These days there are a million different ways to get information to your customers. At the same time, you are not the only one vying for their attention. How do you make yourself not only stand out from the crowd, but actually become a company your customers actually enjoy working with?
Here are five sure-fire tips to start you on your way to becoming a likeable business.
1. Be where your customers are
When it comes to customer communication, there are a lot of channels to choose from. Should you be on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or LinkedIn? Should you be sending personalized emails, newsletters, or deals? On your website, should you offer self-help, phone, chat, or visual engagement (co-browsing, screen sharing, video, etc.)?
There is no one channel that is the best for every business. However, every business should pick a few channels, because not every channel fits every need.
Focus on the channels that make the most sense for your customers. The key is to put yourself in your clients' shoes. What kind of touch-points will they need at each moment in their lifecycle?
For example, if you are a dentist, you might try Facebook for daily interactions, a newsletter for monthly interactions, self-help on the website for scheduling appointments, and phone for those who need to ask personal questions about their health. If you are a design company, you might choose Facebook for daily interactions, Pinterest to showcase interesting work, email for prospects and clients with questions, and screen sharing to share designs and collaborate with clients across a distance.
2. Have a personality
Once you have selected the channels you want to use to communicate with your customers, take some time to decide how you want to be perceived.
First, think about the tone you will use. Are you a start-up tech company? Consider whether your customers would respond better to a quirky sense of humor, a deep sense of trust in your breadth of knowledge, or some combination of the two. Are you a hairdresser? Think about whether your customers are looking for a warmth that makes them instantly smile, local knowledge, or cutting-edge style.
In addition, think about what kind of information your audience will be searching for. Then become known an expert in that area. Are you a high-end restaurant? Perhaps you want to set yourself up as a foodie with a great sense of style and a love for locally sourced ingredients. Are you a travel agent? You might want to be known as sharing global music, advertising language classes, and very knowledgeable about the best restaurants in every capitol city.
3. Provide great information
Now you know the topics you want to discuss and the tone you want to use. It's time to start sharing.
There are lots of ways to share information. You can create your own content on a particular topic through a monthly blog post, for example. While blogging on a regular basis takes a significant amount of time and effort, it does an excellent job of setting your business up as a knowledge resource and raises your credibility with search engines.
You can also share information from other people's blogs and publications, as long as they are about relevant topics. Just be sure to only copy a small amount word for word (like the title and maybe a single quote), offer your own commentary on the subject, and provide a link back to the original source.
The most important thing to remember is not to set yourself up as an advertising channel. There's no problem with mixing in an offer for a deal, information about a service, or details about a new product. However, the focus of your sharing efforts should be less about marketing and sales, and more about strengthening the relationship between your business and your customers.
4. Make it a conversation
Hurray - you sent out some information! But oh no, someone sent back a reply or some commentary! Now what do you do?
That very simple statement is something that frightens many businesses. It's much easier to just set your posts on automatic and throw information over the wall than it is to hold an actual conversation. But social media is mean to be...well...social.
When your audience replies to something you sent out, you've been handed a golden opportunity. Now is the time to show that you're not just a robot or an uncaring business. Connect with your customers. Become truly likable!
A digital conversation doesn't have to be all that different from a live one. Someone retweeted your post? Say "thank you." Someone commented on your Facebook post? "Like" their comment and say something in return.
Even if the comment was a complaint, you should answer it. In fact, especially then. Be polite and find a way to take it offline so you can truly understand the source of the issue. You're much better off talking with an angry customer in a non-public forum than on Twitter or the like.
In fact, this is where point number one comes in. By offering several conversation channels, not only are you making yourself more convenient to your customers, but you are also providing a means to settle issues in a personalized, private manner.
5. Follow through
Whether you are talking digital or not, your customers want to know that they can depend on you to follow through with your promises.
If you offered a deal, honor it. If you told them you would look into a problem, provide customers with updates on how the issue is being handled. If your customers said they loved their experience with your business, ask them if they'd be willing to write you an online review. If they need more assistance, direct them to further resources, even if you aren't the business that can provide the help needed.
The more you can set yourself up as a dependable friend, the more likable you will become. Ultimately, that translates into more loyal customers who will invite their friends to become loyal customers. And that's something we all like.