Customers are the lifeblood of a small business. However, in our fast-paced world where we communicate using only 140 characters or emojis, small businesses have a real challenge effectively connecting and engaging with customers.
Though technology has made business-to-consumer communication a bit trickier, it can also help improve your interactions with customers to boost your bottom line.
Ensure you have a strong digital presence
Let’s face it…the catchphrase for our time is “Google it.” In fact, 97 percent of consumers search for products and services online, yet only 51 percent of small businesses have websites, according to data shared by the SCORE Association. In this Internet age, if your business does not have a digital presence, you’re missing out on the opportunity to reach customers and grow your business. In fact, your business is essentially invisible!
As you look to create a successful digital presence for your business and leverage it to increase your revenue, there are five key areas to focus on: website, social media, online listings, content marketing, and ecommerce.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression
Regardless of whether you are a retail business, the service sector, or a self-employed consultant, having a website will bring your business out from shadows and allow you to reach new customers. And with technology, creating a website is not the overwhelming burden it once was. There is a plethora of website builders that let you create your own site with ease, or if you have the budget, you can work with a website design company or purchase software to assist you.
Remember, your website is often the first interaction that customers have with your business so you want to ensure you’re making a good first impression. At minimum, your site should highlight your product(s) or service(s), share news about your company and its mission, include your contact and location information, and link to any other ways customers can engage with you, such as via social media accounts.
Make it easy for customers to interact with you—go where they are.
How important is social media to your business? At least 65% of adults now use social networking sites in the U.S., a nearly tenfold jump in the past decade, and that number jumps to over 90 percent for those aged 18-29. More importantly for small business owners, 71% of consumers are more likely to purchase an item based on social media referrals. If you are not engaging on social media, you are losing revenue-generating opportunities.
The world of social media can be intimidating for a small business as it seems new platforms are launching every year but it is a great tool to connect with your customers, get feedback, and market your business. Facebook and Twitter are two of the most popular and effective platforms, with the largest number of users. For retail and product-based businesses, Instagram can be a great tool and for professional services companies, creating a company page on LinkedIn is a good way to promote your business.
As you are considering which platforms you should utilize, figure out which one or two are most relevant for your business and that you can commit to using on a regular basis. Seek out social media management tools like Hootsuite or Sprout Social to help keep you on track with pushing out content and responding to customers on your social media channel.
Keep tabs on your local and industry listings
In addition to social media sites, don’t forget to claim your business listing on popular sites like Google’s My Business, Yelp, and any industry-specific online directories (Etsy, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc.) relevant to your business. These online local listings are often highly visible in search results, so you want to make certain that there is accurate information on your business.
It is particularly important that you are able to monitor all business listings that include a ratings component to allow you to stay on top of customer comments. In a recent study from Moz.com, 67% of respondents cited online reviews as having an impact to their online purchasing decisions. When you claim your listing, you are able to reply to any negative feedback in a timely manner to mitigate any issues and impact on your business reputation.
Engage and attract customers with content
Creating interesting, valuable content for your customers on items relevant to your business, service, or product is a must in this digital age. If you have ever clicked on how-to videos, Top 10 Tips articles, or graphics of motivational quotes, then you are engaging with content marketing pieces. Through quality content you can establish the value of your brand and the products/services you are offering while also attracting new customers to your business.
If you don’t already have one, consider setting up a blog on your website. It is a great tool to highlight company news, product or service offerings, share tips, and answer customer/client questions. The key is not only to have relevant, interesting content but to also create content consistently. Figure out a schedule that works best for your business to ensure you are pushing out new content across all your communications channels with regularity.
Convert online customer engagement into money in the bank
After you put in all the hard work and time into creating a digital presence that helps you better connect with your customer base, the most important metric is this: Does it translate to money in the bank? Consider the following to help boost revenue:
Be proactive at collecting customer contact info. Try out different email capture tools on your website and social media pages to grow your customer list and allow you to market directly to them.
Utilize a customer relationship management (CRM) system to help you track communications and purchases with your customers. This technology tool helps you know your customers – who they are, what they buy, and how they respond to your marketing efforts.
If you are selling products, consider an ecommerce component to your website. In 2013, 36% of American shoppers completed their holiday shopping online. Last Christmas, that number jumped to 61%. Similar to when you are creating your website, there are now a number of ecommerce platforms that allow you to easily implement an ecommerce component to your business. Ecommerce provides you with the ability to leverage your digital presence to reach new customers outside of your region and expand revenue by taking advantage of a growing trend in online shopping.
Offer promotions or specials to generate interest. Nothing gets people motivated like a good deal. Look at your cash flow over the course of a year and determine time periods that may be a little slow for you or consider a special time of year, like the holidays, when you want to highlight your products. Create promotions or discounts that you can market on your website and blog, your social media channels, and through direct emails to your customers to increase revenue.
axxess2, an IT and event solutions and services company that specialized in the sports and entertainment industry, was looking for a CRM solution to help manage its growing customer base. With a direct sales team of only three people, axxess2 wanted a CRM solution that would meet the needs, and budget, of a small business. But it also required a powerful all-in- one customer engagement solution to bring together sales, service, and marketing for an affordable price. The company found a CRM solution with SAP and registered for a free 30-day trial. After a couple weeks, they purchased the solution and quickly extended it to their whole team. And they were able to import the data from the previously used CRM Solution with a just a click. Now axxess2 is prepared for growth as SAP has solutions to scale with their business needs.
As you develop and expand your digital presence and engagement with your customers, it is critically important that you track your efforts, analyze the data, and make necessary course corrections. Providing your customers with value, a good consumer experience and quality product or service will help with customer retention and boost your bottom line.
Building a successful company is hard work. SAP’s affordable solutions for small and midsize companies are designed to make it easier. Easy to install and use, run all aspects your company with SAP software – on-premise or in the cloud. For an all-in-one customer engagement tool built for teams, check out what SAP has to offer. As more than 250,000 small and midsize companies have discovered, you’ll never outgrow SAP – no matter where your business takes you.