We live in an age of “always online” and social media madness. You go on vacation, and all your Facebook friends get to see you having fun at the beach and luxurious resorts, amid non-stop likes and comments. Got a raise at work recently? Can’t help but tweet (boast more or less) about it, can you?
Did you know there are just over 3 billion interactions on Facebook and more than half a billion tweets published on a daily basis? That’s really saying something.
The bottom line is that social media is a real and highly fruitful channel for customer acquisition and retention. Not just that, but it can really help you understand your customer at a more intimate level. Its irrefutable power to better serve and acquire customers cannot be denied, however, it isn’t the only reliable means of moving your offline customer following to online.
Move Your Mailing Lists Online
If you happen to have a list of customer names with mailing addresses who you interact with on a regular basis, it makes sense to move them online. For one thing, there are no costs involved, so the economic advantage of keeping in touch through day-to-day emailing is something you wouldn’t want to ignore.
This isn’t to say that you should discard your postal mailing lists altogether. Special occasions call for sending out postal mails, so you might want to keep it for those special days of the year.
Want to seamlessly move your mailing list online? Here’s what you should do:
- Send your offline list a postcard, coaxing them to claim a gift online or other “free and highly valuable incentives”
- As customers go online, they should be asked to provide their active email address
- Once they have acquired the free information, prize/points or giveaway, they see a “thank you” page
- On this page, they might be given the option to avail additional points or another gift, giveaway, valuable info etc.
- Also consider giving them a choice between giveaways, gifts and free high-value information
By taking the above steps, we’ve accomplished a few things:
- Your most frequent customers are going to be online soon enough
- Your postal mailing list gets cleaned up as you’ve offered to send them giveaways while acquiring their email addresses
- By offering choices on the Thank You page, you’re chances of getting responses as well as updated mailing addresses are higher
A word on post cards: these can also have call-to-actions at the end asking customers to register for an e-newsletter. Include a URL which leads them to your sign up form. The more savvy customers will definitely welcome a QR code which links to the sign up form.
Here’s another way of getting your customers to opt into your e-newsletter; let’s say you own an auto retail business, and your customer has to choose between service plans. As part of your regular sales process, you could ask them to sign-up for an e-newsletter that offers extras such as car care and maintenance tips, improving engine performance and mileage etc.
This e-newsletter effectively positions you as an expert who really cares about how customers get the most out of their products.
Common Best Practices for Moving Your User Base Online
If you have a brick and mortar business, should you be keeping away from online business practices, due to having low expectations in terms of growth? Absolutely not!
Many tend to identify online marketing with online businesses only and view any online activity with a fair amount of skepticism. This is simply not true. Online and social media marketing done the right way can have highly positive effects on your in-store sales.
For example, when it comes to better understanding your customer, you can use certain data capturing techniques to get the job done.
Data collection and analysis helps you determine customer behaviors, preferences and demographics. This crucial data can be assimilated from several sources including CRM (customer relationship management) systems, third parties, search and social.
When customers visit you at the store or place of business, ask them if they use social media on a frequent basis. If they do, ask them what channels appeal to them the most and why? Perhaps, some or most of them don’t use any of them, but you need to know.
Those who are using social media, ask them how they would like to be engaged on their favorite channels. This not only gives you valuable insights so as to how you can improve their social media experience, but also motivates them to engage with you more online.
You could ask the same in emails or e-newsletters as well and it will only go to show how much you care about your customers’ needs. A good idea still is to attach a brief feedback form with the email having no more than 6- 10 questions asking customers what they think of your brand and service.
Embrace Social Media Monitoring
A very simple and free way of monitoring daily happenings in your industry and pinpointing where your customers are online is Mention; a tool that helps you track a particular discussion or topic every time it gets mentioned on the internet.
Just to give you an example, you have the ability to monitor if either you or the business is being mentioned anywhere on the web. You can even stay on top of industry news. Anytime there’s a mention on the specified topic, you are emailed, along with a link to the search result.
Can this help you find customers on social media? Absolutely!
Perhaps you’re a clothing business specializing in kids’ garments. You may have a small, rather humble social presence but you want to expand and get all of your existing customers to follow you online, and ideally acquire new ones in the process. The only caveat is you’re not sure which channels your customers are on, including your prospective audience. Google Alerts will help you find the desired information.
