6 Ways to Create Relationships (And Conversions) with Your Digital Fans

Here are a half dozen ways your small business can start winning the online customer relationship battle.

Before Facebook, Instagram, email and all the other social media platforms came along, customer relationship building happened in-person and small businesses were the kings of those relationships. While big companies saw a small staff, limited locations, and not so big production facilities as downfalls for small businesses and advantages for themselves, they forgot about the most important marketing tactic: customer-relationship building. And small businesses excelled at it.

Today, customer-relationship building has taken a turn. It's no longer the "Hello" at the bakery or "Here's a birthday card in the mail" from your local dry cleaner. It has become so digitalized that it's hard to grasp that it can even be considered a relationship!

Many small businesses have set up their digital channels to consider conversions, but have not carried over their wonderful customer-relationship skills to the digital space. Conversions and customer-relationships go together. You can't have one without the other when it comes to social media and the digital landscape.

How can you build better relationships with your digital fans? Here are six strategies you can implement at your business.

Customer relationship tip No. 1: Bring them in and talk to them

Many people look at Facebook followers and Instagram fans as the end of the line, but it's important to remember to create content that doesn't bring them into your page but relevantly communicates with them. (Relevant is the key word here).  This also includes boosting your posts to your audience!  Just because you post it on your channels does not mean they will see it in today's pay to play world.

Customer relationship tip No. 2: Turn in-person customers into fans

Offer promotion to those you work with in-person if they follow you on social media. Then, get ready to communicate with them!

Customer relationship tip No. 3: Send targeted emails 

For a while, sending a monthly newsletter was the biggest trend in email marketing, but today consumers have gotten smarter.  To build a relationship with them through email, you need to send highly targeted, relevant messages for them to consider opening your email.

Customer relationship tip No. 4: Segment your digital audience

Look at psychographics, demographics, and other behaviors to segment your fans and databases for a more personalized message.

Customer relationship tip No. 5: Get personal! 

Don't be afraid to send private Facebook messages, respond directly to tweets, and tag customers on your channels.  Act like a human, not a business, when you're communicating in the digital space.

Customer relationship tip No. 6: Brainstorm
Think about how you currently interact with your customers in-person, then convert those behaviors to the digital space.  Look at all the tools available to you - from Facebook live to Instagram stories to email segmenting. 

This article was not written with the intent to tell you to stop building relationships in-person.  That method hasn't gone away. By leveraging relationship building in the digital space and incorporating it into your conversion strategy, you can take advantage of the great world of digital marketing for your small business.

Annie Pryatel is the owner of AMP Brand Studios. Learn more about how AMP is helping small businesses succeed by clicking here.
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  • Next up: 6 Ways to Use Social Media to Attract Millennials to Your Business

    6 Ways to Use Social Media to Attract Millennials to Your Business

    Here are six easy-to-implement social media tactics that will draw more millennials to your business.

    It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a product or service, social media can be one of your strongest tools to growing your brand and business. If you’re looking to engage the demographic that we all constantly hear about, millennials, then look no further than social media to grow your audience in this age demographic.

    A study from Deloitte, found 47% of millennials make purchasing decisions influenced by social media. That’s a lot. And it’s a large group you might be potentially be missing out on. To utilize social media and capture the attention of Millennials, keep in mind the following six tips the next time you go online.

    Hit the record button

    Video can be intimidating but worth it in the long run. A recent study from  HubSpot Research found 54% of consumers want to see videos from brands they support. The great news is it’s easy to do if you have a phone in hand. Are you debuting a new product or have a new office space? Use video to show it off! There are many ways you can get creative to help promote your business. If you’re an event planner who wants to showcase that gala on Saturday or a small business owner debuting your new storefront, grab your phone and capture the moment to share. The facts don’t lie, 64% of users are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video, according to HubSpot. This means you’re more likely to secure new clients after sharing.

    Go live

    Once you’ve mastered the art of video, try going “Live.” I’m sure you’ve noticed the notifications that pop up on your phone when someone goes live. It’s a great way to capture attention and encourage real time interaction. If you’re introducing a new employee and want your audience to meet them or give your audience a chance to ask questions, utilize the live feature for your audience to follow along, ask questions and listen in real time.

