Customers are the lifeblood of every business, and as a business owner, it’s important that you engage with them. While this principle seems simple, many companies don’t understand the significance of engagement and instead insist on stuffing customers’ throats with sales pitches. Customers are tired of being sold to and now expect to easily interact with and receive value from their favorite brands. Successful businesses recognize and manage their customers’ expectations – which has never been easier thanks to technology.
Marketing online is very similar to a dating relationship, where going from first meeting someone to asking them to marry you is absurd (and a little creepy). For this reason, engaging with customers is one of the first steps in the customer value journey. This crucial interaction maintains strong relationships with customers and builds trust as you provide value.
If you’re looking to solidify your business’s customer value journey, start to engage customers online with these nine tips.
Build an Online Community
Online communities and forums have been around for a long time and it doesn’t seem like they are going anywhere. The main advantage to having these online communities and forums is that you have one place where you can answer customer questions, post product updates, announce sales and share information they’ll value.
Social media channels like Facebook, Google and LinkedIn have also incorporated groups and forums into their platforms. This is an added bonus for businesses, who are most likely already on those channels.
LET YOUR CUSTOMERS JOIN THE TEAM
Everyone likes to feel like they’re a part of a team, and your customers are no exception. If a customer hits a milestone or launches a new charity, don’t be afraid to highlight them on your social media. You could also feature a loyal customer of the month on your social media, website, or online advertising.
Likewise, when your company celebrates an anniversary, offer them online discounts or extend invitations to an exclusive party. Not only will this make them feel like they’re a part of your company, but it also makes them feel appreciated for their loyalty and business. You can also ask your customers to co-create content for your company. Whether they write a blog, participate in a social media takeover or craft a new design for a product, they will remain faithful to the company that showcased their work.
SHARE EXCLUSIVE DEALS OR ANNOUNCEMENTS
Once you’ve built your online community and made your customers feel like they’re a part of the team, reward them by sharing exclusive deals and announcements with them. Whether it’s a 15% off coupon for your email subscribers or an early announcement in your Facebook Group, your customers will feel like they’re getting the inside scoop on what’s happening at your company.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TECHNOLOGY
It’s easier than ever to connect to millions of people and brands through social media, but it’s not just a place to blast content and answer customer service questions. Companies are beginning to predict what customers want by using social listening. Lenovo, for example, listens to customers when picking new laptop colors, while a Montreal transportation system offers promotions based on customer locations. Technology will help businesses stay ahead of the curve and chart future success.
DEVELOP EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS
It’s no secret (research has proved it) how important it is to build strong emotional connections with your customers. Use market data and analysis to get to know what connects with your target audience. When your company finds what customers are looking for, integrate these attractions into your marketing. One of the most effective ways to build emotional connections with customers is to prove that your business is not a nameless, faceless corporation, but is made up of real people.
How you can show your human side while engaging with customers? Here are a few tips:
- Personally welcome them to the company. Every new customer, email subscriber or social media follower should receive a brief, personalized message that introduces yourself and the company.
- Use team member images instead of a brand logo. Would you rather have a person or a nameless corporation answer your very important question? Having a human face answering customer service questions on Twitter or responding to comments on Facebook will have a much greater impact than your logo.
- Create team bios. If you have a blog, insert the author’s name and bio at the end of their story. This will help customers get to know your team and engage them in stronger relationships.
- Have a face of the company. Whether it’s you or another team member, have someone be the face of the company (think Steve Jobs and Apple). Your audience will respond to a human talking to them rather than a business spitting out robotic announcements and sales pitches.
HOLD A CONTEST
There’s one thing everyone enjoys: free stuff. Take advantage of this by holding a contest. Contests grab your audience’s attention and engage them by rewarding them for their participation.
There are numerous ways you could structure your contest. One popular method is to ask customers to share creative photos, tag your business and award the winner a free product or service. You could also hold a voting or tagging contest where customers tag a friend, follow your page and comment “done” when finished.
QUOTE YOUR CUSTOMERS
When your customers have something good to say about your brand, tell the world! Use their quotes on your blog or create a social media campaign. This will keep them coming back to your website and channels, and it encourages them to share great things about the company. While they’re there, place relevant content and offers on the page to convert small purchases at the same time.
RECORD A PRODUCT TOUR
Help your customers learn everything about your product or service by creating a product tour. Not only is this one of the best ways to engage your customers, but it’s an effective way to reach out to them. Show off your video skills by recording a tour and putting on your website, social media channels and YouTube account.
HOST AN EVENT
A webinar is a great tool to connect with customers who want to learn from their peers. They get to take away value from your company while interacting with you and other professionals in their industry.
If you don’t have the time or resources to host a webinar, consider looking for local networking events or a place to set up a booth at a trade show. These offline community appearances allow you to socialize as well as engage with your customers face-to-face.