When we were asking customers what they wanted to see from a new PPC engine like Microsoft adCenter back in 2005, one of the overwhelming themes for discussion was about customer service.
Search marketing, in its essence, can be very time consuming, and although most of us who have been doing it for a while may not consider it as "rocket science", if we cast our minds back to when we first started in the industry, it would have taken a while to get up to speed with the lingo and finer techniques, and there was always room for a helping hand.
It became apparent that providing thorough and responsive customer service was going to be paramount when we launched adCenter, to not only help new advertisers get on board, but also to provide them with help they needed to be successful and want to expand their campaigns.
One area of concentration was within the search advertising and small business community itself. With a plethora of SMB and search-related blogs and discussion forums out there, we felt it important to engage with our customers on third party sites as well as our own.
We set up the first adCenter Blog on Windows Live Spaces and a forum for our customers to discuss, praise or let off steam among themselves.
The blog was designed to support advertisers by telling them about new products or features we were releasing, and to provide tips, tricks and best practices on how to get the best out of adCenter and improve their campaigns so they could get the greatest possible return on their marketing spend.
Page views and discussion threads grew as people realised we were listening to their conversations, taking note of their likes and dislikes, engaging with them for more detail on any particular feature request and feeding back all the data to the development and marketing teams saying, "this is what our customers are saying, this is what they want, so let's give it to them!"
The enthusiasm for the adCenter Community Team has grown both externally and internally as we've set up similar programmes for adCenter API Developers and our new adCenter Analytics customer base. We've released the adExcellence site, a training and educational portal to help advertisers help themselves and reward them with individual adCenter accreditation.
Last week saw the culmination of 2 years work as we brought all the adCenter Blogs and forums under one roof - www.adCenterCommunity.com - a one-stop-shop for advertisers, developers and analytics enthusiasts to engage with Microsoft and themselves, discuss tactics and strategies, and provide us with comprehensive data points to make informed decisions about where to take the products next.
Whatever field you're in, providing your customers with a mouthpiece or a place to sound off makes so much sense. Blogs and forums are very easy and simple to set up and relatively inexpensive.
Here are some tips to successful community engagement: