When you want to learn how to make real connections with clients online, that can seem intimidating. However, it’s not impossible when you understand things from the customer’s point of view. I’m going to teach you some easy to implement strategies for how to build customer relationships online.
For those who are wondering if it’s possible to maintain open communication online in the same way you could in person – the short answer is, “yes.” First, you’ll need to understand your ideal customer. Then, you’ll move on to developing the digital equivalents of word-of-mouth marketing, engaging on social media, and building your email list.
Each time I want to showcase my company’s personality, communicating with my food and beverage clients is an excellent opportunity to do so. Not only can I determine what my current and potential clients need, but I also have a chance to spread brand awareness. I’m going to dig in and show you how here!
What is communication?
When you look at the definition of communication in literal terms, it's the "act of transferring information from one place, person, or group to another." Of course, this begs the question, is it possible to make real connections with clients online?
The short answer is, “yes.”
When I want to get brides to know my wedding planning business, I use communication strategies. I’m going to show you these strategies I’m using so you can make real connections with clients online.
Ultimately, my goal is to showcase my company’s personality by reaching out to my target audience like we're speaking face-to-face, even if it's in an email, social media post, or video. That way, current, and potential clients always know I'm putting their needs first.
How Communication Works
Before effective communication can begin, you must know your ideal customer avatar. You can achieve that goal by conducting some research with your current client base.
Send out a brief survey to your current client base regarding their satisfaction with your services.
Search online and make a note of what your clients like about your services.
Put the tools you're currently using to work (social media, Google Analytics, etc.) to gather data and insights.
Once you get to know your ideal client and understand their needs better, you can provide them with the information they want regarding your catering and events business. You'll also be able to group your clients by demographic, service interest, and other relevant factors. In doing so, this will help you understand which types of information to share with them in email campaigns and online.
Digital Equivalents to Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Engaging catering and event clients online may seem overwhelming, but that doesn't have to be the case. Even though you're not seeing your clients face-to-face, that doesn't mean your communication strategies aren't working. In this section, I'm going to show you the digital equivalents to word-of-mouth marketing. That way, you can build customer relationships online.
Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader
You may be wondering what that has to do with communication, and that's a good question. When you're communicating the right information about the catering and event business to your target audience at the right time, they know they can trust your business. You're delivering the answers to their questions, as well as the latest trends regarding your business.
For example, if I'm switching from serving mini sweet potato cheesecakes to double chocolate black and brownies, I'll share this information with my audience through social media photos and a blog post. That way, they know why I'm making this change and what trends to expect in the future.
I try to put myself in my current and potential client's shoes as often as possible, and I suggest you do the same. That way, you know if the information is helpful. You'll also determine if they'll select your catering and event business over a competitor. Think about what's new, trendy, and relevant regarding your business and help it stand out from the competition by giving them inside-access.
Engagement is Crucial
Effective communication means you're engaging with your audience on social media, through email, and everywhere else they're communicating with you. Otherwise, they believe you're not looking at their messages. If that happens, they're going to stop sending them to you, and that's a disaster.
However, if you're responding to every message - no matter if it's good or bad - your client base will trust you're hearing them. That means monitoring what your audience is saying about your business online and being present on social media. For example, I send messages to clients who post comments about my business. I'll also comment on posts I'm tagged in as a way of helping convert potential clients into leads.
Make it Useful - Always
The content you're sharing must always be relevant and useful. For example, when I create a post for my blog, I think about the questions my current or potential clients have or the information they're seeking. Are they looking for a video tutorial? Would an email newsletter or social media post be more beneficial?
Each of these forms of content must match up with their needs. An excellent example of this is an events business posting a free checklist as a lead magnet to help corporations plan their next event. Another example is using a cooking video tutorial as a lead magnet for those who would like to know how to make one of your signature dishes.
Engage on Social Media to Make the Connection
According to a survey Nisbets conducted regarding catering businesses and social media, "93 percent of respondents believed social media had positively impacted their business." You may already be using social media channels to help promote your food and beverage business. However, are you actively tapping into the communication benefits of these platforms?
When I want to get brides to know my wedding planning business, the first thing I do is turn to my social media networks.
Here's my approach:
Group sign-ups: I look for groups my target audience is interested in and sign up for them. Each time I see services, my potential client would be interested in, I "like" it or comment. That way, I'm creating bonds and relationships while learning more about their interests, concerns, and questions.
Real-time responses: because my potential and current client's needs change rapidly, my goal is to provide them with real-time access to information. For example, when I want to showcase my catering company's personality, here is an excellent opportunity to do so. Not only am I publishing my company's brand story when using these communications, but I'm also meeting the client's needs.
Building Your Email List to Build Relationships
Because email marketing is typically a single-sided form of communication, you must understand that it's different than writing for social media. We're using this channel to build lists, nurture leads, and promote relevant services.
It's understandable if you're not sure how to approach this strategy. I have some strategies for how to build customer relationships online using your email list - let's dive in!
Don't Communicate TO Them
If you're talking TO your email recipients, things will get real awkward quick. Remember, some of your connections on this list are people who know you, and the rest are strangers. You can keep messages personal, but refrain from writing like you're speaking to a single person.
Instead, customize your messages, so they're reaching the right people. You can achieve this by segmenting your email lists by category. What are your current and potential client's interests? Do they want to hire you for a specific need or event? Brainstorm these ideas, develop categories, and that will help prevent you from communicating "to" your audience. Instead, you'll be communicating "with" them.
If you're treating your email list like a numbers game, then your messages will reflect that. What that means is, avoid sending messages that are only about your business. Your content involves reaching your list appropriately.
What does that mean? You're inviting them to have a conversation with you. Your list already knows what your business can do for them, so invite them to discuss why that would be beneficial.
Short and to the Point is Best
Lengthy emails will end up in the recycling bin before your email list knows why you sent the message. A few quick and to the point paragraphs and sentences will get your point across. There are always exceptions to this rule, though.
For example, if you're running a promotion that requires more content, don't skimp. However, make sure everything you're including is relevant and appropriate. Otherwise, you'll lose your target audience's attention, and they'll click away.
Each time someone is signing up for your email list, they're trusting that you'll send them something relevant and of value. It's up to you to follow-through and delivers. Mainly, you want what they're reading to be worth their time.
Instead of writing purely self-promotional content, think of these emails as tools. Yes, they could easily act as mini billboards for your business hitting inboxes of your email list. Is that useful for your target audience or beneficial to you in the long-run?
Your target audience would rather see that you know them. So, send content that highlights that you know how to meet their needs and answer their questions. That way, they can see evidence that your business will be there for them when the time comes.
Now that you know how to communicate with your catering and events clients, it’s time to get rolling! I can’t wait to see how you start meeting your client’s needs and take your business to the next level.
If you need help with reaching your current or potential client throughout your journey, I suggest signing up for our Success Recipes weekly email. In it, you’ll receive tools and strategic know-how for boosting your business. I also recommend signing up for my guide, "Ideal Customer Avatars: A Comprehensive Guide," to help you determine your ideal customer.