(Family Features) Are personal relationships why most consumers frequent small businesses? From the mom and pop coffee shop to the small bookstore just down the street, people enjoy the personal interactions and convenience small businesses offer.
In a recent survey about interactions between consumers and small businesses from Web.com, more than eight out of ten consumers said it's important that a small business is customer-focused and provides personal, face-to-face interaction with its customers. Respondents also wanted a small business to be local, convenient and reliable.
Grow online: To account for consumers' desire for personal relationships, small businesses should have a big presence on the Internet, but only 41 percent of small businesses surveyed even had a website. Those without a website said they didn't see the need for one, or the cost of designing and maintaining a site was a barrier. On the other hand, 83 percent of consumers who responded said having a website and use of social media is important to their consideration and choice of a small business.
"Small businesses have historically relied on face-to-face relationships to grow and differentiate themselves, but today's consumers are demanding that these relationships extend into 'e-Main Street'," says David Brown, president, chairman and CEO of Web.com. "Our survey found a significant disconnect between how small businesses decision-makers think they are delivering on customers' expectations versus the reality of consumers' perceptions. The good news is small businesses are starting to realize the web's untapped potential to reach consumers who are eager for online engagement."
Stay in touch: Everyone knows how important it is to stay in touch with friends. If you're a small business owner, don't forget to stay in touch with your customers so they won't forget about you. Use social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, along with email to notify your customers about special promotions or to just remind them about the great benefits you offer.
While it's easy to blast an email to every customer or post an endless stream of cute pictures on Facebook, it's important to not overwhelm or annoy them with too much of a good thing. Keep your messages consistent, concise and professional.
If you're not sure how to get started, the Internet offers a lot of resources about how to successfully set up your online presence and use Google, Facebook and Twitter to market and grow your business online. You can also find information online at www.Web.com.
Provide personal service: Set your business apart by giving every customer the personal interaction and convenience they crave. Simply asking customers about their purchases or how you can serve them better gives you a consistent stream of information you can use to refine your goods or services and increase sales. Make sure every employee understands the value in talking to customers and tracking feedback.
The bottom line for every small business is that consumers are demanding online interaction and involvement with businesses, both big and small. Consistently reaching out to your customers through a website, social media and face-to-face interactions will help your business thrive.
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