Small business owners handle a mountain of pressing tasks every day, anything from accounting and project tracking, to troubleshooting and meeting deliverables. Despite that mountain, it's important not to lose sight of what matters most -- your customers.
Every customer is different, with his or her own unique needs and objectives. It's important to listen to each customer, and then use that knowledge to develop the best products or services in order to grow your business. These simple suggestions can help you build a closer relationship with your customers.
3 Ways to Connect with Customers
1. Social Media
Millions of people interact daily through social media outlets, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and FourSquare. Chances are that your customers use more than one of these media channels. Social media presents one of the best business opportunities a small business could ask for – it's free and you can easily track results to see what platform works best for you. Here are five social media strategies to help you connect with customers and grow your business.
- Develop a social media calendar that lays out your company milestones and post, Tweet or Pin your company's news, accomplishments and updates.
- Request to "friend" or "follow" your customers and industry leaders to expand your business's presence and awareness.
- Employ incentives. Everyone loves – and looks for -- a good deal. Consider developing an incentive plan for your customers.
- Offer a discount to loyal customers who have consumed your products or services for an extended period of time. For example, you could show your gratitude by offering a five percent discount during their third year of patronage.
- Offer customers a discount when they "check in" to your FourSquare account ten times. Setting a goal with a reward for your customers encourages them to continue shopping with you.
2. Customer Interaction
Your customers want to feel important and appreciated, and one of the most important ways to show your appreciation is through customer interaction. Small businesses often miss this opportunity, but you can interact with your customers easily and affordably. The attention creates a positive experience that your customers will remember. Here are three ways to interact with customers and to keep your company at the top of their mind.
- Use your social media accounts to interact with your customers: try retweeting an inspirational quote they've posted to Twitter, or "Like" their Facebook post about their successful day.
- Use a free holiday or birthday card service, such as 123Greeting or Punchbowl, to send customers a friendly note on these special days or just to say thank you for their loyal service.
- Nothing beats face-to-face interaction. The digital world makes it easy to stay connected without meeting with customers in person, but if you put the time and effort into a physical meeting it will yield encouraging results and ideas.
3. Ask and Listen
You want to build and provide the best product or service to your customers, right? A good way for a small business with only a few employees to gain outside insights is to ask your customers what they think. They're the ones with the most experience using your product or service.
- Use social media to ask about your customers' experiences with your company and product.
- Follow up through email with your customers at various stages of your interaction with them to gauge their satisfaction or dissatisfaction and ask how you can improve.
Building closer relationships with you customers will set your business apart from your competition. Happy customers lead to positive reviews, ongoing business, and business growth through references from your customers to their friends, colleagues and peers.
Connie Certusi is the executive vice president and general manager of Sage's Small Business Solutions.
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