DM News: What do you see as the biggest priorities for marketers in 2023?
CS: In 2023, it comes back to knowing your customers and making sure that you really understand what your customers value. When looking at priorities for marketers, one of the highest priorities should be having a fully-integrated Voice of Customer (VOC) program. Brands need to be hearing what people love about them, be aware of any weaknesses, as well as understand what’s going on in the market with their competitors.
The challenge is that there is so much of this data available that it can be difficult to consume and draw valuable insights from without the right tools. Marketers simply cannot handle this volume without tools and systems that simplify and streamline this process and elevate the insights they need. This is where leveraging AI and machine learning comes in as an opportunity for brands to better understand and engage with their customers.
DM News: How can brands best leverage this customer dialogue online?
CS: The most obvious one is to actually listen to customer dialogue. I’m amazed at how many organizations are not doing that, and it’s frightening to see how many don’t hear what their customers are saying online. This unsolicited feedback is precisely what brands need to succeed.
We’ve helped customers who were once unaware of horrific photos and comments being shared by consumers and even their competitors on their digital footprint. We were able to help those customers find and address those issues. If brands are not aware of who is sharing and what is being said, it’s a huge missed opportunity.
It’s also critical that brands engage in the dialogue and acknowledge the comments – -both positive and negative.
DM News: What would you say is the top reason why they (brands) might not be listening?
CS: Because it’s hard. If businesses don’t have an easy way to synthesize the immense volume of information that comes in, it’s like they’ve walked up to the world’s largest buffet, and they don’t know where to start.
I find a lot of marketers don’t respect the tech enough. They don’t understand how to leverage it to their advantage to hear what their customers are saying. In order to thrive, especially in tough economic times, brands need to understand their customers’ language and what things they are prioritizing. This is where tech becomes invaluable.
There’s an element of getting so overwhelmed by information that you do nothing. It’s easier to say, “I know, I need to do this,” but then not take action. It’s hard. It takes time. You’ve got to actually have a strategy, and then you need to be able to implement it. But, when brands do it, well, it’s phenomenal. We’ve seen our clients go from struggling to fully engage with their customers and grabbing market share. At a time when consumers are spending less, some brands are actually gaining market share because they are hearing what their customers care about. The feedback is out there, but the real value is in unsolicited customer feedback. Brands have to know where and how to go find it, listen to it, and take action.
DM News: We’ve talked about the benefits of AI. Are there any drawbacks to adding AI into the marketing picture?
CS: My biggest hope is that brands don’t use AI in applications where it doesn’t fit. This leads to a loss of creativity. I hear people talking about using generative AI to create content, but it simply cannot and will not replace a good, creative marketing team.
AI should be leveraged to make things operationally faster – to automate manual things. AI is the perfect technology to synthesize data and create more automation and progression inside a business. For example, in the Chatmeter platform, our technology can see common threads, such as poor online ratings due to unclean bathrooms at a chain restaurant – highlighting a critical area to improve instantly at a local level. One location can impact the multi-location brand so, we need to be monitoring at a local level.
Marketers have an incredible opportunity to employ AI to enable them to have more time to really do the strategic thinking or to take action on the key things that are bubbling up. That’s exciting.
DM News: Outside of the traditional online review channels, where else should marketers be paying attention to this customer feedback?
CS: That’s a great question. One of the most relevant feedback comes from social media channels, which are evolving daily.
Look at TikTok and the ways brands are engaging in video and other non-traditional review channels. They’re definitely harder to listen to, but these are the places where customers are having conversations about your brand.
Right now, it’s TikTok, but it wasn’t long ago when Snapchat was the hottest app. Plus, while the eras of Facebook and MySpace seem like distant memory, they were once new and popular with younger users. There is an endless evolution, so marketers need to constantly look at where their influencers are. Where people are talking about them and their products — and find a way to turn those conversations into brand intelligence.
DM News: What is advice you’d give to CMOs or marketing executives who are interested in finding and using this unsolicited data?
CS: Don’t try to control the conversation – hope that you get invited. If not, invite yourself. Find places where your customers are talking about your products and services and plant a stake. Customers don’t want to talk directly to a brand unless there’s a reason for it. So have purpose, have intent, and have a great conversation.
I had an interesting conversation with the CMO of a real estate company recently. She said, “We’ve come to the realization that some of the strongest influencers have zero real estate experience. We could stand there on the mountaintop and say, ‘that guy has never flipped a house’ or ‘this person’s never bought property’ and argue it or we could get engaged and demonstrate our areas of expertise and allow them to be a part of the conversation. They have a million followers but not a lot of experience. If you can wedge your way into that conversation with authority, then you can have a way of complementing that conversation while being mindful not to take it over.”
DM News: How can digital teams keep up with these customer comments that are coming in, from dozens or even hundreds of different locations?
CS: The obvious thing is you need a tool, right? You need a platform, and you need a methodology to engage in unsolicited social feedback. Then, have a plan for how you’re going to communicate. Part of the ability to keep up is having coordination amongst your team. What you don’t want is everyone having side conversations. You want to actually have a concentrated communication plan on how this works. For large, multi-location brand marketing, sometimes that means involving your CX team, your operations team, your marketing team, your leadership team, and even your legal department. But keeping up with those comments means that you have to have a communication strategy. And you have the opportunity to create next-level brand loyalty.
Cynthia brings nearly 25 years of experience to Chatmeter with a background in local SEO, product development, strategic marketing, revenue generation, and sales. Cynthia’s customer-centric approach to driving business value, growth, and revenue will support Chatmeter’s expansion into new verticals. She joined Chatmeter from a previous role as VP of operations and product at Rio SEO and has held leadership roles at data-centric organizations such as Acxiom, Hanley Wood, and Constellation Software. Cynthia is an active Forbes Council contributing author.