by Jim Schuessler, Executive Director, Door County Economic Development Corporation
It isn’t easy to build loyalty for a small business. After all, you’re asking customers to give their buying preference to an enterprise with which they may have no inherent connection, especially in a tourism-heavy area. But businesses that make an emotional connection with their customers are about twice as likely to retain them.
This is easier said than done. Not every brand has Al Johnson’s storied history or Apple’s iconic image. Most businesses, especially startups, won’t be able to pull from the emotional well of positive experiences that accompanies more tenured businesses, but enterprises nationwide are successfully connecting with customers by being personable. By showing their faces and reaching out – in addition to offering high-quality products – these companies create a niche for themselves even without being a household name.
There’s no sure-fire equation for customer connection, but these five tips can make your business more accessible and personable.
1. Be active on social media.
Every good business needs an active social-media presence. Even if you need to practice or hire a specialist, it’s worth it because social media are vital in gaining a foothold in the market. If you need help, set up an appointment with DCEDC’s workforce development specialist, Kelsey Fox, who would be pleased to offer some pointers.
Several platforms such as Hootsuite also offer social-media help. In addition to its analytics services, Hootsuite provides a wealth of educational content that will up your social-media game and help you connect with followers.
2. Go live.
In addition to the live aspects of social media – Facebook and Instagram especially – you can facilitate real-time voice and video chat through your website to provide customer support. This makes you more accessible to customers, especially when you’re trying to resolve their problems. DCEDC’s current Entrepreneur of the Year, Nathan Drager, and his team at Quantum PC use this approach very effectively.
3. Personify your business.
Know who you are, who your customers are and what your niche is. Then strive to always present yourself in that light, and do everything you can to ensure that your business is presented by others in the same way. This maintains and promotes your brand identity.
Whether you sell lodging, boat tours or cheese, there is a specific market segment that will be attracted to your products. As you design or update your website and post to social media, keep this market in mind, and make sure your business’s brand image is always in line with it.
4. Be consistent.
In every aspect of business branding, consistency is key. That means you must be available at all times and maintain contact with your customers. Do this through an engaging emails, a good company blog and social media.
Consistency builds trust and creates loyalty, but consistency is good only if you’re consistently hitting the right note. If your strategy isn’t working, find ways to adjust and refine your brand image and message.
5. Reach out.
Although your online experience goes a long way in reaching out to your customers, great brands find ways to make even more and stronger connections. Think innovatively: What more could you do to bolster your customers’ affinity for your distinctive business?
Ultimately, your ability to be personable and connect with customers will result in greater sales numbers, but your efforts must be genuine. By truly knowing who you and your customers are, putting forth a real effort to engage with them and effectively tailoring your experience to what they want, you’ll find yourself with a loyal customer base that will take your business to new heights.