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Reach out to customers -- without being annoying

By Marty Minchin
Correspondent

To successfully connect with customers, small business owners need to figure out how to stay on their radar without becoming overbearing.

Email, social media and print mailings provide a dearth of opportunities to stay in touch with customers and promote your business, sales and products. Using them wisely can raise your brand awareness and customer base.

The keys are to make sure whatever you send or post, whether it’s a newsletter or picture on Pinterest, is relevant and that you don’t contact customers too much. Bombarding them with blatant sales pitches likely won’t build much goodwill.

Social media expert Kevin Smith, manager and webmaster for McBryde Website Design in Mooresville, recommends that businesses avoid a regular stream of self-promotion on social media.

Social media, he points out, is social media, not sales media.

“That’s where (business owners) really mess up,” Smith said. “We get enough of that with our email and television commercials, and we’re sick of it. We try to get away from it by migrating to social media.

“The first thing I do is tell people, ‘It’s not about you.’ (Businesses) need to stop saying, ‘Look at me and my products.’ Stop saying, ‘Let me sell you something.’”

When businesses want to communicate with customers, they should first make sure that they have something interesting and engaging to say. That can mean industry news, a photo of a new product or even a plug for another local business.

Facebook is one platform that small businesses are finding especially effective in connecting directly with customers, building brand recognition and sharing information.

Sue Wolf, owner of Abbey Rose Floral Artistry in Mint Hill, said she opened up a Facebook page for her business as popularity shifted from My Space to Facebook.

“I saw it as an opportunity to reach out to customers,” Wolf said. “I’ve had so many people come in and say, ‘I’m friends with you on Facebook.’”

Wolf posts on Facebook about every other day. She sometimes posts pictures of floral arrangements from her store, and other times she reminds customers of upcoming holidays or reposts interesting articles from the floral industry.

“I promote my industry more than I promote myself,” Wolf said. “I care about educating my customers.”

She’s also passionate about encouraging people to shop in Mint Hill, so she uses Facebook to promote local businesses.

Smith said that maintaining a regular presence on Facebook and keeping posts interesting and relevant are key to raising interest in your business without overdoing it.

“Your customers are seeing that your active, because being active puts your brand out there and your not saying, ‘Me me me,’” he said.

That means not posting mundane details about the day or posting so much that information from your business clogs up someone’s Facebook page, which can lead to customers blocking you on Facebook and harboring negative feelings toward your business.

Political and religious opinions have no place on a business page, and if you use your personal page to promote your business, Smith suggests refraining from religion and politics there too.

Smith advises that business owners post pictures with posts whenever possible.

“Anytime you do anything in social media, try to be engaging,” he said. “Try to (create the post) they stop and look at.”

Taking 10 minutes a day to monitor your business’s Facebook page is key, as idle social media and unanswered comments can create a bad perception.

The overall goal, Smith said, is to impress your brand on customers in a positive way.

“You’re trying to get your name out there consistently so when (customers needs you service or products), they say, ‘I know him. I saw him on Facebook.’”

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