Anyone alive in the 90s remembers the famous tagline ‘connecting people’. True then – truer now; we are more mobile and more connected than ever before – spending more time socialising online and via our phones than we do in ‘real life’. As humans we crave the connection – for the most part we like to feel part of a group.

That’s partly why social media is so incredibly popular – it lowers the threshold to share and socialise, and makes it easy and less daunting to do so. At the same time we like being noticed and we like interaction – this is part of the reason why even multimillion global companies like Starbucks tell their staff to connect with each customer. The reasoning is – personal connections are valuable.

Independent merchants should leverage this. They have the advantage of a more manageable size and a flatter business structure, meaning they can spend an extra minute forming a meaningful connection with every single customer. Many indy stores have a fairly loyal customer base – connecting with them is the plug in the bucket. Make a connection and keep that alive to keep them coming back. Big brands rarely have the opportunity to do this. The brands have become bigger than the individuals working there and this in turn makes it hard for staff and customers to connect. A high number of staff on an unpredictable rotational means you rarely see the same people there, leading many customers to auto-respond ‘I’m only browsing’.

With smaller sized shops and fewer staff, there is great opportunity to connect with your customers, especially the regular ones. You may be doing this already as a natural result of seeing the same faces again and again – keep doing it. Get your staff to do it too. The extra minute you spend with a customer is likely to earn you a recommendation. That’s the best kind of marketing there is; it’s organic, positive word-of-mouth. By creating a social media presence you give these recommendations a target – and with the majority of us researching places online before we visit, this is well worth the (minimal) effort.

It can also give you great content to market your business. You might get a happy customer tweeting to you, or receive a nice comment on your Facebook page. It will also be a great way of getting customer feedback. Get people involved with your brand online and ask them to contribute. People love sharing their opinion and helping – and the threshold for doing so online is infinitely lower than face-to-face. It is also more convenient for the customer – we can all agree that we don’t mind helping a business we like, but in the morning or weekend rush it is a little bit inconvenient and any additional questions are likely to irritate more than instigate a proper response.

Give your brand social value for your customers and create that connection to plug the hole in the bucket.

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