One of the biggest trends I’ve seen in 2016 is that more marketers have decided to stop talking past their customers, and start talking to them. It’s what I like to call “Looking People in the Eye Digitally,” and it’s great to see people embracing the concept. That’s the good news. On the other side of the ledger, the brands that have embraced personal, relationship-focused marketing present a stark contrast to the many that are still locked into the old, impersonal status quo. Industry-wide change takes time, when it happens at all, but your business doesn’t have to wait for the rest of the industry to catch up.

Are You Rising Above the Noise, or Creating It?

No matter how you choose to market your business online, finding a way to cut through the noise is critical. Regardless of which niche your content fills, you have competition (and likely plenty of it) for the attention of your audience. The problem for many marketers is that decades of lazy marketing tactics have made us poor communicators—and consumers have just about had enough. People are tired of being looked at as data points. It’s easy for marketers to feel like their latest campaign is capturing attention in a meaningful way, based on data that doesn’t tell the whole story—and that’s the rub—people value being treated as individuals. 

I’m not here to bash analytics by any stretch, but it’s easy to pad page views and social metrics with marketing tactics that offer no long-term value to your business. It’s like discounting everything in the store by 75 percent, then raving about increased sales volume. The stats may look good to an untrained observer, but it’s really a mirage.

If we just had a few brands cranking out substandard content and not paying attention to people, it wouldn’t necessarily cause a stir. The problem is that with so many brands doing it, customers become desensitized. They may choose to engage less often with their favorite brands, or they may just start ignoring marketing entirely. Either way, the outcome of bad marketing is lost opportunity.

Improve Business Relationships by Looking People in the Eye Digitally

Looking People in the Eye Digitally is not a radical concept. Or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s really an extension of what smart businesspeople and marketers have been doing forever, regardless of the preferred marketing channels of the day. Your customers want to be treated with courtesy, recognized as more than a data point, and to feel like they represent more than just another sale for your business. It’s cliché, but customers really do want to feel like they matter, and they’re choosing businesses wise enough to pick up on that and deliver exemplary individual experience.

So, how do you get your audience feeling all warm and fuzzy about your business? Pay attention to them! In the brick-and-mortar world, you might remember their name, face, and favorite order. If you offer a recommendation, you’d try to do so only when it’s a genuine fit for their needs. You make small-talk, get to know them over time, and use what you learn to offer the best possible service. And if something does go wrong, you get out in front, deal with it like an adult, and resolve the situation in a way that ultimately strengthens the bond between that customer and your business.

None of those positive, relationship-building habits need to be restricted to the offline world. Social sites provide the same opportunity to offer personalized service often in ways that are more convenient than traditional channels. In addition, mobilization has transformed how we do business, and I believe the disruptive businesses that have sprung up in the wake of mobilization are an indication of the consumers’ demands being met. The Internet of Things is well underway. Finally, we’re paying attention, and beginning to really Look People in the Eye Digitally.

Don’t Fall into Bad Habits

It’s about time, but the trick is going to be to avoid the temptation of lazy marketing and chasing the next campaign. Instead, we have to constantly be willing to roll up our sleeves, build relationships, and never again forget that our customers are individuals. 

No matter where you’re connecting with customers, be responsive, be authentic, and most importantly, just be human. Your customers will thank you, and your marketing will be better for it. #NoLetUp!

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