6 Creative Ways to Increase Engagement for Your Small Business

customer engagement

Engagement matters more than ever before. Instead of running out to the local big box store for needs, customers want to feel like they’re a part of something bigger, something more. They want to feel like they know the companies they do business with and that the companies know them.

The focus on engagement is why movements like Small Business Saturday and other shop local campaigns have generated interest over the past few years. In fact, a whopping 97 percent of consumers search for local stores online before resorting to the big brands: They’re looking to engage and connect. They want to be more than a number.

As a small-business owner, this should matter to you. In fact, one of your top priorities should be increasing customer and potential customer engagement. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, consider the six tips below to get moving in the right direction.

Focus on Education

Knowledgeable customers feel more equipped to make decisions than those jumping into a product search on the fly. When your brand is the one providing that knowledge base, you’ll be ahead of the engagement game.

Consider using a combination of in-store fliers, email marketing campaigns and online blog posts to provide education relating to the products you offer. How-to pieces, along with answers to common questions, could ensure that a customer stays on your site, or in your store, rather than looking elsewhere to make a purchase. Education also sets your brand up as a knowledge source, giving customers a reason to return.

Ask Questions

If you’re not sure where your customers stand, what they’re looking for or how you can better engage, the best way to start is to ask questions – which is another way to engage in the first place.

To engage your customers through questions, consider:

  • Creating online surveys that are advertised on social media accounts and through email marketing.
  • Simply asking questions to those who come into your store at checkout: “Where did you hear about us?” “Why did you choose our store today?” “What can we do to improve your next shopping experience?”
  • Starting online discussions. Use social media accounts to start discussions, then serve as a moderator to keep the conversation going.

Use the information you gain from asking questions to improve your marketing and promotion strategies for the future.

Alter the In-Store Experience, Digitally

When a customer is shopping in your brick-and-mortar store, they may have questions. Sure, they could turn to their smartphone for answers relating to a product, but if you can use this as an opportunity to engage, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Digital signage, ranging from wall-mounted television displays and LED displays to shelf-edge displays and kiosks, allow customers to see products in action, to learn about specifications and to interact with a product prior to making a purchase decision. With a recall rate of 52 percent, digital signage can significantly increase engagement.

Host a Contest

It’s amazing what people will do for a gift card or other simple prize. You can harness the power of a prize by hosting a contest to boost your small business’s engagement. In fact, the average business’s online following increases by 34 percent following an online contest.

Consider which social media account you have the most active following on, and where your customers spend their time. Start there. Set up a contest – a photo-sharing contest, a contest for answers to questions, or something else – along with a hashtag if applicable and deadlines. Include clear rules for entry.

Then, take it live. Share your contest and market it in-store and online. Each day or week, share some of the entries, making sure to tag those who submitted them. This method of engagement not only starts conversations and drives attention, it also spreads your brand to potential customers that may not have heard of what you have to offer.

Promote Your Products

It’s obvious that, as a small-business owner, you’ll want to promote your products and services. What if promotion became a two-way street?

It can.

Consider promoting new products through video posts online, long before they launch in your store or become available for purchase. You can take this to the next level by promoting potential products during the idea stage. Ask your customers to share their thoughts and opinions. Consider this online focus group an opportunity to engage. Thank those that share opinions and ask follow-up questions to keep the conversation moving.

Attracting attention while engaging customers just became easier than ever.

Stay Active

Social media pages are not stagnant advertisements. Unfortunately, this is how many brands treat them. They set up social media accounts that share contact information, then forget to ever log in again.

When customers search for local brands, social media pages are likely to appear in the search results. A blank or unused page sends a variety of messages, from “this business no longer exists” to “this business doesn’t care enough about customers to engage online.” This is a dangerous spectrum to fall onto.

According to Yahoo Small Business, Facebook is now the most visited site in the world, 53 percent of individuals recommend products and companies on Twitter and 5 million images are uploaded to Instagram each day, meaning the opportunities to engage – on any and every social network – are endless.

Just to get started, consider using your social media accounts to:

  • Share company updates
  • Introduce members of your team – the more personal, the better
  • Upload photos from in-store happenings and local events
  • Ask questions and start discussions
  • Promote products
  • Offer promotions and discounts

From online opportunities to taking advantage of customers that walk directly into your store, engagement possibilities are endless for small businesses that really care about what their customers think. Best of all, most of these tactics require little to no upfront investment.

If you’re ready to increase customer engagement, consider what you’re hoping to accomplish, then use the strategies above to get started.

Sarah Landrum

After graduating from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR, Sarah moved to Harrisburg to start her career as a Digital Media Specialist and a writer. She later founded Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping young professionals navigate the work world and find happiness and success in their careers.

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