10 Ways to Engage Your Customers Without the Sleazy Sales Tactics

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The theme for February is CONNECT + ENGAGE which got us thinking about how we engage with our customers (current or potential) and the quality of that interaction. We’ve all experienced that sleazy encounter, whether it was shopping for a car (industry-wide bad rap) or a bed (my experience last week when the sales guy wouldn’t stop talking long enough for me to even think). Bottom line, whether it’s live or digital, we’ve all felt the sleaze.

So how can we engage with our customers in an authentic way that builds trust, confidence, and an on-going relationship that matters?

Here are 10 top ways to engage your customers without the sleaze.


1. Give Freely

It might seem counterintuitive, but I’m going to ask you to give before you get. Teach your customers what you know, with no expectation of a sale. By sharing what you know and giving it away freely, you’ll become a resource for current and potential clients, endearing them to you and your company over time. Case in point, type in “At Home Workout Plan” in YouTube and it will return hundreds of free videos showing you the ropes. Many of these videos are hosted by trainers who also sell online programs, but the original content was free and given with no expectation of a sale. It gives customers a chance to experience your company and decide if you’re the right fit, while also growing your audience and creating a name for yourself in the space. In addition to YouTube, you can use blog posts, podcasts, newsletters, and social media to share what you know and give real value to your fans.


 2. Tell Me What You Want

When was the last time you asked your customers what they’d like to see from your business? This doesn’t need to be a formal poll, but rather an open dialogue with current and potential customers at every touch point. Leverage your social media platforms to ask your fans what they’re loving these days and what they’d love to see from you. Make it part of your one-on-one interaction with customers as well. It’s a simple conversation, based around asking questions and truly valuing their response.


3. One Question Poll

Asking our customers for feedback is a game changer, but how we do it is critical. Our customers’ time is valuable and it’s important to make it easy for them to provide feedback. This past week I received a feedback questionnaire from a service provider that contained 5 questions in the body of the email and they asked me to reply with my comments. I deleted it. Then I received a wonderful poll from Minaal (a backpack seller) with 1 simple question. “How likely are you to recommend Minaal to your friends?” with a scale of 1 – 10. You simply click the number that corresponds with your answer and opens up a text box for optional feedback. Easy breezy. It took one minute to reply and I was happy to do it. If you’re interested in giving it a try, ClickInsights and CheckMarket are two companies that help you create one question polls.

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4. Handwritten Thank You Notes

In the era of digital communication, a handwritten thank you note goes a long way. Reach out to potential customers shortly after your first interaction to thank them and to invite them to return visit your store or work with you. Connect with current customers to thank them for their continued business. Make it personal & customized for the recipient and it won’t go unnoticed!


5. Reach Out

In addition to snail mail, periodically reach out for your customers with a quick, personalized email. A few years ago I started shopping at a small dress boutique where I met the manager, Ashley. Every now and again, I’ll get an email from her telling me about a dress that she’s convinced I’ll love and that she’s going to hold one back in my size until I get in to try it on. It’s such a rare occasion to receive a personal email from any business, and the care and attention put into her email makes it a welcome surprise. Touch base with your customers in a caring, mindful way that shows you’re thinking of them. And remember if they don’t reply, don’t take it personally!


6. Get Together

Create opportunities to bring your customers together for free. If you have a physical location, you might host a mix & mingle with appetizers, cocktails, and a fun speaker to engage the crowd. If you typically work with clients online, you might host a dinner to get everyone together live. Or you might host a short workshop to teach your fans a fun new crafting technique. People are craving connection that isn’t just transactional or online, so give them the opportunity to build community with you and your business. Make it free. Make it fun!


7. Inspire Your Customers

Have you ever shared the story of how your business came to be? Or have you shared with your customers why you love what you do? Give your customers a chance to get to know you and learn what lights you up about your company. These inspirational tales make you human and people relate to stories that are authentic and real. This helps build a relationship with your customers that isn’t a one-way street.


8. Good morning, Sally. Great to see you!

Get to know your customers by their first names. It’s wonderful to feel welcome at any place of business, and when you’re called by your name it automatically puts you at ease. The fitness studio, Orangetheory, has mastered this. They know virtually all of their students’ names and if they don’t, they make it a point of asking and spending a little extra time with you to make sure you feel comfortable during those first few classes. It’s the perfect way to show your customers you truly care about them.


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9. 24-Hour Reply

Get into the practice of replying to all incoming customer emails or social media comments within 24 hours. Whether they’re reaching out for a quote, asking a question about a product, or raising a complaint, prioritize customer communication first. It builds trust to be responsive, whereas ignoring the messages can lead to disgruntled and irate customers who will often choose to do business elsewhere.


10. Don’t have the solution? Send them to someone who does.

Sometimes you’ll experience a mismatch. The customer wants something you don’t have. You could try to pull together a solution, but it’s really out of your wheelhouse. So rather than trying to shoehorn together a fix to make the sale, become an advocate for your customer and help them find the right solution. By referring business to someone who is the right fit, you create trust with your customers and your community. You’ll show them you have their best interest at heart.


Let’s hear it from the TRIBE! How do you engage your customers in authentic and meaningful interaction? Share your tips in the comments below!

Hilary JohnsonComment