Connect with us

Sales & Marketing

To Grow Your Business, Listen Closely To Your Customer

Erica Johnson



If you have no customers, you have no business. Seems simple, right? Nevertheless, I’m shocked at the number of founders who treat their customers like a number, or worse, respond defensively to customer complaints. When it comes to growth, they’ve already lost the plot.

A company that fails at customer service cannot be successful, period.

Conversely, if you treat your customer as a treasured guest, they’ll become an asset and spread the gospel about your company, accelerating growth.There’s a difference between customer service and customer connection, and truly great companies are outstanding at both (you’ll read about one below). Checking in with and listening to your customers is also a necessity.

And yes, I’m even going to show you why negative reviews are a gift.

Customer Service vs. Customer Connection

Customer service is more worth your effort than any other aspect of your business. Though analogous, customer service and customer connection are different. Having both will make your brand stand out and that synergy between service and connection is what adds true value. 

Some companies are better at connecting than others. The CEO of a high-end brand I’ve worked with sends a handwritten note to every person who buys something from them. It turns customers into advocates to their friends, on social media, and everywhere else.

A set-it-and-forget-it automated email works just as well, as long as it feels personal. A lot of my emerging-brand clients have received responses to those emails like, “Thank you so much for taking the time to write to me. I love your brand.”

Southwest Airlines is the ideal example of a company that nails both customer service and connection. I’ll give you a personal example: I didn’t join their rewards program, and I’ve spent only about a few thousand dollars on their flights. Yet my interactions with them feel better than with the airline that I have lifetime elite status. On Southwest, for example, if I can’t make a flight I’ve booked, I can apply its price to another flight. They don’t believe in penalizing customers—no change fees—and make it easy to rebook, earning my loyalty.

If you’re intentional about creating a regular customer experience that feels like a warm and personal interaction, you’ll establish a genuine relationship with customers, and turn them into your biggest fans.

Check In With Your Customers

Another necessity for connecting with your customers: checking in regularly. Send surveys to your most loyal buyers via email, for example, every six months, and contact (maybe even call) those whose answers stand out. Reach out to people to try new products and give feedback.

At one of my previous companies, we asked customers to test new products with something along the lines of, “Hey, we’re thinking about bringing this product to market. Would you like to try it for free and tell us what you think?”

People loved being a part of that, and of course, we loved the result. Not only did they feel a deeper sense of partnership with us, but they also saved us the expense of releasing some products that were unlikely to succeed. There’s no substitute for touching base to make sure your customers are happy. If they’re not, change things until they are. 

An Unhappy Customer Is Still a Customer

The ideal time to listen is when people are unhappy or even bored. It’s not too late to rescue a drifting customer until they stop talking to you, said the former COO of NPD Group, a global market research company: “If your customers are complaining, you haven’t lost them yet. You have a chance to convert them to happiness.”

A great (and easy) way to find out if a customer is unhappy or bored is to check their buying frequency. If things have dropped off, send them an email!

Establishing a rapport with your customers is key to earning their trust, and goes back to the customer service/customer connection synergy I’ve already covered.

Why Negative Reviews Are A Gift

If you notice customers leaving negative reviews, check your ego and respond or send them a personal email. Negative feedback, in reality, is a gift, but not enough companies realize this. They offer an opportunity to show that you have genuine empathy and thanks for reviews of all kinds. If they’re bringing up a valid point, take it to heart and work with it.

One CEO my company, ROI Swift, worked with, was responding defensively to negative reviews. We coached him to see the comments not as adversarial but as an opportunity to emphasize quality, listen instead of argue, and respond with empathy. Look at every “negative” interaction as a chance to convert a customer to happiness and meaningfully engage—it will go a long way in converting customers into advocates, and accelerate growth. 

It’s easy to let your ego get involved when dealing with a cranky or dissatisfied customer. This is your product, after all, and to you it seems perfect (similar to a parent with their newborn). But if you take a step back and remove your emotions from the equation, you may find there’s a kernel of truth to what they’re saying, and you’ll be able to make adjustments.

Listening Is Learning

Customer service is vitally important for every company that exists. But customer connection—those personal touches and interactions that make customers feel like family—is what will make your business truly stand out. Consumers, especially younger ones, want to feel connected with the brands they support, so striving to make customer experiences feel warm and personal will go a long way to securing a loyal fan base of devoted customers who’ll help you scale.

Checking in with those customers is also a necessity, and will help you learn more about your customer’s needs. You may even be able to find product market fit in the process. And yes, unhappy customers are still customers. You can learn more from one person who’s disappointed in your product than ten who love it. 

And finally, while you shouldn’t let negative reviews get you down, you should check your ego at the door and take a long look at what they’re saying. A customer who’s still talking to you, after all, is one who can be converted back to happiness—a chance you may not get twice.

For more advice on scaling your company, you can find Business Growth Do’s and Absolute Dont’s on Amazon.

In 2015, Carolyn Lowe founded ROI Swift with the goal of helping emerging consumer brands maximize their growth through paid marketing and advertising.

