We’re halfway through the turn of a new decade, and it’s well established that 2020 is unlike any year we’ve ever experienced. People are panicking, and the wide-spread anxiety over fear of the general unknown is pretty much palpable.
If you own a small business, it’s important to know how consumer’s purchasing decisions are changing in dramatic ways. Due to businesses closing their doors and budgets spreading thin, money is spent on essential goods and services, and we’re seeing a sharp uptick on e-commerce sites. All sales—even the nonessential ones—are earned by the businesses customers can count on.
During these trying times, people want to give their business to companies that care about them personally; they shop where they feel valued as a customer, where they know they’ll receive quality service, and where they’re more than just a quick profit. It’s exactly these types of relationships that are at the heart of revenue and sales, so it’s critical you learn how to cultivate them.
Keep reading to learn about seven different ways you can make long-lasting connections with customers—both in-store and online—that’ll prove key to the success of your small business.
Research Buyer Personas
It’s important to know who your audience is; that’s the only way you’ll know how to create messaging that they can relate to. For example, a college student looking for a friend’s graduation gift will likely have a very different set of sensibilities than a middle-aged mother searching for nutritious cooking recipes.
First, identify who your “ideal” customer is, then research and develop buyer personas around that demographic. Use this information to inform your marketing strategies, most importantly, what pain point you address in advertisements. By identifying a common problem they can relate to (such as the need to shop frugally, or the challenge of cooking hour-long meals with the kids running around the house) and providing a helpful solution, you’ll stand out as a savior in their minds.
Build a Brand Reputation
A “brand” is the entire identity of your small business. It’s more than just the product you sell; it includes your name, logo, color scheme, slogan, imagery, attitude, and so forth. You need to create a cohesive visual representation of your company that stays consistent across the board in order to prevent confusion among consumers—and choose carefully, because colors have a unique way of conjuring certain emotions.
More importantly, 86% of consumers say that authenticity is a key factor when deciding what brands they like and support, according to Stackla, so you’ll need to get real if you really want to connect with your audience. Be honest, transparent, and clear about the values you stick to.
Engage on Social Media
Social media is a pivotal tool for building online connections with your audience, especially among Millennial consumers with an increasing amount of purchasing power in their pockets. Make sure your profiles on Facebook and Instagram are active with regular posts, photos, comments, and likes. By engaging with online users, they’ll see your brand as more of a person they can relate to, and less of a cold company looking to make a quick buck.
Start with the Landing Page
Another key piece to your online presence is your website, which should be optimized to appear high on the search engine result page. When a user clicks on your site or types it into the browser, the first thing they’ll see upon entry is the “landing page”. And you know they say about first impressions: make them count.
You should be very selective about the information you display above the fold, or the portion of the page that can be seen on the screen before the user has to scroll down. A large portion of your traffic probably won’t make it past much further, so be sure to display critical content at the top in a user-friendly design that’s easy and intuitive to navigate. Your users will feel “at home”, as though they belong, rather than in a foreign space that’s difficult to access or understand.
Once you create a cleverly designed landing page that grabs their attention and encourages them to explore more, build out a blog that’s filled with valuable content your readers will appreciate and regularly refer back to.
Bring the Right Team Beside You
As states start to relax shelter-in-place orders and businesses begin to reopen, it’s important to bring the right team along with you. According to ShareAble for Hires, 57% of small businesses report that they’re optimistic or extremely optimistic about the future. However, to strengthen the odds of success, it’s important to make sound hiring decisions that place fragile companies into hands that can be trusted to handle with care.
Remember, it’s not just you who will live on in the minds of your customers; they’ll remember all their interactions with your staff, too, and one bad apple can leave a sour taste that prevents them from coming back for good. Make sure you have a solid team and a great way to get connected to good talent.
Deliver Best-in-Class Customer Service
At the end of the day, long-lasting connections with customers are created through top-tier customer service that leaves people satisfied. Be on top of prompt and kind communication, always going above and beyond when the opportunity arises with a personal touch that shows them how much you truly care and appreciate their business.
Zendesk’s survey found that excellent customer service is the number one factor that impacts a consumer’s level of trust with a company, so do all that you can to earn.
Maintain Customer Relationships
Finally, your work doesn’t stop with a satisfied shopper. You’ll need to sustain that relationship if you want their returning revenue. Whereas customer service is reactive, customer relations is proactive. Ask for follow up feedback regarding their experience, send a discount code via email on their birthday, and correspond with your audience over social media.
With these seven strategies in place, you’ll be sure to cultivate meaningful and impactful relationships that lead to greater retention and a higher customer lifetime value.
About the Author
Kaelee Nelson received her Master’s degree with an emphasis on Digital Humanities and pursues her career as a writer in San Diego, currently writing for 365businesstips.com. She enjoys informing readers about topics spanning industries such as technology, business, finance, culture, wellness, hospitality, and tourism.