How do you define customer relationships today? Do you even know your tailor, your seamstress, your butcher, your baker, your candlestick maker?
I could spend time telling you that the customer buying cycle has changed significantly over the past ten years–that online retailers continue to grow, increasing the competitive gap between their brick-and-mortar counterparts, and that many studies suggest online purchases make up more than 50% of consumer purchases. I could spend time on all of that, but this has become a common understanding. So, how do you establish a relationship with a customer you’ve never met?
It is imperative to understand how to engage customers online. We’ve all seen the customer journey cycle diagrams:
Awareness –> Research –> Comparison –> Purchase –> Retention
But now, we are seeing all of these steps happening online. In fact, McKinsey & Company published an article stating that their research found “two-thirds of the touch points during the active-evaluation phase involve consumer-driven marketing activities,” which includes seeking out online product specifications or descriptions, online product reviews, online general company reviews, and word-of-mouth recommendations. If your prospective customers are spending at least 60% of their buying cycle putting in effort to understand their needs, research possible solutions, compare products, and make their decision online, then that’s where you need to build your relationship with them.
People research and interact on social media platforms daily, providing instant access to information about your company, your products, and your customer experiences. Establish a relationship with prospective customers with these three steps:
Distinguish your product from others
When someone comes to your page (whether its Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or any other platform), they are looking for information about what you offer and how you are going to solve their problem. You can’t just yell about how great you are or how interesting your product is. While it’s important to offer appropriate information for customers to research and evaluate your products, you *must* differentiate your solution from others by demonstrating that your product adds value to customers’ lives. And, update testimonials or posts frequently.
Engage with your customers
People want to feel important and like they really matter. After all, they’re researching your solution because they have a problem that needs to be fixed. Be active on your social media platforms to answer questions, provide links and information, follow up, establish yourself as an expert and share your knowledge, and to make your customers feel important. Engagement could not only be another differentiator for your business, but it just might get your customers to that sought-after loyalty loop. Again, more than 60% of the customer journey is happening online, so be sure to actively engage your audience.
Remember to go beyond just “selling”
What do I mean? Well, this blog talks about building a relationship with your customer … a relationship is far more than a transaction. Use your social media platforms to give your customer as much information about you and your solution(s) as possible, engage with them to insert yourself into their story frequently, and truly establish yourself as a trusted advisor as best you can. Once visitors believe they can trust you for valuable information (and hopefully for solution to their problem) then they will not only come back the next time they need a solution, but they will also tell their friends about you.
With the vast growth of online retailers and increased web-based traffic, recognize the opportunities social media platforms afford you. Remember to constantly seize these openings to insert your solution into the customer decision-making journey by distinguishing yourself from other solutions, engaging in a meaningful way frequently, establishing yourself as a trusted advisor, and going beyond just transacting.