What does your audience expect from you? Before they have even been introduced to you, they have expectations of you. Where do these expectations come from? What should businesses do about them in order to be successful?
The true answer to all of these (and more) questions is that it is you that teaches people how to treat you. If somebody has an expectation, and you fail to meet it and cause disappointment there are only 2 possible scenarios:
- You legitimately failed to deliver as promised, and need to make it right.
- Or, you failed to manage expectations prior to the exchange, (yes) still need to make it right.
This is true for human interactions across the board; business or personal. It’s called taking control, being accountable, or even “sculpting your own destiny.”
The audience has preconceived ideas from past experiences with businesses like yours. Think of all your competitors. Think of all the associations that people have with your product. What is the history? What has led your audience up to this moment in time where they see you for the first time? The better you understand these things, the better prepared you are in all the steps following. Have you done your homework?
The first impression has a lot riding on it. Is it noticeable? How about memorable? Is every word, line, shape and color saying what you intend it to say? The frame you provide in the first interactions with your customer tells them how to set up their expectations.
“What is a Frame? A Frame is the message that precedes your message, or the context in which your message is viewed or received. The ‘set-up,’ if you will. The Frame shapes your prospect’s assumptions and preconceived notions. A positive Frame increases the chances that your marketing efforts will succeed; a negative Frame can derail an otherwise great program.” –Linda Coss
Common Frames (From Coss):
- Word of Mouth — Why is word-of-mouth advertising so successful? Because it’s an incredibly powerful frame. Your prospect is already “sold” before he or she opens your website or picks up the phone.
- Graphic Design — Your graphic design frames the context of your company’s message. Does your design announce that you are you highly professional? Family-oriented? Current and trendy? Guard against undermining your message with poor or inappropriate graphic design.
- Ads — Ads are framed by the editorial and advertising contexts of the advertising vehicle. Choose carefully where you place anything about your business. Would you frame an ad for Prime Rib with an article about the benefits of vegetarianism — or in a publication targeting Hindus? Would you want that ad next to an ad for PETA?
Expectations are built and set through every part of communication. Make sure you are clear and thorough. Communication goes both ways. The information you send out, sure. But everything you can glean from the audience and your customer can give you valuable nuggets of what their needs expectations are.
Make sure there is no confusion or disappointment by setting up your brand and your frame well, and that your communications are continually clear. If there is a gap between your delivery and what the audience expects, be prepared to suggest additional resources that will meet their needs. It is all about customer service, and the more you can help them, the happier they will be.
If you are unable to meet a specific customer’s needs, use “the parking lot”.
“If your audience reveals expectations in issues or questions that you are not equipped to deal with [because of lack of knowledge, information or time], “park” them in a location ideally where all can see and let everyone know that you will follow up with more information and resources needed. While this doesn’t automatically cause those expectations to be met, it does convey that you are committed to satisfying the needs of the audience.” –Kathy Refenstein
Do not just ignore unmet needs and continue along as if nothing is wrong. Doing something other –or less than– what is expected will hurt you, your business, and your brand.
You are expected to be involved on social media. Period. HubSpot research shows us exactly what your customers expect of you, why and how.
“Specifically, 95% of Millennials expect brands to have a Facebook presence. Also, 87% of Gen X’ers (30- to 44-year-olds) and even 70% of those ages 45 to 60 think brands should, at the very least, have a Facebook page. While consumers reduced expectations by about 10% for Twitter presence, they dropped expectations even further for Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+. About 50% of those polled expect brands to have a presence on these social media platforms.” — The Social Lifecycle: Consumer Insights to Improve Your Business
You might be protesting about now. Who has time to play around, socializing? In all seriousness, social media is far from “playing around.” It is a critical part of your business’ communication strategy. What does it mean for your business?
“Social channels are a sign of a company’s dedication to transparency, accountability and even customer service! Customers recognize this and expect to see a brand engaging with customers on Facebook. Even though “silent” customers may not add comments or likes (basically, VALUE) to a brand’s Facebook page, still . . . they’re watching.” — Suzanne Delzio
People expect businesses to be active on Facebook and two or three other social channels. So what do they want once they are there? A great way to measure best practices for businesses on social media is to look at the companies that have the most loyal followings.
