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How to use technology to engage with your customers

DATE: 21/07/20

AUTHOR: Fiona Kennedy

The importance of customers

Customers are the lifeblood of any business. You need to build them up, communicate with them, provide them with excellent customer service, and engage in the most authentic way possible. And do this throughout the lifetime of your business relationship. But what if you can’t physically meet them? If distance or language or a global pandemic, prevents you from being in touch with your customers in a more traditional sense? In that case, making use of technology is the key to customer engagement success.

You might think you know exactly how to engage with your customers using technology. Emails and Facebook, easy right? Well, yes, in theory. But in practice, you’re going to be launching and building your business, focusing on overheads and production, accounting and staff, the list is long. Whatever is relevant to your business model will be on your plate. And customer engagement although vital, can be easily pushed to the side. To avoid this, we’d suggest crafting a short and clear strategy. This would plan out how you can use digital and technological means to stay in touch with your customers for the long term success of your business.

Here are a few things to consider building into your strategy:


  • Go back to basics and make sure your website is fit for purpose

We often assume that having a website is all it takes. Build a website and customers will flock. Sadly, that is not the case. When you’re building your website or rethinking your customer strategy, it’s key to consider what the purpose of your site is. Are you selling online? Are you there purely as a brochure site? Do you want to share expertise with your customers online? Do you want their collaboration, their communication online? How much updating do you have time to do? Flesh out the purpose of your site, and design content and functionality around that. Always have SEO in the back of your mind. Consider what phrases and words your customers might be using to find you and be sure to integrate those into your digital content. The more thought you put into the content on your site, the better.


  • Make use of the right Social Media platforms

Setting up a Facebook account for your business is not enough. Look at the various Social Media outlets available (Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, LinkedIn…) and consider the audiences they have. Each is different.  You need to decide which platforms best suits your product or service and caters to the audience you want to attract. When you launch your business, and time and finances are short, there is no point using TikTok if you’re planning to offer book keeping services. Or LinkedIn for a Children’s Clothing business. Be strategic. Once you’ve decided which platforms best suit you and your customer goals, exhaust all the options within those. For example, on Instagram, consider your grid postings, Instagram Stories, highlights, and IGTV. There are countless ways to optimise your Social Media within each platform. Just posting is not enough.


  • Make sure you are digitally responsive

Wherever you set up camp digitally, plan to be sharp on keeping in touch. If you have a ‘contact us’ form on your website, set up a protocol to respond to those enquiries within 24 hours max, quicker if possible. The same is true of emails and phone calls. On Social Media, engage with comments, answer questions, respond to direct messages and try and ensure your communications are as swift as possible. Life on Social Media is quick, you have to be too. Engage with content that is relevant to you too. If you see something posted that links to your business or that you can contribute to, do. If you engage, others will be more likely to engage with you. And the more you respond, the quicker you get in touch, like, share, answer, the more build you will get on Social Media. The slower you are to respond, the opposite is true.


  • Build a community forum

The power of online forums is still strong. Choose any one of your pastimes or interests and guaranteed you’ll find an active online community. Building a digital home for your customers or for the expertise or product you offer is invaluable. Giving customers a space to ‘meet’ each other, pose and answer questions, share problems and solutions, is a brilliant way to engage and show willingness to hear concerns. Not all engagement will be positive but that is to be expected and answering queries publicly shows an authenticity and genuine commitment that your customers will value.


  • Consider integrating customer review software

Many online businesses offer a review system, and most of us will be well used to submitting a review or using one to inform a purchase.  In some ways, seeing reviews is so part and parcel of on-line shopping that to find a site without this may appear unusual. There are various plug-in options that work with most common e-commerce platforms so it’s easy to consider integrating this into your site. The ability to build up your business reputation and to increase trust in your product or service, while also engaging with customers who have problems or concerns, is very important.


  • Make your clients part of the team

We don’t mean literally making them part of your team, but there are ways to make your clients feel like their opinion matters. Keep it simple by running an Instagram Story series where customers are allowed to ask questions, or set up a Facebook or Instagram Live where open communication is encouraged. Ask for feedback after any purchase or use of your service and take comments on board. Treating your customers like they are valued members of your team, listening to what they say and in particular what they need, will elevate your brand above others. Your customers are an infinite source of information, ask, listen and use what they tell you to improve what you do.


  • Make use for connection software to ‘meet’ clients and customers

While you may not be able to meet and connect with your customers in person, there are many different software options that allow you to ‘meet’ with them virtually. If you’re offering a consultation service or an advisory service, having regular Zoom meetings or Google Group set ups where you can share documentation, is a great way to effectively deliver your service while providing in-person customer care.


  • Use mailers to update your customers

You may already have a mailing list for your customers or perhaps that’s something you are working on. These contact details, genuinely obtained, are gold dust. Whether it’s reaching out 1:1 to clients to let them know what is new with your business, or crafting a general mailer that can go out to your full mailing list, make the most of this treasured information. Set yourself the goal of a once monthly email. It could include new products or services, client updates or other news from your brand. It will help your clients to feel seen and to keep your business at the forefront of their minds. Do make sure you’re respecting all data protection regulations. Don’t be tempted to over-contact, that will have the opposite effect.


  • When workflow software may by useful

When you launch your business, it may be perfectly possible to manage all aspects yourself including the digital and client relations side of things. However as your business grows and your digital communications and marketing output increases, you may want to consider making use of one of the main work-flow and communication management options available. From Sprout Social to Hootsuite, Loomly to Monday, the options are broad (and the cost does vary) but there is something to suit every size and scale of business. Be sure you have a clear idea of what your goals and KPIs are before you commit and make use of any trial period offered.


  • Get your added value out online

Be clear on what added value you can offer your customers and find a way to disseminate. Maybe you can build up content via a blog or perhaps through publishing articles and comments on LinkedIn? Whichever way you share your ‘thought leadership’, building up that archive of expertise is invaluable. This expert opinion acts as validation for your business. It is also a way to offer your customers and potential customers an insight into who you are, what your skills are, and what problems you can solve for them. Every effort you make in this area is a contributor to improved SEO performance. All important to bear in mind when it comes to long-term benefits.

 

 

Whatever your business idea, whether it’s just something you’ve been mulling over or whether you’ve taken some steps on the entrepreneurial path already, we’d love to help. Read some of our Go For It Success Stories and get in touch. Our business experts will be delighted to hear from you and to talk you through everything you might need to know to move forward with your business concept.