I was in a Matatu heading to town when another social media moment happened. The Matatu that I was in was half empty and so the conductor was sitting with half his body outside the window as he whistled at potential passengers. Then he sees two guys approaching from the feeder road and reacts by hitting the car body really hard and telling the driver to back up and reverse into the feeder road. But while yelling at the driver to hurry up, the conductor of another Matatu which had stood quite some distant away from us ran by our car and went to talk to these guys. By the time our Matatu was reversed up to a meter away from them, they were sold. Despite the fact that all they had to do was lift up their feet and get into our Matatu (which was very descent youth-wise; Big TV, Loud Music, and Flashy Colours) they walked past us and walked for quite some distance on the dusty road following the conductor to his Matatu. Our driver cursed and drove off past them leaving dust in their wake.
As a business, you may have all the right products. You may have the biggest advertising budgets, a marketing team from here to Timbuktu, and selling that revolutionary product that dwarfs all competition. You may have the fanciest website, the biggest office block, and a prime location in the CBD. Unfortunately, you still do lose customers to the start-up next door. Like the two young passengers, people will walk past by your fancy office in the famous road just to get to the less glamorous but better receptive company. Just because you come to my TV every night and I see you on Billboards in every highway does not make me think any less or more of you. What sells is today is the human connection and once you have that, you will develop better business relationships. In this case, these young passengers despite the fact that our car reversed all the way to pick them still followed the conductor who had rushed to talk to them. They walked right past us on the dusty road and followed the conductor to his car on the main road. That is what human voices do; they convince us to walk with you, to be patient with you, to give you the chance, and to try your products.
I must insist that you read the Cluetrain Manifesto because this is the best guideline to human interactions for business ends. The first 5 points read as follows:
So as a business, recognize that even though I have seen your adverts, I still need to hear your voice.
I have been angry at internet service providers, bank cashiers etc but this anger has always been mitigated by the kind voice on the other end that asks what the problem is and after my rant apologizes, and then requests me to wait for a while as they drop everything just to ensure my problems are settled first. Many are the times that we have entered a business but from a look that a cashier gives us, a twist of the mouth, a sneer, an unkind word, a snobbish attitude, we not only took our money elsewhere but told those within our circle of influence and anyone else who would care to listen about your company’s transgressions. The point being that the human connections dictate the business relationship that will develop thereafter. The problems that customers have with companies are mainly not with the products or services but the people behind these products and services. Rude receptionists, snobbish secretaries, uninformed salespeople, customer care personnel who cannot solve our problems are what people take issue with. And the solution lies in people connecting with people better so that business can flourish. Talking to a client and solving her issues instead of directing her to the FAQ’s. It is about treating each client as unique and not as falling within certain demography and hence quick fixes.
Whereas businesses could not connect on this level with every client, social media has given them the platforms to do just that. From obscure voices on the other end of the line to names and faces on Facebook, personalized responses in the comment sections of blogs, and apt responses to queries posted in your blog, Fan-page, Facebook group, community, and twitter account, companies can develop the human connections that will anchor their brands in our hearts.
A strong Social Media presence in indispensable to businesses today because customers are now walking with businesses that can take their time to come to their social space not to bombard them with endless offers and adverts but to hear them out, respond to their posts, and basically be of value.
The next 5 of 95 theses in the Cluetrain Manifesto reads as follows:
So be a smart marketer and move from the comfort of your fancy website to the social space where your customers are connecting. Once there, listen, respond, give value, engage, and then sit back and watch as people follow you back to your Matatu Company.