    Be consistent

    Consistency is key when it comes to building brand awareness and growing your social media audience. There’re a lot of social media suggestions on how often you should be posting. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find anyone recommending posting multiple times to every couple days to once a week. However, there’s no special formula that what works for everyone. Find out what works for you and experiment when you’re posting. If you have days and times that seem to get the most engagement from your audience, continue to post those days. It might take some time but post different times and days to see what works for you. From there take the time to create a social media calendar, it’s a great to way to be consistent and set social media goals for your business.

    Be mindful

    Don’t forget quality is more important than quantity. As much as it’s important to be consistent, don’t post just for the sake of posting. It’s great to switch it up and post something that is different than your usual post, but ask yourself, “Will my audience be interested in this?” If this answer is no or you’re not sure, I highly recommend refraining from posting.

    Get engaged

    As much as putting quality content is major part of being successful in social media, it’s as important to be an active participant with your audience and build those online relationships. As most things in life, social media is a two-way street. To take full advantage of what social media can do for your personal brand and business, you must be as engaging as the next person. That means responding to the comment someone left on your most recent Instagram post or following back that new follower.

    Have a plan

    This might seem like a no-brainer but as a busy business owner you don’t have a ton of time on your hands. Creating social media guidelines and a calendar can do wonders for your business’s social media, while saving you time. Sit down and create a list of goals you’d like to achieve with your social media as well as what content is relevant to your brand. Having a clear outline of how often you would like to post. In addition to how often you should be posting, content aligns with your business is incredibly helpful.

    Katelyn Gainer is the marketing, events and development manager at Engage! Cleveland, a nonprofit whose mission is to attract, engage and retain young, diverse talent to the Greater Cleveland area. Learn more about her organization’s work by clicking here.

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  • Next up: Webinar: 7 Marketing Tactics to Know

    Webinar: 7 Marketing Tactics to Know

    Seasoned marketer Nicole Burke gives the inside scoop on the tools, tips and tactics you need to add to your marketing mix.

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  • Next up: 7 Steps to Fix Your Pricing Strategy

    7 Steps to Fix Your Pricing Strategy

    Desperate to close that sale? Don’t instinctively reach for the discount button. Entrepreneurs should be selling on value, rather than price, according to Marvin Montgomery, author, motivational speaker, and sales trainer. “The value comes from you,” Montgomery said during a recent COSE WebEd webinar titled “Stop Selling on Price: Pricing for Value & Profits.”

    Desperate to close that sale? Don’t instinctively reach for the discount button. Entrepreneurs should be selling on value, rather than price, according to Marvin Montgomery, author, motivational speaker, and sales trainer.

    “The value comes from you,” Montgomery said during a recent COSE WebEd webinar titled “Stop Selling on Price: Pricing for Value & Profits.”

    He added, “People buy from people they know, like and trust. You have to build that trust into your communication.”

    Montgomery went on to list seven steps small business owners should take to ensure they have a pricing strategy in place that not only yields the maximum price for their good or service, but is strong enough to overcome customer objections.

    Step 1: Pick a Price

    When you prepare to market your product, chances are good you’ve already picked a price that is based on the value your product offers the customer. Be prepared to overcome resistance from your customer and remain committed to that price. “Determine your pricing strategy and hold firm,” Montgomery said.

    Step 2: Win from Within

    Go into the discussion with your customer with the right mindset in place. “If your outlook is, ‘I hope they don’t mention price because then I’ll have to discount this 5% or 10%,’ then that will be your outcome,” Montgomery said. If you have a positive outlook on the discussion to come, then the customer will pick up on your messaging that the pricing is fair and firm.

    Step 3: Don’t be Afraid to Talk Budget

    When assessing your customer’s needs, don’t be afraid to ask how much they are looking to invest. (Pro tip: Use the word “invest” not “spend.” You want to reinforce the value your product is bringing and that this is an investment.) Don’t wait until the end of the pitch to talk pricing. “You’re there to find out if there is a need for your service. You’re not there to give your product away. Anyone can do that.”

    Step 4: Isolate the Reason Behind Their Concern

    If your customer raises an objection, there are three ways to figure out the reason behind the objection.

