When you operate a storefront on Main Street or in a mall, getting intimate with your customers is really no big deal. And not just in lingerie stores, either.
They walk in and see your staff, and they can even speak with them. Sometimes customers get to know your staff well enough to ask about their kids and their vacations. And if they are not sure how to use a product or which set of features they need, it’s easy to ask someone.
Customers see what your store looks like, and in some cases, they can even watch the products being made. I have several times watched apple pies being baked through the huge picture window at The Big Apple in Ontario. I once took a tour of the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory in Vermont. And I’ve heard the tales of the Hershey’s factory tour.
But when you visit a company’s website, all you get is a website.
But wait. What if you can get intimate with your customers right on your website? What if your customers could get intimate with you on your website as they do when they walk into a grocery store or hardware store or hair salon? Well, they can – no lingerie required. Here is how.
Video is a great way to connect with your customers on several levels and in several ways. The most obvious is to use welcome videos. On my THGM Writers website, I have a welcome video on the home page, but I also have topic-specific welcome videos on other important landing pages. When somebody lands there, they can right away get a feel for what the owner looks like, how he speaks, how he moves…it’s almost as if they are there in the same room with me.
Another great way to use videos to get intimate with customers is to show your people in action, talking about the company. Using video conferencing technology, you can even create a compelling video with a remote team, to introduce people to your company, mission statement and team members. More than just see how you look and speak, people can see how you interact – and that makes you more real to them.
Explainer videos are also quite popular, and just by their nature, they increase intimacy. An explainer video tells customers how a product can be used, how to assemble a product or what features a product has. It does not sell, so the viewer is simply getting useful information about the product (which, of course, does help in the sales process). If you were at the hardware store, you would get real, live people delivering explainers, without the video.
This is just like letting customers feel like the proverbial fly on the wall, something that only Spider man could attempt in real life.
Warning! Do not let videos or any sound file start playing automatically when a page loads, because people will leave your website faster than naughty snowmen melt when they get to Hell.
Photographs are probably even more obvious than videos, and they require less effort. So if you have been dilly-dallying on video, at least get some pics up right away. What pics should you post?
- Your staff, of course. Let people see what they look like.
- Your physical store or office. Yes, you exist somewhere, even if you run your business from the kitchen table.
- Your factory or shipping site. Even if you ship through a remote warehouse, get a pic. It is so much more real and trustworthy to see an image of the products on pallets, waiting to be shipped.
- Your products, of course. Even better if you can post photos of your products being used by real customers.
- Your products being made. Even if you have no time or budget to capture “the making of” process on video, at least a few photos of the process makes it all the more real.
- A floor plan of your plant, perhaps with “handwritten” notes as to what happens in each section of the building.
This is just like giving people free reign to wander around your store or on the factory floor, but without all the need for safety boots and insurance waivers.
Infographics and flow charts are ideal for showing processes and data. If you want to give an idea of how big or how diverse or how focused or how whatever your company is, an Infographic can help customers feel they know you better.
Flow charts can also be used to help people understand the order/shipping process, or the manufacturing process, which can be especially helpful if you are selling recycled or organic products, where customers really care about the ingredients and the process.
This is just like having an incredibly knowledgeable receptionist behind a counter in a brick-and-mortar location.
A slide show is the perfect way to lead a customer through the step-by-step process of how you make your finely crafted products or how to use their amazing features. Set up the slide show as if somebody was explaining the details at a real location. This is just like having an ongoing live in-store demonstration. People will feel like they are really interacting with you.
Aha! You thought I would forget about live chat, but I did not. It is almost too obvious to mention. Having a chat box open, so that people can communicate with you whenever they wish, combines with any of these other tools very well. You get to help them, you get the chance to listen, you get opportunities to upsell and you can solve their problems so they don’t go ranting about them on Twitter. It’s just like having a sales associate available in the store to answer questions, but without the creepy feeling that you are being followed around the store.
Is there any way for customers to trust your company more than by getting to know your staff and feeling like they are on a first name basis with them? Of course not. Get photos up of at least the main players on your team. With the photos, add some personal information. What are their hobbies? What are their quirks? What story can you spin in just a few sentences, so that people can relate to each of them? This is just like getting to know the folks at your local store in person.
Just because your customers find you online, doesn’t mean you have to stay aloof. Give them every chance to get to know you, to feel comfortable, to trust you. Investing in customer relationships – not through CRM software, but through their hearts – is the best long-term investment you can make in your business.
David Leonhardt is a freelance writer and website marketing consultant. He’ll be happy to help you increase your Web presence and create compelling content to drive engagement.