your audience

Do some research to see how your target audience refers to your products in their own words. Often in B2B there is a big gap between their descriptions and yours. Take note of the words, phrases, and any other insights pertaining to the language being used.

Some places to poke around include Slack communities, social media (especially LinkedIn), and Reddit. Don’t shy away from in-person events, too! When you talk like your audience talks, you’ll resonate with them because your products are simple to understand. Walk their walk, and talk their talk!

Pro tip: Talk to your customers on a regular basis! Ask to set up a 15 minute feedback session and record it. It’ll bring you massive insights about how they talk about and use your product.

If your business is big on social media, then social monitoring and listening tools will be crucial for compiling lots of information quickly. Social monitoring obtains information that has already happened in the past, while social listening keeps an ear out for current conversations about your brand. Hootsuite offers an extensive social monitoring tool to “dive deep beneath the surface”, while Talkwalker offers social listening so you can keep up in real time.

Review People Also Ask and related searches

Google SERP features are a treasure trove of synonym opportunities. If you’re looking for “shoes”, you’ll probably see people are also searching for “sneakers”, “tennis shoes”, etc. You can use this feature to understand user search intent (which will help you find more aligned synonyms) and ensure you create the right type of content based on what’s already ranking.

The People Also Ask feature is similar to the “related searches” at the bottom of the SERP, and you can also use this to curate synonyms. 

Last but not least, utilize the auto-complete feature that suggests what you might type in the search bar:

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Google search for

Pro tip: Use AlsoAsked to dig a bit deeper into the People Also Ask questions from your potential consumers, and export the data graphically and in bulk. Answer all those questions and that’s a clear path toward SEO scalability!

Do keyword research

Without keyword research, creating your content and optimizing for SEO is like throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping that it sticks. Use a keyword research tool like Moz to find keywords based on use cases. This ensures the keywords are relevant, have search volume, and have relatively low competition. For a more in-depth guide on keyword research, be sure to check out this guide!

Once you’ve finished keyword research, turn the semantically-related keyword groups into clusters to create individual content pieces for each cluster. 

Differentiate keyword placement based on your site structure

All websites have core product pages, so the exact match of high-purchase-intent keywords should go on those to maximize the potential for sales.

Product synonyms that are semantically unrelated, but still have a relevant use case, can go in an area like the blog, where you can explain them more thoroughly and then link back to your core product pages to incentivize conversions.

To go back to the chatbot example, “conversational AI chatbot” works best on an evergreen product page, while “product recommendation software” might make more sense in the blog, because you’ve got to give some explanation about how the two are connected.

Let us wrap this up with a quick recap

First off: why use product synonyms? Synonyms for SEO increase the relevancy of your product pages for a specific search query. At the same time, they can also help you scale out content strategies in the future, thus strengthening your SEO game and brand awareness.

But never forget, first you must understand your product use cases. How do your customers use your product? How do they describe it? Go deep into this process to get those granular details. Look around to see what language your customers are using, scope out your competitors for inspiration, and do some extensive keyword research. Review the People Also Ask feature and related searches to gather more information and ensure you differentiate your keyword placement based on your specific site structure.

Now you’ve got the basics of using product synonyms to build use case awareness. Class dismissed!

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