I came across an article on a topic of a past discussion with a client. I emailed the client a simple note saying the article reminded me of our conversation and thought he’d find it useful. Another client wrote an insightful blog post, so I linked to it from my social media accounts and mentioned the client by name.
When I went to visit a client’s blog, the website was down. I reloaded the site a few times to verify it wasn’t a hiccup. It wasn’t. So I let her know about the problem. Sometimes no one in the company knows about the downtime. These actions take only a few minutes of my time, yet they go a long way in helping clients and prospects while getting top of mind.
Staying in touch in a predictable and personal way goes a long way towards building trust. Yes, marketing automation makes it easier to do that. It’s worth looking into. However, most of the systems that meet small business price points haven’t evolved enough to deliver a truly personalized experience.
Tools and tasks to help you stay in touch
As you see from these examples, it’s easy to do it yourself. Here are things you can do to build trust online and the tools to help.
- Share relevant articles, tweets and blog posts.
- Forward your company’s news, email newsletter and webinar invitations.
- Email contacts suggesting a get-together when you travel to their cities.
- Send an old-fashioned “I was thinking of you and wanted to check to see how things are going” message.
- Provide reports from an objective third party, like those from research and analyst firms.
- Follow up with contacts to ask how something went, whether it’s a personal family celebration or speaking at a conference.
- Use a feed reader or content curation tool to get articles from blogs and websites covering relevant topics.
- Create alerts based on topics and industry keywords to monitor the web for related content.
- Use a simple CRM tool like LinkedIn contacts or Contactually to stay in touch.
- Set up private Twitter lists or Google Plus circles to listen and join conversations with the right people. (Keep the list manageable to ensure you have regular conversations.)
You’re not limited to emails. You can share relevant articles and blog posts in social media. In Twitter, for example, you can mention the client or prospect’s name in the tweet saying it may be of interest. If others catch the tweet, you’re expanding your reach. If a client writes an article, gets mentioned or shares good news, you can post it in social media and mention the client in the same message.
What about sharing sales collateral and educational materials? Of course you want to send those too. But people will trust you more if they can see that you are trying to help them solve their problem – not just pushing product.
The content you send should have information that clients and prospects need. Focus on the buyer’s need. Better yet, add a personal note explaining why you’re sharing the material.
It typically takes a minimum of seven touches to make a sale. And staying in touch using these online activities will boost the level of trust and get you a step closer to the sale.
What other activities and tools do you recommend for staying in touch?
Transparency means showing others who you are – by being yourself, open and honest. Your actions and communications give people a clue about your honesty and integrity. It helps them decide whether they want to do business with you.
Social media is a fantastic tool for showing people who you are.
A face-to-face (F2F) situation can only provide real-time information about someone. To get a grasp on a person’s character in a F2F situation requires watching people act and react over time. Furthermore, people can be on their best behavior for the length of a meeting.
Social media, on the flip side, has a long memory in its history of people’s actions. It’s hard to fake or be on your best behavior in your social media interactions over a long time, which means you can get a very good picture of someone pretty quickly.
Getting to know you
Others can get a bit of history by glancing at your social media profile and updates. Use that to give people insight into who you are, and make sure they see what you want to show them.
True — like in F2F — you can monitor yourself by controlling what you share online. However, the more you interact online, the more likely you’ll reveal your character traits. Staying all business all the time will have the opposite effect because there’s little personality and authenticity.
Think about a potential business that interests you. Check out the company and employees’ profiles on different social media networks to learn more about them. Then study their updates and actions for more insights. As you do this, note anything interesting so you can apply it to your own profile.
What social media updates say about you
Your social media posts allow you to show the following things about yourself and your company:
- You’re competent in your area of expertise. You know who is worth listening to in your industry and you share high quality relevant content.
- You’re connected. You are who you say you are, and your connections to clients, prospects, partners and influencers prove it.
- You’re respected. Your connections interact with you and mention you to others.
- You care about quality. You share posts about delivering great customer experiences. You also help clients and prospects by answering questions or solving a problem.
- You show you care by giving back. You share posts about the charities and non-profits you support.
- You’re successful. You share good news on a regular basis, without it sounding like bragging.
- You’re proud of your business. Invite your customers to learn about your employees, processes and pricing, answer tough questions and admit difficult truths. And never, ever lie.
- You have a personal side worth sharing. You share posts about your favorite sports team, authors, hobbies, city and local events. People buy when they feel a connection to others. Talking about things outside of business lets people get to know your personal side. Little by little, others will relate to what you share. And those connections grow.
Joining online conversations backs up your company’s claim that you’re open to feedback and criticism. Customers value this trait. Yet few companies do this. Companies don’t need to be afraid of getting caught making mistakes. Customers forgive mistakes when companies handle them quickly and aptly. Acknowledging a customer implies your company is listening, an important step in gaining trust.
When your actions show you have nothing to hide, you differentiate your company. Be open, communicate regularly and hold your company accountable. Do all this in a professional way with a touch of personality and trust will follow.
Although I’ve worked with many talented designers, there are few I recommend. All of them were responsive at the start of a project. However, as the project progressed, some of their follow-ups to emails, phone calls and requests stretched from hours to days to weeks. They’d miss due dates and leave clients hanging. Yet clients felt stuck with them because it was the middle of the project and it would take too much effort to find another designer to deliver on the company’s vision.
If the client managed to finish the project with the designer, you can bet that designer wouldn’t be invited back or receive referrals. Not only that, but the client will tell friends and colleagues that the person is unreliable. It doesn’t matter if the designer can turn a brand into a rock star. The lack of reliability erased all that. The designer failed a key part of building trust: reliability.
To be reliable means making a promise and delivering on that promise.
The fastest and easiest way to get a relationship off to a strong start is to make a promise and follow through on that promise.
You don’t need to promise the moon. You can make small promises, such as promising to call someone next week. Or saying you will send an article by email as soon as you get back to the office. Or adding someone to a mailing list.
The goal is to create a situation where you can make a promise, and then deliver on that promise. That lets people see that you are reliable.
What most people do
Most people either don’t offer to follow up or they’re vague about how they will follow up. They hedge their bets because they know life happens, and they want to be covered in case things don’t work out.
You can stand out by making a promise with specifics, and then doing what you promise.
Three parts of an effective promise
Successful promises include the following components:
- Choose your promises carefully. Promise something you know you can deliver. Don’t make a promise where you are depending on someone else to do something. Promise something that you are in control of, like sending an email, tweeting or making a phone call.
- Be specific. The more detail you provide, the bigger the chance you have to prove you can deliver. Instead of saying you will email next week, say you will email Monday before 9am.
- Deliver! Do exactly what you said you would. If something goes wrong, and for some reason you can’t deliver as promised, acknowledge it as soon as possible. Apologize, and make another promise (that you can deliver on).
Make promises a regular part of your sales cycle. Every client interaction is an opportunity to make a promise and then follow through. The more often you do this, the more reliability you are showing.
Nothing builds trust better than following up on promises exactly as expected.
Working on your launch plan? Here are some great blog posts from people who do a lot of launches. They give tips and share the lessons they learned. You’ll get some new ideas and make sure you have your bases covered.