Are you properly managing your company’s word of mouth? Nowadays, consumers communicate with and about brands in numerous ways and on different levels. If you thought the phone or email were still sufficient, you’re greatly mistaken. They are just one of the many possible channels to interact with your clients. And whether you like it or not, you might want to think about taking advantage of some of ‘the new kids on the block’.
Conversations Are a Business Opportunity
The usage of apps and social platforms such as Whatsapp and Facebook is rapidly growing. To give you a little background, in 2015 Facebook’s user base grew to an astonishing 1.5 billion users. Other emerging networks such as Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are also making their way to a billion-people public, making them by far the most interesting communication platforms of this time.
With the rapid growth and importance of these and other similar channels, business opportunities arise. Now more than ever, businesses are able to establish a personal and, most importantly, a real(-time) relationship with their community through conversations. It also enables them to control the crowd and optimize their engagement with their brand. Easier said than done, because making a Snapchat account because everyone else does it, is the wrong approach. Businesses should see these platforms as a goal, not as an instrument.
So what about your fitness business? Starting a conversation is easy, maintaining it is the hard part. You have to decide if your fitness business is ready to commit to conversation management. If so, be ready to make conversation management part of your client-centric strategy.
“The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.”
– William Hazlitt
The Power of Conversation Management
Conversation management is a defining characteristic for client-centered businesses. These businesses strive for excellent client service and go the extra mile to achieve ultimate client satisfaction. They recognize the impact of their community and seize the opportunities to redeem their value. How? Simple. By converting employees and clients into brand ambassadors. But that’s easier said than done.
Steven van Belleghem, author of The Conversation Manager, describes these businesses as conversation companies. Crucial part of a real conversation company is the organizational culture. This culture must be crystal clear to all employees and in such a way that they become one with the company culture. That culture describes how employees should behave and how to communicate with clients. An optimal company culture makes sure that employees radiate the company values to their environment, with positive buzz as a result. Unfortunately, lots of employees still feel restricted by their company culture to radiate the culture to others, or because the social media policy of the company doesn’t let them.
According to Insites Consulting, 40% of all employees are proud to work for the company they work for, but they just don’t communicate about it. That’s a missed opportunity! As a company, you should enable and facilitate your employees to share their pride in an authentic and non-forced way. A highly client-focused company culture is the core of a conversation company. Moreover, proud employees and a clear company culture are things competitors can’t easily copy. Besides proud employees who don’t talk about their company, there is even more untapped conversational potential: research shows that 28% of clients is satisfied, but don’t communicate this satisfaction. Together with employees they form a powerful yet untapped potential for businesses to create engagement.
The Four Elements of the Conversation Company
Besides company culture, there are 4 elements to focus on when pursuing the status of conversation company and utilize its untapped potential:
- Customer Experience
Customer experience can be described as the management of expectations. As a brand, you should always try to exceed client’s expectations. Picture this: Your car window is broken and needs to be repaired. You go over to your local repair service and expect your window to be repaired, right? But what if the repair service not only replaces your window, but also cleans up your car by removing all the trash that’s inside? That would probably exceed your expectations, right? This is what Dutch repairservice Carglass recently did when a customer brought his car in. It wasn’t to advertise, it wasn’t to attract attention. No, they were just showing their culture and acting on it, trying to wow their customer. And they did! Eventually, word got out about this small gesture and Carglass got the best possible promotion you can think of: positive word of mouth. Talk about low-effort / high-impact! You see, creating client experiences doesn’t have to cost you anything, as long as you act on the values you represent as a brand.
“Consumers are probably the most effective consultants your company can hire.”
– Steven van Belleghem
The second component, conversations, is pretty straight-forward, though it requires a solid strategy and corresponding guidelines (tip: don’t forget the freedom to improvise) for employees on how to behave in conversations with the community. The most important aspects of conversations are:
- Facilitating conversations about your brand (take ownership, be pro-active)
- Taking part in conversations about your brand (don’t be a sitting duck)
- Stimulating conversations between the community and the brand (be there!)
- Generate positive buzz
Content, the trigger for conversations, is the third component. You want to share content about your brand in an authentic and positive way. Think like a media company, which content is both exciting and interesting for your community? What is the best way to present this content with them and via which channels? How do you utilize the potential of your content to gain the maximum amount of exposure? Thomas Smith, social media director of Disney Destinations, recently opened up on how Disney does it. The social media platforms are managed using editorial calendars, like professional media channels would do. Sneak previews, behind the scenes-videos, featured stories; they are all used for social media and their Disney Blog to offer great content and stimulate conversations.