    • Ask questions: Based on how your conversation has gone so far, ask questions to ascertain where the objection lies. Is there a need? Do they not have the budget? You won’t know until you ask.
    • Paraphrase back: Some customers will just test the waters to see if you’re willing to drop the price. If price has been a concern, repeat that concern back to them and then allow them to continue: “So, you think the price is too high?”
    • Be silent: This might seem counterintuitive, but when a customer raises an issue, try keeping quiet. Maybe they haven’t completed their thought. “Let silence be your friend,” Montgomery said, adding it’s possible the prospect will go on to close the sale themselves as they talk.

    Whatever you do, don’t discount. “If you discount your price, you discount your credibility and trust. All you did was validate their fears.”

    Step 5: Identify the Pain

    Listen to what the customer is saying. Ask questions. “So, with your last provider, your deliveries were three days late. How did that impact you?” Show how you can provide a better solution. And when it’s time to close, feed those pain points back to the customer.

    Step 6: Offer Options and Alternatives

    Think about ways you can deliver your product to the customer without discounting. Perhaps there’s a partner who can split the cost with your prospect. Have these options ready in advance. Do whatever you can to deliver your service at the price you’ve quoted.

    Step 7: Time to Close

    When it comes time to close, don’t just email your quote and proposal to the client. Schedule a time to sit down and go over the value you can present, otherwise you’re just like everybody else.

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  • Next up: 8 Annoying Sales Behaviors You Need to Stop Now

    8 Annoying Sales Behaviors You Need to Stop Now

    We’ve all received that annoying sales call or been approached with an irritating sales gimmick. Don’t be a pain-in-the-neck salesperson. Check out these eight selling tactics to avoid, along with five steps to ensuring you are seen as a valuable, effective seller.

    Yes, sales people, the sales process can be annoying for some.

    From the prospect’s perspective, the potential for your call to be annoying starts with being interrupted, the first impression of the seller, the level of preparation and knowledge, the urgency of the topic and so on. Annoying behaviors are unique to each person we interact with but, over time, an experienced prospect builds up an early warning system to help identify horrendous sales calls and annoying people.

    Let’s think for a moment about the prospective customer/decision maker you are trying to reach and earn the right to a conversation or meeting with. Based on internal business meetings, priorities, challenges and conflicts, their to-do list likely does not include this unexpected phone call from you. Adding to this constantly-growing list, how many times a day does a decision maker have to fend off internal interruptions, meetings, annoying bosses and colleagues, new challenges and the countless sales pitches from people and companies they have never heard of? How many of the sales calls are from people who are rude, not prepared to answer questions, do not ask relevant questions, do not listen, use tricks of the trade, trash talk competitors and other annoying tactics?

    This is the reality of life with sales people.

    Sales is a profession like many others; some people are good at it and others are not. As a sales person in most situations, your job is to help your company grow through the retention of loyal customers as well as engage directly with decision makers at new target companies or new calls or visits to your company. Your work requires you to identify customer needs, evaluate the opportunities and develop a solid and valuable solution for each customer. People and companies do not want to buy stuff they do not need and they do not want to waste time with those who don’t add value and are not aligned with their individual and business goals.

    Stop being annoying!

    Here are eight behaviors that customers find annoying and likely drive them away from your call or meeting you at an event:

    Annoying Behavior No. 1: Disrespect for the decision maker’s priorities. Beyond a successful interruption, you might demonstrate a lack of awareness and understanding of the decision maker’s role, responsibilities and priorities.

    Annoying Behavior No. 2: Wasting the decision maker’s time. The obligatory chit-chat and weather check can be an assumed rapport builder. Not knowing who the prospects are or what they do, not being organized and being tied to reading a script are indicators that you are just smiling and dialing.

    Annoying Behavior No. 3: Not knowing enough about their business. Asking a prospect what they do indicates you are a novice and a lack of preparation. You fall short of demonstrating how you fit as a proven resource.

    Annoying Behavior No. 4: Not having a clear WIIFM for the decision maker. It is frustrating if a seller can’t answer the question “What’s in it for me?” or if a seller does not do the work to understand the prospects’ current situation, where they want to be, the value of achieving these results and the urgency of a better solution. It is hard to present a clear path on how you are aligned with the prospects’ priorities if you are not focused on their buying needs, challenges, goals, budget and urgency.

    Annoying Behavior No. 5: Demonstrating poor communications, relationship and rapport building skills. You talk too much, interrupt and do not listen to key things already shared. There may be a high level of self-promotion, blowing your horn, bragging, unsolicited opinions and name dropping.

