How to Maintain Meaningful Connections With Your Customers

So, 2020 has been an interesting year.

And by interesting, I don’t mean “unprecedented” or “uncertain.” These feel like an understatement.

More like confusing, scary, sobering.

To me, the most frustrating part is all the unknowns: How long will it really take for life to get back to some sense of normalcy? Or is this the new normal?

In just a few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to stay indoors, schools to close, and consumers to shop more online. For businesses that rely on foot traffic for sales, these are truly trying times.

The Need to Adapt

The need to adapt is unquestionable. But it’s challenging for businesses to adjust how they run when there’s little clarity on what lies ahead. How can we put together effective marketing strategies when research has shown that consumer behavior is changing, sometimes from month to month?

As business owners, the best we can do right now is work with what we know. And what we know for sure is that human beings are built for change. We’ve been adapting for millions of years. This isn’t a new concept, as tough as it may be in the moment.

While it might not be the most seamless adaptation process (is it ever?), the silver lining is that we have one thing working on our side - the digital age. Using the internet and social media in fresh ways to stay in touch with customers far and wide, when done right, helps develop more meaningful relationships.

Relationships are everything for a business. They play an important role in customer retention and can help build positive brand reputations. Word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful brand building tools - but it’s largely out of your hands and based on years of hard work and excellent customer experience.

Whether you’ve been thrown into the world of marketing your business online without much notice, or you’re looking to hone your skills, here are some key ways to start building these valuable relationships with your customers.

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Create a Community, Not an Audience

Many businesses have social media accounts that they use to communicate with their customers. To grab their market’s attention, they often post multiple times throughout the day about all the amazing work they’re doing. The problem: You’re growing an audience, not a community.

The difference is that when you have an audience, you talk to them, but there isn’t much participation from their side. On the other hand, with a community, they actively engage with you and the content you share.

An audience can also be very impersonal. With a community, the more you engage, the easier it becomes to understand your market and know more about what their needs are. Engaging with your audience also builds trust. As studies have shown, trusting a brand is becoming more and more important to consumers.

Forming a community won’t happen overnight, but here’s what you should focus on to start growing one:

1. Have a consistent brand voice.

Since you’re trying to build trust across the virtual divide, it will be challenging to achieve this if your brand voice doesn’t remain consistent. Your customers will struggle to understand your values and purpose if your tone is constantly shifting.

2. Choose the right platform.

It’s important to understand more than just the demographics of your customers. You also need to know where they are hanging out online. Are they mostly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or somewhere else entirely? Creating a community on a channel (or two) where you can easily access your consumers will make it easier for your group to grow in its early days.

Besides social media, you can also add a blog to your site and start regularly blogging. Research has shown that blogging has many incredible benefits for business, including, helping to drive traffic to your website, helping to convert that traffic into leads, and helping to establish you as an authority figure in your industry.

3. Be real.

It’s impossible to form connections if you’re not real. And I’m not saying tell them your deepest and darkest secrets, but a little truth and some human warmth will allow people to start getting comfortable with you.

In addition to being genuine, here are some other tips on how to communicate with your community:

  • Create a welcoming environment
  • Encourage them to participate in discussions
  • Add a little humor
  • Engage them on conversations they care about
  • Communicate regularly
  • Respond to concerns as early as possible
  • Pay attention to the topics that get the most attention
  • Create more content around those topics to show you care

Being real is also about speaking to your customers when something goes wrong. If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ll know that no matter how much you can prepare, everything can’t go according to plan all the time.

So, whether it’s a late delivery or a product that didn’t meet the customer’s expectation, you can send a text message to your customer, write them an email, or simply give them a call to let them know how important they are to you and your business.

4. Show your face.

If you’re looking for a meaningful connection with your customers, it’s difficult to achieve that without showing your face.

Of course, if you have a brick-and-mortar business, showing your face is a part of the job. But as the situation changes, we have to look at other ways to achieve that face-to-face connection. You can host a webinar, a vlog, or go live on social channels fit for quick bursts of video. There’s something about a warm smile that instantly helps one person get comfortable with another.

5. Recognize your loyal customers.

Acquiring new customers costs more than retaining old customers. In addition, your loyal customers are also likely to recommend your business to family and friends.

We don’t have to say much to convince you about the importance of customer loyalty. Loyal customers are the lifeblood of your business, and it’s important to show them some appreciation. This can be a secret discount code or early access to a new product - anything. The gesture will not go unnoticed.

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Support a Worthy Cause

When many people think of giving back, they assume that they need to contribute a lot of money to be able to make a difference. But that’s not the case. Even a small group of people coming together can have a big impact.

So think about some of the challenges right now. Think about your community. See where and how you can lend a helping hand, and don’t waste time perfecting every detail. Your community will appreciate the quick response.

Even if you’re not in a position to financially contribute a lot of money, you could donate some supplies to your local community and share your experience and thoughts with your online community. You could shift your apparel business to begin producing masks temporarily. The possibilities are endless.

It’s important to note the tone you use when sharing your charitable work. The goal is not to show how amazing your company is, but rather, to position your business as a brand with a humanitarian side.

Authenticity is Key

Building and maintaining meaningful connections with your customers is invaluable for business. You get to learn so much about who your customers are; what they like, what they don’t like, what their challenges are. You can then take all these lessons and use them to help improve your business.

While you’re working on implementing the above tips, it’s important to know and understand that this isn’t going to be an overnight thing. It takes time to build trust with anyone, especially with people online. Yes, this is a long-term game, but the rewards for your business are worth it.

While many people might be frustrated or overwhelmed with the situation right now, we know that the human race will make it through. In the meantime, let’s continue to nurture and maintain meaningful connections with our customers. And let’s achieve this by leading with truth and authenticity.

Khanyi Molomo

Freelance writer who enjoys working closely with B2B companies and helping to create content that tells their stories.

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