How do you attract customers to your brick-and-mortar shop in the digital age? In a word, engagement. Customer engagement is a bit of a business buzzword, but really all it means is building a relationship with your customers. In today’s world, even small businesses in Jefferson County can’t rely on a good location and great products and services alone to build their brands and drive repeat business. You need to connect with and delight your customers online just as much as you do in person. It doesn’t have to be hard though. In fact, it should be fun. Below, we give you 8 digital customer engagement strategies and 5 offline strategies that get customers through your door.

What Is Customer Engagement?

Customer engagement is the ongoing interaction between your small business and your customers. It’s the emotional connection customers forge with your brand, which results from the quality of your products and/or services, pricing, customer service, and marketing and communications.

The marketing and communications aspect of customer engagement began playing an out-sized role in purchasing decisions as customers shifted from window shopping to social media and digital search tools. As such, ‘customer engagement’ usually refers to a set of digital marketing strategies and best practices. And this makes sense; your online presence is your first impression and most lasting form of contact. Every element of digital marketing engages customers, for good or ill.

Customer engagement is about more than driving a sale. It’s about offering support, valuable information, and meaningful content to build trust. For example: If you can’t find the information you need on a business’s website—say a day care or kennel doesn’t post pictures of their facilities—does it give you pause? On the other end of the spectrum, if an accounting firm provides great advice on their blog or email reminders about tax deadlines, do you trust them more?

How and Why to Build a Customer Engagement

Since customer engagement starts online, there are several basic small business marketing tools you need in place before you really start building out a customer engagement strategy, including:

  • A clean, organized, informative website
  • A consistent social media presence
  • A blog or email marketing list

Simply put, these are the platforms where you interact with customers. Trying to build customer engagement without a functional, organized, and updated website is like trying to call someone without a working phoneline. And trying to engage customer without social media? Like only having a landline—busy signals, no caller ID, no mobility, and heaven forbid, no texting. It’s an entirely different and more difficult experience.

So, start with good digital marketing tools, then you can begin building a customer engagement strategy that surprises and delights at every connection. The right customer engagement strategy can:

  • Interest prospects in your business
  • Convert leads into paying customers
  • Gain valuable feedback and improve your communications and products or services
  • Improve customer service
  • Drive repeat business
  • Foster brand evangelism and customer referrals

8 Digital Customer Engagement Strategies that Get People Through Your Door

Above all, the first rule of customer engagement is to offer people content that is useful and/or entertaining—not to bombard them with sales and promotions. You need a good base of steady content to keep your customers engaged with your small business online. Then you can start using some digital customer engagement strategies to bring them through the door, like:

  • Set Up Referral Campaigns

If you have an email list, it’s easy to give a current customer a discount for referring a friend via email. You can also provide discounts for customers that share content on their social media or review your business on Google, Yelp, or industry-specific websites.

  • Reward Customer Loyalty

Most small businesses’ point of sale systems offer applications that track customer loyalty by their credit cards or email addresses. Take advantage of these easy tools and advertise them on all your digital marketing platforms.

  • Host an Event

Feature a local artist, have a book signing, bring an industry expert in to talk about the latest development in your field, or host a kids’ event I your small business. Dream it, then post about it on your social media channels to make it searchable.

  • Promote a Good Cause

Giving 5-10% of your stores’ income for a day or a week to support a local cause is nothing new in the way of customer engagement. But you can amplify the effect if you cross-post with a charity’s social media or put out heartfelt explanations about what the cause means to you over email. You access and connect with new customers and give them a reason to buy now.

  • Add a Pop-Up Coupon to Your Website

Savvy shoppers might visit your website 9 times or more before visiting your small business to make a purchase. Help them along on their journey by offering a discount that pops up on the website screen. Just create a code for them to bring in-store and change it periodically.

  • Make Exclusive Follower Offers or Deals

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for exclusive deals! It’s one of the most popular ways to increase your social media following as well as reward customers that are engaged with your small business. The offer itself gives engaged customers motive to finally come see you.

  • Give a Birthday Discount or Monthly Name-Day Freebie

Ask email followers to tell you their birthday or birth month and send them a reminder with a freebie or discount with a happy birthday message. Or pick a day per month to announce on social media that people with a certain name (drawn from a hat), get a free meal, coffee, or $5 off their purchase.

  • Feature a Product, Special, or Industry Insight Once a Week

If your small business is a restaurant, post your daily or weekly specials online. If you work in a professional industry, pick a day per week that you offer short but powerful advice. Followers will keep coming back. You’ll build loyalty and trust, which is the key to turning followers into customers.

5 Offline Customer Engagement Tactics

With the holidays approaching, small businesses are sure to see an uptick in foot traffic. To bring those feet into your small business, don’t forget about some of the more tried-and-true, in-person customer engagement strategies like:

Staying Friendly and Saying Thank You: Genuine, polite customer interaction is one of the top reasons shoppers choose small businesses over big box stores.

Decorate Your Doorstep: Hang lights or seasonal décor around your entrance, have a window painting contest, or post messages or jokes on the street or a blackboard sign in chalk to make people stop and notice you.

Keep Your Door Open: If there are delicious smells or lovely sounds coming from inside, an open door will draw passersby in.

Extend Your Hours During a Busy Season: Post your hours everywhere—on your website, on search engines’ summaries of your business, on your social media, in your email signature, and on your door. But also know when your small business is booming and serve your customers with longer hours—updating them everywhere—if you can.

Offer an In-store Give Away: Can you offer free product samples or an in-store treat? Maybe you can partner with a local maker or other small business to feature their business inside yours to attract a new crowd.

Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Can Help

Customer engagement should be honest and fun. It’s a way of showing the people that purchase from you the personalities behind the business, one of the most attractive aspects of small businesses. If you’re just getting started with your digital marketing tools, the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce can help you understand best practices and what tools other area businesses have used with success.

If you have a business in Jefferson County and learning more business growth strategies is your goal, we’re here to help. Become a member of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce today to start taking advantage of all the workshops, networking, and other benefits we have to offer. To find out more about how to join or to learn about how we can be a difference-maker for your small business, contact us online or by calling 865-397-9642.

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