    Annoying Behavior No. 6: Using sales tricks and gimmicks. Many people go to sales trainings and read book on selling. Use of manipulative techniques and gimmicks are easy to spot.

    Annoying Behavior No. 7: Trashing your competition. Every decision made has a range of options. Trashing the current supplier sends a strong signal that the buyer’s previous decisions were not well thought out.

    Annoying Behavior No. 8: Complaining and whining. They get enough of that from their own team so why share your unwelcome dissatisfaction.

    So, what can you do to be less annoying?

    As humans we want other people to think highly of us and trust us. In business and in sales it is vital to our success that our ability to present our ideas and ourselves does not backfire. Selling is hard work that requires skills, knowledge and behaviors needed to engage and help prospects and customers achieve their desired results.

    Try these five steps to help you come across as less annoying:

    Be Less Annoying Step No. 1: Assess yourself. With the help of others, identify your skills gaps or behaviors that you need to address to help you get better and more consistent results.

    Be Less Annoying Step No. 2: Be relevant. Figure out what you need to do to be pertinent to your target

    customers and earn the right to a conversation, a meeting and a relationship.

    Be Less Annoying Step No. 3: Be prepared. Make sure you are poised to be clear and confident on your next steps when you ask “On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you with the results you are getting with you current solution?”

    Be Less Annoying Step No. 4: Be trustworthy. Know what it takes to build confidence and be a trusted resource to address your customers’ needs.

    Be Less Annoying Step No. 5: Think chemistry. Understand how your personality and behaviors might cause prospects and customers to be annoyed with you.

    Demonstrate that meeting with you can help customers and prospects solve their problems and achieve that higher level of satisfaction. Make each interaction valuable and aligned with the customers’ or the prospects’ priorities at the time needed.

    Make the time decision makers and buyers spend with you worthwhile. Help them see their time with you as an investment, and your effort will pay off.

    Wayne Bergman is a business and executive coach and founder of Consistent Business Growth. Questions or comments about this piece? Email him directly at wayne@cbgrowth-gfm.com.

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  • Next up: 8 Essential Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs

    8 Essential Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs

    It’s no secret the entrepreneurial mindset operates a little bit differently than others. But what habits do the most successful entrepreneurs share? That’s a question that author and entrepreneur Gary Schoeniger has set out to answer.

    It’s no secret the entrepreneurial mindset operates a little bit differently than others. But what habits do the most successful entrepreneurs share? That’s a question that author and entrepreneur Gary Schoeniger has set out to answer.

    During a recent COSE webinar titled “Essential Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs” he said he found that the most successful of these people seemed to share the same eight critical habits.

    And those habits are:

    1. The power to choose

    This might be the most important quality an entrepreneur can possess, Schoeniger said. He defines this as turning off the auto pilot and turning on the radar. “Choose the way you respond to your circumstances,” he said. “Be aware.”

    2. Recognize opportunities

    “Problems are opportunities,” he said. When a pain point is encountered, the entrepreneurial brain immediately starts trying to think about how it can be improved: “Why are we doing it this way? How can it be done better?”

    3. Ideas into action

    If you think for too long, you won’t take action, he said. Also, when you begin to implement your ideas, you’ll discover what was previously undiscovered and that can help your business.

    4. Pursuit of knowledge

    Again, the most successful entrepreneurs should be thinking about how they can improve their business. They test. They think. They learn.

    5. Creating wealth

    Entrepreneurs understand it is more important to BE wealthy than LOOK wealthy. “Most people choke themselves with debt to look wealthy,” Schoeniger said. If an entrepreneur gets a $500 tax refund, for example, they will use that money to advance their ideas and not spend it on material things.

    6. Building a brand

    Customers should know what to expect when they do business with you. Be reliable.

    7. Create a community

    Surround yourself with other successful entrepreneurs. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” he said. Also, this extends to social media. Schoeniger suggested building a powerful Twitter news feed by following people such as Elon Musk on the social network.

    8. The power of persistence

    Being a small business owner is all about resilience. It’s the notion of turning into an overnight success after 20 years of hard work. Entrepreneurs should not expect things to be easy.

    Want to hear more from Schoeniger about what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur? Register for the next installment of COSE’s Business Boot Camp Series on March 23 when he will lead a session titled “Entrepreneurial Mindset & How it Can Drive Your Business to Success.

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