Go Where the Customers Are

Ubiquity is one path to increasing sales. If you aren’t there, customers can’t buy from you. And so brands grow. They become part of new communities, rent space in malls, build new stores, relocate to where the population is and expand internationally. And then think of the possibilities of the World Wide Web. We have the chance to be everywhere at once. So why aren’t the customers coming when they have 24/7 access to my products?

Photo from Flickr user Bobasonic

Photo from Flickr user Bobasonic

Being available is different from being available. Let me restate that. Having a store in Chicago doesn’t mean your customers in Chicago will visit.

We all set priorities. Maybe a trip to the mall will answer most of our problems. Maybe jumping all around town is required. How often do you find yourself speeding across town to get a loaf of bread from your favorite baker? Would a loaf from the supermarket down the street do just fine?

These are issues we face in the real world. It’s not much different in the virtual world. Having a site for your customers is only one step to becoming digitally ubiquitous. Because you are available to all people at all times does not mean they will seek you out.

This is key in today’s world of social media. Users now spend more time searching and connecting than buying. In fact, many of the buying decisions are made long before they reach your site. Whether it is a search engine that created preference, a ratings site or friends and family, your web site does not act as a virtual storefront.

Yet, most are created to serve that purpose.

Your storefront is your search listing. It’s the raves and rants being related every day by your customers. They are taking pictures of your products, shooting video, writing reviews and defining the benefits – who thought mentos and diet coke could be entertaining.

Becoming ubiquitous in the digital world means more than putting up a transaction center. It means arming your salesforce to go out and meet the customers. You need to interact where they congregate.

One step toward this is certainly advertising. Just as signage in a mall can drive traffic to the store, banner space online can drive traffic to a site. However, the numbers are in and they’re not good. Now, think about the individuals walking around that same mall talking about your store. This conversation gets overheard and drives a lot more traffic to the store. Let’s go one step further. Imagine you had an employee walking by that overheard that conversation and could add some authority to it. In addition to, “you’ve got to see these new shoes,” an employee could add, “and they’re all 10% off today.”

This is the world of social media and networking that we live in today. There’s two sides to becoming ubiquitous. First, there’s being seen through search listings and banners. This seems fairly straightforward and well understood by today’s marketers. We have paid search, organic search and ad networks that facilitate much of this process.

What we’re missing is the personal touch. And therein lies the greatest opportunity. Ubiquity and availability are two different concepts in the digital world. Being available means going where the customers are. Currently, this is in the social spaces – Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter and the list goes on. Exactly what spaces to get involved with and how to interact is its own combination of art and science. We’ve been able to figure out search and ad networks, I have no doubt we’ll be able to figure out a more human network.

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