Today, the business landscape has shifted firmly into the virtual business realm. Companies establish profiles, build reputations, manage customer relationships, and make transactions online every day. You can spend money on print advertising, creating in-store signage, or launching direct mail campaigns, but the digital arena now requires equal attention.
By far the best way to communicate with people and connect with them is to employ online strategies for establishing loyal and lasting relationships. It’s a cost-effective and efficient way to do business because it’s much less expensive than more traditional modes of marketing. And customers respond to businesses via websites and social media channels like never before.
The Social Media-sphere
The virtual marketplace has long since spilled over into the social media-sphere. It’s simply an indispensable way to do business by making that one-to-one connection with people who make it their business to find the very best deals and discounts online. So, it’s important to have some kind of social media plan in place, one that takes full advantage of this opportunity to influence ready-made customers in an easy-to-reach venue.
Social media is also an excellent avenue for really boosting your marketing. For example, Facebook enables you to employ direct advertising, and it’s a great way to dip your toe in the water when it comes to building your brand through social media. If you’re not super savvy yet when it comes to social media, use a site like Hootsuite to help manage your profiles and posts. It’s like having a social media team right at your fingertips.
Translate Customer Service Into Web Reality
One of the best ways to win over consumers is to make it as easy as possible for them to do business with you. This requires more than setting up an efficient, reliable, and secure payment page. Your customer service ethos has to play out online for everyone to see. Proactive outreach is key — customers should have multiple channels of communication in case they don’t want to wait on hold to speak to a customer service rep. They should be able to easily access any information they need on your website or record a complaint or comment.
Offer friendly customer service “helps,” such as timely payment reminders and making it easy for customers to view invoices and past transaction histories online. Also, send out birthday greetings or a “thank you” note for having been your customer for a year.
Between your website, social media, and your phone line, there’s no excuse for ignoring or overlooking and failing to respond to requests and complaints. In fact, one failure or oversight in this area is sure to play out online, much to the detriment of your business. Your customers’ thoughts and feelings should be a top priority for everyone who works for you, so monitor them carefully and use the opportunity to point out when and how you responded to a customer need or request. It shows responsiveness, concern, and responsibility.
In this day of immediate gratification and overnight successes (and failures), there’s no substitute for knowing what’s being said online about you and your business. To stay on top of these conversations, subscribe to Google Alerts, which will allow you to track your online reputation, thank grateful customers for their business, and take advantage of positive reviews/comments. It’s easy to do and, best of all, it’s free.
Make It Fun to Be Your Customer
Your website is a marketing powerhouse, there’s no limit to how creative you can be. Use it as a venue for entertaining and tantalizing customers. Hint at a new and exciting product or service launches, and employ social media to give small clues leading up to a big announcement, replete with free samples, discounts, and even a giveaway contest. Loyal customers like feeling that they have a special relationship with you, so follow through and prove to them they do.
The great thing about doing business online is that you can accomplish multiple objectives with one well-conceived plan. You can become more efficient, improve your brand reputation, generate new business and make it easier for customers to do business with you all at the same time. Remember, proactive customer service and responsiveness to your customers are essential for your business to succeed.
Our guest author, Lucy Reed, has been starting businesses since she was a kid, from the lemonade stand she opened in her parent’s driveway at age 10 to the dog walking business she started while in college.