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People Before Things in Online Marketing

As we enter a new year in both technology and online marketing, I see a trend of “people before things” emerging. The techniques that worked yesterday – flashy websites with big bold graphics, squeeze pages that read like infomercials, and repetitive messaging to get noticed – will not be effective any longer. A focus on the people, not the product, the customer, not the bottom line, is emerging.

Ethics in Online MarketingThe rapid growth of social media for marketing over the last 3 years has been a precursor to this trend. Customers want to be spoken with, not spoken to. They want to receive a response from a live person, not a canned form letter. They want to engage with companies and know if an issue arises, they will be treated with genuine service, not treated like a number.

If you are marketing online, pay very special attention to this trend, because in this economy when customers are more choosy than ever about where they spend their hard-earned dollars, putting “people before things” is what will make you stand out, and it is what will bring your customers back to you over and over.

Following are 7 tips for putting people before things in your online marketing efforts:

Remember the golden rule, always.

Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. That is the golden rule. We grow up hearing this and yet when it comes to online marketing, many business owners forget that. I prefer the version that says to treat others the way they would like to be treated. Be courteous, kind, honest, and respectful of your customers and readers. Offer a superior service or product that will benefit their lives, and promote it to them in a respectful and courteous manner, so that they are open to hearing your message and sharing it with others.

Speak when spoken to.

Customers today want to know that a live person is behind the website or email marketing campaign. Respond to their email questions or comments, Check your Facebook Fan Page for comments, and reply, answer your @ replies on Twitter, and engage in conversation through your company blog comments. There is not much worse for your online presence than customer feedback or questions going unanswered, publicly.

Honesty is the best policy.

One of the latest buzz words in business is “transparency,” and that means being forthcoming and honest with your customers whenever possible. Being up front about delays or changes builds trust and loyalty. Manipulating your customers and using marketing tricks to increase your numbers doesn’t work any more. To gain quality, targeted customers who are loyal to you, it’s time to get real.

Measure twice. Cut once.

While we are being honest, and interactive, and respectful, we also need to maintain a positive professional image online. Since the nature of online marketing today leans toward social, be sure that you are presenting yourself and your company in the exact image you would like to convey. Chances are, if you make a mistake, it will get spread by word of mouth or social networking, and you will spend a lot of time cleaning up the mess afterward. Proofread your responses, or better yet, have a second pair of eyes double check your written communication. Check for writing conventions, but also for tone and voice. Do your homework and research an issue before blogging, sending out an email, or responding to a customer.

Your word is your bond.

In today’s world, integrity is everything. For years now, customers have been let down by businesses, organizations and government and they will not tolerate it any more. They will simply choose another business to patronize. Do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it. Keep agreements with your customers and follow through on requests. Appearing flaky even for a moment will result in losing your customer to someone else.

Knowledge talks, wisdom listens.

It used to be that it was critical to present yourself as an expert in your field; declare your knowledge and impart it on them over and over until it sunk in. Now though, it is critical to be an expert in your customers. Get to know them. Listen to them. Find out what their needs are and offer solutions to them. Listen to them. The questions that come up most often in your field can become your next blog post. The comments you receive can lead to improvements in your product or service. The thank you notes or emails you collect can be used as feedback about what you’re doing right – take note of it and do more of it. Listen to your customers and they’ll notice.

“People before things” is a saying you may have heard long ago. It is a concept that is tried and true in relationships in the “real world” and your customers will be happy to see it emerging as one of the best practices of online marketing. When businesses put people first, the rewards are solid and long-lasting.

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