On the marketing end of things, businesses of all sizes fall into the trap of leading with themselves or their product. They get caught up in creating content, marketing strategies, and campaigns. And they forget to connect with people.

It's easy to identify something you know people need and flash it in front of them like they're ready to scoop it up. It’s easy to get caught up with the creative elements and advertising and promotion.

The decision to purchase a product, and trust someone by giving them your business, is much more complex than seeing and buying! Today, more than ever, it requires connecting and building relationships. Whether you’re direct to consumer or business to business, people want to be engaged with and inspired by your brand. The one-size-fits-all marketing approach is long gone. If you aren’t making an effort to know your customers on a personal level, your digital marketing efforts are likely to fall flat.

Why Should You Get to Know Your Customers?

People want to feel like they are being connected with and related to on a personal level. They want to feel understood and comfortable. It’s important to understand not only what your customers need but how they are connected to that need. How does it make them feel and how does obtaining the fix impact their lives? Knowing your customers better helps you deliver the specific message and product or service that relates to them directly. Focus less on proving yourself to them and more on learning about them.

So how do you make this connection? How do you go from thinking of people as numbers to understanding them better and genuinely delivering experiences that are authentic, relevant, and personalized? Let’s dive into that!

Use Customer Data to Provide Value

If you’re flying blind, aka, without data, the first thing you should do is get set up with Google Analytics.

Sure, guessing might keep you afloat for a while, but to have long term, sustainable, and growing business you need to be utilizing data.

You should be using this data to examine how new customers discover you, current customers interact and purchase with you, and why previous customers leave you. This data needs to be examined over a long period to discover trends such as customer behavior and buying patterns.

And, while the mountains of data that are available to you may be randomly overwhelming, if you are willing to mine through it you’ll find that it contains a great value for your business. Extracting this data can help you increase sales, but it can also increase efficiency and reduce waste.

When pooling your data, don’t forget about all of your social channels. It’s not just a channel used to reach out to your industry. It also can provide great insight into how to best reach them, which content they engage most with, and how they feel about your brand. Nearly all social platforms provide some form of analytics or insights about both your page and any ads you may be running.

You can use all the data you gather to build customer personas, which will improve your marketing communications.

Sharing these important insights and personas company-wide is also useful in improving the overall customer experience from start to finish. Anyone involved with a customer touchpoint should know what your customers prefer and what turns them off.

Start More Conversations

There are a lot of ways to engage with and get to know your customers from surveys and polls to social listening. These are all great tools and you should be utilizing them.

However, while technology does make things more convenient, one thing that will remain invaluable is starting real conversations with your customers. Whether those are face-to-face, over the phone, or via video call should be mostly determined by your customer's preference.

During these conversations, you can ask valuable questions. Ask customers about their needs, their experiences, and what they love and dislike. Be sure to ask follow-up questions so they know you’re listening and genuinely interested.

You can use this direct customer feedback to significantly improve their experience with your brand over time, and starting these conversations will help your customers feel more valued.

Use More User-Generated Content

A survey by Stackla, which included 1590 consumers, revealed that 92% of marketers believe most or all of the content their brands create resonates as authentic, but 51% of consumers say less than half of brands create content that resonates as authentic. That’s a pretty large disparity.

Que user-generated content! User-generated content is any form of content created or shared by users based on their experiences, opinions, ideas, or feedback.

56% of consumers say that user-generated photos and videos are the content they most want to see from brands. It’s also the content they trust the most.

So while seeing a great review or a shared photo on your page may give you all the warm fuzzy feelings, make sure it does more than that and use it to build your brand.

Respond to Reviews - Both Positive and Negative

Speaking of reviews, a great way to humanize your brand and build connections with customers is to respond to reviews on public domains. And no, you can’t just respond to the good ones. Well, you could, but it’s just as important to respond to negative reviews.

Responding to reviews in a timely, respectful, thankful, and productive manner shows your audience your commitment to improving the customer experience. It can also provide you will more conversational insights.

It’s also important to note that most online users will read reviews before they make any kind of purchase decision, and how you respond to those reviews sets the tone for you how you run your business and how you treat your customers.

Go the Extra Mile

People want to feel valued. They want to have unique experiences with brands. They don’t want to feel like another face in the crowd. When they have a great experience with you, they tell others, and so the cycle of connection and conversation continues. There are plenty of ways that you can add value to every customer's experience with your brand.

Following up is a great way to engage with your customer base on a personal level and get a head start on poor customer experiences before they turn into poor reviews. After they’ve made a purchase or had any interaction with you, be sure to follow up and see how they felt about the experience or how much they liked your product. Not only will they feel more valued, but you’ll also gather valuable insight.

Thanking your customers is another way to go the extra mile. You could include a handwritten thank you card, a discount toward their next purchase, or a small token of your appreciation with their order.

A lot of successful companies recognize customers on their birthdays or anniversary. My husband gets a card from our jeweler yearly just before our wedding anniversary. It is a nice little touch to show your customers that you care.

You could even host an appreciation event or unique experience to extend appreciation, boost engagement, and build value for your customer base.

Engage, Inspire, and Connect

Regardless of what you choose to do, the important thing is to engage, inspire, and connect with your customers where they are and on a personal level. Great experiences turn into great referrals, which lead to a thriving business.

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