In The Wizard of Oz, all the Tin Man truly desires is a heart. He wants to feel fully human again, like he was before the Wicked Witch of the East cast a spell on him. When the Tin Man and his party of fellow travellers arrive at the Emerald City, the wizard gives him a red pocket watch in the shape of a heart. Not surprisingly, the watch is a fraud — how can a mechanical device that “tick tocks” give humanity back to a man made of metal and rivets? The original novel may have been published 113 years ago, but the story is a very appropriate analogy for small business communications today.
A newly released study by Intel Corporation in California reveals that 60% of Generation Y respondents think technology can be dehumanising.
Make it personal This means we need to be savvy by using technology to reach the heart of our target market, especially if that includes Generation Y. At the end of the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is the one who successfully makes the Tin Man feel again … and all it takes is care and compassion. Oil the wheels Or in this case, the hinges. When Dorothy meets the Tin Man, rust has frozen him in one spot in the forest, so she applies a soothing balm of oil on his “wounds” so he can move again.
For small businesses, that “oil” is equally healing — it’s about finding the tools to make our customers feel alive again when they’re interacting with us digitally. If they believe technology dehumanises themselves, surely it means they also believe it dehumanises us.
So the solution is to start showing we’re living, breathing people too, not just faceless corporations. The solution is to build the reputations of our businesses, especially in terms of customer trust and loyalty, by sharing personal information. This idea may be uncomfortable, but it’s a crucial part of what’s known as relationship marketing in an era driven by social media. Naturally, of course, you need to share in a safe way, such as:
- Showing photos of yourself and your office … people want to see the “real” you, though, not a formal, studio head shot.
- Signing your first name when using your business social media accounts. For example, I could sign my comments as Admin Bandit on Facebook with “~Nerida”.
- Telling stories about my daily life. Pets are a fun topic — my customers have watched Ted, my Jack Russell terrier, wrangle his way from being a downstairs-only dog to having a basket next to the heater in my upstairs office!
Your customers are not robots The first lesson of successful marketing is to know your target audience. However, we often fall into the habit of reducing our customers to statistics. For example, one of my products is accounting software for volunteer organisations, so I know that 36% of Australian adults did volunteer work in 2010. However, that’s not good enough for the Generation Y respondents to Intel Corporation’s study. They don’t want to be a number … they want us to communicate to them personally and they want us to know their habits. So how do we get to know them? First, we need to understand the context of our customers’ lives. I recently picked up the perfect tool for this from Bianca Jurd of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation. It’s an acronym she calls STEEPO, which stands for:
The exercise is as easy as writing each word as a heading on a separate piece of paper and brainstorming with your customers in mind. You’ll end up with six lists to analyse for key details, values, issues and trends — take special note of any that appear on more than two pages. Second, mine your data sources. Your existing sales and customer records, not to mention Facebook “insights” and blog “stats” are rich, readily available sources of information. Then, you can spend time randomly going through your business-related social media connections:
- What do they share about themselves?
- When are they online?
- Who else do they follow?
- What do they “like”, comment on or re-post?
- Do they check in from a computer or mobile device?
- What images are on their profile page?
Finally, ask your customers questions. People love to share information about themselves — and most of us automatically ask in face-to-face social situations. For some reason, though, we forget to ask online! Stay on track Just as the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, Dorothy and Scarecrow and set their sights on getting to The Wizard in Emerald City, we need to stick to the task at hand … and that means only communicating information that is absolutely relevant to our customers. With social media especially, it’s easy to waste time by getting off track, so always keep in mind exactly who your target audience is and what they want from you! Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water Finally, don’t take Generation Y’s feelings about technology as a reason to give it up. Yes, they may think it’s dehumanising, but 90% admit hi-tech innovations do, indeed, make life easier. In fact, like the Tin Man, they’re not against the hi-tech changes in their lives at all — they just want their technology to beat with the human touch. Interestingly, women who are Generation X and Baby Boomers snap up new technologies … I’m in this category and the Intel Corporation study shows us girls love anything that helps us save time and better organise our lives.