Become a Go-To Customer Resource to Increase Sales

by Rachel Hartman on February 24, 2014
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Want to attract more customers? It may be time to scale back on promotions and take a hard look at what you’re providing potential clients.

“Success in today’s economy means creating relationships that last through the good and the tough times,” says Kevin Canning, president of PearlsOfJoy.com, an online jewelry retailer.

Those relationships often begin when you support consumers by providing your expert advice. This encourages people to seek out your company when it’s time to make a purchase.

Here are four tips for becoming a valuable, relevant resource for potential customers.

1. Foster community. PearlsOfJoy.com created a message board called Pearl-Guide to allow consumers and experts to discuss everything related to pearls. “The goal was to remove the secretive veil that was over the pearl industry and help educate consumers,” he explains.

Today, experts from all facets of the industry — retailers, farmers, consumers, and importers — contribute to the message board. To help ensure customers receive honest, unbiased information, the company maintains a strict policy against advertising of any kind in the forum, he says.

This setup benefits both consumers and the company. “About 50 percent of our business comes from Pearl-Guide members,” Canning says.

2. Answer people’s questions. Consider offering a free consultation to prospective customers, suggests Jordan Fried, a blogger and online marketing consultant. During the session, you can assess the customer’s needs and provide helpful advice for the particular situation.

To reach a large group, consider speaking at a community event, offering a webinar, or holding a Twitter chat. Tout the topic(s) you plan to cover, and answer every question that comes your way. In return, ask people to join your mailing list.

“You’ll find that prospective leads convert at a much higher rate when they’ve learned just how much of an authority you are in your niche,” Fried says.

3. Provide useful materials. If you find customers asking you the same question time and again, address it in a document. Then let others download it from your website for free.

Another way to offer takeaway advice: Set up a blog where you share your knowledge with others. Label your posts by category, so that visitors can easily find information on a particular subject.

As you add content to your blog and make it readily available, you’ll likely find that others seek you out, rather than the other way around. Furthermore, “Shoppers are very savvy these days and always research companies before they purchase,” notes Canning.

If potential customers view you as authority in your industry, they’ll be more likely to trust your advice, as well as your products and services. This, in turn, can make them turn to you, rather than a competitor that shares less information, when it’s time to make a purchase.

4. Let existing customers draw new clients. “Because we’ve been completely transparent with our [forum] members and never solicited to them, they often promote us as a good, honest retailer,” Canning notes.

When people visit PearlsOfJoy.com, they also may spot glowing customer testimonials for the company, which often leads them to make a purchase. “Word-of-mouth recommendations is the big reward for us.”

Rachel Hartman is a writer who frequently covers topics related to small businesses. Her work has appeared in The Costco Connection, Wells Fargo Conversations, Pizza Today, Bankrate.com, InsuranceQuotes.com, CreditCardGuide.com, and many other outlets.

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