As a business owner, you know the importance of engaging your customers and connecting on a more personal level to build trust and long-term loyalty. Social media and email marketing provide the perfect avenues to engage your customers in meaningful conversation.
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But engagement is a two-way street. Just sending out an occasional newsletter or social media post isn’t going to cut it. You’ve got to engage customers in real conversation just like you would if you were face to face or on the telephone. But it’s not as hard as you might think.
Here are seven easy-to-use conversation starters that will work for business owners in almost any industry. They can be leveraged in social media and email marketing as well as face-to-face and phone conversations.
1. Spread the News
If you’re looking for a natural way to start a conversation, you can’t go wrong with the news of the day. Your followers are already expecting industry insight, so if you can present relevant industry news that’s informative, intriguing or just plain entertaining, you’re already a step ahead.
How do you stay on top of industry news? Start by following industry thought leaders on social media. Subscribe to their blogs, listen to their podcasts and watch their videos. You can also stay on trend with social media by using RSS aggregators, Google Alerts and other apps designed to deliver content directly to your virtual door.
Depending on your business, you may also be able to leverage local news as a source of conversation. Local human interest stories, for example, are the type of feel-good content that’s easy for your followers to discuss, like and share. You can also bring up local sporting events, charity drives, grand openings, school events and other local news, most of which can be easily found by tuning into local TV and radio or by browsing your local newspaper.
2. Ask for Recommendations
Another easy way small business owners can engage customers in conversations is by asking questions. For example, you can ask your social media followers for recommendations on…well, just about anything! A few options include:
- Preferred news sources
- Product suggestions
- Marketing tips and tools
- Smartphone apps
- Industry thought leaders to follow on social media
Every response you get can generate further conversation as additional followers chime in to agree or offer alternatives. And you can take notes and put those responses to use later on. It’s a useful way of gaining insight into the thoughts, preferences and behaviors of your audience.
3. Be a Pain Reliever
If you want to engage your customers in meaningful conversation, ask about their pain points. A simple variation of “What’s bothering you?” is perhaps the best conversation starter of them all. How you ask that question will depend on your industry and how general or specific you want the answers to be.
The key here is to really listen to the responses, then provide practical, actionable advice. If your products and services can alleviate their pain points, all the better! Offer to send them some information or sign them up for a free demo. If not, try to provide something of value that they can put to good use.
On a related note, past mistakes and lessons learned make effective conversation starters on social media. Something like, “What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made on the job and what lessons did you learn?” can generate genuine, insightful responses that you and your followers can bond over.
Regardless of you industry you can learn something from this example about teaching yoga. Not only did it get a few comments, but it also garnered 62 shares and 600 likes, which no doubt expanded this company’s reach.
And don’t hesitate to just open the floor to questions. You can even use lead capture forms to gather information as you answer questions, as seen here:
4. Promote Events
Are you hosting or attending an event? Share the experience! Let people know ahead of time that you’re going to be there and ask who else will be attending. Respond to those who are coming and let them know you’re looking forward to seeing them there.
But don’t stop there. Once you’re on the scene, take a few minutes to post photos and videos of the event and let people know what they’re missing. You can even use Facebook Live or Instagram Live Stream to stream the event as it happens or do a quick Q&A session with the followers who weren’t lucky enough to attend.
At a baseball game? Broadcast the seventh-inning stretch! At a charity auction? Talk to the winners about what they’ve won and what the cause means to them. The opportunities are endless.
5. Ask for Testimonials
Talking with a customer about their experience with your business is another way to get a conversation going. After all, there’s no better recommendation than photographic or video evidence of satisfied customers happily enjoying your products and services.
Take it up a notch and ask followers to tag one or two friends or family members who would benefit from your products and services.
6. Discuss DIY projects
These days, it seems like everyone is a do-it-yourselfer. If you’re proud of a DIY project you’ve put together or you come across relevant DIY suggestions online, share it with followers. Depending on your industry, it could be anything from simple, space-saving advice for the home to a quick and easy recipe or seasonal craft project for the kids.
You can ask your followers to share their DIY projects and ideas with photos and videos showing them in action. Of course, the closer you can tie these ideas to your own business, the better, but it doesn’t hurt to wander off the beaten industry path on occasion and have a little fun while engaging your customers. Don’t be afraid to get creative and think outside the box.
7. Share Inspirational Quotes
Heartwarming or thought-provoking quotes can spark conversations that are easy to share across multiple platforms. When accompanied by an image, they can play especially well on visual platforms such as Instagram or Pinterest. You can get some extra mileage by creating your own custom images that include subtle branding.
To ensure your quote generates conversation, try to follow it with a question or thought of your own. For example, if you’re sharing something from your favorite author, you could ask followers to share a favorite author and quote of their own. Or ask for an inspirational quote that really motivates them in the workplace. Again, the possibilities are endless. Just use your imagination!
If you want your business to succeed over the long term, you have to be willing to engage with your customers both on and offline. Engagement is the difference between a transactional relationship and a more genuine, personal connection — the kind that leads to customer loyalty and brand advocacy. After all, when customers believe in you, they’re much more likely to recommend your products and services.
If you need help monitoring the conversation around your brand or just don’t have time to engage your audience on a meaningful level, don’t be afraid to ask. We can show you how to automate the process!
Updated: 11/28/17; Originally Posted: 8/29/16