“Engagement Tools and Tactics” is our theme for the month of June.  We’ve touched already on videos and other important content for any small-business’s or organization’s website. Now we can delve deeper into the options that allow site owners to truly start conversations with site visitors and customers.

First of all, let’s look at the reasons that customer engagement is important. The tricky thing about it is that business owners have to approach the idea from the customers’ viewpoint rather than the sales viewpoint. It may seem a little “through the looking-glass,” but when business owners and leaders of organizations understand what the public is seeking, it is easier to provide them what they want.

Consider these benefits to good customer engagement

  • Site visitors stay longer, boosting SEO efforts.
  • After getting an education on your website, visitors doing research can then make a purchase.
  • Site guests get a feel for your company personality, which is the first step in relationship-building.
  • You can garner helpful insights based on feedback you receive from past or current customers.
  • Engagement efforts on your part show customers that someone is listening and cares about their experiences.

Admittedly, customer engagement often requires more of a time commitment for a business or organization. If the owner is not able to perform this task, someone else on the staff should carve out time to monitor online conversations and respond accordingly. Though there is a man-hour cost involved, there is also a large potential return on investment in the form of increased sales.

Here are some of the simplest tools for encouraging and addressing feedback from site visitors and customers

  1. Social media
    Not every platform is created equally.  Not all of channels will be appropriate for your organization.  Once you find the right fit, social media platforms are a great place to start conversations with past, current or potential clients. By maintaining a regular posting schedule and replying quickly to customer comments, you can address concerns, create buzz or even inject some humor into your messaging. There are plenty of tools such as HootSuite that simplify your posting process, but responses to follower posts require an organic response.
  2. Review sites>
    Many business owners or organization leaders are wary of review sites and dealing with negative comments. However, being fearless and constructive in the face of criticism is one of the best support-building tactics available. Be sure to thank people who offered positive feedback and to glean helpful insight from the less-than-stellar comments. Prospective clients will see that you are tracking feedback and responding appropriately.  This can help boost their respect for your business or organization.
  3. Blog comments
    Even businesses who are great about blogging regularly could be missing out if they’ve turned off the comments function on their blogs. Sometimes it is difficult to monitor all the traffic, it’s true. But by disabling the comments function on your blog, you are just basically writing the entries for yourself. If readers can’t comment, no conversation can be had. Instead, post a notice at the top of the comments field that tells participants you expect the commentary to remain civil. And then monitor the situation periodically to ensure good dialogue is being respected.
  4. On-site forums
    WordPress offers no fewer than 10 forum plug-ins that allow site visitors to sign up and participate in conversations about your company, organization or event. These not only get guests involved in a relevant discussion, they also allow you to glean contact information from people who register.  This can lead to more recipients for your monthly newsletter.
  5. Follow-up emails
    This may be the most labor-intensive approach to customer interaction. It also garners the highest rate of response and, usually, the most specific feedback. You can either contact previous customers directly to ask them about their experience with your website, services or products. Using a third-party surveying company to do the follow-up for you is also an option. Either way, be ready to respond to any positive or negative comments the customer offers. If there is critical feedback, use it to improve your efforts in the future.

There is value in talking to your potential or current patrons. Using the tactics above, you’ll be able to gather helpful information for your future marketing efforts as well as tips for improving your business. Don’t leave that resource untapped! If you need assistance adding any of the engagement tools to your website, contact us to make it happen.