With the advent of digital channels, customers now lead the sales process. Consumers are more empowered than ever when deciding which companies to connect with and give their time and money to.
Bhagvashree Pancholy writes, “LinkedIn statistics reveal that 78% of social sellers outsell peers who do not use social media. 51% of social sellers are more likely to reach their quota and 45% of them create more opportunities than their peers.”
Learning how to connect with customers in an efficient and cost-effective way is something businesses can no longer ignore.
Yet, many companies, especially larger organizations who are still learning about social selling in the digital era, find they come up short with their content marketing and online interactions.
Connecting with customers doesn’t have to be so difficult.
When I work with clients on their digital strategy, one of the first things I do is run through what I call the “5 L’s”.
- Leave (Authentic Comments)
How do you put the five “L’s” into practice? Read on, my friend, and I’ll tell you.
LEARN WHAT THEY LIKE
How can you learn what your customers like? Research, research, research! Do a bit of digging. Is there something your ideal customers seem to gravitate towards or respond to?
Are there always certain posts that they seem to “like”? What are they?
Analyze the style, theme and product to see where what they “like” overlaps with what you offer.
It’s an effective way of removing your own business blinders and product bias. It also helps you spot new ways to connect with customers.
LISTEN TO WHAT THEY SAY
If you want to connect with your customers, you need to listen to what they say. This may sound obvious, but I’m not talking about the comments they leave on your businesses social media platforms.
When I advise you to listen, I mean that you need to take the time to really hear a few things.
- How do they communicate? Do they use emoticons, abbreviations and acronyms?
- Do you share the same content language or are they non-native speakers?
- What is the context of their communication?
- What time zone and location are they commenting from?
- Do you have a previous history with them?
These are just a few of the questions you can quickly run through before crafting your response to them. If you take the time to learn a bit about who they are, your chances of creating a connection that leads to a conversion increases.
As Maggie Fox, senior vice president with SAP notes, “At the core of this whole initiative is a culture change, to think of the individual customer in a different way. To produce content that is going to help somebody from their journey, not trying to push a journey that we have in mind for them.”
Obviously, you can’t know everything about your customer but there is no reason why you can’t take the time to find out. Even a quick look at their profile or timeline can give you information from which to operate.
Once you do this, you’re equipped with a deeper level of understanding that increases your ability to listen and hear people.
That’s when real connection begins.
LOOK AT WHO THEY FOLLOW
What can looking at who your customers follow on social media do to help you connect with them? It can give you a look at the people they choose to spend their time with. You can see who has been allowed access to your customer’s time and attention.
Doing this is key in applying creative and strategic ways to reach them with your service or product.
It’s been said that we’re like the people we spend the most time with. That counts for online interactions, too. Looking at who your customers follow can give you a deeper understanding of who they are.
From there, you will have a better chance of connecting with them because you’re more aware of who they follow.
“LIKE” THEIR UPDATES
If you want to connect with your customers then you have to do more then just return their “follow”. That means taking the time to quickly scan their feed or timeline after they’ve initiated a connection with you.
If someone comments on your Twitter account, for example, it’s a great idea to quickly click on their profile, scan their Twitter stream and “like” or re-tweet one of their posts.
“Liking” their posts and status updates shows that you’re willing to give them some of your time and attention. The idea behind this is that when it comes time for you to broadcast a message to them, they’ll be more inclined to listen because you created the beginning stages of connection.
According to Stuart Lauchlan, “Gaining a deeper, behavior-based understanding of customers allows marketers to be smarter in creating next steps along the customer journey.”
As in any good relationship, which, these days, all businesses need to create with their customers, connecting requires a give and take approach.
You may not think of customers in the same way you would your other business or personal relationships, but I’d challenge you to reconsider what being social on social media is.
If the idea of connecting in this way seems overwhelming or too time consuming, take baby steps. Start with a simple “like”. You’ll be surprised at how well this works.
LEAVE AUTHENTIC COMMENTS
Connection with customers happens when you set the intention to communicate authentically. What this means when it comes to leaving comments on your customer’s social media platforms is that whatever you write has got to come from the heart.
This is why it’s so important to make sure the people in charge of your digital marketing and social media efforts have people skills and are naturally empathetic. If you don’t mean what you say and are simply commenting to give the appearance of being engaged with a customer, it will show. Maybe not right away, but at some point, people will catch on that you’ve either outsourced your marketing or have taken the lazy way out with auto-responders or tied the hands of your communications team to limited, pre-programmed responses.
Customers can spot insincerity.
They can tell when you’re acting like a robot or when you’re connecting with them like a real, live, human being. It’s the real, the human, and the authentic that creates the connection.
What about you? How do you create connections with your customers online?