As a business owner, you’re already aware that your customers are the lifeblood of your business. And that’s why it’s important that you engage with them. The problem is there are plenty of companies out there who just don’t understand the importance of engagement and insist on shoving sales pitches down the throats of their customers. The successful brands who engage their customers understand that customers want to interact with their peers and learn something of value - which has never been as easy thanks to technology.
Still looking for ways to engage your customers? Give these eight strategies a try.
1. Develop Emotional Connections
There’s been research from the likes of Forrester and The Corporate Executive Board and Google that have explored the importance of building strong emotional connections with your customers. To get to know what your target audience connects with, you can work with a company like Searchmetrics (I personally use them) to get the market analysis you need. When brands accomplish this, they are able to increase consumer loyalty and charge premium prices.
One of the most effective ways in building emotional connections with customers is to prove that they are dealing with an actual person and not just a nameless, faceless corporation. Here are a few ways you can engage your customers while showing your human side at the same time.
Introduce yourself. Whether it’s an email, direct message when you have a new Twitter TWTR +0% follower, or welcoming a new member to your online community, always send these individuals a brief and personalized message.Use team TISI +0% member images on social media and forums. Let’s say a customer has a question or concern on Twitter or on your forum. Do you think your brand logo or an image a team member answering the question would have a stronger impact? The same could be said when a customer likes or comments on your Facebook FB +0% page. Having Tom Smith reply is more efficient way to address that person that just the faceless corporate logo.Include author bios on your blog. This will allow your customers to get to know you and begin building a relationship. Make someone your brand ambassador. Select someone on your team, it could even be you, that is the face of the community. Think how Steve Jobs was the brand ambassador of Apple AAPL +0%.
2. Build a Community or Forum
Community and online forums have been around for ages - and they’ll probably be sticking around for the unforeseeable future. The main advantage to online communities and forums is that you are able to directly engage your customers by answering their questions, having discussions that are relevant to your industry, keeping them updated, and sharing information that they care about or are looking for.
However, popular social networks, such as Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups, and Google+ Communities, are now giving you the ability to create communities, which is an added bonus since your customers are probably already on these social media channels.
3. Hold a Contest
Who doesn’t enjoy getting free stuff? We all do. Take advantage of that and hold a contest for your customers. Not only will you grab their attention, you’ll also engage them by rewarding them for their participation.
For example, you could ask customers to share creative photos and tag your business and the chosen winner receives a product or free one-year membership to your service. Other ideas could be hosting a voting contest or photo tagging contest where customers tag as many of their contacts as possible.
4. Use Technology to Your Advantage
We all know how important social media is for customer engagement. Instead of just sharing content or answering customer service inquiries, why not use social media technology to your advantage to predict what customers want?
Lenovo, for example, listens to its customers on social media so that it can stay on top of trends, such as color preferences for laptops. Another example would be the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) offering promotional offers based on the location of its customers so they can try a new restaurant or shop when they got off at their stop.
When using technology, make sure to stay ahead of the curve and not behind it. You won't find success without it.
5. Make Your Customers a Part of the Team
We all like to feel like we’re part of a team. And your customers are no exceptions. If you notice a customer has launched a new charity or released a product of their own, don’t hesitate to promote them on your social media accounts. Or, you could keep it simple and just highlight a loyal customer each month.
If you just celebrated your tenth year in business, celebrate with your customers by offering them a discount or coupon or attending an exclusive anniversary party. Not only does this make them feel like they’re part of the team, this also thanks them for their years of loyalty. Finally, you could ask your customers to co-create content, like adding a chapter to your eBook or asking them to have some fun like New Belgium did with Reddit users.
6. Share Exclusive Content or Offers
Provide your customers with exclusive content, such as a case study, or offer, like a 10% off coupon, for being subscribers to your email newsletter or for purchasing a paid membership. You could even release exclusive content or deals on your blog and remind your customers when that will be released through an email. Many companies offer a mobile-first influencer platforms where you can engage and leverage with key influencers across many social networks.
7. Create a Product Tour
Product tours are one the best ways for your customers to learn everything there is about your product or service. Not only is this an effective way for you to reach out to your customers, product tours are also a great way to engage them. You can record a product tour and place it onto your website and YouTube account. Animoto is a great company that makes it easy to turn your photos and video clips into a professional video to showcase your products.
8. Host An Event
Whether it’s hosting a webinar or hosting a local meetup or industry event, hosting an event either online offline or online is a great way for your customers to learn from their peers or feel like they’re part of an exclusive community.
Even if you don’t host your own event, look for local networking opportunities or set-up a booth at a trade show in your industry so that you can mingle and engage with your customers face-to-face. Platforms like Eventbrite provide an easy, effective, and low-cost way to get the word out about an upcoming event that you are planning on hosting, including linking it to numerous social media networks for further publicity.
Post published by Forbes.
John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, online marketing guru and startup enthusiast. He is founder of the online payments company Due and productivity company Calendar. John is best known as an entrepreneur and connector. He was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine and blogging Expert by Time. He currently advises several companies in the San Francisco Bay area. I'm a connector. I love connecting with like-minded individuals for a greater good. I can be found online at Google+ or @johnrampton.