“Many businesses now face great difficulties in connecting with buyers and building rapport virtually. Notwithstanding, it is possible to create meaningful online relationships with customers such that rapport is established and success is achieved. “
Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, businesses and sellers had built relationships through physical means, including sporting events, conferences, happy hours, among others. Let’s face reality! Networking is now online. Many businesses now face great difficulties in connecting with buyers and building rapport virtually. It is not uncommon to hear sellers complain heavily about their challenges in making a positive first impression without the usual face-to-face interaction or meetings.
Building and maintaining a strong and solid relationship with your customers or clients is important to your business’s success. According to the Market Research Society, to demonstrate that you care about your clients, your goal as a business is to understand them rather than expecting them to understand you. This is an integral part of success.
Creating a solid online connection that builds rapport goes beyond creating a functional website, making posts on social media pages, and sending newsletters. Beyond these, your customers or clients want businesses that consider them as only a money plug and as valuable partners and friends with mutual benefits.
The fact that people equally want to relate with businesses that they know, like, and trust makes a connection with people on a human level over the internet difficult. Notwithstanding, it is possible to create meaningful online relationships with customers to establish rapport and success. Here are some tips to help you achieve that.
1. Create an online networking plan
Being strategic is one of the resources that make a business outwit its competitors. Now that you’ve dedicated some time to online networking, it is important that you create a plan that leads you through the process. Consider the reason you want to network. This might be to find prospects, build relationships with existing contacts, or develop internal and external relationships.
Then work out the number of contacts you need to achieve your networking goal. Some of these contacts maybe your business partners, friends, and introducers. They serve as your marketing route. Also, establish how much of your time and effort you should devote to each networking goal. Set a deadline for the achievement.
A networking plan, of course, can be reviewed from time to time.
2. Be genuine and authentic
In their undying bid to enjoy a large fanbase and, sometimes, financial benefits, many businesses often create a totally different persona online. In other words, they try to be something they’re not. As a business, examine your claims – what you say you are, then align them with your conduct. Do they have any congruence? Do you only talk without walking the talk?
Consider yourself as a client or customer. What is your basis for evaluating a business online? Credibility, right? I guessed right!
Being genuine or authentic is one of the qualities that generate rapport with prospects and customers. Consumers are now well-informed such that they seek basic data points to authenticate the legitimacy of any business. To this end, people respond to and engage with transparent businesses in their dealings and accessible.
Genuineness or authenticity starts with using your real business name with specific contact information rather than a generic one. Use your real business logo – not just an anonymous icon. Also, personalize your online bios. This might be with compelling stories or interesting details. All these apply to your website as well as social media pages.
3. Be responsive and interested
Why would you give people a way to reach you when you do not intend to respond to them? This could be through any means – phone, email, or social media pages. Despite setting up an auto-notification responder to acknowledge receipt of inquiries, some businesses failed to do a follow-up. This simple act has made them blow a series of opportunities to win loyal customers. Worst still is a business that fails to acknowledge its clients’ messages, whether trying to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
Customers and clients want to associate with businesses that afford them a great platform to express their thoughts, desires, fears, and challenges and get them addressed. In short, they want to feel heard. By showing genuine willingness to listen to them, you are simply telling them that you care so much about them.
While responding to them, make sure your responses are prompt, engaging, and helpful. Also, do not sound robotic. Speak naturally and in response to the client based on their peculiarity. Remember, you are not a chatbot that responds based on preprogrammed conversation. When you respond based on a script, you tend to sound apathetic, and the client might be quick to know this, thus losing trust in your ability as a business to address their concerns.
4. Engage in active discussions
People want to associate themselves with businesses that share their interests. As a business, it is your responsibility to uncover a similarity that your business ideals have with your audience’s beliefs and interests. The more you can unravel this, the higher your chance of building rapport.
One of the best ways to create rapport in face-to-face meetings is by initiating group discussions. Despite the significant number of internet users, it is often challenging to engage people to stay active, engage in discussions, as well as express their opinions in the form of comments. Once you know where your audience hangs out the most, it is left for you to create a topic that is of great interest to them.
Prior to this, you need to get to know your audience better for active engagement. There is a reason social networking is regarded as “social.” Through these discussions, you get to know more about the people you are interacting with. The same thing applies to the online world of networking. Take LinkedIn groups, for instance; they help you connect with people who are also interested in a specific topic.
5. Respect users’ privacy
The fact that almost every business activity is now conducted online makes vulnerability a great concern to internet users. They may have to give their personal information to register on a site or complete their payment. In other words, users are now more interested in their online privacy. Thus, they may be unwilling to give out personal information.
However, you can be proactive in preventing this unwillingness by highlighting how you intend to protect their personal information and keep their data private and secure. This also includes how you will use and not use their details. This is one of the elements that constitute privacy policies, usually found on business websites. Each piece of information should be expressed in clear terms and plain language.
You may also have to include contact information for inquiries or questions.
6. Reveal your behind-the-scenes activities
Yes! You don’t have to build your business based on anonymity. What are the activities that occur without public knowledge? Who are those that call the shots in your business, especially in terms of marketing or general operations? You need trust to build rapport, and people only trust businesses that are transparent with them. When your clients feel that you are not holding back any part of your activities, it adds to their confirmation of your candor.
Sharing success stories, for instance, is one of the key points of a strong customer relationship. This is one of the details your loyal customers will value. Apart from stories, you can also employ simple quotes about the working details of your business. Reveal the challenges you face. This shows the human aspect of your business, thus increasing relatability.
7. Build social proofs
Apart from the fact that you have succeeded in establishing your business as genuine online, it would help if you also got others to speak about your business on your behalf. This is regarded as building social proofs. It is easy to be considered self-centered, especially when you only focus on talking about yourself, that is, your business. You can build credibility that leads to rapport through the following elements:
- Testimonials: Customer testimonials are the commonest type of social proof used by businesses online. Your customers are also good sources for trustworthiness. It is common to see some websites leave their customers an opportunity to review their products or services, expressing their satisfaction and dissatisfaction. As a business, you can also follow suit and integrate a form for customers to leave their reviews and testimonials. This could be done using LinkedIn, trade publications, etc.
- Social mentions: It is common for people to comment on your posts on social media based on their relationship with your business. The reality is that every comment will not go down well with you. However, the most important thing is how you respond to them. Of course, negative social mentions give you the opportunity to address certain concerns. As much as you use social mentions, give utmost attention to them.
All these tips are critical to rapport building, which translates into customer loyalty and business success.