Most organizations focus their attention on growing their customer base. The real focus should be on growing the circle of people that trust what you stand for.
Do that and the customer part will take care of itself with the aid of some simple "how to buy" education.
Think about the last purchase you made. You went to a search engine, checked out reviews, asked your buddies on Twitter and maybe even visited a few comparison-shopping sites.
Most likely your purchase was influenced by what countless others said was the way to go - excluding marketing pitches, brand names or even brand recognition.
What some people fail to understand is that the bigger your circle of trust, the bigger your business potential. Your customer base resides inside the circle of trust, but when you focus on expanding the base of those that trust what your company stands for you also bring your staff and future staff, partners, vendors, mentors, influencers, journalists and collaborators into your story - and that's how the circle builds your business.
Anyone that questions the ROI of social media needs to wrap their head around this one idea.
When it comes to building your circle of trust here's what matters today.
The stories told in small groups matter - We love stories, and we particularly love stories we can rally around. Few things are more compelling than a story about couple of guys deciding they could create a cleaning products company like Method right under the nose of an industry giant like Proctor and Gamble and win.
The ratings found on countless sites matter - Decisions are made every day about hotels, diners and plumbers based on the reviews of patrons found on sites like Google Places or Yelp! You can tell real reviews that come from real fans because they talk about the real stuff that we care about - the little things. They talk about the people that work there as much or more than they talk about the products and services. Even large brands like RotoRooter can live and die by the review
The page one results matter - It's not enough that a search for your business turns up your Website - let's hope so. What's equally important is that it turns up an entire digital presence. You need to own page one for a direct search on your firm like Niner Bikes does. You need to be there for your site, your social networks, your reviews, your community involvement and your awards.
The blog comments matter - Direct conversations with clients, about clients, about your products, about your people, about the things your company stands for are going to show up in comments on blogs. Chris Brogan, an online business consultant, routinely gets hundreds of comments to each blog post. That's where his story is made. Your blog, industry blogs, competitive blogs - this is a fire you must start and grow, this is the real conversation.
The shares, +1s, and likes matter - Sentiment is one of the hottest measurements online these days and it's a marker of true loyalty. Do people talk about your brand in the language of likes, shares and pluses? Not in the false trumped up "Become a fan and win" kind of way. The voluntary kind of sharing that a company like The Natural Running Store enjoys. These are the new currencies of marketing success and demonstrate the true value of a strong brand even if you've never heard of them yet.