Following this approach, ROI Swift has helped hundreds of new companies increase revenue to the million-dollar mark within months. Carolyn is a mentor for consumer products accelerator SKU, a board member for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and a member of the Beam Angel Network, the first Texas-based angel network for women-founded companies. She’s married with two children and lives in Austin, Texas.

Published November 6th, 2021

Sales & Marketing

‘Bullish’ marketing industry plans to boost spending power in 2024

Courtney Shields



‘Bullish’ marketing industry plans to boost spending power in 2024

UK marketing leaders are gearing up for a ‘bullish’ 2024, with more than 70% planning to boost digital budgets this year, new data shows.  

Following four years of economic flatlining and commercial pressures for many of the UK’s top marketers, 2024 is expected to see a resurgence in industry optimism, with increased investment being directed in key growth areas including AI, websites, SEO, broadcast and podcasts, as well as email and content marketing.  

The data from more than 500 UK marketing leaders, commissioned by search-driven content agency No Brainer, is available to in-house and agency marketers now. The first report is called the 2024 eCommerce Trends Report

In addition to No Brainer’s findings, a recent Statista report indicates the eCommerce market is set to reach a projected £100b ($124b) in the UK for the first time in 2024, and eComm marketers are poised to make 2024 the year they seize a greater share of consumer spending.  

The report by No Brainer also reveals significant spending growth in key areas of marketing, with many marketing decision markers saying they intend to invest over 60% more than they did in 2023 in the following areas: 

  1. AI: 64% to increase spend by as much as 60% 
  2. Website: 64% to increase spend by as much as 60% 
  3. SEO: 62% to increase spend by as much as 60% 
  4. TV, Radio & Podcasts: 59% to increase spend by as much as 60% 
  5. Email Marketing: 58% to increase spend by as much as 60% 
  6. Content Marketing: 57% to increase spend by as much as 60% 
  7. Digital PR: 57% to increase spend by as much as 60% 
  8. Influencer Marketing: 56% to increase spend by as much as 60% 
  9. Organic social: 56% to increase spend by as much as 60% 
  10. Paid search: 55% to increase spend by as much as 60% 

Some of the highest budget increases came from marketers working in sectors including Education with 69% increasing by up to 60%, Finance with 64% increasing by up to 60%, and Retail with 56% increasing by over 40%. Only 14% of marketing decision makers said they’ll be dialling back on budgets in 2024. 

Gary Jenkins, Director at No Brainer, said: “Four years of rising costs, inflationary pressures, and squeezed budgets has made life tough for UK marketing leaders tasked with delivering growth, but we’re expecting to see that turn around in 2024 with many taking a more bullish approach in terms of spending power. 

“This is great to see, and not just because we play in this space, but because if businesses of all sizes are serious about recovery and growth, then investing strategically in the right areas of marketing is crucial. Sadly, in challenging times, these are the things that can often be the first cut.  

“When every penny matters, like it has in recent years, then there’s a laser focus on marketing leaders proving the value of every pound they spend, and quite rightly. It’s got everyone challenging the ROI of their spending across every marketing sector, and the same rule should apply with these increased budgets.  

“It’s about putting them to best use. A solid, strategically planned marketing strategy can unlock new audiences, drive more revenue from existing ones, and drive more brand loyalty and advocacy, so it’s still a case of spending smart, even if spending more.” 

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person? Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

Tags: budget, Content Marketing, seo, spending, websites

Continue Reading

Sales & Marketing

Why social listening platforms can’t listen – and how SocialVoice is looking to step in

Courtney Shields



Why social listening platforms can't listen - and how SocialVoice is looking to step in

The market opportunity for brands who get influencer marketing right is huge.

According to Goldman Sachs, the creator economy is worth around $250 billion (£205.4bn) today. By 2027, it could hit $480bn (£394.5bn), in line with predicted growth for global digital advertising spend. In line with this trend is an increasing preference for brands to use nano- and micro-influencers in their campaigns. The State of Influencer Marketing 2023 Report puts this at 39% and 30% respectively. With the rise of trends such as FinTok and others front and centre, no longer is there a subject which cannot be touched by an influencer; someone passionate, authentic and knowledgeable enough to earn consumer trust.

Getting the right influencers, in terms of what they say, how they say it and how many people they say it to, is therefore vital. Indeed, an entire martech sector has mushroomed in the form of social listening. Yet Nicholas Greig, chief revenue officer at SocialVoice, has a problem with the term.

“Social listening platforms can’t listen,” explains Greig. “All they can do is scan the metadata.”

While social listening tools can look at hashtags and comments, crunch engagement rates, and look at the sentiment of the written word, SocialVoice believes there is no tool currently on the market which can get ‘inside’ a video and analyse the voice. Until now.

The aim of SocialVoice is to enable analysis of an influencer’s past activity, through every frame of every video on every platform. Tone of voice can be analysed, beyond the written word, to assuage fears around brand safety as well as brand fit. This can go from the usual sentiment analysis to understanding personal versus corporate tone, to extrovert versus introvert, to liberal versus conservative. “Because we’re moving to nano- and micro-influencers, we’re not bringing them in for shoots anymore, so we’re relying on the quality of their recording,” explains Greig.

