Do you remember when “Mom and Pop” shops were your only option for stocking the shelves at home?
Every shop owner knew your name, knew what items you preferred, and let you put everything on a tab that could be paid off at the end of the month (on pain of shotgunned kneecaps).
Obviously, being only 25 years old (plus a little bit), I don’t remember those days. But I’m assured by people who DO remember that they were awesome (although I’m not sure why some guy knowing exactly how much vodka you consume per week is a good thing).
Then the Internet came along and ruined everything!
Instead of a choice of six local shops, everyone has the option of buying from EVERY shop ANYWHERE in the world. And some of those shops are run by gangsters who steal your credit card numbers, making all of us paranoid.
And instead of handing over your payment to a friendly shopkeeper, you have to deal with annoyingly-long order forms, and are forced to read even longer pages of terms and conditions.
Once upon a time the consumer experience was a friendly, personable pastime. Now it’s a soulless, computerized experience that is incapable of building customer relationships and useless for engendering customer loyalty.
Or is it?
Yes, of course it is!
Yes, but is the Internet REALLY to blame?
Yes! Didn’t you just read the last few paragraphs?
Yes, but is the answer more nuanced than that? And why are you getting angry at your own internal monologue?They’re your thoughts, not mine.
Okay smart-ass, go ahead and make your point.
Friendly Consumerism Was Already Broken
Long before the Internet became our shopping venue of choice, department stores and large supermarket chains began squeezing out smaller businesses. What we gained in variety and cost savings (maybe), we lost in the personal touch that small store owners provided.
Warm relationships between business owners and consumers continued to exist in some industries, but for the most part this concept was dying long before everything went digital.
The Internet, then, is not the front-runner in consumer de-personalization, merely the one that picked up and continued to run with the torch.
How much has really been lost by the destruction of small businesses is an anthropological debate of dubious worth, but as a business owner trying to make it in a competitive marketplace, this adjustment in business/customer interaction is VERY important.
It used to be that a small business had an advantage over corporate juggernauts because it could offer a personal touch. But if the Internet is making every business look… kinda similar… those gains disappear.
If it feels like the trust, loyalty, and goodwill of your customers is something that is dying in your business – or never actually existed – this homogenization of online commerce is likely one of the chief culprits.
So… erm… that sucks.
How to Get Your Customers’ Trust Back
To co-opt a Homer Simpson quote, the Internet is the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.
The same venue that makes personal, customer interaction problematic, also offers a host of ways to deepen customer relationships.
And it is technology, ironically enough, that is lighting the way.
The low-cost of creating and hosting video means that BRANDING is easier than ever. If you want your company to have an attractive personality, go ahead and create one.
Giving VALUE to your customers is also far more accessible given the low-cost of digital distribution. Create an amazing white paper or “how to” guide and it doesn’t matter if you have 10 customers or 1,000 customers, the costs are negligible.
But the really exciting opportunities exist in the technology that allows you to interact DIRECTLY with your customers.
A customer support ticket system, a live chat facility, or a rapid response social media venue shouldn’t be viewed as a necessary evil. These things are OPPORTUNITIES to get to know your customers and learn about their wants and needs.
Our customers don’t tend to remember a problem-free consumer experience. But if something goes wrong and you go above and beyond to resolve the problem and leave your customer better than whole…
That’s how you end up with a customer for LIFE who tells their happy story to everyone who will listen.
Don’t offer the bare minimum customer support that you can get away with because you feel you have to. Offer outrageously friendly and comprehensive customer support (that is relevant to your customer demographic) because THAT’S how you start to build trust with your customers again.
But branding, extraordinary value, and amazing customer support are only the foundations of a strong customer relationship. If you REALLY want to gain the trust of your customers, you should be hosting webinars.
And not just ANY webinars…
Webinars featuring technology that allows for DIRECT interaction between business and consumer.
Webinars With An Attendee Spotlight
Webinars are, without question, the gold standard when it comes to building customer relationship.
Even video, for all its immersive, attention-grabbing power, cannot match the influence generated by hosting a live presentation in front of an audience consisting of customers and prospects.
Despite that fact that your individual audience members cannot see the other viewers, the evidence of their existence creates an atmosphere of positivity and a frisson of excitement that cannot be achieved by any other online marketing tool.
Simply telling your audience that they are one of 20, 40, 100… 1000 viewers activates the power of social proof and helps every individual viewer feel that they are in good company.
It’s as if your viewers are saying to themselves:
“I’m here because I think this webinar might be useful and because I think this business owner might be able to help me. The fact that there are dozens (or hundreds, or thousands) of others who also feel the same way, and are also watching this webinar, right now, convinces me that I’m on the right track!”
NOW you’re generating some serious customer trust. Trust that turns to loyalty. Loyalty that turns customers into advocates for your business.
The snowball is rolling down the hill. And you’re only just getting started.
You throw into your webinar presentation a customer survey and ask for your audience’s opinions. You read out the results, live, and now your viewers recognize that they’re not alone with their views, concerns, and problems.
Then you ask for questions or comments on your presentation and encourage your viewers to type messages into the “Live Chat” window.
Your viewers are no longer watching alone. They’re part of a community that is interested in what you have to say because it’s fun, it’s exciting, and it speaks to their needs, interests or concerns.
And then you roll out the big guns…
You invite your audience to take part in a live, unrehearsed Question & Answer session, and you ask for volunteers.
Jeffrey from Omaha is the first to respond, so you activate the ATTENDEE SPOTLIGHT feature and he receives a message on his computer inviting him to activate his webcam and microphone.
Jeffrey accepts the invite and your webinar splits in two – you on one side and Jeffrey on the other. You communicate in real-time and your entire audience gets to enjoy your spontaneous interaction.
Remember the days when shop owner and customer knew each and talked face-to-face? I still don’t but it can’t be too far removed from the experience that this technology provides.
And this isn’t science-fiction, or what we look forward to in future tech. The webinar technology I’m talking about EXISTS, right now (see the end of this article), to allow for any webinar audience member to join the conversation, without any prior setup required.
You can use the Attendee Spotlight feature in a variety of different ways, from inviting customers to share live testimonials or case studies, to providing one-on-one assistance for troubleshooting, to simply increasing customer interaction for the fun of it.
Until the Internet launches Star Trek-style teleporters, we can’t turn online interaction into real-life interaction. But technology is getting us so close that the walls are now paper-thin.
Don’t allow any introversion to prevent you from cultivating an honest, real-life relationship with your customers. Earning the trust of your audience is how you develop strong, long-lasting customer loyalty. Something that is the very bedrock of a healthy, profitable, growing business.
That means turning on your webcam, inviting your audience to join you on an informative and valuable webinar, and using the opportunity to win your customers’ trust.
Instant surveys and live chat are a staple of many webinar hosts. But the Attendee Spotlight feature, one that allows you to bring a viewer into the video and audio stream WITHOUT any prior setup, is a little harder to come by, but is included in WebinarJam.
Watch the video below to find out how you can get your hands on this brand-new feature: