Your customers are the heart of your company. They’re everything—you know it and they know it. One of the quickest paths to failure is to create a disconnect between your company and its customers. Inversely, one of the fastest routes to success is to foster a rich connection between company and customer. Here are six ways to do just that.
1. Flesh Out Buyer Personas
Buyer personas provide a powerful tool for connecting with your customers, but they are often too simple. It isn’t enough to know that your target market is college-educated females between the ages of 25 and 35. You need to know why, how, and when those women are using your product.
Instead of relying exclusively on demographics, try to expand your buyer personas and draw a clearer picture of who is connected to your company and why. Think about the way your buyers spend their free time, what their values are, and what goals they want to achieve. While little details like these might seem insignificant, they can allow you to forge a deeper connection with your customers and ultimately provide them with better service.
2. Be a Customer
Business owners should constantly be stepping into the shoes of the customer as realistically as possible. Regularly, and ideally anonymously, visit your website, purchase your product or service, and contact customer service.
If for some reason (e.g., all your employees know what you look like and what your voice sounds like) you can’t go through the process anonymously, role-play these scenarios with staff.
You can also directly follow user milestones with a customer journey map, which is another excellent tool for connecting with your customers. A customer journey map is exactly what it sounds like: an outline of the way your customers interact with your company.
One of the beautiful things about customer journey maps is that they are not linear. On the contrary, these maps can track a customer as they jump around to different stages of interaction with your brand: from learning about the product, to considering purchase, then perhaps back to learning more about the product, and so on. Tracking these behaviors can give you clear ideas of your customers’ exact experience, which is the heart of connection. You will be able to understand more clearly when and why your customer is frustrated or disillusioned with your brand, then fix it.
3. Humanize Your Company
No website is complete without a detailed About page. By providing customers with real information about the company and its founders and history, you make yourself human. Your customers deserve to know why you do what you do, and this knowledge will go a long way in fostering a connection.
In addition to plenty of text about the company and its mission, images are also very powerful emotional connectors. Include a collection of regularly updated photographs of your team at work and play. Emotional experiences are important to customers, and humanizing your company encourages an emotional connection between you and them.
4. Create a Community
You need a way to nurture a relationship with your customers after their initial purchase. Creating an online forum, a chat room, or a social media group allows your customers to communicate with each other and share ideas, with your company as their platform. You have direct access to your customers’ opinions, ideas, and complaints, which allows you to react to them in real time.
At SaleHoo, we created a forum specifically for customer suggestions on product improvements. Not only has this helped us give our customers exactly what they need, increasing loyalty and satisfaction, but it’s also made them feel heard, which is an important part of any relationship.
Creating this “tribe” inspires loyalty and investment and improves the overall customer experience in a way individual employees can’t.
5. Let Your Customers Participate
Customers can be an invaluable resource for marketing and content. Your company can build connections with customers by soliciting reviews from them, inviting them to guest-post on your blog, or even having a user-generated content platform of some kind.
Activewear brand Lululemon created a highly successful UGC campaign with the hashtag #thesweatlife. They encouraged customers to post photographs of themselves working out in Lululemon gear with the hashtag for a chance to be featured on the website. Not only did this effort generate tons of social media buzz for their brand, but it also made customers feel connected to a community of like-minded exercisers.
Participation is a two-way street, too: Don’t hesitate to promote your customers on social media platforms or your website when they experience success or love on your brand. Also, include customers in company anniversaries and milestones. For example, host a sale for the business’s fifth birthday or offer a 20 percent off coupon when you reach 2,000 followers on Instagram.
6. Host Events
Events connect people. One excellent way to build community is by inviting your customers to an online or in-person event. This could be a webinar, a conference, or even just a cocktail hour meet-up. Any opportunity to interact with your customers in a setting outside the purchase process will foster a positive connection with them.
This strategy can be particularly effective for online businesses, which have fewer opportunities to personally connect with their customers.
If you can develop robust buyer personas, identify with your customers, humanize your company, and build an active, inclusive community around your business, your customers will feel more connected to you than ever before, and you will be able to provide them with exactly what they need. Everybody wins!
Simon Slade is cofounder and CEO of SaleHoo, an online wholesale directory of more than 8,000 prescreened suppliers; Affilorama, an affiliate marketing training portal with over 100 free video lessons; and their parent company Doubledot Media Limited, which provides seven different training and software applications to over 1 million customers worldwide.