If you’ve been watching the news – it’s no secret that JC Penney’s attempt at no haggle pricing failed miserably – especially after the departure of their President of Branding, Michael Francis.

On the surface – the idea of no haggle pricing sounds like a great idea.  It’s simple to understand when everything is already discounted as low as it can go.

However – one thing JC Penney could have done prior to implementing this new marketing scheme was ask their loyal shoppers what they thought about the idea.  Why social media?  Gavin O’Malley, of the Online Media Daily, stated that, according to New York University research, “78% of respondents agreed that either social media platforms would soon replace other means of customer service altogether, or become the dominant way for consumers to communicate with corporations.”

When I work with my clients – I can take guesses as to what their consumers want.  But they’re just that – guesses.  Without actually asking the consumers – either via a survey or social media platforms – you just don’t know what they really want.

JC Penney could have received invaluable data that would have pointed to the obvious – people like to feel like they’re getting a discount.

So your organization has a good idea – should you implement it right away or test the waters and see what your consumers have to say?

If you asked me – definitely test the idea before implementing it.  Testing should be an integral part of your marketing strategy.  Here is how you can go about testing your idea.

1.      Locate your most vocal and loyal customers.  You know who they are – those who like to spend money with you.  Those are the ones you need to retain and keep happy.  Happy customers will tell others about their experiences.  Email them and send them a survey – or invite them to your Facebook page or to Tweet you answering “what do you think if we offered you [INSERT IDEA]?” It’s that simple.  It doesn’t need to be complicated.  Solicit their feedback by inviting them to share their opinion.

2.      Ask those who respond questions or thank them for their input.  If people don’t give you specific feedback on what they would want – ask them.  Some people may respond “I don’t like the idea.”  Well…why?   Try to engage in a dialogue with them about what they would want to see.  Those who provide your input – thank them for their time.

3.      Analyze the data.  Ok – so now you have a survey or social media platform full of thoughts and ideas.  Now what?  Look for commonality within the comments.  You can’t please everyone – so the goal is to find what most people would want to see.

4.      Refine the idea internally.  So now you know what people want – how can you make it happen?

5.      Thank those who gave you feedback with a discount.  People love receiving a discount.  (See the 4th paragraph of this blog.)  Its apparent people like to feel like they’re getting a deal.  So show them you appreciate their time and loyalty with a discount.  Not only do you increase your own profits – but happy customers will then start telling their friends about their happy experiences.

So moral of the story – check-in with your customers before implementing big changes.  Guessing what consumers want – regardless of how good the idea appears on paper – is a risky move in today’s economy.  I’ve witnessed one too many scenarios that back fired in my time when the organization didn’t listen to the consumer’s needs and wants.

Tweet this blog and share if you agree.  If you disagree – tweet us and tell us why.  Or tell us how you use social media for business!

Ron Romanski is CEO & Chief Strategist at Preactive Marketing, an independent marketing consultancy specializing in creative, integrated marketing solutions that are designed to engage your clients, build a relationship, and get you results. Preactive Marketing specializes in marketing planning and management that encompasses email marketing, social media, SEO, and website content and design. Ron has served in various leadership roles, leading projects and teams that achieved upwards of 400% increase in revenues for product offerings.

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