Weekly Editorial

Amplify Customer Reach Using Technology

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • July 24, 2023

Employees working, collaboration and strategy on computer, software technology and planning in mode.

I remember the first time I employed the internet to do my job. I was working as a reporter at the Ann Arbor News in Ann Arbor, Mich. when the owners brought in a single computer with a dial up internet connection. It was a shared machine, meaning if you wanted to get online, you had to sign up and log in to use it.

Even with those limitations, it was a game-changer. If we were working on a story where we needed to find a filing for a federal court case, we used to have to call our Washington, D.C. bureau, have a staffer physically walk to the federal courthouse, copy the case and mail it to the newsroom, a process that took several days, at best. With the internet, we could look that information up (and all the other information in the world) instantly.

I’ve covered this industry for a lot of years and it has seen similar leaps in technology. Do any design firms or dealerships still have physical libraries anymore? I remember when designers used to have to dig through sample libraries prior to My Resource Library entering the market. And I remember how designers used to struggle with space layout before 2020 and Configura changed the market.

Simply put, it is a lot easier to reach customers today using technology. You know all the technology players in the industry and don’t need me to outline them for you here. But I’m going to suggest a few tips and tricks to better use common technology to supercharge your customer reach. You probably know a lot of these same tricks; if so, consider this a refresher. And these are just some of the tricks I use. They might not work for you as well as they do for me. I’d like to hear from you about ways you use technology to reach customers.

Here are a few of my favorite tricks to amplify customer reach using technology:

Mine LinkedIn — LinkedIn is a powerful social media platform, but users generally just scratch the surface of what’s possible using the site. Yes, it is a great platform for keeping abreast of industry information, but you can use it for more. I use it to search for people in the industry. Here’s how: If I am looking for a source for a story on say, Steelcase, I simply type “Steelcase” into the LinkedIn search. It initially gives me a list of a page or two of direct connections I have in the company, which is often all I need. But you can also filter the results to include second and third level connections. When I do that with the same Steelcase search, I suddenly have 100 pages of potential contacts at the company, including their titles.

Become a subject expert — Have you ever typed in “office furniture” to a search engine? If you have, you’ll know that our industry doesn’t perform very well when it comes to SEO (search engine optimization). In fact, other than sponsored content, the first few pages of an “office furniture” search will lead you to big box retailers like Staples and Costco. You have to do a lot of scrolling to find an actual office furniture company. One of the customers of my copywriting company, Write Office, is TiiCKER, a fintech that focuses on shareholder reward programs. I worked with TiiCKER on SEO optimization and now when you search for terms like “shareholder loyalty” and “shareholder rewards,” TiiCKER is at the top of the list. That’s because the company invested in Insights, a collection of fintech-related content created by Write Office to move the company up the digital search list. You can (and should) do that too, whether you are a dealer, designer or manufacturer. It doesn’t cost a lot and can improve your search results dramatically.

Invest in social media (in the right way) — Not all social media is created equally, in my opinion. I tend to gravitate toward LinkedIn and Instagram, though I don’t use it much to promote officeinsight magazine or Write Office. Social media can boost the stature of a company when used correctly, but I am shocked by the way it is employed by some in our industry. One size does not fit all. By that I mean the content for each platform should be different. A post on Instagram generally does not work as a post on LinkedIn and visa versa. It needs to be a tailored message unique to each platform. And just because LinkedIn is a “professional” platform, does not mean it cannot have some personal information. In fact, I’m more drawn to a professional post on LinkedIn with some personal comments than I am a purely professional post that is just trying to sell to me.

Give something to get something — A lot of digital interaction involves you asking for something from your customers. You might want their email or opinion or shopping habits, which are reasonable asks. But why not give them something in return? For example, you might ask for a customer’s email and in return give them access to discounts or special offers. Instead of just an ask, give something in exchange.

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