Collaboration is all about involving your clients with everything that you do. Don’t think lightly about this. A collaboration is much more than asking your clients to come up with a new flavor of potato chips or to invent the next daily fresh sandwich. These are all good initiatives, but really action-inadequate and superficial to the extent in which you really involve the clients. There’s no conversation there.
Collaboration at its best goes much, much further: client are almost treated like unpaid employees. They get involved in everything you do. One of the many great examples is Ducati. The Italian motorcycle manufacturer involves ‘fans’ from the beginning of the design process, until the launch of the actual manufacturing process. Ducatisti are welcomed to join Ducati-workshops, to show Ducati mechanics which modifications they would make to various models. These modifications are subject to ‘fan’ reviews, after which they have a chance of making it to official production. Not bad, right?
Find the Right Channels to Connect With Your Community
You see, there are lots of ways to involve and engage with your community. It really depends on your goals, strategy, and your type of business. But most importantly, you have to find out on which channels your community engages and how these channels could fit with your business. If you own a small bakery, why bother spending time on Linkedin? But if you own a gym, then Instagram, Facebook or a blog can help you out. Obviously, all these online and offline tools serve a purpose. To create a bit more understanding, here’s why could choose one over the other:
Facebook is the mother of all social platforms. This platform is a great tool to share different types of content, maintain public and private conversations, curate groups, and various possibilities for calls to action.
Instagram is by far the most popular and used platform, focusing purely on visual material. Is your gym doing something worth capturing on photo or video, there’s a good chance your community will agree. Take a snap, post it on Instagram. Don’t forget to add hashtags and reply on comments!
Use Twitter if you can and want to commit to an intensive way of interaction on social media. Twitter has proven to be a great tool for companies who want to be able to provide clients with 24/7 support.
Pinterest is a great way to build visual portfolios of product collections, inspiration or recent work. This platform is for the more creative companies. For travel agencies like Travelbird or Ikea, Pinterest is a great way to get attention for their products.
Is your company more business-faced, then consider Linkedin as your primal conversation platform. Just as with Facebook, Linkedin groups are a great way to start and maintain conversations.
Do you want to create and share short visual stories with your community, and do you have some time on your hands? Until recently, Snapchat was the most popular app to do so. However, Instagram released a similar feature in its app, making Snapchat irrelevant for lots of users who are already on Instagram.
A text messaging app that serves as a channel to provide instant client service; this is how you could describe WhatsApp nowadays. Companies like KLM utilize all possible tools to provide excellent service to clients, at any time. If you want to go the extra mile for your members or clients, consider using Whatsapp as your realtime F.A.Q. and help them out with health-related questions.
Do you want to write or share articles with your community and be able to start a conversation about them? Consider starting up a blog. For example, you’re personal trainer with an active community and you want to give some kind of extra service, by sharing facts, tips and tricks to achieve their goals better and faster. Or maybe you want to write an article on why you should be using fitness apps. A blog provides you the space to give a little bit more body to your conversations. Also, you can use your blog as a source for your social media content. Just share and redirect!
If you want to manage your community efficiently in one place, consider the benefits of a community portal. For your club, communication doesn’t just mean communicating with your clients, it also means engaging with them, and allowing your clients to engage with you and each other. Virtuagym offers an extensive club community portal, which will help you build relationships with your clients, keep them motivated and engaged with your club 24/7, and increase retention.
Conversations do not only happen online. People still like to converse ‘in the wild’. As a gym owner or personal trainer you can do a variety of things to fire up a conversation, while doing your work. Think of (free) workshops, member challenges, competitions, sponsored/hosted training days, bootcamps, or give-aways. Combine different channels – like an offline activity and Instagram – to increase exposure.
Earlier on, we talked about monitoring the buzz around your brand. Companies like Gatorade and Dell created a special team to monitor everything that is being said about the brand, trying to control the sentiment as much as possible. As a gym owner or personal trainer, it is quite possible you don’t have the resources to do so. Luckily, you don’t need a lot of time or a big bag of money to monitor your community. There’s plenty of free tools to keep track of the buzz and even visualize data, if you’re into that. Here’s a list of tools:
So, now you know why you should start building relationships through conversations. You know what your options are and which tools to use. Eager to get started? I can imagine. Take a look at this step-by-step approach and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a conversation company:
- Determine what kind of company you are in regard to your clients
- Set business goals and determine which audience to focus on
- Determine your strategy and tactics
- Determine how you apply the 4 C’s
- Choose the communication channels that fit your strategy
- Get started: create, share and take part in conversations!