In the October issue of the magazine FastTalk, Fast Company interviews six political strategists to learn about how they study what you eat, drive and where you shop - and how this is making them more efficient at predicting how you vote.
The collection and study of data is also the topic of BusinessWeek senior writer Stephen Baker in his newly released book The Numerati.
It turns out that the political message that will get you to the voting booth might, oddly enough, be related to your shopping habits. Politics is tough - we’re not as polarized as one may think after all - nobody wants to talk to a pollster and many of us don’t even have a home phone anymore. But we all eat and buy new clothes.
Thanks to the help of technology, political strategist have now unprecedented access to our actual behavior - what we do vs. what we say we’ll do. That is a game-changing proposition, and one that businesses are only beginning to become aware of and utilize.
If Amazon can use algorithms to predict with some degree of accuracy what I’d like to read and buy on the basis of past purchases, why are so many businesses still grappling with the basics?
As to the date of this writing, many B2Bs are still trying to figure out who their customers are. Although we have become wiser as to the value of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) strategies thanks to Google, it is still the popular search engine that is benefitting from our efforts by serving ads that target our search behavior (but not yet our intention) precisely.
The Internet already guides pricing decisions - before we make any purchases we tend to shop around for best deals and information. Although the final decision is often still made through and with our personal networks - we ask friends and family for recommendations more than we think.
Yet there is room somewhere in there for you to help time-starved customers and prospects choose you.
You may not realize it, but having a blog or social media effort helps your customers self-select. There is much talk about the ROI of social media. One of the benefits to you for having a niche blog, a forum, or hosting a community is that you can focus on providing a refresh on information that is useful and relevant to your customers.
If you’re looking for some ideas on content, monitor what your customers are buying and start from there. Write about related products or services they may not know or think about. Allow them to help each other and discuss your products openly at your site - enable comments, post links to reviews, respond and participate. This may be most valuable on eCommerce sites. Your customers are conducting this kind of research, why not host the information they are seeking in your digital hub?
If Amazon knows about the purchases we make on the site, it is fair to assume that stores also know how much we spend with them and what we buy. Why not use that information to make recommendations on future purchases?
You don’t need to be a large business to learn more about what your customers are seeking, either. In a recent discussion at my blog, Gianpaolo, the owner of a small winery in Italy shared that he is not only openly allowing customer reviews on his site, he is encouraging them:
I wrote on my blog that I wanted to create a tasting panel for my wines. Initially 50 then I increased to 100 people. In order to join the panel, people had to subscribe on a page of my blog that I've prepared. There was only one condition required, to have a blog or website. Even this condition wasn't strict and you could join without a blog if you'd send me an email motivating your decision to join in. The surprise was that the most passionate people were those without a blog and I received fantastic email by people that loved the wines, that didn't have blogs but that were ready to share the tasting with friends and would send email to me with tasting notes to be published on my blog.
The tasting panel has been split in two groups of 50 people, each of which received a random 6 bottles pack with our wines The first group has just started (people have received the wines last monday)and people are publishing their notes on their blogs now. I've asked that the panel ended at the end of this month, so we'll see more on the next days.
We promise that we'll republish all the notes on our blog (linking back to the original post if there is one), as soon as they are available, without altering, editing, censoring anything. The feedback section for each wine is active on our blog and will be there permanently and open to everyone to read and comment at any time about our wines, even outside the tasting panel.
Social media allows you to become more intimate with your customers, to show the personality of your business - and to collect data about what they like and why. In addition, you have the data from the purchases customers have made at your business.
You can add what people say they do to what they actually do - this is intelligence you can use to optimize not just your keywords on the site.
Take that data and learn how to make your offerings better. It also tells you who buys and why they buy, what is different about your business that connects with their taste - and to their values/beliefs, how they see themselves. Most importantly, all this information can give you insights on how to serve your customers better - how to make them happier so they come back for more, and send their friends your way, too.
We’ve talked about privacy here in the past. That remains a concern.
Valeria Maltoni • Conversation Agent