If there’s one fundamental thing every small business owner needs to grasp about marketing it’s this: marketing a company, product or service is not a “one-way only” activity, it’s a two-way conversation. The digital media have not only expanded the reach of small businesses so we can share our marketing messages more prolifically, they’ve also given our customers a way to share experiences – good and bad – with us and with prospective customers.

Embracing the element of open dialogue in marketing efforts is essential. Customers expect that we’ll do more than push the virtues of our features and benefits down their throats. They expect to build relationships with brands – and that’s especially true when it comes to small, local businesses. Fail to make a connection with your customers and prospective customers, and you will put your business at a distinct disadvantage.

Luckily, there are some really simple ways for small businesses to form bonds and grow goodwill just by paying a little more attention to our online points of presence.

Just respond!

When someone comments on your Facebook status updates, retweets your tweets or shares anything that you’ve posted or pinned, don’t let it go unacknowledged.  Be sure to reply by thanking them or adding further comment to their observations. They don’t call it “social” media for nothing! It’s really not a bad thing to have the last word when you’re showing interest in what your followers have to say. Put yourself in their shoes; how does it make you feel when you’ve made a well-thought comment on someone’s blog post or social media share and the recipient makes no acknowledgement  or reply?

Listen and be a resource.

Don’t just pimp your wares on social media - or when networking in person for that matter. Listen to the problems and challenges your connections are facing and show your understanding and the value that you bring by posting or emailing links to helpful articles that give more insight into the issues and solutions. Build up your repertoire of quality blog subscriptions in your Google Reader, or bookmark sites relevant to your industry and audience so you always have a plentiful supply of content to share. Devoting time and attention to that cause will go far in building trust and loyalty.

Be proactive in showing support of other small businesses.

Another way to shine online is to demonstrate your support of other local small businesses and community groups by taking the initiative to interact with them on social media. “Like” their Facebook pages, follow them on Twitter, connect with them on LinkedIn. And then regularly like and comment on their posts or retweet their tweets when appropriate for your audience. Not only will you give your ranking on the goodwill meter a boost, but you’ll also indirectly introduce your brand to the other businesses’ fans, followers and connections as well. In today’s competitive, marketing environment, it’s two-way communications or the highway. The more you show your reciprocal side, the more you’ll establish a brand reputation that’s customer-focused, community-centric and credible.

About the Author(s)

Dawn Mentzer

Dawn is a marketing and public relations freelance writer, editor and proofreader. Her passion and finely balanced left /right brain ratio helps businesses convey the unique value they deliver.  She serves as VP of Marketing for the Lancaster, PA chapter of SCORE.

Freelance Writer, The Insatiable Solopreneur Blog
Marketing Mindset