Ahhhh, nice to be back... Happy New Year to all - Hope you managed to get some time to unwind. I managed to completely unplug for a week and a half to clear my head and prepare for the exciting year ahead. To help make the most of the break, we opted for a road trip down to San Diego to check out the sights.
How's Lens road trip to SD relevant to your customers, you may ask? It's rather easy. Let me share some of the logistics of the trip.
Where is the Devanna Clan going to stay?
Always a tough question - especially when you're not completely familiar with the area. So, in the days ahead of my trip, I spent time on Tripadvisor and Expedia to find the right location but, most importantly, to learn what other travelers thought of specific hotels... Is there a train outside the window? Did the check-in clerk look just a bit too much like Norman Bates? Are they in the process of remodeling?
Long drive behind us - Now what to do?
San Diego is a cool place to visit if you haven't already. The city is beautiful - the beaches gorgeous. Of course, there's also the Wild Animal Park, San Diego Zoo, Sea World, SD Marina, Old Town, Gaslamp District... A lot of interesting and competing destinations for such a short trip... To help make the right choices (factoring in personal tastes, of course), I'm back to TripAdvisor, Virtual Tourist and Yahoo Travel. Through candid user comments, I'm able to glean information simply not available through other means.
What a fun day! But man am I STARVING!
No problem (Len whips iPhone out of nerdy holster with amazing speed and grace)... Fire up the Urban Spoon application and effortlessly find eateries in the area but, most importantly, jump back into those user reviews to choose the *perfect* place. We chose Candelas in the Gaslamp district. One of the best meals I've had in awhile. It was 100% user commentary that brought us here... Folks talking about the menu, the ambiance, best time to visit, etc;.
The drive home always seems to take much longer than the ride there, leaving me plenty of time to process the trip. What struck me is that *everything* we did - sleeping, eating, attractions, even picking the right beach to visit - EVERYTHING - was based on opinions and comments of the community at large.
No advertising at play here - no promotions to get me in the door - no coupons, billboards, vendor sites... Nothing but raw opinion from the customers or visitors of these establishments to get my $$$.
As with other elements of the Social Web, this is much more prominent in the retail space but is indeed making it's way to other segments. WOM marketing is clearly a strong influencer in B2B - but does not yet have the reach or impact that it does on the consumer side, IMO.
So - as a brand - what are you doing to monitor the pulse of such information? Do you pay attention to the reputation of your brand on relevant sites? Are you diverting your advertising dollars away from traditional techniques to help reach out to - and hopefully leverage - the power of opinion?
At least from my POV, little else maters when it comes to attracting your next customer.