Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Customer?

afraid to be foundWhy are so many companies and personal brands hiding from their customers and prospects?

In a world filled with chatter about “transparency”, “accessibility”, and “authenticity”, it should be easy to contact anyone with an online line presence. It isn’t.

I first noticed this trend when I attended two social media conferences last fall. Both were for B2B marketing people. When I returned home and sorted through my stack of business cards, I found:

78% didn’t have a mailing address
72% didn’t have a telephone or fax number
63% didn’t have an email address

84% had a Twitter user ID
98% had a URL

This was extremely different from my experiences at direct marketing conferences. The business cards passed out there consistently include mailing addresses, email addresses, and telephone numbers. Some even have 1-800 numbers on their business cards. They are so committed to being accessible that they are willing to pay for the call!

The trend is also online.

Contact information is missing from websites and blogs. Click to follow, friend, or like is replacing the click to contact. Seeing this on personal blogs doesn’t surprise me much. But seeing it on business websites and blogs leaves me wondering what they are thinking.

Some do have forms to complete, but preface them by saying, “they will be read, but may not be answered.” Does playing hard to get work better than being accessible? Has marketing become a cat and mouse game where the customer has to chase the company?

Most customers and prospects don’t want to discuss their business online.

Many don’t even participate in social media. Yet. If you are a social media consultant and only allow people to contact you via a SM platform, how do you expect to connect with the newbies?

The question that runs through my mind when I land on one of those sites is “What do you fear?”

“Is it that too many people will contact you?”

“Or, that someone will ask you to do something that you don’t want to?”

“Or, are you just too important to be bothered by others?”

Maybe I don’t get it because I’m a direct marketer who sees social media as a wonderful tool for meeting new people, reestablishing lost relationships, and connecting with people on a different level. If that’s the case, please explain it to me. I’m willing to learn.

Otherwise, I’m left to draw my own conclusions, which include:

  • Social media advocates are decidedly anti-social. (Unless you are in their inner circle.)
  • Transparency means that you show people what you want them to see. (Hint: People can see behind the façade, too.)
  • Accessibility is allowing people to contact you on an open forum so everyone can see how many people connect with you. (Just so you know, they can see that you aren’t answering too.)
  • Authenticity? Can’t touch this one, because it’s not there.

For my readers who want to capitalize on the power of social media and the Internet, I have one recommendation:

Open every channel of communication available so your customers and prospects can contact you. And respond when they do.

There’s nothing to fear.


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