7 Creative Ways to Engage With Your Customers Online
by: Shay Wright
Technology today affords us the opportunity to initiate contact with a lot of potential customers online, but many businesses fall short of actually converting these customers because they fail to truly engage them. The days when large companies could just blanket the airwaves with their sales pitches and actually expect a return from such advertising are gone. People are tired of being sold to. They want companies to listen to them and slowly gain their trust over time before they’ll open their wallet to them.
Once initial contact is made with a potential customer online, someone has to engage that customer by providing relevant and useful information in a personable manner to build trust. Outlined below are some creative and effective ideas for individuals and companies to interact and engage with their customers online.
1. Build a Community or Group
There are several great ways to build an online community to more effectively interact and engage with your customers. Forums have been around for years and are still a widely used method of engaging with customers and allowing customers to engage with each other. Forums will likely still be around for the foreseeable future, but many companies are now finding it more advantageous to connect with customers on various social networks. Customers are already on these social networks every day, so instead of relying on customers to regularly visit your forum to interact and engage with you, why not bring the conversation to them on their social networks of choice?
Google+ Communities, Facebook Groups, and LinkedIn Groups are just a few of the many social networking sites that allow individuals and companies the ability to set up topic or brand communities.
2. Host a Webinar or Google Hangout
A webinar or Google Hangout is another innovative and effective way of engaging with your customers. They allow you to reach a large target audience on a platform that is very user-friendly and interactive. People love the visual aspects of a webinar with live video of the presenter, slides, graphics, and other interactive options. Webinars and hangouts also allow you to make a very personal connection with your current or potential customers. You as the presenter of the webinar or hangout can also be more passionate, entertaining, and engaging than you could otherwise be by just writing a blog post and short e-book.
Pro Tip: Allowing users to tweet or email their questions or comments to you during or after the webinar is a great way to encourage more interaction with your audience.
Planning to release an e-book, redesign your website, or launch a new product? Consider reaching out to your customers to help you co-create something or at least provide their input and suggestions. While this would not be advisable in all situations, getting your customers’ input and assistance can really help you develop a much stronger bond. They will feel proud that they were part of the effort and process that made your product better.
When you encourage customer participation on a project, just be sure to reward the people whose ideas and input you implemented. Try to turn it into some sort of contest and recognize the people who helped. You can reward the key contributors with a prize, but sometimes recognition alone is a good enough reward for certain people.
4. Celebrate Together
Did you just reach 5,000 registered users on your site? Did you attract 25,000 new visitors to your site last month? When your company reaches milestones like these, celebrate your success with your customers and make them feel like they contributed to your success.
The reason some people are so passionate about sports is because they feel as if they are literally part of their favorite sports team. When the team wins, they win. Instead of saying, “The Cowboys played a great game last night,” a real Cowboys fan will say “We played a great game last night.” That’s the mentality you need to develop with your customers—make them feel part of your winning team, and thank them for helping your site to be a success.
5. Offer Exclusive Content
Create content that is not available to the general public—content that is so special and exclusive, that only members can view it. Require users to login to this area. You don’t necessarily have to charge for access to this content, but require users to at least go through a registration process to gain access to it. It will make them feel special and part of your exclusive group.
You may also want to offer special discounts and pricing to this group as well. A members-only forum where registered users can discuss industry-related topics is also a great way to build unity and engage your customers.
6. Solve a Problem Together
Is there a particular problem in your industry that needs to be solved? Suppose you own a resource site for web developers, and you discover a group of your users are all having the same problem with a particular software program or programming language. Ask for user interaction and input, and solve the problem together as a group. This will create a stronger bond, and everyone will feel more like a team.
7. Offer Ways to Interact
If you have a blog, allow visitors to leave comments on your blog. There is nothing more discouraging than reading a great blog post that a reader can’t leave a comment or question on. Sure, you’ll get some spam comments by allowing people to comment, but there are a lot of great plugins and programs to help filter spam out, and it’s well worth the time and effort to publish good comments.
When people do leave good insightful comments, be sure to respond to them and thank them for participating in the conversation. If someone leaves a question for you in a comment, be sure to respond to their question. It looks bad to other visitors to see questions go unanswered.
Your site should also include links to your social profiles on sites such a Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. This will allow your visitors to interact with you in more ways than one.
Technology today offers so many great ways to interact and engage with customers online. Take advantage of all the free tools and resources available today and devise a plan to better engage and interact with your customers online. If you don’t, your competition will.
What other ways have you found to be effective in engaging with your customers online?