Maugie: Friend or foe

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Do you run the risk of having your customers poached? Maugie Lyons, head of commercial operations, Royal Horticultural Halls, explains…

It’s fair to say that I fall somewhere in the middle of the technophile-technophobe scale. I’m not totally averse to technology, but the rate at which it is growing has left me somewhat exhausted. Trying to keep up with Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook et al is a job in itself. And the issues surrounding privacy are overwhelming.

At a recent event, a friend (who happens to be a marketing professional) posed a very interesting question: does social networking make it easier for competitors to poach customers? Is it dangerous to display your customer relationships in social networks because it tells competitors who your clients are? I mean, your list of friends/followers is essentially a partial customer list, right? Surely there are other ways to increase transparency without compromising competitiveness in your business. Maybe the key is to be very selective about who you keep as friends. After all, it is the quality and not the quantity that counts.

There is, of course, the counterargument; the only thing that really matters is the service or product that you provide. If you offer a great customer experience and create loyalty you don’t need to worry what your competitors do. They can contact your customers morning, noon and night – but more likely than not, it will come off as tacky. If you take care of your customers, they won’t go anywhere. Besides, what’s to say that your client is being prospected by a company, which found them following you on Twitter? They might have been found in another fashion, such as through a reference book at a local library. The bottom line of this reasoning is – if your competitor wants to get hold of your client list, there are a gazillion and one different ways they can do it.

I’m not saying that you should or shouldn’t connect with your clients on Twitter or LinkedIn. That’s up to you. However, do give up the notion that you can shelter them from your competition. Instead, shower them with the kind of attention and service that they deserve, and they will remain loyal to you.