Relationship Building: How Influencers and Small Business Owners Can Build Deeper Relationships

Relationship Building: How Influencers and Small Business Owners Can Build Deeper Relationships

I hesitate and cringe when someone says the word “Influencer.” I hate that word. But for some reason, through my work in the digital space. I am recognized as an influencer in the digital marketing world.  Part of my growth as an influencer is because of relationships. To me, Relationship building is the most important strategy used to grow your influence and in marketing to create value for customers and followers. There are many ways to implement this strategy and cultivate relationships.

Social Media

What You Can Do?

There hundreds if not thousands of social media sites. The most popular sites are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Facebook is primarily personal, but businesses can use Facebook effectively. You can make a Facebook page for your business, which Facebook members can “like” or become “fans.” Twitter is used effectively for personal and business purposes. But the posts are limited to 280 characters. An effective tweet, or Twitter post, takes some practice. Instagram is primarily a professional and  social site. It’s a great way to connect with professionals interested in the same things you are. You can also make business pages and gather followers. Instagram is my favorite platform.

Social media sites are a great way to stay in touch with customers, employees and other people of interest. You can make deep connections, if you work at it, by passing along important or entertaining information.

Benefits vs. Cost

You can hire social media specialists to train you and your employees in social media, and you can even hire social media experts to manage your accounts for you. However, social media can also be done simply and on your own. The biggest cost involved, then, is time and the risk of “addiction.” This can be especially risky with Facebook, which offers a variety of games and activities, or Twitter which ranks you based on a combination of post-frequency and number of followers.

Blogs

What You Can Do?

Blogs are journal-like websites that allow you to post informative and/or entertaining entries, which can be read and commented on by visitors. Blogs range from dozens of visitors a day to thousands of visitors a day, depending on their popularity, exposure, and value (whether it’s information value or entertainment value). There are many free hosting services, like Blogger that will not only provide you with a free website, but they will also provide you with templates and tools to make the most out of your blog.

You can post just about anything legal. Blogs can be personal or professional, informative or entertaining, word-based or photo-based. You can even make a videoblog or vlog, by loading up videos and displaying them on your site.

The key to blogging is interacting with your readers, or viewers, as the case may be. It is a very active form of relationship building. You actively engage your readers, providing them with value that they can relate directly to your business. This, in turn, breeds customer loyalty.

Benefits vs. Cost

A blog can be free—costing you only your time. Or, you can invest in a website with hosting services, domain names, and even hire bloggers to write content for you. The cost can be as little or as much as you want.

The key to creating a benefit, however, is to make the blog directly relevant to your customers. This involves listening to your customers on a level many business owners are not accustomed to. It involves creatively applying what customers tell you and satisfying their needs.

Podcasts

What You Can Do?

Podcasts are similar to blogs, in that they are released as a series of posts. But instead of visual content, you’re releasing audio or video files. They can be viewed through a variety of electronic devices, including iPods (thus the name). They are similar to a radio show, except you’re releasing the content directly to prospective listeners.

The content varies, but once again it’s primarily informative and/or entertaining content. Provide value and you’ll accumulate listeners. Provide value relevant to your customers and you’ll create deeper relationships with those customers.

Benefits vs. Cost

Creating podcasts can be a little more complicated, but there are services and tutorials to see you through. For a basic podcast the cost is minimal. The fancier you want it, the bigger the investment required. If you have the funds, you can make podcasts of a quality comparable with radio or television.

The benefits of podcasting can be significant. The medium attracts many listeners with a wide variety of interests. If your customers are among those listeners, podcasting is a great way to deepen relationships with them.

Relationship building is an important strategy used in marketing to create value for customers. There are many ways to implement this strategy. The following traditional tactics may help get you started.

Educational Opportunities

If your business revolves around a specialty, then you might want to consider providing your customers with educational opportunities. These opportunities can take many forms. A store that supplies herbal supplements hosts an event for their suppliers’ representatives to come in and educate customers regarding health issues and treatment options.

A store that sells off-road vehicles provides classes to teach customers how to use their products safely. An employee benefits firm provides training and informational seminars to their clients’ employees.

 From classes to seminars to educational handouts—which can be brochures, booklets, CDs or videos—there are many ways to educate your customers. The nature of your business will dictate whether this is a viable option for you, and what form of education you should offer. However, within those confines there are many paths you can take.

Benefits vs. Cost

The educational opportunities you offer can be:

  • provided free of charge,
  • provided as part of a premium package, or
  • an involve a nominal charge to help support the offering.

Whether you charge customers or not, you are providing additional value to customers and building deeper relationships with those customers. Customers who come to rely on you for educational support are likely to develop strong loyalties to your business, your products, and your services. If you meet your customers’ needs, your customers will reward you with on-going feedback, word of mouth advertising, and steady transactions.

If your educational opportunities provide excellent value to customers, they can even become their own income stream for your business.

Membership

There are a variety of ways to offer membership opportunities to your customers. A popular way to do this is to provide a punch card—the customer makes so much in purchases and get it stamped, punched or whatever, and then the customer earns so much free or a discount on their next purchase. A lot of grocery stores have taken this method to a new level, where their cards are scanned in, collecting a lot of customer data in the process.

However, purchasing memberships are not the only sort. One area business became so devoted to their membership program that they turned their business into a co-op. Faithful customers now have a collective interest in the business they’re supporting, making on-going support even more likely.

Membership programs can also provide additional benefits, like entrance into special sales or events, additional customer support after the sale, or access to specialized services.

Membership programs can involve outside organizations. For example, a book store or coffee shop can serve as the hosting site for clubs to get together. If the tie-in is well-targeted, this could serve to create a deeper relationship with club members. That book store could host a reading club, and ensure club members have access to the new books they’re about to read.

Benefits vs. Cost

Membership programs can be expensive or inexpensive, depending on what you’d like to get out of them. The simpler the membership program the less expensive the initial investment is likely to be. Often, they pay for themselves through the loyalty incentives they create.

However, there can be significant up-front costs, especially if you’re going to try to use the membership to collect marketing data the way many grocery and chain stores do. The technological infrastructure can be quite expensive. You need to ensure you’ll have sufficient customer volume to justify such a cost.

On the other hand, some membership programs, such as hosting an external club’s meetings or hosting an event for your suppliers, can be very inexpensive. They can even become a new income stream for your business.

Newsletters

You can provide newsletters as hand-outs, mail them to clients, or send them via e-mail. Newsletters can be entertaining, informative, or both, depending on the nature of your business. If you are skilled in writing and/or photography, you can provide the content for your newsletter yourself. Or, you can hire freelancers to provide content for you. The pay you provide may be minimal. Beginners may be willing to write for free or for as little as $5 per article or photograph.

You can gather subscribers through a variety of ways, including offering subscribers free gifts to get the list going. However you start your subscriber list, be sure they know they’re signing up for a newsletter!

Benefits vs. Cost

The costs of putting together and distributing an electronic newsletter are minimal. Even print newsletters can be produced and mailed at little cost relative to the deep relationships they help create.

Aside from deepening customer relationships, a newsletter also provides you with a low-cost advertising medium. If the value your newsletter provides is sufficient, you may even convince subscribers to pay for the newsletter. If you have enough subscribers, you can charge other businesses to advertising their complementary products and services in your newsletter. Either way, a successful newsletter can become an additional income stream for your business.

Start Building Stronger Relationships

For long-term success in the digital world. Start focusing on building relationships. Your followers and customers will eventually turn into advocates that not only buy from you, but will become the people that promote your brand for free. Relationships are key!

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