How to engage with your customers effectively

Thursday 6 February 2014

Customer engagement is vital for all companies, in particular small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) who often rely on a loyal following to generate turnover and profit.  Businesses need to ensure they maintain a healthy relationship with consumers - the people who buy their goods and services. But this is not always as easy as it seems.

SMBs have remained in contact with their customers, to remind them they exist, to inform them of new special offers and to demonstrate that they care. But in marketing their services, companies need to be cautious - the trick is to maintain brand awareness without overwhelming individuals with advertising messages.

If customers receive communication from your business every day - or even every week - there is a danger it starts to be treated as unwanted 'noise' or 'spam'. So SMB bosses need to think carefully about how they engage with customers, and form a strategy which strikes an appropriate balance.

How to connect with your customers

Businesses have a variety of options for brand-building and generating customer loyalty - here are a few examples of ways to engage with consumers.

Get on social media - setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account and encouraging customers to join can ensure there is regular contact between SMB and customer. If individuals are not interested in online networking, there is nothing lost, and if they are, they may be happy to follow your activities or provide 'likes'. Joining in the conversation on social media enables businesspeople to raise brand awareness without overtly promoting their goods and services.

Become a thought leader - writing industry blogs, or commentary articles and posting them online - or trying to get them published in the printed press - can help. If customers are able to read your opinion and gain additional insight into the industry, they may be impressed by what you have to offer and decide to become a customer. Developing a positive reputation within your industry or sub-sector never hurts when it comes to attracting and retaining customers.

Send out newsletters - circulating a monthly newsletter around your user base gives you the opportunity to update people on what is happening - including any promotions or events you have coming up - and tell them about new products and/or services. Providing customers do not feel bombarded by regular communication from you, they should be willing to take a look at the newsletter. And if they do not, this is not a disaster - it costs nothing to send an email, only the time taken to create its contents.

Learn names - if you have regular customers who buy from you again and again, try to get to know them, and learn a little about their life. This means you can strike up conversation with them next time you see them, and start to develop some form of relationship. This can encourage consumers to remain loyal to your business, even if they have other purchasing options.

Thank customers - giving customers a thank-you note when they buy from you can potentially build positive sentiment, as it can make them feel more valued. The same applies if they give you a referral. In doing so they have taken a risk, and as such, they should be recognised for their trust and loyalty.

Use targeted advertising - if you are going to circulate marketing material, ensure this is tailored to the wants and needs of the customer. Within your customer relationship management program, you are able to categorise customers according to a range of different criteria. This helps to ensure any advertising you send out is personalised and relevant to individual customers.

Run competitions - organising free contests with a prize draw can help build engagement. You do not need to offer the world's greatest prizes, but everyone loves getting something for free.

Carry out surveys - many people like participating in surveys, as it makes them feel like their opinion counts. Giving your customers the chance to provide feedback, and shape the service you provide, may encourage them to keep coming back for more.

Find out how customer relationship management solutions can benefit your organisation.

Posted by Jenny Arthur