Better marketing requires knowing your entire customer base

If you want to keep your customer base loyal, it's time to get to know them better.

man standing out crowd individual
Thinkstock

The larger a company gets, the harder it is to personalize interactions with customers, especially in a time when so many transactions are conducted online. Once you reach hundreds of thousands of sales, it can be easy to think of your customer base as a whole, rather than homing in on any one individual.

Unfortunately, that approach has led to a backlash for many companies, which find that customers eventually choose a smaller, more local business that treats them as a name rather than a number. As larger brands begin to invest in tools that let them personalize interactions, it’s important that smaller businesses connect with their customers in a meaningful way. Otherwise, they’ll find they’re no longer able to remain competitive in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Here are a few tips to help you connect with customers through your small business website.

Understand mobile

The days of accessing the internet using a laptop are fading, with more customers than ever relying solely on mobile to access information. It’s important to rethink your website in terms of marketing to mobile audiences, with your website designed in a way that you can personalize the experience to the person accessing it. Your website should be optimized for local search to ensure that when someone looks for businesses like yours nearby, your site ranks prominently. Also consider adding chat or mobile-optimized instant messaging to your website so that customers interested in accessing help can easily get it without having to make a phone call.

Personalize customer service

At one time, shop owners could easily learn the names and preferences of their most loyal customers, since they saw them face to face. With so many of today’s interactions taking place electronically, though, customers easily become a series of names and mailing addresses. Fortunately, automation can help businesses personalize those interactions, tracking previous interactions and delivering the information to customer service representatives as they need it. To start, you’ll need customer relationship management (CRM) software that makes it easy to collect and access that information. You’ll then need to train employees to populate the database with the right data.

Monitor website interactions

One of the best ways to get to know your customers is to watch what they’re doing when they arrive at your site. Heatmaps can identify the areas of each page that are getting the most and least activity to help you improve your content. With the right tools, you can also customize your calls-to-action to certain visitor types and tailor your website to the lifecycle stage of each visitor. This provides an experience that a customer could never find in a brick-and-mortar business, with pages displaying that are specific to their needs.

Retarget

If you’ve ever looked at an item and seen ads for it later, you’re familiar with ad retargeting. Savvy businesses follow customers long after they’ve visited their website, increasing the odds those customers will pay a return visit. Today’s sophisticated retargeting tools can even alert customers to price drops or similar products they might be interested in buying. As these tools grow more sophisticated, they’ll be effective in increasing sales for businesses and creating buying opportunities for customers. Studies have found that customers prefer that their ads be personalized, since they don’t have to weed through hundreds of ads to see one item they might want.

Show you care

Loyalty programs have become popular because they let businesses track customer buying habits and issue rewards at predefined intervals. But customers earn those rewards, so they expect them. Instead, occasionally surprise customers by rewarding those who have been with you the longest with free products or special discounts. When customers have an issue with your product, go the extra mile to make things right. The extra money you put into freebies or refunds will be well worth it if it keeps an unhappy customer from leaving negative feedback online that will scare potential buyers away for years.

For small businesses, eventual growth is the goal. However, that growth comes at a price, especially for businesses that work hard to nurture customer relationships. With the right software and a calculated approach, though, brands can continue to personalize their customer relations long after they’ve logged millions of dollars in sales.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

SUBSCRIBE! Get the best of CIO delivered to your email inbox.