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Relationship Marketing -- Key For Small Local Business

Someone wrote me recently and said "I don't think ... business has the need nor ... to ... follow up emails." The "no ... part I can believe, but no need? ... you

Someone wrote me recently and said "I don't think every
small business has the need nor inclination to send
regular follow up emails."

The "no inclination" part I can believe, but no need? Not
unless you have all the business you can handle. Otherwise
you need to collect (opt-in) email addresses at every
opportunity, and use them to establish and build
relationships with your prospects and customers.

The key word in that sentence? Relationships. If you want to
promote your local business effectively online, relationship
marketing is key.

WHAT IS RELATIONSHIP MARKETING?

Relationship marketing is the act of building close
relationships with existing customers and prospects. It's
about having an ongoing dialogue with them over a period of
time. It can also include gathering customer information
and analyzing their behavior, but don't let that scare you.
You can practice relationship marketing on a small scale
and get plenty of benefits without implementing a full-
blown system.

You may not have the financial resources of Office Depot
or WalMart, but as a small business owner, you can do
something they can't -- have real person-to-person
relationships with your customers.

There are 2 critical components to making this strategy
work: a relationship-oriented website and the consistent
use of email to stay in touch.

RELATIONSHIP-ORIENTED WEBSITE

The relationship marketing process starts when a visitor
arrives on your website. If you want the relationship to
progress beyond "hello", make sure it's a wonderful
experience. Invite her in, introduce yourself, and offer
refreshments in the form of free information or something
equally enticing.

At this point you should ask for her email address so you
can send more valuble information in the future. This is
crucial to your success - you must obtain the email
address on the first visit. You may not get a second
chance.

Once you have the email address, point your visitor toward
helpful resources. A restaurant could offer recipes or
discount coupons. A plumbing business might offer tips for
avoiding costly repairs. A small business site could offer
a collection of articles. Whatever the business, there's
some sort of information or gift customers would find useful. Give
valuable information freely and don't worry about
giving too much away. Give before you get, that's
the way of the web.

Ideally you'd have the ability to collect information
about individual customers, but not all small businesses
can afford the technology needed to track individual
preferences and provide different experiences based upon
them. If you can't, don't worry about it. But do try to
collect first name at a minimum so you can personalize
emails.

What else characterizes a relationship-oriented website?

- FAQs: Make it easy for people to find the information
they need by providing online help files. Make a note of
questions you're asked repeatedly and compile them into a
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).

- TWO-WAY DIALOGUE: Make it easy for customers to contact
you and encourage them to do so; what you want is a two-
way dialogue between you and your customer. When in doubt,
ask them what they want. They'll tell you. If you find out
what your customer wants and become a friend, you will
beat most of the competition hands down. And be human -
life is in the details.

- TIMELY RESPONSE: When your customer does "raise her
hand", reward her with a quick response! There's nothing
more de-motivating than an unanswered email to someone who
claims to want my business. More than once I've purchased
a product and written a followup email, only to have it go
unanswered. Guess who won't get another dime of my money?

- FREQUENT UPDATES: If you want people to visit frequently,
you must give them a reason -- new content, a fresh look
every how and then, information updates. A website is
never finished.

- MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE: If you're selling something, you
should offer an ironclad "no questions asked" money-back
guarantee! Then honor it. Sure, there are jerks out there
who will try to rip you off. Consider it a cost of doing
business online.

- FREE OFFER: And of course the most important thing on
the first page and every page is your subscription box
with offer of a FREE report or other incentive your
customers would value.

Above all, show your customers that you're in it for the
long haul, not the quick score. No flashing banners
screaming "Buy Me!". No pressure to hurry up and buy before
midnight. Set yourself apart from your competition. Slow
and steady wins the race...and builds relationships.

CONSISTENT USE OF EMAIL

If you are emailing your local customers, sending them
offers, coupons, and useful information about your
business, you are more likely to get their business than
some stranger out in cyberspace. And if you're sending out
a newsletter, you'll be light years ahead of all of your
competition, local or not!

Maybe the idea of having to write a newsletter is the
stumbling block. If so, don't call it an ezine and don't
lock yourself into a schedule. But just as you use snail
mail, newspaper ads, radio or tv ads to keep your name in
front of your customers, you should use email to do the
same thing. And it's a lot cheaper than any other form
of advertising, so why on earth wouldn't you?

Here are a few ways to use email to create "brand"
awareness within your local community.

- KEEP IN TOUCH: Email your customers and prospects on a
regular basis, at least twice a month. Any less than that
and they may forget you. Don't contact them just to sell
them something. Send them useful information, related
articles, notice of new content on your website, product
announcements, etc. Your goal is to keep in touch so that
if they or someone they know needs your product or
service, you'll be the one they call.

- SUPPORT: When customers purchase a product or service,
use email to help them get the most out of it. For a book
or publication, it could be an email "walkthru" series
highlighting important topics, or telling them what they
would learn if they'd only read it!

- JOINT VENTURES: If at all possible, you should do joint
ventures with neighboring businesses. Band together with
several other (non-competing) businesses and form a
coupon exchange. Every week or two, each of you send the
same email to your customer list, with email coupons for
each business, or a link to a web page with the coupons.

- TIMELY RESPONSE: When your customer does "raise her
hand", reward her with a quick response! There's nothing
more de-motivating than an unanswered email to someone who
claims to want my business. More than once I've purchased
a product and written a followup email, only to have it go
unanswered. Guess who won't get another dime of my money?

I know all of this sounds like an awful lot of work, and I
won't lie to you...relationship marketing is timeconsuming
and can be hard work. If it were easy, everybody would be
doing it.

Building a website that focuses on the customer takes more
thought than slapping up an ego site (all about you).
Maintaining a mailing list can be a real pain.
Unsubscribing people who can't seem to read. Potential spam
complaints. Answering subscriber questions. Responding to
feedback or inquuiries.

It's so much easier to forget the whole thing, which is
what most people do. On the internet, if you want to rise
above the clutter, you must do something to distinguish
yourself from the masses. You must be willing to do what
others are not willing to do. For a small business, that
means relationship marketing.
=========================================
Sharon Fling is the author of "How To Promote Your Local Business
On the Internet", and publisher of "Local Business Today", an
ezine that gives business owners tips, tools and resources for
targeting local customers. Subscribe today and get a free ebook
informationFree Reprint Articles, visit http://www.geolocal.com or send any
email to: mailto:subscribe@localbizpromo.com?subject=TRAART

Article Tags: Relationship Marketing, Local Business, Small Business, Relationship-oriented Website

Source: Free Articles from ArticlesFactory.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Sharon Fling is the author of "How To Promote Your Local
Business On the Internet", and publishes an electronic
newsletter that gives business owners tips, tools and
resources for targeting local customers. For more
information, visit http://www.geolocal.com or send any
email to: mailto:subscribe@localbizpromo.com?subject=TRAART



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