So today, location-based social networking company Loopt announced a “reverse” Groupon.  Basically, you and your friends come up with a deal that you would like to see from a merchant and the sales team at Loopt try to get the merchant to produce the “u-deal”.  It might not work for every deal or every merchant, but once again, it puts the consumer in the driver’s seat.

From my proverbial pulpit, I have been preaching the importance of asking questions by marketers and business owners for years – has it sunk in? Nope.   We as marketers are so set in our old ways of trying to manipulate the consumer that actually asking a question and listening and responding to the answer seems absurd.  Well, I am here to tell you that if you don’t start asking the right questions and responding to the answers, consumers/clients will find other companies that are.

It is probably a girl thing, but Costco used to have these great underwear tank shirts. Every time I was at Costco, I ended up buying a pack of 2 (and that is a lot of visits).  The shirts were lightweight, came in a ton of colors, flew off the shelves, and they were made by an outside vendor.  Recently, Costco decided private label the shirts… but they made some changes – they added a ‘shelf-bra’, that annoying elastic that cuts at your rib cage and is not lightweight or comfortable.  The colors also changed, as did the fit.  Now, as I walk by the display, it looks like everyone else agrees with my assessment that the new ones suck.  I picture the buyers at Costco scratching their heads, shrugging, and deciding that the shirt’s popularity had run its course.  Instead, if they would have asked the question, they would have gotten honest feedback for one of their best selling women’s items.

I did not intend for this post to bag on Costco (because I LOVE Costco and spend a fortune there), but they have obviously missed the point of social media.  Their Facebook page is beautiful, but as traditional maketers, it is just an extension of their web page.  They are NOT engaging with their customers.  Their wall is full of great comments by loyal shoppers and there is not one interaction by the company to say “thank you”, or “we appreciate you”.  And, don’t get me started on the complaints – they have no idea what it would do for loyalty if they just answered some of the questions or explained their decisions.  By the way, they have over 280,000 Facebook followers… what I wouldn’t give to have that kind of open dialog with my clients.

“Where in the world do I start”, you ask?  In my opinion, Gary Vaynerchuk has delivered the best, most relevant, book on customer engagement in the past 5 years. I think I have sold more copies of Thank You Economy than Gary, solely because I am so passionate about how companies MUST START LISTENING to their customers.  If you haven’t read it, buy it. If you are a marketing guru, give it to all of your clients.

It is the AGE OF ENGAGE people… let’s start acting like it.

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