smb-tech-trendsAre your small business holiday greeting cards in the mail or about to be?  Are the gifts you’re sending to customers on their way? The holidays provide a good opportunity to let customers know you appreciate their business. But connecting with customers shouldn’t be reserved just for the holiday season. Successful businesses keep a strong customer connection going throughout the year.

Making the connection with customers is an investment. It requires more than updating social media channels with posts about your products and services and the occasional humorous Meme to encourage “likes” and “shares.” Connecting with customers is essentially about engaging in a way that benefits them as well as your small business. Here are some of my suggestions to get in touch and stay connected with customers in the New Year:

Be a matchmaker: You can do your customers a great service by introducing them to prospective customers; potential investors; vendors; industry influencers, such as industry analysts or bloggers; and even job candidates. You show your industry clout when you match make and also convey that you want your customers to succeed.

Be an educator: Your small business customers no doubt are as busy as you are. They may not have time to keep up with all the industry issues and trends that impact their business. In addition to any educational content you create for marketing – white papers, opinion pieces and customer case studies – invite customers to industry events you plan to attend, email an article you think would be of interest or give them a heads up on a webinar you think would be useful (in addition to any you provide.)

two businessmen having a meetingBe a good listener: It’s not always easy to know exactly what is at the heart of your customer’s problem or challenge. Ask questions to help customers open up and then listen so you can offer the best advice.

Be a partner: Partnering with customers means helping them meet their goals of which your products or services may be just part of the solution. Sometimes you may need to go the distance to help a client by working overtime on the house to meet a deadline or seeking a new supplier to fill a special order.

Be accountable: Accountability means everyone in your organization should be responsible for making sure that your customers have the best experience possible dealing with your small business. If something goes wrong; take ownership and set things right.

Be available: Make it easy for customers to each you by using the latest mobile devices so you’re available anywhere anytime. If your customers aren’t sure which number to use to call you — mobile, desk or even home phone — when they have an urgent request, Find Me/Follow Me technology can help. It lets you choose one number to give out – it can even be a virtual number.  When someone dials that number, the IP telephony system routes the calls to numbers you have selected at the same time or sequentially. .

In addition to these recommendations, it helps to be thoughtful by sending a card – snail or electronic – for a special occasion in addition to the holidays or spending social time with customers.

What suggestions do you have for building strong connections with customers?