The better way to sell online

How you can build customer relationships to drive sales

Do you want more sales, improved customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth advertising? These four tips could make all the difference.

Imagine this scenario: you know of two places online which sell bicycles.

Your parents bought a bicycle from Cornerstone Bike Co. The business has always been helpful, and when local bike tours are on sale they send your parents a heads up. They always pick up the phone when your parents need advice, and they're always friendly.

Brickston Bikes, by comparison, sold a bike to your friend and the bike was fine. It cost the same as a bike from Cornerstone Bike Co, but your friend never got news that could help him. Whenever he called for help he was told to send an email and that someone would sort it out ‘soon’. He stopped calling.

Which business would you recommend if someone asked you for advice?

They both sell the same bikes. But they are very different when it comes to service, or what you could call extra value. Email updates and customer service don't cost a lot, but they make a big difference. So in this article I’m going to help you become someone like Cornerstone Bike Co. Someone your customers will want to come back to.

Four ways to build positive customer relationships

1. Gift them something

To show your customers that you appreciate them and their business, give them gifts. And to clarify, I don't mean wrapped gift boxes!

A gift to a customer doesn't need to have any monetary value at all. Even a friendly exchange or prompt customer service could count.

You could try sending out emails and tips too, but keep in mind that you should always stay relevant to what you sell. For example, Cornerstone Bike Co gifted their customers with bicycle event updates.

Gifts to your customers must make them feel valued. Some things are easy and affordable to do, such as sending out emails and free ebooks.

Of course, you can still send out actual items, like product samples. But make sure that your gift-giving doesn't cut into your profits!

I can't count the number of times I've seen just that happen during Kickstarter campaigns. They're online campaigns where people fundraise for projects or products.

Often, to incentivize people to donate, they offer rewards at different levels. Great examples of rewards are handwritten thank you notes and skype phone calls. Bad examples include twenty dollar t-shirts as thank yous for twenty-five dollar donations!

There's no use gifting if you end up broke, so get creative to show you care.

Gifts to your customers must make them feel valued. It’s not about how much you spend, but showing that you care. So get creative.

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2. Ask customers what they think

Give customers a way to provide feedback. It's easy to do, and it shows that you take their expertise and experience seriously.

But don't just ask for feedback; listen to it. If a lot of people suggest the same thing, try it out. Of course, don't change what you do all the time based only on feedback, but be open to it.

If you do make a decision based off customer feedback, let the people who suggested it know. It'll make them feel listened to, and new customers will know you're open to improvement.

There are a few easy ways to enable feedback. Whenever you sell a product, send a follow up email a few days later.

If you've got ShopFactory installed, you can track your orders through Shopfactory Central.

Allow people to message you if you have a page, and build in a feedback box on your website. Thank people if they respond, and make a note of what they say. You can use feedback to tailor future customer interactions!

3. Gain their trust

The dream come true is that your customers start to view you as a trusted advisor! Think of this as an older sibling or parent relationship. If your customers have a problem, you want to be the person they come and ask for help.

Send them regular emails, and offer them tips and advice they haven’t even asked for yet. If they can find help for problems from you as they encounter them, they’re more likely to keep coming back.

Establishing yourself as an expert can make all the difference. Whenever you start selling a new product, have a good look at it. Figure out exactly how it works, what it's made of, and what people might want to know about it.

If you’ve got answers to the questions customers ask, they’ll learn to trust you. It shows that you know what you’re selling, and care how it can benefit them.

If you do make a decision based off customer feedback, let the people who suggested it know. It'll make them feel listened to, and new customers will know you're open to improvement.

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4. Stay connected

It’s important to check up on your customers from time to time. Instead of waiting for them to contact you, why don’t you send them a message? Let them know if you have new products available, or if there’s any industry news which might be relevant to them.

Maintaining relationships is as important as creating them in the first place. Keeping in touch will help keep you in your customers’ thoughts. After all, if they go six months without hearing from you, they might forget all about you.

Of course, no matter what you do, some customers just won't bite. Some people prefer other businesses, or won't be open to more communication. Some people just want the bike with no service.

But by using these tricks, you should see more customer satisfaction. And that should ultimately lead to more sales.

- Lena Klein

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