Traditionally, when you wanted to build a relationship with a customer, you’d pick up the phone or arrange for a meeting. But today, it’s easy to reach out to hundreds, thousands, or even millions of customers instantaneously. You can inform them of developments within your company and get their feedback on everything from your logo design to a new product offering. You no longer have to send out an advertising message in a vacuum and hope the response comes back in the form of sales. You can hear directly from customers instantly.
But even though technology makes it easier than ever to reach out to customers, many companies aren’t taking advantage of it.
Set up a blog. It’s one of the easiest ways to start a dialogue with your customers. Be sure to include the bios of the blog authors so they can literally put a face to the company. Seem like too much work? You can always hire a ghostwriter to work with you.
Respond to comments. The goal is to get your customers engaged, but once they start talking, it’s important that they feel heard. You don’t have to reply to everyone, but make sure you pop on every now and then to address questions or just thank them.
Get social. Sites like Twitter and Facebook also allow customers to feel like they are interacting with your company. It’s also a great way to promote that blog you just started. But, like those comments, don’t ignore the customers that interact – give them an @ reply or a “like.”
Use their first name. Make the interaction feel personal by using the customer’s name when possible. If you send out a newsletter, most programs make it easy to connect to your database, so that you can open each email with “Dear John” instead of “Dear customer.”
Send targeted messages. It can be tempting to just email everyone the exact same marketing message, but finding ways to tailor your marketing to your customers’ needs goes a long way. For example, if you sell a series of books, you can offer all the people who recently purchased volume 1 a discount on volume 2. Or if you run a pet shop, you can send out a different message to dog owners than you send to cat owners.
Don’t go overboard on sales talk and SEO techniques. It’s important to optimize your site for search engines, and of course you need to market your services and products. You’re running a business after all. But make sure that your website, your blog, and your social networks don’t turn people off with what may seem like “sleazy” sales speak and awkward keyword placement. This can make your site seem unprofessional and untrustworthy.
The best thing to do when trying to develop relationships with your customers online is to put yourself in their shoes. What would make you feel comfortable with a company? What turns you off?