I have a confession to make.
I love Star Trek. Yep. I’m a Trekkie.
And one of my favorite lines in Star Trek: The Next Generation is when Captain Picard points his finger forward and shouts “Engage”!
And then the Conn Officer presses the button and whoosh! The Enterprise takes off at warp speed. Ready to connect with whatever lies ahead.
But how do you engage and connect with your clients and prospects?
You know why you should connect with them. After all, loyal clients are the lifeblood of any business.
So how do you create relationships that produce loyal clients?
Here are seven ways to engage and connect:
1. Get to know them
Forrester says we’re in “The Age of the Customer”. That’s right. Your clients are running the show. Embrace this fact, and let it challenge you to get to know them on a deeper level. Interact with them like peers and learn about their needs.
How do you find out what they need? Ask. Then listen to the answers. Talk to current and prospective clients – in person, on the phone, via email, blogs, online groups, and surveys. Use any or all of these methods to get clear about your client’s pain points.
What are they talking about? What’s important to them? What bothers them? What scares them? What issues are they facing? Understand what keeps them up at night. Connect with them, and empathize with their struggles. Then use what you’ve learned to create empathy maps about them.
2. Go where they hang out
According to Statista, 81% of Americans use social media. Facebook has 1.86 billion global users. LinkedIn has 467 million users. Twitter has 319 million users. A hot new social media network comes out every few months – Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat. But don’t get distracted by Social Media Shiny Object Syndrome.
Go where your clients are most likely to be. You’ll find B2B clients on Twitter, Quora, and SlideShare. You’ll also find them in industry blogs, discussion forums and membership sites. But let me save you some time here. LinkedIn is the best place to find B2B clients; and LinkedIn groups have better B2B engagement than Facebook or Google.
Start building engagement by joining LinkedIn groups that your clients belong to. So if you’re a consultant, you don’t join all of the consulting groups on LinkedIn – you join the engineering groups that your engineering clients belong to. Connect with those groups by sharing your expertise and posting relevant content.
3. Build a community
What’s better than joining a LinkedIn group? Owning your own LinkedIn group. And starting your own group can connect you with targeted prospects, and establish you as a thought leader in your niche. To have a successful group, however, you must commit the time to stimulate and moderate your group’s participation.
Building your own tightly-knit community provides a place for like-minded people to connect with each other. And as the community’s leader, you can connect with your prospects and clients by:
- Answering their questions
- Sharing information
- Having discussions
- Promoting beneficial content
4. Engage them with content
Now comes the most important part. You engage your prospects and clients with content. Not just any content . . . but helpful content. Remember those client problems? Plan, publish and promote content that contains solutions to those problems. Helpful content marketing shows that you care about your clients and what’s important to them.
Your company blog is your content marketing home base. Use it to build an engaged relationship with your prospects and clients – by giving them consistent and valuable content. Then when they’re ready to make a purchase decision, their loyalty already lies with you because of the value you’ve given them. When you deliver value, your prospects trust and connect with you.
Attract new prospects with targeted articles, blog posts, video, podcasts and tweets. Then engage them with infographics, case studies, white papers, e-books and webinars.
5. Nurture the relationship
Use targeted email to nurture your prospects and clients with engaging content. According to McKinsey, email is 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined. And – are you ready? Email automation products like Constant Contact, Infusionsoft and MailChimp can put your email nurturing campaigns on auto-pilot. How’s that for a no-brainer?
Follow an email nurturing strategy to ensure your success, using email to:
- Inform prospects about the benefits of your services
- Tell prospects where and how to get your services
- Guide and nurture them from prospects to clients
- Make clients aware of your additional services
6. Reward their loyalty
Your clients want to feel like they’re part of an exclusive community. (Don’t we all?) Spotlight loyal clients and their charities on your blog and social media accounts. Celebrate milestones with your clients by offering them loyalty incentives.
Provide loyal clients with exclusive content, such as case studies and white papers, in return for joining your freemium membership community. Use email to notify your clients when you release new freemium-only content.
7. Take it offline
Sometimes there’s nothing like a good face-to-face. It allows you to get up close and personal with your clients and prospects. Industry trade shows and seminars are great opportunities for your clients to connect and learn from both you and their peers.
An anniversary celebration is a perfect way to celebrate both your company and your clients. And office tours are one the best ways for your clients to learn all there is about your company, people and services.
Captain Picard’s introduction has to be the most recognized line from Star Trek: The Next Generation:
Space . . . the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.
There are a lot of companies – out in Cyberspace – trying to form relationships with their prospects and clients. But how many are being bold enough to truly engage and connect with them?
Relationship doesn’t equal engagement
Remember, the goal is not having a social presence.
The goal is not sharing content.
The goal is to get your clients to participate, interact, and experience.
So as Captain Picard would say, “Make it so”!