In this era of big box store dominance, it is more important than ever to help your customers feel that doing business with you is a worthwhile experience.  Improving your customer engagement builds customer loyalty, which in turn can help grow your business.  There are several ways to develop relationships with your clients so that your engagement with them results in a positive perception of you and your business.

  • Make yourself personally available to your customers.  As a small business owner or direct seller, you have an edge over big corporations in that you are able to personally interact with your customers.  Be sure to provide your customers with every possible way to reach you. Use it to your advantage by taking some time out to contact them once or twice a month.  Make a phone call, send out an email to 15-20 customers a month, connect over Facebook, or make time to have coffee with a few of them. Discover their passions, connect and start the conversation with topics important to them. Then, ask how satisfied they are with a recent purchase, ask if they need further assistance, and find out if there is some other way you can be of service to them.  Your customers will appreciate and remember the individualized attention, and won’t hesitate to mention you to their friends.
  • Use social media wisely.  If the thought of maintaining a Facebook page, a Twitter profile, a website, and a blog are overwhelming to you, then don’t try to do everything at once.  Start with Facebook. Be a positive and supportive voice online. Post fun, useful tips and be their cheerleader online. Treat them like a friend, and they’ll remember how you made them feel.
  • Ask and listen for feedback regularly.  Most people find it difficult to hear others point out what they’re doing wrong.  However, it is essential to seek out constructive criticism in business because not only will you be able to improve, but you also show your customers that you care about their satisfaction.  Eliciting feedback can be done in a variety of ways, including email and phone surveys, face-to-face conversation, and links placed on websites and blogs.  Be creative in your search for feedback; you can use reward and referrals systems, contests/giveaways, or even feedback parties.  Whatever you decide, make sure your customers know they are being heard by taking their suggestions to heart and thanking them for their input.
  • Invite your customers to participate in your business.  Many small businesses are encouraging participation by using “customer models” in ways that promote a product or service.  For example, a company that sells clothing or jewelry could ask customers to Twitpic a photo of themselves wearing a product, which would then be displayed in a special section of the company’s website.  By doing so, you are incorporating your business into your customers’ lives and making yourself more memorable than your competitors.  And to top it all off, you’re interacting with customers and promoting a product all at the same time.
  • Promote your values and build trust. Regularly talk about what’s important to you and the high standards you bring to your business. Put your high standards on your marketing materials and in your business practices. Your customers will begin to depend on your services/products and trust you as a person.

Customer engagement is all about having a genuine concern for your customers’ satisfaction.  With that idea as your guide, any or all of the above ideas can be tailored for your specific needs and allow you to improve your relationships with clients.

How have you engaged with your customers?  Share your ideas with us in the comments below!