As I write this, Christine and I are flying to New York City for a business meeting. Besides the obvious cool factor of being in one of the best cities in America, I think I am most excited about seeing Christine and spending a few days working together, side by side. What you might not realize is that even though Christine and I talk 6+ hours per day and seamlessly run two online businesses, we are thousands of miles apart. She is in California and I am in South Florida. This system works really well for us – but nothing compares to seeing each other in person.
The reason we’re headed there in the first place is to meet with a client face to face. While we do 99% of our business via internet, there’s just something different about being able to look someone in the eye and shake their hand. In today’s digital age, it has become very common to do business with people we may have never met — but that doesn’t mean that the personal connection doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of online businesses have forgotten the critical importance of personal connection because it is so easy to do business virtually today. I believe that if your company can find ways to bring that personal connection to the digital space, that you will have positioned yourself miles ahead of the competition.
This got me thinking – what are some ways to connect with people when you can’t see them face-to-face? If your business has an online presence, most likely you are communicating with people and customers who you will never see. Here are some tips that we’ve found work really well in bringing people closer:
Conversational Web Copy and Email Correspondence
It can be easy to fall into the trap of wanting to sound very technical in your website copy and email correspondence. After all, you want readers to know how smart you are, right? Conveying that you are knowledgable in your field is essential, but connect with people is also critical. Although we live in a digital age, we’ve found that people still want to do business with people that they genuinely like and trust. The best way to accomplish this is through your conversational, easy-to-read copy.
Read through the copy on your homepage and ask yourself “Does it explain my product or service the same way I would explain it to my neighbor?” If it doesn’t, then there might be an opportunity to do a quick rewrite and establish better rapport with potential customers. When writing an email — even if it’s a mass email to your list — try to envision the person on the other end of the email and speak to them. Once you have an individual person in mind, the email often takes on a whole new life.
Skype is really great for having a face-to-face conversation with a colleague or even family far away. What some business owners don’t think about, however, is that it can be a great way to talk to customers too. Many times people want to talk to a real person before making a buying decision. Imagine the impact if they could see you and hear you. When we use Skype, particularly video Skype, we’ve found that it tends to take email and phone relationships with customers and strategic partners to the next level. How could you use Skype to take customer interaction to the next level?
Photos on Your Website
People like to do business with other people. If you don’t have a photo of yourself or your team on your website, you could be missing opportunities. It doesn’t have to be front and center on your homepage, but it should at least be part of your ‘About’ page. Even better – include a ‘Meet the Team’ page so that you can have the space to really talk about yourselves and the passion that drives your business. Passion is contagious. We’ve had numerous clients over the years tell us that what “sealed the deal” on choosing to work with us, is that they could see that we were “real” people by the photos on our website. Do you have pictures of you and your team on the “About” page of your website?
Webinars / Teleseminars
Another great way to connect with your customers online is to host free webinars or teleseminars. Who doesn’t love getting something for free? Your customers will appreciate the free information and will undoubtedly get to know you a little better in the process. You can share ideas for using your products, include guest speakers, talk about industry news and updates or even host a Q&A session.
Regular webinars and teleseminars are something that we at Online PR Media plan on implementing in the second half of 2011. We want to take our commitment to education to the next level — and hopefully get to know you all better in the process!
Skyping with customers is great, but it isn’t always feasible for a lot of companies and business owners – at least not all of the time. A great alternative is to make videos. You can tackle many of the same topics in a video series that you can do with a webinar. By posting the videos on your website and using a YouTube channel, you are also taking advantage of important SEO options – which will help you attract even more customers to your website. This is another area we plan to beef up throughout the year. What can you create videos about? Think of the most common questions that you get from customers and potential customers and create short videos that answer those questions by video. When you do this, the videos work for you in two ways — they allow you to build a stronger connection with your customers and can reduce the number of customer service inquiries — now that’s a win/win scenario!
If you haven’t jumped into social media, now is the perfect time. Twitter and Facebook in particular are excellent venues for talking directly with your customers. You can monitor what people are saying about your brand, work to get more people introduced to your brand and share just a little bit more about who you are and what makes you awesome.
Offer incentives to your social network – special deals, promotions and contests just for them. That’s what we do! If you aren’t following us on Twitter or Facebook yet, this is a great way to ask questions, get press release tips and ideas, and build relationships with other like-minded people.
How Do You Build Personal Relationships with Customers in the Digital Age?
What have you found to be the best system for personally connecting with your customers?