Here are some of the top social-media-successful businesses and what they do:
- Costco (1.2 million fans): Deals on items consumers need.
- Ziploc (1.6 million fans): Holiday recipes like cakes encrusted with peppermint sticks crushed in Ziploc bags? Crafts and holiday decorations stored in . . . you guessed it . . . Ziploc containers.
- St. Jude Children’s Hospital (1.8 million fans): Photos of children getting better.
- Medela (360,600 fans): Baby photos and information to support breastfeeding.
- Tide (over 4 million Facebook fans): Featuring the Scott twins, also known as the Property Brothers. Focused on clothes that can get really dirty like military, janitorial, construction and firefighting uniforms.
- Reese’s Candy Company (12 million fans): Interesting desserts incorporating Reese’s products. Peanut information.
Note of critical importance: None of these companies put boring ads on their pages. Do not put ads on your own page. Please “include something with the potential to enrich the reader’s life”- Delzio
“People respond to things that are relevant to them. Understanding the passions and interests of your advocates guides your understanding of what interests your most passionate consumers.” –LoudDoor
When businesses deliver entertainment and enrichment on social media, audiences reward them by becoming brand advocates and showing sizable amounts of consumer goodwill. Next critical to-do for social media: Provide actual customer support. When 1,000 consumers were asked whether they ever asked a customer service question on social media, 35% said yes. Of these, 51% said that the brand’s response gave them a “somewhat more” or “much more” favorable view of the brand. Did you get that? Over half of people who have a business respond to them on social media like that business more than they did before.
Still, many brands hesitate establishing themselves on social media because they fear negative comments. A HubSpot study finds that consumers reached out on social media to compliment a brand more often (50%) than to criticize it (35%). Now take that 35% and respond to their concerns and over half of them will like you more. If you dread any negative comments at all because you are worried they will minimize the other good ones there, read this on using negative complaints to benefit your business.
Smart businesses leverage all audience comments, compliments –and yes– criticisms on their social media to improve the business’ image. Create an easily accessed customer service and communication channel via social media to add to your business’ credibility.
How you respond makes a difference. Most customers expect businesses to be ready to respond quickly. Plan and prepare for this.
“Forty-two percent [of customers] expect a response in under an hour, 25% in the same day and 9% want it in 5 minutes!” –Convince and Convert
Another note and repeat (because it is so misunderstood) on avoiding being sales-y on your social media:
“People do not go to social media to promote or be promoted to. They go to connect with friends, be entertained or enlightened and have fun. Consumers admit that if there’s a product or service they need, the best place for businesses to reach them is through email marketing. Facebook is a distant fourth. LinkedIn and Twitter landed in fifth and seventh place with negligible numbers. Gallup even goes so far as to state that companies betting on social media to boost sales will be disappointed.” –The Social Lifecycle: Consumer Insights to Improve Your Business
That means you must be in the entertainment business in some ways and also delivering helpful and interesting content.
“Our data reveal that a customer who is fully engaged represents an average 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth compared with the average customer. In stark contrast, an actively disengaged customer represents a 13% discount in those same measures.” Social Media Examiner
“Fully engaged customers have a strong emotional attachment to a company. They act as brand ambassadors for this company, rallying on its behalf to friends, family, and coworkers, and going out of their way to purchase its products or services. Some might even say that they love that company.” –Sorensen and Adkins
Your audience comes to you with expectations. Get to know them so you know where they are coming from and what they want of you. Frame all your interactions so that your business is set up in the most advantageous place to interact with customers. Help shape your customer’s expectations with ever interaction they have with you. A critical component in all these expectations is your business presence on social media. Use it well to carry values and identity — not details of specific products or services– into the news feeds and to the hearts and minds of your audience. Like a business rock star, your customers will love you for it.