If you aren’t engaging your customers online, your business is missing out on a huge opportunity to generate sales and gain valuable new customers. Creating and maintaining an online presence isn’t easy. You can quickly become overwhelmed or waste money on unsuccessful outreach if you don’t approach it in an informed, strategic manner.
Establish Your Customer Profile
Zeroing in on your online customer profile is the first step in establishing your online presence. Your customer profile provides you with information about your average customer – age, income, purchase history, etc – that you use to inform your sales, inventory, and marketing decisions. You can even segment your customer profile into several different groups in order to create more effective email marketing campaigns and other advertising strategies.
Use your customer profile in order to best determine how to focus your online presence. However, be aware that your online customer may vary greatly from the average person who walks into your storefront.
- For example, although your average customer is age 55, you may find that the older 50% of your customer base does not go online. In that event, your online customer profile will be significantly younger than your overall audience. You will have to gear your online marketing towards that specific segment of your demographic rather than the whole.
Research Online Communities
In order to successfully engage your customers online, you need to go where they go – be it your website, social media, or niche online communities. Although these destinations seem very similar on the surface, they are populated by vastly different groups whose response to your involvement in their community can range from positive to lukewarm to negative.
- Focus on designing your website so that its colors, graphics, and content appeal to your target audience. Just as marketers use color theory and psychology research to design effective direct mailings and billboards, so too should you apply that knowledge to your website design.
- When it comes to social media, do your homework. Each platform has different age, gender, and income ratios in its population. For example, the average age of Facebook users is 40.5 and increasing, while the average age of Twitter users is 37.3 and dropping (Royal Pingdom). These different demographics will affect how users engage with your company on each platform.
- Look for message boards and forums that cater to your customers. By participating in these small niche communities and branding yourself as an expert in your field, you can establish your online authority as well as find potential clients, customers, and business partners.
Decide on an Engagement Strategy
Trying to create and maintain a presence on every single online platform takes significant time and energy. Whether you decide to go at every community at once, or limit yourself to just a few, you need to develop a strategy in order to prevent becoming quickly overwhelmed in comments, mentions, and posts.
- The use of social media automation tools can simplify this process by streaming all of your engagement efforts into a single dashboard. A small business owner can use a tool to keep an eye on their social engagement. Larger companies can use social media software integration tools to help call center representatives address customer service issues over multiple platforms.
Remember to keep your efforts focused. It’s better to be fully engaged over one platform than to put minimal effort into several different ones.
Online engagement is becoming an increasingly important element of every business’s marketing strategy. You can make your online presence work for you by researching your customer base, matching it to the right online platforms, and using the right tools to keep your strategy going.
Megan Webb-Morgan is a startup and small business blogger for B2B marketing company Resource Nation. You can follow Resource Nation on Facebook and Twitter!
Going to read this article a few times, slow and easy. Man, do I need to focus!
I think you need to add a step for working on your own image, how you present yourself online. Personal PR. People can’t hide behind a website and just sell stuff any more. Now you have to add yourself to the mix – including what you post on Twitter, Facebook, etc.