For too many small business owners, once a customer leaves your shop or your service is completed, the conversation ends. But it doesn’t need to stop there. If you can continue those threads of dialogue online through e-mail, newsletters, and social media, you have a better chance of building stronger ties to your customer base. This, of course, will lead to repeat business.
The trick is to find the balance between providing your customers with relevant information, while not abusing your online access to them by trying to sell them more “stuff.”
Whether you have infrequent in-person contact with customers or you see them every week -- or even every day -- the No. 1 rule in moving in-person conversations online is to consistently provide relevant information to the customer that will improve at least one aspect of their lives.
So just how do you connect with those customers and engage them in both the real and virtual worlds? First, you need to get their permission to contact them via e-mail; do that by asking at the point of sale, on your website, on social media, at events -- wherever you interact. Then create content that will engage and help your customers, allowing you to be seen as a partner, not just a vendor.
Engaging customers in more meaningful dialogue that’s focused on them will inevitably lead to longer-term, more profitable customer relationships. If you’re committed to turning today’s business transactions into actually connecting with customers, here are 10 things to keep in mind.
1. Treat the receipt of an e-mail address like a customer pact where you agree that it will never be abused, shared, or taken for granted.
2. Never send unsolicited communications.
3. Always provide free expert advice in your newsletter.
4. Never use the communication as a substitution for advertising.
5. Don’t overstay your welcome: Be brief, be relevant, and be gone.
6. Use compelling, yet not misleading, subject lines to prompt subscribers to open the communication or to follow the online stream.
7. Start a conversation that begins and ends with your customers. Think ‘you, you, you’ and not ‘me, me, me.’ Then point them to an online destination where they can share their thoughts and opinions.
8. Strike a balance in your frequency of communications to gently remind customers of your products and/or services, yet allow enough time in between to actually be missed.
9. Track the readership using tools that provide insight into opt-outs, unopened e-mails and the like to assess the interest of your customers.
10. Provide information that illustrates your expertise that your subscribers don’t already know and can’t easily find elsewhere.
Remember: If you focus on the relationship and engaging customers in meaningful ways, the sales will automatically follow.