Forbes talks to GearHeads CEO Chris Riley about why listening to your customers is crucial for a successful content and social strategy.
In June of this year, Karen Webster, who is the CEO of Market Platform Dynamics wrote an article with a very, shall I say intriguing title: The Dangers of Listening To Consumers. She writes: “If you want to create a digital commerce strategy that maximizes your chances of adding value to the consumer and merchant experience on the Web and/or via the mobile phone, whatever you do, don’t ask consumers what they think.”
Now the very next line in her piece explains just what she means by the “dangers of listening” — “Better to watch what they do instead.” The operative word is watch for her point was there is a big difference between what people say they will do vs. what they actually do.
And she is 100% right.
But there’s a flip side to the whole “listening to your customers” of course. I say ‘of course’ because is should be obvious to every marketer there is are inherent advantages to in fact actually not only listening to your customers but also acting on what they say.
Not long ago I wrote of the new campaign put out by the Philadelphia 76′ers NBA team. Team CMO Tim McDermott, in speaking about the new campaign which was created in part based on feedback from its fans said he always felt that “if brands are just willing to listen to their customers, their customers will tell them the answers.”
I am the first to admit the amount of knowledge I have when it comes to cars and really any motorized vehicle is just about on E on the gas tank of acumen. However, what I am is a voracious consumer of content – no big surprise. In my role I pore over a whole lot of content from a whole lot of brands, some well-known; some not-so-well-known.
It is the latter which GearHeads falls under. A site which provides the latest information about automotive news and trends, their site as well as their social media presence(s) are one built mostly and proudly I might add, by listening to its customers.
I had the chance to speak with Chris Riley, the CEO not long ago and in prep for our call I was told that he takes the time to read every communication the company gets from its customers. I of course found this hard to believe but it was in fact 100% true.
Steve Olenski: Why do you, as the CEO personally read every single comment, email, and message received from your customers? Aren’t you too busy for that?
Chris Riley: I don’t think any CEO should ever be too busy for customers or readers of a given brand’s content. Maybe I spend more time on it than others but I believe very strongly that time should be dedicated to being hands-on with your customers and readers.
I’ve been in touch with our readers since starting GearHeads. Back then I had a very small budget and felt paying close attention to our readers and giving them what they wanted was important. That was a major contributing factor to our rapid growth and will continue to be in the future. Our content team interacts with our customers and readers too, of course. And I can tell you first hand I’ve seen take suggestions from customers and readers and incorporate them into new content.
Olenski: What’s an example you can share of you reading what your customers tell you then acting on it?
Riley: I can give you a list there. Basic things would include new direction on content, as I mentioned, and followup articles, too. On a larger scale you have things like how we pushed into motorcycles. We had posted a video which included a motorcycle racing a car, the comments were loaded with readers showing off their motorcycles so it was an instant no-brainer that they wanted to see more bikes.
We posted a few and they received a lot of attention so we added a new category to the main site and setup a separate fan page for motorcycles, the fan page has been active around 4 months and already has over 90,000 followers but the past month the growth has really picked up and the readers there are even more active than on the automotive side. We have several other big ones coming up but I’ll wait until they are ready to launch to tell you about them.
We spend a minimum of $30,000 a month on Facebook alone and part of the reason for that is to monitor constantly what people are saying and what content they like and we can react accordingly by posting more of what they like and less of what they don’t.
This also led to the launch of our new community section on our website, which allows users to post their own content and show off their cars or motorcycles. People were constantly sending them to us via private message or in comments.
So we figured let’s just give them a place where they can do this. We do not monetize this section whatsoever for the simple reason it belongs to our customers and readers.
Olenski: This all sounds so simple and obvious, listening to your customers. Yet so many brands do not. Why?
Riley: I can only guess that they feel their time is better spent other places. If I have other priorities to complete then I will put in more of my personal time to maintain that reader relationship. This is more important than completing objectives. For Gear Heads, engaging our customers and readers is always the top priority. If you aren’t listening to your customers, then someone else, AKA your competition, will.
Olenski: In today’s world, perhaps more than ever, it’s vital for a brand to not only listen to its own customers, but also monitor what’s being said elsewhere, AKA their competition. Do you agree?
Riley: Absolutely. As I just mentioned, if you aren’t listening to your readers then someone else will and it’s only a matter of time before you’re closing your doors. Right now Gear Heads has gone from starting in 2012 and 5,000-10,000 page views a day to by the end of that same year to 300,000+ a day and it’s because we’re constantly searching for what isn’t being provided and using that to bring in new readers. With the rapid pace things can change with technology these days, if you aren’t growing you’re dying.
This article was written by Steve Olenski from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
Originally published on Nov 30, 2015 11:00 AM, updated Sep 21, 2016