The Internet, for better or worse, has irreversibly changed the face of business in this country. Gone are the days when a mom-and-pop store could operate in isolation on a popular street corner, secure in its customer base. The local hardware store can no longer count on its likable and trustworthy clerks alone to draw in customers. Every business—whether large or small, brick-and-mortar or virtual—now has to compete in a world marketplace. The customers that used to drive straight to the local hardware store when their sinks were stopped up, now surf the Internet first before deciding where to shop.
And This Means…?
Right now, you’re probably asking yourself, “What does this mean for me?” You’re not naive, after all. You’ve got an up-to-date business model, which includes a website kept relevant and interesting by a team of creative content writers. You’ve got a Facebook account, as well, and also send intriguing, engaging Tweets to your cadre of followers on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, an Internet presence alone is not enough. Competition for consumer attention—and loyalty—is at an all-time high. You can no longer simply place your products and services at the disposal of potential buyers and wait for them to send you an order. You need to reach out and make personal connections with your customers. You need to give them a reason to pick you and your company out of the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of businesses available to them right there at their fingertips. How? Make it personal.
Not Just a Business, But a Friend
The perfect real-life example of this type of marketing is Bill Penzey, of Penzeys Spices. Every issue of the Penzeys catalog includes a “Note from Bill” and “One for the Road.” These two simple columns strip the catalog of its purely commercial feel and embody, instead, an eagerly anticipated magazine or even a heart-felt letter from a friend. In the columns, also available on the Penzeys website, Bill opens his life to his readers. He shares his thoughts and passions about his business and about cooking in general. He shares truly personal moments like meeting and marrying his wife, Jeri, and about the joy of starting a family with her. Readers eagerly await the appearance of the next installment of the Penzeys catalog in their mailboxes. What a different picture from the irritated consumer dropping unwanted junk mail in the trash without even looking at it.
Now It’s Your Turn
You don’t have to reveal yourself to this extreme in order to forge new relationships with your customers and nurture the existing ones. You can start as simply as adding your picture to your webpage; let people know there’s a human face behind your company logo. You can also talk a little about your family and your passion for your company. Only share what you feel comfortable sharing, but remember, every time you touch another person’s heart, you’ve made a loyal customer.
Kate C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.