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Who Cares About Your Business

October marks the beginning of the holiday season with Halloween at the end of the month. Seasonal items are being shuffled around and soon Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah will be upon us.

Personally, I have been busy preparing for the cold weather and analyzing how to move forward into the new year. This got me thinking about many things; rescaling my marketing, updating my prices, expanding my services… you know, all the regular business stuff.

It also got me thinking about my customers... actually, the customers I don’t have. What can I do to help them find me? Then it hit me, if they did find me, why would they care? This month’s newsletter is about ways of connecting to customers in today’s age of information.

Why Do You Matter?

Let’s face it, not everything we do is glamorous. Long hours, grudging workload, unending expenses and paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. Any other situation one would wonder why even bother, but we know at the core there is a certain amount of passion for what we do. At least there should be.

Have you ever asked the question, “why does what I do/sell matter to my customers?” If not, you should. Answering that question puts you one step closer to understanding your potential customers. If you are a restaurant owner, what makes your restaurant the better choice over every other restaurant in the area? If you offer gutter cleaning services why should someone hire you over the other guy who cleans gutters? Or buy your baked goods or your new car or any other product or service available anywhere? Gone are they days of customer loyalty, it seems.

The answer to that question should also reflect your mission statement, you know… your core values and what motivates you to get up in the morning. Your mission statement also becomes part of your pitch, your ”elevator speech”. Once you have it, hold on to it. You will be referring back to it over time.

The Art of Making Connections

Now that you know why you matter you need to let others know why you matter. This is not an easy task because no one will value your services the same way you do. Crazy, right? Potential customers simply don’t know what they’re missing. Obviously you do it better, you and I know that.

Your family and friends obviously do. So do your loyal customers, but we’re talking about people who don’t know you. You need to educate them, inform them of what they’re missing. Time to do some advertising, but the tried and true methods of advertising are being challenged. What worked a decade ago is less effective today, so let’s break it down.

Advertising is about getting people to learn about you and your products or service. Two ways of getting that information out there are to broadcast that information actively or passively and that broadcasting can be done on two levels; one to one or one to many. The best way is actively talking with someone one to one. It allows you to get the message across clearly and without misinterpretation while establishing a personal rapport. The downside is it’s time consuming and slow. A faster way is to passively broadcast your information to as many people as possible for as long as possible without you being overly involved. While it can be effective volume-wise, the downsides are poor retention, lack of intimacy and it can be expensive if not done right. Also, keep in mind that you don’t want to just dish out information, you want to build a relationship. You want to matter to people.

Fortunately today’s digital age has given us a very useful tool; social media.

Connecting through social media

If you are like most business owners I know you probably have a love/hate relationship with social media. Most likely because you don't understand how to fully utilize it or you think it takes too much work.

Before social media, to establish a relationship with a person it typically started with friendly chit chat. Trust is built over time and a friendship blossoms. Conversation was the key (active one to one communication) and for many of us it may seem like the art of conversation has died with the birth of social media. I can assure you it hasn't. It has simply morphed into a new creature that now dwells in cyberspace.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are superb tools for establishing conversation with your customer base, both the ones you currently have and those you wish you had. Another one most businesses dismiss is YouTube. If done right, these outlets can be very effective and to quote William Butler Yeats, “there are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” If you hold that philosophy in mind the concept of social media will become easier to understand.

While the goal is to get strangers to become interested in you and your company no one likes being force fed advertisements and here is the crux of how social media has traditionally been used the wrong way by many small businesses.

The goal to your social media interaction is to get potential clients engaged and (to a degree) invested in you. This requires you to find mutual topics that draws your customer's attention and hold it, even if it's for a short while. Today's attention span is short but as long as you work within these confines you'll be one step ahead.

Share, don’t sell

The easiest way to connect is with engaging conversation. Don't talk at people. Don't blast them with advertisements and deals. Instead, give them content they can use. At the least, give them something that entertains. The goal is to put your brand in front of them but with a positive, enjoyable feeling. Warm and fuzzy are a positive emotion, annoyed and bored are not.

Of all the social media platforms, YouTube content creators do this the best. Many channels on YouTube are niche channels that deal with one or two topics and they do it well. They get their viewers engaged and many convert to loyal followers. If you think of your business as a niche topic and come up with weekly, bi-monthly or (at the very least) monthly content you can begin converting random strangers into loyal customers. So what kind of content can you create?

How to videos and tutorials are a powerful way of creating a support structure to your products or services while establishing a sense of trust and positioning yourself as an authority in your field. The nice thing about how-to’s is they quickly become a part of a larger library of information you can use as a resource.

Reviews and product tests are another useful tool of getting engagement. Specially in today’s online world where hands on shopping has given way to remote, over the internet shopping. People really appreciate a closer, in-depth review of a new product to help them make a purchasing decision. The key here is to help, not sell.

Personal messages and stories about your company, yourself and your employees, their achievements and what is happening ‘behind the scene’ offer customers a view of the inner workings of your company that are often not seen. Stories that have an emotional note work best.

Mining for useful information and “passing it on” is another tactic that can be used to generate content but my feeling is to use it very sparingly. You need to really understand your audience if you’re going to start passing on information otherwise it will feel cheap and spammy.

Be consistent

One trait shared with standard advertising you need to remember is consistency. You want to remain relevant and in people’s minds and for that you will need to post often and regularly. Make yourself a schedule and try to keep to that schedule. There are tools available for this as well. Social media schedulers allow you to create posts ahead of time and have them released automatically on a set schedule. HootSuite and Buffer are two such services you can look into.

If you have the budget, consider assigning an employee or hiring someone specifically for social media promotions. Take a few hours at the beginning of the month to plan out your month’s goals and then you can create targeted content. Your content can also serve double duty, meaning you can use it in various platforms. For example, if you create a how-to video you can take that content, transcribe it and make a blog post. You can then take snippets and post them as a Twitter, Facebook or Instagram post, creating a mini campaign from that one piece of content. Finally, to ‘clinch the deal’, create a coupon that offers some form of savings to products or services mentioned in that mini campaign.

Final word: The burden of convenience

One of the leading criteria for a client to do business with anyone is convenience. That is why so many of the big box stores and online giant's have taken over the market, leaving the smaller businesses languishing. They make it convenient to shop there. Unfortunately for them that leaves a whole laundry list of services they can not provide, such as quality customer service, personal attention, peace of mind and many other qualities the bigger places can't provide like convenience. Use these qualities to your benefit. Give people a real reason to come to you.

Hopefully this newsletter gives you some ideas to start thinking about how you can use social media to start building rapport with both customers and non-customers alike. If you appreciate what you’ve read here, please spread the word and let your friends know about this newsletter.


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