The most successful small businesses do more than provide a great product or service — they build strong relationships with their clients and community. Connecting on a deeper level grows trust and long-term loyalty. That’s often done with in-person, face-to-face interactions, but social distancing has made those opportunities much harder to come by.
For one-on-one conversations, phone calls have their place. But there’s a reason in-person meetings didn’t disappear with the invention of the telephone: there’s value in face-to-face contact. Thankfully, small businesses have plenty of options for doing this virtually. Consumers are now more comfortable than ever with video conferencing, and the number of available technology solutions (including free ones) has never been higher.
And don’t forget that individual conversations aren’t the only tool in your belt for building strong relationships. Social media and email can be effective ways to engage your customers in meaningful conversation, especially now that they’re spending so much more time online.
But simply sending out an occasional newsletter or social media post isn’t going to cut it. You’ve got to engage customers in meaningful conversation just like you would if you were in the same room together. You may be thinking of ways to do this right now and coming up short. Good news! We’ve done the legwork for you.
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 those valuable one-on-one conversations.
1. Spread the News
If you’re looking for a natural way to start a conversation, you can’t go wrong with business or industry trends. Your clients want you to be a source of insight and expertise, and that demand has only increased with growing economic instability. Showing that you’re knowledgeable is a powerful way to build trust.
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.
2. Ask for Recommendations
Another easy way small business owners can engage customers in meaningful conversation is by asking questions. People like sharing their opinion, but they really like feeling like their thoughts are valued. For example, ask your social media followers for recommendations on:
- Product suggestions
- Marketing tips and tools
- Helpful smartphone apps
- Industry thought leaders to follow on social media
- Favorite podcasts
Every response you get can generate further conversation as additional followers chime in to agree or offer alternatives. Take notes and put those responses to use later on. In addition to being a way to engage customers in meaningful conversation, you will gain 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. Lessons learned often make effective conversation starters on social media.
Ask a question like, “What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?” The insightful responses are great conversation starters and often cover topics and experiences that you and your followers can bond over. How you exactly ask that question will depend on your industry and how general or specific you want the answers to be.
The post got a few comments, but it also 62 shares and 600 likes. These posts are shareable and will help expand your company’s reach.
The key here is to really listen to the responses, then if appropriate, provide practical, actionable advice. If your 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.
You can even use lead capture forms to gather information as you answer questions your clients want to know, as seen here:
4. Promote Events & Your Community
Are you hosting or attending an event, even a virtual one? Share it. 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.
You don’t have to limit yourself to professional or work-related events. Engage your customers in meaningful conversation about things they may be passionate about.
- Promote your local community or cause you support.
- Share stories about your community pulling together.
- Post a picture from your favorite restaurant or a local boutique.
The opportunities are endless!
5. Ask for Testimonials
Talking with a customer about their experience working with you and your business is another way to get a conversation going.
While you may have a lot of positive customer interactions, it’s no good if people can’t find them or read them. It’s hard to think of a better recommendation than photographic or video evidence of satisfied customers raving about how much they enjoyed working with you.
When you have content like this, share it. Consider asking followers to tag one or a friend or family member who would benefit from your products and services.
6. Discuss DIY Projects
These days, it seems like everyone is taking up some kind of do-it-yourself hobby, from cooking to crafting to home improvement. If you’re proud of a DIY project you’ve put together or you come across helpful DIY suggestions online, share it with your network. Bonus points if it’s something kids can participate in with their parents.
Ideally you’d want to keep these as relevant to your industry as possible, but it’s fine to share the occasional out-of-left-field article or update even if it has nothing to do with your business. If it’s something you’d be interested to hear about or see on your social feed, the same is probably true of your clients.
To actively engage your customers in meaningful conversation, ask them to share their DIY projects. People love to show off their accomplishments!
Bonus Content: Leads can turn into long-term repeat customers. Grab a copy of our free guide about turning leads into loyal customers.
7. Share Inspirational Quotes
Inspiring and thought-provoking quotes can engage your customers in meaningful conversation. They’re also easy to share across multiple platforms. Accompanying these quotes with an image helps them translate well to visual platforms like Instagram. If you have the time and resources, consider creating your own custom images that include subtle branding.
To ensure your quote generates conversation, try to follow it with a question or thoughts of your own. We probably all have a favorite inspirational quote or a favorite author. Share it with your network and ask your followers to do the same. An enlightening and interesting discussion may come out of that thread. Maybe you even start a book club!
Keep the conversations going
If you want your business to succeed over the long term, you have to be willing to engage your customers in meaningful conversation 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. As a result of customers believing in you, they’re much more likely to recommend your products and services.
In conclusion, an authentic relationship building takes effort. If you need help creating and sustaining 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. Your network is a powerful resource for your business — be sure you’re taking advantage of all it has to offer