Guest Post By Valerie Conyngham
I recently emailed a large retailer with a complaint about the quality of this past season’s clothing line. To the company’s credit they replied to my email within 12 hours assuring me that my concerns would be forwarded to their merchandising team. I appreciated the response and it’s enough for me to give the clothier a second chance in a season or two. However, there’s a side of me that thinks that all I received was lip service. The reason for my apprehension is due to the company’s size. Two years ago I left my position at a small business for the opportunity to work for a large company and I know first hand how messages become diluted or even ignored while being transferred throughout an organization. If the company were a small business I would have felt a higher level of trust.
Small businesses are ideally positioned to create authentic customer engagement, much more so than their large counterparts. The reason for this is their inherent personality and expertise, usually a derivative of the owner’s. It’s a form of human capital that should be taken advantage of. All small business owners should account for this in their marketing plans.
Small businesses are usually created out of passion. Someone sees an unmet need, has an idea and turns it into a profitable venture. There’s a lot of investment on the owner’s part, both financial and emotional.
Getting Started in Customer Engagement
There are many ways to tap into the emotional investment and create customer engagement. There are a number of tools available – traditional media, social media or a mix of both, but one of the most engaging is simply connecting with clients and prospects face-to-face. It helps to make new contacts and establish credibility. An easy way to do this is by joining, or even better, leading a professional committee, organization or civic group. For example, an architect could lead a neighborhood architectural review committee, a real estate agent could lead a class on purchasing a first home or a dog groomer could organize a doggie playgroup.
Other ways to engage customers and prospects include starting a blog to further share expertise, using Twitter to send out short company updates or tips, starting an email based newsletter and creating customer case studies to post to the web. These are all highly affordable (most only require time), easy-to-incorporate ideas for any small business owner.
It’s best to start with one vehicle and then add on organically as other tools make sense. For instance start with a Twitter feed and then add on a blog as you begin to have more to contribute. This will help to focus on one tool, master it, and add another tool as it becomes complimentary instead of just shifting focus among a variety of outlets and creating a array of meaningless white noise.
How do you engage your customers?
About the Author:
|Valerie Conyngham is the business and marketing manager of a Boston architectural firm. She blogs about marketing and everyday life at Marketing Engagement.|