Blogging to Connect with Customers

PatrickThose that have begun the process of using social media, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. start by being driven by a desire to get their name out on the web. They understand the value of being visible and being found but still use the tools as one way – push your message out there, vehicles.

The reality is that social media is a powerful, real time, opportunity to connect with customers. To showcase your knowledge and to invite questions, comments or opinions.

In a recent blog post writer Lisa Barone asks the question “should you blog to consumers or contempories?” In other words – who are you writing for? 

One school of thought has the purpose of blogging to be connecting with others in the industry – to be a thought leader to your peers. To be the one others “retweet” or comment about.

Lisa has a different view – one that I tend to agree with wholeheartedly:

For a small business owner, I think your blogging investment is far better spent producing content for your customers, not for your colleagues in the industry.

She goes on to list some very compelling reasons:

  • Your customers are the one performing searches – looking for a person or company  with your expertise.
  • You need to build authority with customers, not colleagues. Afterall – who is the one buying from you?
  • You want to start conversation with customers, not colleagues.  – So true!
  • Your customers are checking for your pulse, no one else. They want to buy from someone they like and trust and what better way to learn more about you, what you know and what you stand for then by reading your blog posts?

Read Lisa’s entire blog post here.

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Open, Regular, Honest Communication Key to Customer Relationships

Yesterday President George W. Bush held his final press conference of his presidency. It was his 47th conference in eight years. That’s about one opportunity to communicate his message every OTHER month.

In contrast, the President Elect, Barack Obama has held 16 press meetings since being elected November 4, 2008. That’s about one every four DAYS!

Times are tough. Questions from the audience are challenging. The news isn’t good.

Our natural instinct, when the news is bad, is to avoid confrontation, ignore the situation or hope someone else will take the heat. Whether the audience is the American population or one single customer – the surest way to build a relationship is to communicate early, honestly and on a regular basis.

Even when you don’t have all the answers.

I started with Pearle Vision as a store manager.  We sold and made the glasses.  Some prescriptions were easy to make and some were more challenging.  At the time of the sale we would give a time or date when the glasses would be ready and invited the customer to return for their custom-made glasses.

On occasion, there would be a problem with the glasses – the frame wasn’t available, the lens broke in the edger or the completed product didn’t pass the final inspection; any of these occurrences would cause a delay in the product delivery.

As a new manager, I soon learned that some of the employees failed to notify the customer in the case of the delay.  I don’t know if they hoped the customer would forget about the due date or if they feared a confrontational discussion but for whatever the reason – they failed to communicate to the customer.

I quickly changed that process. 

Building customer relationships requires open and honest communication – ESPECIALLY when the news isn’t good.  Customers are willing to understand and forgive if we keep them in the loop.  So when it comes to communicating with customers:

  • Share the information available
  • If you don’t have the answers – be honest and then let them know how you are going about getting the information
  • If you’ve made a promise (deadline or product) that you discover you can’t keep – call immediately to let the customer know
  • Set realistic expectations.  Customer would rather know the truth than to be told what you think they want to hear.
  • Under promise and over deliver
  • If customers are left to guess – they will think the worst so keep them regularly informed

Regardless of your political viewpoint – hopefully you can respect Obama’s desire to keep us informed rather than in the dark.  Follow his example and keep your customers informed.

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