Advice for Small Town Startups, 9/10 - Tell Your Customers You Love Them

If you are from a small town, there is a chance you will NEVER MEET YOUR CUSTOMERS IN PERSON. So you have to establish trust online. That is a hard thing to do, and you should consider the person you put in charge of it carefully; are they friendly in written communications? Do they respond promptly? Do they know how to deal with language barriers, time zone differences, and difficult customers? Can they prioritize their time well? Does their natural written voice reflect your brand and your company values? Think about all these things before allowing someone to speak on behalf of the company.

At the very least, you need a contact form on your website, and you need someone to check it and respond to people regularly. It's best if the contact email is a generic 'info@' type address so you can easily hand it to a new person or take turns managing it.

I also recommend live chat support services (we use Zopim on our interactive floor software website, Po-motion), a Facebook and Twitter page, as well as a regular newsletter that people can subscribe to. We use Mailchimp (it gets expensive once you have a lot of subscribers but you can always export your list). We also have Youtube channels for different types of videos (tutorials, installations, case studies).

Live chat is the fastest way to help someone before they get frustrated. Newsletters are useful for promotions, announcements, surveys and feedback requests. Neither of these will target new customers, but they will keep existing customers engaged.

It is a good idea to establish a process for using these things pretty early on. For example, we always send a newsletter the first week of the month with a free offer and some highlights; usually examples of stuff other people are doing using our products.

We check social media accounts once a day, and post updates at least twice a week (our social media accounts are connected to our Mailchimp and Youtube accounts, so videos and newsletters automatically get posted on social media). If you set up commenting on Youtube and Vimeo, customers can also reach you that way.

The bottom line is that you need to respond to people promptly, and give them as many ways to reach you as possible so they don't have to try to find you. This will give you a very clear insight into what people want and expect from your company, and will also provide you with ongoing market research you can use to guide your feature development and improve your products and services.