So you enter the search query “most comfortable garments for adolescents” in Google Alerts. The results shoot back Pinterest boards, along with articles on “parenting and childcare blogs” relevant to your local business.
You decide to check out the Pinterest board, and to your delight, you come across many other boards in the same niche. There you go, that’s the ticket! So Pinterest, in this case, is one social channel you definitely need to be eyeballing.
Search Function on Social Channels
You can certainly delve deeper into analyzing customer behavior and preferences on a particular social media platform. Even if you love one social media platform more over the other, you can find out if your customers are there too. Use the platform’s search functionality to easily determine your customers’ visibility.
In some cases, this can be as simple as entering the name of your customers in the search box. Things like relevant industry leaders, niche brands and topics can also be easily searched.
If your user base is significantly large, you should make a short list selection of the ones you want to reach and then look them up on a specific social media platform. Always stay up to date with the changes that take place from time to time on social platforms.
Researching this way helps you devise a social media marketing strategy so you’ll know where to invest.
Coupons and Promotions
A great way to connect with your customers online is offering web-specific coupons and specials. Offer promotional codes for your online store (if there is one) and Facebook page. Offer Twitter-only deals and specials. Have a point-of-sale display saying: “Join us on Twitter to get online-only deals and coupons!”
Surveys and Polls
You never know what kind of response you’re going to get from creating polls and surveys. You could put a request on receipts asking customers to take your survey/poll, while providing them with a brief URL. Survey Monkey can be used to get this done and remember to include your website and social media channels.
Create Your Online Community
The essence behind an online brand community is to build shared loyalty towards a particular product or service. Build a community for your brand by utilizing a social space where you can engage users. Discuss all your latest products, announce launches and special promotions, talk about future company plans, or simply ask people about their experiences with your product.
The key however, to creating a great brand-focused online community is to practice honesty at all times and have a true desire to genuinely interact with your audience with a ready ear – seek opinions, take up their recommendations and treat all feedback as “feedback”, whether good or bad.
Manage Relations Online
Apart from phone calls and emails, you can rely on your audience’s favorite social media platform to act as venues for addressing customer feedback.
Even those customers not too fond of going online to interact with a business end up voicing their opinions on social sites because, well, their friends and family are doing it too. Monitor your social pages with a keen eye, join the conversation and respond to users promptly.
Review sites are a good way of rewarding loyal customers, and they can also help you solve issues unhappy customers are facing.
Don’t be slow to embrace online efforts, and if you’re still unsure how they will affect offline sales, you can breathe easy: online users are your real customers and can have a major and highly desirable effect on offline sales. As long as you’ve laid out a comprehensible digital marketing strategy, you’re going to start seeing positive impacts almost immediately.
Don’t Be Shy to Branch Out
Using mainstream social platforms like G+, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook is fine, however, that doesn’t mean you should be ignoring other social media platforms like social review sites and social bookmarking sites. Use Foursquare to let your customers know where you are by simply checking into the site. This is what being social is all about: tap into every reliable channel you can. It’s your lifeline.
Extend Benefits to Visiting Customers
Don’t be surprised if people visiting your website or social media page are asking themselves “What’s in it for me?”, because they almost always do and have a right to do so.
You can give something away for free to build customer trust and interest. It could be anything at all – a discount code, limited product trial or free book. You can also give them points or perks for liking your page. All of this helps to earn more loyal followers who are willing to stay engaged with you online.
Optimize Those Social Media Accounts
Optimizing social media accounts entails the use of relevant keywords; i.e. using keywords that go along with or complement your business. Visualize what keywords customers must be entering on Google when searching for your products and services or other similar businesses. Use your imagination, get creative, and use those keywords in all your posts.
And That’s All She Wrote
Utilize these social media and online tools, and you can turn the relationships into sales. Relationships are an important form of currency; they are primarily responsible for driving businesses. When you have a strong online following, your offline user base is bound to follow suit.
The most valuable customers are the ones you hold onto, and in this day and age, interacting and engaging with them online is a standard business practice, no matter how big or small your scope of operation is.
Do let me know your favorite strategy of converting off-line customers to online? I’m really interested to learn some other dimensions.