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Gary Vaynerchuk on Customer Engagement at Denver Startup Week

Gary Vee Knows More About Customer Engagement Than You

Written By:
Matt Hubbard

Last Monday, Gary Vaynerchuk spoke at the Denver Startup Week Kickoff Luncheon. For those who couldn’t attend, the video is embedded below.

Gary V is the rare blend of speaker who is engaging, provocative, and substantive. He touched on a couple of themes that warrant more detail:

Social Media Represents a Revolution in Customer Engagement

Gary V said the most important site for any business is Twitter Search. Businesses can go on the site and see what people are saying about them, their industry, their competitors, etc. It’s an instant window into the global market, and a perfect venue to begin building relationships.

We’d add one caveat. Before you spend hours trying to engage (or advertise) on social networks, take some time to identify the right ones. There are hundreds out there, so you have to know where to listen. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the biggest, but your potential customer base might not be spread evenly among those three – requiring you to properly allocate your efforts. Also, niche customers might have a heavy presence on less popular networks, where you could get more bang for your buck. For example, we’ve found that Quora is an excellent place to engage with thoughtful techies.

Context Comes Before Content

We’ve all heard the maxim that “content is king,” but most businesses start writing content for social media before they pay attention to what is being said out there on the various networks. Gary V suggest you have to build context to set up content – meaning listen to the discussion before chiming in.

This translates to paying attention to what is being talked about and then capitalizing on it with relevant and timely content. For example, look at all the creative bloggers and marketers who capitalized on Felix Baumgartner’s parachute jump a few weeks ago by writing related posts.

You Can’t Engage People Using An Algorithm

Gary V is skeptical about the current startup values of automated scalability and algorithms, at least when it comes to customer engagement. He posited that it was best to spend significant time directly conversing with customers, whether over social media or even the phone. His company found that calling every customer to say “thanks” (without a sales pitch or other call to action) resulted in far better customer lifetime value than those who didn’t receive a call.

No argument here. You can engage in all the analytics you want, but nothing allows for the detail and nuance you get from a few minutes of honest discussion. For startups, this translates to closing the laptop and actually talking to your customers. A few days ago, I signed up for NextGreatPlace, a fellow Denver startup. Two hours after, they called me to say thanks and then sent a handwritten card and email referencing what we discussed over the phone. Very nice touch.

Personalize Engagement Methods

Gary V’s company is actively capturing his customers likes and dislikes on Twitter and other social networks. That way, when it’s time to send them a gift or otherwise communicate, they can mention things the user actually cares about. He gave the example of sending a signed Denver Broncos jersey to a Broncos fan to build an emotional relationship.

This is another amazing opportunity represented by social networks: they allow professionals to quickly find out what their customers publicly care about. It’s not much different than showing a relative you care by listening to them when they drop hints about desired birthday gifts. You just have to be smart enough to capitalize.

In Conclusion . . .

Gary V made one point that scared us – because it is true. He said salesmen and marketers eventually ruin everything. For example, email and and daily deal sites like Groupon. He predicts that, within the next three to five years, they will ruin social media as well.

We’d argue they’re already well on their way.

Anyone noticed what the political campaigns have done to Facebook and Twitter in the past several months? They’ve carpet bombed our feeds, to the point where one company created a browser extension that replaces political posts with cat pictures. Many campaigns have been wasting money by advertising in online venues where they are unlikely to find sympathetic voters (thereby violating our point in the first section of this post).

So get out there and use social media effectively, by listening first, and then creating content and engagement methods that are relevant to your customers.

Thanks, Gary V, for a fantastic kickoff speech, and thanks to everyone who attended Denver Startup Week!

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