From a technology standpoint, it will not be a surprise that AI is at the heart of the solution, with three primary facets; deep analysis using machine learning tools, statistical approaches to identify pattern correlation across time-based events, and processing at speed. Almost two thirds of those polled in the State of Influencer Marketing report (63%) plan to use AI in executing their influencer campaigns, with two thirds of those brands using it for influencer identification.

What this looks like in terms of product is the Influencer Integrity Report, the first go-to-market effort from SocialVoice. The analysis of time-based events and processing at speed is combined so brand managers can input the influencer link and then get a report soon afterwards backed up by industry standards – toxic and profane content is based on GARM (Global Alliance for Responsible Media) metrics – and headlined by an overall trust score (left).

In the example MarketingTech saw, regarding a well-known influencer in the skincare industry, a specific brand appeared 273 times based on hashtag and written word analysis. For video scripts, the brand appeared 3648 times (right). Tone of voice noted variance between neutral and joyful.

Greig believes this will solve a fundamental industry problem. “We realised that there were some very big problems in the world of influencer marketing that, despite its growth, were affecting uptake from industry sectors such as banking, or from industry sectors where compliance and conservatism was more prevalent,” says Greig.

“These problems come around the fact that not a single influencer discovery platform in the world can be trusted to do proper vetting, or background checking, of the influencer,” adds Greig. “Checking influencers takes hours, and they can’t go back and check everything that an influencer has ever said – so they cut corners, they look at a random sample of videos, and then they go into a campaign [with a] lack of trust in whether the influencer has any hidden surprises in their background.”

While it remains early days, Greig notes that the trust score is the key element for customers on board thus far. The company has trademarked the term ‘trust my voice’ in anticipation not just of this, but for future cases beyond the brand and agency side. “One of the ways where we see this going forward is that influencers themselves on their profile will have a ‘trust my voice’ link,” offers Greig. “They’ll have that from a software as a service perspective.”

SocialVoice is exhibiting at the upcoming DMWF Europe event, on 21-22 November in Amsterdam, with something a little more enticing than usual. Those who visit the stand will have the ability to have one free check of an influencer of their choice – so the company has a strong bet on their value proposition.

“I think it will shock people as to just how limited the information is they have to make right decisions, and just how open they are to problems,” says Greig.

“We are still very much in a concept [phase],” he adds. “It’s going to be very difficult for anyone to compete against us. It’s not just the AI ability, it’s the scale of what it is that we’re doing; it’s the ability to do it at speed and do thousands of influencers at the same time.”

Insert picture credit: SocialVoice

Photo by Daniel Gaffey on Unsplash

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person? Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

Continue Reading

Sales & Marketing

Clevertouch creates European consultancy and empowers marketers with AI marketing automation

Courtney Shields



Clevertouch Marketing, a marketing technology consulting and service provider, has formed a new strategic team to drive customer conversion from martech across its European client base.

This, in conjunction with new AI product development in its proprietary Momentum software, will bring productivity in martech to the forefront, at a time when marketers need it most acutely.

As Clevertouch Marketing changes its overall name to Clevertouch Consulting, the company has created a senior team focused on client revenue generation, customer insights and conversion metrics. The team is also investing in the development of new powerful AI marketing tools.

The development of ContentAI, a feature within Clevertouch Consulting’s Momentum software, ensures artificial intelligence is driving maximum productivity within Clevertouch customer marketing teams. It allows the rewrite of email and landing page content, greatly improving the capabilities of marketers and reducing the time it takes to launch assets. ContentAI is backed by a unique persona toolset that allows marketers to ensure generated content fits the tone and personality of the teams and the business. Momentum is used by leading brands such as Fujitsu, Atos and British Land.

To support this, Clevertouch Consulting has strengthened its leadership with a mix of promotions and hires. Elaine Webley has been appointed as COO and CMO to lead operations and marketing strategy, having previously served as Managing Director and Client Services Director. Stuart West, previously Vice President International of BrightTALK, will hold the Chief Revenue Officer position and lead the team across its services and SaaS products. Jamie Burrell, responsible for the company’s consulting services, will take the position of Chief Strategy Officer, and CEO and founder, Adam Sharp, will provide ongoing leadership and market insights. Lucy Larner also joins Clevertouch as Chief Financial Officer after fifteen years in various SMB finance roles.

Adam Sharp, CEO at Clevertouch Consulting, said: “Economic times are tough, and as marketers we all have to sharpen our focus on revenue delivery, customer conversion and productivity within our day-to-day activities. We are committed to investing in the most advanced marketing products and services, driving the efficiencies created by AI, but also backed by a super strategic team to give clients the best possible business outcomes.

“Our name change reflects the changing nature of the business and the desire for clients to bring the martech capability in house, with the support of Clevertouch Consulting to optimise their investment.”

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person? Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

  • Duncan MacRae

    Duncan is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years experience in journalism. Having launched his tech journalism career as editor of Arabian Computer News in Dubai, he has since edited an array of tech and digital marketing publications, including Computer Business Review, TechWeekEurope, Figaro Digital, Digit and Marketing Gazette.

    View all posts

Tags: AI, Clevertouch, consultancy, Europe

Continue Reading