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Customers are the lifeblood of any company, and customer engagement is essential in building a brand. However, many companies fail in the area of customer engagement. They may take steps in the engagement direction by setting up social media profiles or starting a blog, but when it comes to really making the connection, they still fall short – and face it, making that connection takes time and energy, something that is usually in short supply among many business owners and managers. It is necessary, though, if you want your brand to grow and your business to thrive, so these tips will help you reach out and engage the customers – thus building your brand.

On Your Website

Your website is often the first experience your customer has with your company. If you approached your website as a customer, how would you see it? Engagement begins with the first contact – whatever that is. Because it is often the website, you need to make your site as welcoming as possible.

Include real person interaction throughout the customer experience. Yes, autoresponders are great, but your customers want (and deserve) to hear from a live human being, at least at certain points of the customer experience.

Ask for suggestions and opinions. Asking your customers for feedback not only lets them know that you value their opinion, it also gives you great insight into what they want and need.

Link to everything. Make sure that you have links to your blog and social media profiles visible on your website. Make it easy for your customers to connect with you.

On Your Blog

Your blog can become a powerful engagement tool if you build it right. If you are serious about making connections, building your brand, and establishing yourself as an authority, then your blog is a must have.

Provide content your customers can use. Give your readers (potential or existing customers) content that they can use. When it is good–really good–they will share it. When they share it, it reaches other potential customers.

Respond to reader comments. When a reader comments on your blog, make sure that you comment. Thank them for taking the time to visit your blog and for commenting. Engage in conversations, listen, respond.

Add content on a regular basis. Good blogs that effectively engage customers and build connections have posts that are added regularly. You don’t have to write long posts three or four days a week; you can re-blog a great post from another blogger, share an awesome article or picture, or post a review or description of one of your products or services.

On Social Media

More and more companies are turning to social media to connect with their customers – and with good reason. Social media is, well, social. People go there to engage with others–to connect–so it is only natural that they would connect with your brand.

Be available! Many companies have social media pages, but often they are not monitored. This means that one of the best ways to connect with customers is being ignored. Put someone on your social media profiles and encourage them to engage with customers, make regular posts, and answer private messages.

Make conversations two-way. Conversations are not a one-way street (or they shouldn’t be, anyway). Make your responses to questions and comments open-ended and encourage customers to ask questions or add comments of their own.

Ask questions, conduct polls, hold contests. Do things that will get your customers talking about you, visiting your profiles, and sharing your profile with others.

On the Home Front

Customer engagement starts with you and your employees. Before you can engage with your customers on any other front, you have to connect with them at the core of your business.

Engaged employees = engaged customers. Get your employees engaged and they will, in turn, engage your customers. Teach them how to connect with customers and show them your value.

Encourage employees to take ownership of their jobs. When your employees are empowered, they take ownership of their positions and treat the business as their own. When the company becomes theirs, they want to give customers a great experience because they want the business to succeed.

Create customer friendly company policies. There are many different policies you can create that are customer friendly. Empower employees to take extraordinary measures to make customers happy, or give employees the power to extend discounts. Establish a company culture that is customer centered.

There are so many ways to connect with customers. Get your employees involved and ask for their ideas. You can also find unique ways to connect based on the nature of your business. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box!