Customer engagement can make or break a business and a key part of keeping customers engaged with a small business is finding ways to connect with them. Here are five tips for connecting with customers at your small business.
1. Go Face-to-face
Face-to-face interactions predispose people to make personal connections, whether those connections be temporary or long-lasting. While it isn't always possible or feasible to interact with your customers face-to-face on a regular basis, you should make an effort to ensure this is a viable option. In some businesses, such as restaurants and salons, this is relatively easy, as the whole conceit of the industry is face-to-face interactions. For some retailers, however, online shopping may be more popular. In these cases, make sure customers know where your brick-and-mortar store is located and the unique opportunities that come with shopping in person there.
2. Customize and Personalize
More than ever, customers are interested in personalized communication and advertising. They want to see products and services that are of interest to them, not your general offerings. Plus, developing a personal bond with your customers will help you connect to them that much better. Luckily, this is an easier thing to do than ever, too. If you're able to communicate with your customers via the internet or if your customers can make purchases through your website, you have access to certain information that you can use to customize each customer's experience. You can provide a way to make an account, or track such data as contact and billing information. As you grow, you should scale up your customer relationship management and data management with a CRM integration tool.
3. Get Involved in the Community
A great way for small businesses to connect with customers is by getting involved in their local communities. Small businesses are likely to have strong customer bases within their communities, so if these businesses can show people how they fit into the fabric of the community, they're more likely to receive the community's goodwill and interest. For example, you could host or contribute to a charity event or you could provide some kind of free service to the community. Sometimes, several community businesses will collaborate on a charity event, such as a walk for the cure event for cancer research, where each business hosts a table and puts proceeds from products sold toward the charity. Alternatively, you could host a promotion at your small business where a portion of all your profits for a certain period of time will go toward benefiting a local school or nonprofit. If you prefer to engage community members directly, a workshop or seminar might be a good option. For example, if you own a music store, you could host workshops for people to come to and learn the basics of playing or caring for certain instruments.
Above all, you need to keep the channel of communication open on your end. If you make sure your customers know that you'll be available and always answer queries in a timely manner, they'll be more likely to come to you about any issues they experience or feedback they have for you. You don't need to inundate anyone's email inbox or television screens with your brand. You just need to make sure customers know you hear them and are willing to provide assistance or answers whether their feedback is positive or negative. If a customer has an issue but you're able to resolve it, he or she is much more likely to think positively of your brand than if you were to leave him or her hanging.
5. Find New Ways to Engage Current Customers
The worst thing for customer connections is coming off as stale. You should continually assess your customer engagement levels and develop new ways to generate interest in your business and brand. Some businesses have seasonal or annual special items for sale or special promotions. Another option is to update your marketing or signage periodically, which is particularly important when you have a new product or service to offer. The key here is to draw customer interest and generate conversation, both among your customers and between your employees and your customers. For businesses that primarily provide services, referral programs are wonderful ways to improve your connection with your customers and expand your customer base at the same time. If you sell products, you could implement a rewards program of some kind. For example, restaurants and cafes offer loyalty cards for frequent customers to build up points for free items.
There are plenty of strategies to maximize customer connection and engagement, but the best approach incorporates multiple strategies. If you only invest in updating physical signage, then you miss out on the connection opportunities afforded by the internet, and vice versa. Make sure you develop a multi-pronged approach that works best for your small business.