One reason companies aren't so keen on using social media tools for their business is that they seem to take up even more time that you don't have. Without knowing what you spend your time doing right now, let's both agree that you probably want the benefits of reaching people in a personable way, but you're worried how to do it effectively without using up much-needed time. Good?
It Starts With Your Database
If you're not keeping any kind of a customer database, and you're not a lemonade stand, I'd be worried. Knowing what your customers want is pretty much the competitive edge right now. But don't let the word "database" freak you out. This can be as simple as a spreadsheet (Try Google Docs), or it can be a bit more nuanced like BatchBook, a new kind of customer relationship management software.
What goes in your database besides contact info? There are lots of things. You could put in their social media tools of choice (Jennifer might prefer Twitter while Carolyn is more of a Facebook person). You might put in their birthdays and other personal information, so that you're ready to send off personal messages. The point of this information is that you can use it to maintain/strengthen relationships, and thus, hopefully improve the reasons why one would buy from you.
How To Contact Is Important
Think about this: we contact people using the method WE prefer. I'll say it again. When you call me on the phone, it's because you prefer using the telephone as the means to reaching me. I loathe the phone. So, why, if I'm your customer, would you use a means of contact that matters more to you than it does to me? See where I'm going?
When you construct your database, it might be useful to think about HOW each person prefers to be contacted. Not sure which method they prefer? Ask them. For some reason, we tend to worry about getting data like this, but forget that we can just ask. And use this information. Connecting with your customers and prospects using the manner they prefer is a POWERFUL way to keep relationships alive and moving forward.
When to Contact
We tend to only contact when we have something to sell, or when we have news. It goes a long way further if we contact people around their experiences, around their moments of news, around what matters to their experience. Using your database, you can contact to wish someone a happy birthday or anniversary. If you capture even more granular data, like "Laura had a speech to give last night," then you can ask how the speech went the next day (using Laura's preferred contact method, which is text messaging, by the way).
Other times to contact? How about every three weeks, without any actual sales pitch. Tune this to see what makes the most sense. If your product isn't something that requires as frequent a touch, go a little longer out. But keep those contacts warm. It's important that people keep us in their minds as NOT just a sales channel, but someone we hope to see again. We want business relationships, not just customers. Make sense?
Your Mileage WILL Vary
Nothing is tried and true, but if you keep a database - either a simple spreadsheet or the more useful BatchBook - you'll find a lot of new opportunities. When you do, I hope you share your success with us here at OPEN Forum. We love hearing how things turn out. I know I do.