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Creating Better Consumer Relationships For Increased Customer Loyalty

How To Connect With Your Customers More Efficiently

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A smart business professional never takes their customers and clients for granted. No matter what you are selling, or the kind of services you provide, chances are pretty good there is someone else competing with you for consumers. The better connected you are with your market, the easier it will be to get them to buy your products and services, and encourage both repeat and referral business.

Provide Outstanding Customer Service

It is important to allow your customers a way of communicating with you - either by phone or email. Most customer contact will come in the form of questions about products, services, order updates - these are all opportunities to generate new leads and business. Unanswered questions and inquiries that do not get a fast response can result in losing a potential sale or client to someone else that responds while they are waiting on your reply.

The following are a few basic options used by business worldwide that can allow customers and potential customers, easier access to you and your business.

Automated Order Tracking System

Answering questions about whether or not an order has been placed, shipped, and when it will arrive is expensive and time consuming when handled by humans. Although it is important to offer your customers a phone number, or, at least an email contact form, you can cut done on customer support time considerably simply by choosing an e-Commerce or other ordering system that tracks orders and can provide data base driven updates to your customers.

Live Chat

This involves software, or the use of a third-party company, to allow your customers on your website to get instant access to a real person. Many companies outsource live chat. The representatives answer questions from scripts and help consumers locate products on websites and in catalogs. Doctors and attorneys often add "live chat" popup options on their websites in order to compete for the potential clients searching for professional services at 2 a.m.

The upside is that a customer's questions and concerns can be immediately addressed, which can lead to closing a sale, or diffusing an angry customer. The downside is that someone has to man live chat and most companies lack the internal resources to do so. And, anytime you outsource, you lose some control over your brand.

Toll-Free Numbers

Cheaper today than they were even ten years ago, toll-free numbers allow people who may have limited long-distance plans to call you. Toll-free numbers can also serve as catchy reminders. For example, 1-800-FOR-HELP is easier for people to remember than 1-800-367-4357.

Email Contact Forms

Every website should have one. The "old" way was to simply include your email address that, when clicked, open an email client automatically. There are several reasons why this out-of-date method is not acceptable: posting your email address opens the address to attacks from spammers, and you cannot track data. Depending on how you set up your contact form, you can keep a data base of people who contact you through your website - who they are, where they are, what they wanted, how they found you, and even what day/time they emailed. Anything you can put in a data field in an email contact form can be tracked. Data is knowledge and knowledge is king.

Social Networks

A must for almost every business owner who wants to compete in search engines. The type of social network that will work best for your business largely depends upon one thing: Who is your audience?

If your target is young, consider the impact mastering Pinterest, Tumblr, and Flickr can have on your followers. If your business involves music, YouTube and MySpace are two good choices to start with. And, just about any business can benefit from having a Twitter and Facebook page for people to follow.Google+ has not been widely adopted by business owners just yet, but Google embraces their own product (a lackluster version of Facebook.)

Developed A High-Quality, Engaging Website - Not Just A Marketing Site

Nothing substitutes for a good website. Even if you only use your website as a "business card" - that is, a place to refer people, websites add credibility to any business. If you are marketing your business through the Internet, websites are a great way to connect with your audience. The most common mistake new business owners make is to create websites that only include marketing material. Be sure to include articles, information, and FAQs. You can also share customer testimonials, news feeds, links to social networks, and even videos.

Remember, a website should be a way to engage people and connect with them, not just preach to them.

Many consumers now use cell phones, SmartPhones, and mobile Apple devices (including the popular iPad) to search for information and businesses. Be sure to offer a mobile version of your website, or you could miss out on opportunities. As attractive as Adobe Flash features can be, Flash can make it more challenging for website owners to get their sites ranked, and mobile devices do not support Flash features.

If you are not sure about how to develop a website to meet your intended marketing methods- business card site, a site for search engine marketing purposes, or the mobile market, it pays to hire a professional web design company. However, it is important that you make your marketing goals clear before the site is designed or chances are your web company will simply create a basic site without including a mobile device alternative site.

Think of marketing to your audience less along the lines of pushing your message, and more of a community outreach mission. In today's fast-paced, high-tech world, it has never been more important to show a personal touch and the human face behind your business. Although consumers now use different ways of communicating, they still are looking to make connections - even if only through a cell phone or computer.

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