Gone are the days when business relationships were solely face-to-face. Building valuable business relationships online is a new field leaving companies looking for ways to do this effectively. The solutions are simple yet complex. Simple in that there are many avenues to reach your customer but complex in understanding your customers’ needs and catering to them.
There are 9 ways to build valuable business relationships online. Firstly, know your customer. Then, perfect your website, be present on social media, engage, create content, respond, deal with complaints, treat customers with respect, and reward and acknowledge customers.
Finding the ‘sweet spot’ is commonly used in business communication. It refers to finding the ideal place where your business offer aligns with your customers’ wants and needs. As with any relationship, communication is more effective if you know what drives the person you are talking to.
This may be a challenge, but it is surmountable. Understanding the basics is a perfect place to start.
Building Business Relationships Online: A Step-by-Step Guide
Building valuable online customer relationships can be accomplished in 9 ways, with each step building upon the previous step.
Each of these is centered around the customer. Taking what is important to the customer and finding a way for your business to use this to build valuable customer relationships via online platforms.
1. The Key to Valuable Relationships is Knowing Your Customer
63% of customers expect businesses to know their needs. This figure is as high as 76% of Business-to-Business customers.
There are multiple ways to find out more about your customers. The more your business prioritizes this, the easier it will be to build successful relationships online. The most effective way to learn about your customer is to listen to what they have to say. You can do this by:
Armed with customer knowledge, you can form a customer-centered online relationship-building strategy that checks all the boxes to build strong and valuable relationships.
2. Invest in Your Website
As many as 81% of customers visit a business’ website before making a purchase. A website is often the 1st port of call for customers wanting to shop and is often the 1st interaction a customer has with your business.
As the foundational building block towards growing valuable business relationships, providing an easy-to-use, informative website must take priority. A website that doesn’t work well will limit the opportunity of building an effective online relationship with customers.
To have a positive impact on building relationships, your website must deliver on the following criteria:
3. Create a Social Media Presence
Recent statistics show that people spend, on average, 2 and a half hours on social media daily. This provides ample opportunity to talk to customers and build relationships.
Facebook leads the way as the favored social media platform; 58 minutes of social media users’ time is spent on Facebook. Suppose your business does not have a presence on Facebook. You will miss out on a great opportunity to connect with customers and build relationships.
The challenging aspect of social media platforms is that they must be ‘always on.’ Nothing frustrates customers more than requesting information or wanting to chat and your business isn’t present. Your social media pages must be informative, interactive, and not cluttered with irrelevant information. Social media platforms that are effective options for interaction are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest, Blogging, Website, and Podcasts.
4. Create Relevant Content
Whatever you say must add value to your customers. Look for ways to and come back for more.
5. Engage with Customers on Social Media
Find ways to stimulate communication by creating opportunities for customers to connect with you. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram lend themselves to communication. Be present in all conversations; if the conversations move off-topic, you can redirect the topic to your original intent.
Here is a fantastic example from Fast that engages their consumers and promotes their brand to potential clients.
You can also engage with your customers by practicing these:
A Kantar Media study in 2020 found that 93% of customers trust the opinions of friends and family. Encourage customers to talk about you online. Connect with closed social media groups that discuss topics specifically related to your business and use the platform to assist and delight group members.
A recent study by Khoros.com revealed that 79% of customers found it helpful to participate in online chats, and 75% found value in engaging with a brand in an online community. This insight points to an even greater case for engaging with customers on social media and using this platform to form valuable business relationships.
6. Respond Promptly
On average, customers are prepared to wait 24 hours for a response, but most would like a response within 60 minutes. Have a team to respond to queries constructively and act where necessary. Give customers feedback about the actions you are taking. Be honest, and don’t over-promise and under-deliver.
Here's an example from Apple Support Twitter account, created just for responding to inquiries from customers and communicating product support issues and resolutions.
Take the time to fully understand what your customer is asking and the type of information they require. If necessary, interact with the customer and clarify their question. Doing this creates a valuable point of contact and shows your willingness to listen and respond.
One way to give your brand the upper hand is to respond promptly to customer complaints online. 79% of customers say their complaints are ignored. Engaging with customers and solving complaints immediately gives your company the edge and creates an opportunity to forge a business relationship.
7. Deal with Customer Complaints
Interestingly, suppose you deal promptly with a customer complaint online. In that case, the chances of converting the customer to a fan are excellent.
A good case for creating valuable relationships is encouraging customers to relay their complaints to you. Only 1 in 26 customers complain. The rest leave. Growing valuable relationships is about learning, and learning requires understanding. If, as a business, you get to know about bad experiences, you can provide solutions and retain customers.
8. Treat Customers with Respect
A staggering 70% of customers define their decision to purchase based on how they are treated. Pay attention to the tone you use when dealing with difficult customers online. Refrain from being irritated and annoyed even if the customer is in the wrong. Be understanding and respectful; you automatically create a rapport with customers.
Jeff Bezos, former president and CEO of Amazon, refers to customers as guests invited to a party, with the business being the hosts.
9. Reward and Acknowledge Customers
Customers love being acknowledged. The online activity provides multiple opportunities to acknowledge and reward customers:
Online has replaced face-to-face relationship building. There are effective ways to build valuable business relationships online.
Before you start, get to know your customers and then focus on your website, create a social media presence, engage, generate valuable content, respond promptly, deal with customer complaints, treat customers with respect, and reward and acknowledge customers.