How to Build a Profitable Online Relationship with Customers:…

It takes at least 7 visits to your website before someone purchases something from it.

In support, comScore Networks V.P. John Miniati said at this year’s IR Conference, “People don’t always convert in the same web session when searching.” Their study found that only 17% of search-initiated sales (mostly movie tickets and flowers) occurred during the same web session. 20% occurred in later online sessions and 63% in latent offline purchases.
John Miniati, vice president, comScore Networks Inc.

Now even though I am a high-end web user, my own personal experience confirms this. At the moment I am looking at buying an information product, online. It costs US$997.

The person who wrote it is renowned for being a guru in his space. On his website there are near 100 testimonials extolling the product’s virtues and value. But, I still haven’t purchased it. These are some of the things I have done:

• I have googled his name, visited his website and looked over the materials at least 3 separate times.
• I have read reviews about the product on others’ websites.
• I have looked through affiliate sites and read tips on the product by those who are currently using it.
• I have researched the supporters’ websites to confirm their authenticity and see how their business is performing as a result of applying this product’s instructions.

I guess I want to get as much information and ensure this is the right product for me, before I purchase. At the end of the day I am going to have to take that leap of faith and just try the product. There is a money back guarantee but I am very skeptical about those kinds of things.

The concept I want to show you is that you need a lot more than just information and a ‘buy now’ button to persuade customers to transact on your website.

You need every single piece of evidence to build credibility about you and your product/s. This information is partly what will convince customers to buy from your website.

The other factors are a) a decent product, and b) potentially the most important element – a genuine relationship with your customer.

A relationship is defined as: – “A connection, association, or involvement.

In order to start the relationship we need to get a connection, association or involvement with this other person. In everyday, a business relationship is built on the following milestones.

First Contact – By accident or design you meet, exchange contact details and a first meeting is set up. The relationship has the ingredients (contact details) to begin. The communication using these contact details is the basis upon which the relationship can be formed. Interactions follow, which build and grow this relationship.

First Meeting – Following from the exchange of details you meet and get to know each other further. At this point you haven’t yet worked together but feel it may be possible, so a proposal is requested – the relationship is new and fragile.

Proposal written and received – At proposal stage you receive pricing estimates, detailed solutions and can begin to place some sort of value on the relationship; its future costs and benefits. If the proposal is pursued, the relationship becomes an “involvement”.

If the proposal is not accepted, efforts can still be made to build the connection or association. For example, if a supplier and ourselves were to partner up and pitch for a particular piece of business, to the person receiving the pitch we would be associated with each other. This association is only in infant stage as it hasn’t yet been tested although it still exists.

On the other hand, if I were to simply meet this supplier at a networking event and introduce him to a third-party, our relationship at this point would be described as a “connection”.

How do I replicate these face-to-face contact experiences online?

The above example is a very physical way of explaining relationship building although the same principles apply online.

First Contact – You might search, receive an email, click on a banner ad or hear from someone else about a particular website. The key thing here is that you have the contact details of the domain name. Hopefully on the website you can get more contact details to extend the communication to other mediums like telephone, mail or face to face.

First Meeting – A visit to a company’s website is your first meeting. Just like when I first went to the information product’s website for the first time. I met the company for the first time and I scoured through their website.

However, this is where ‘real-life’ and ‘virtual-life’ differ. Although we are having a ‘meeting’, I have yet to introduce myself to the online company. At this moment I – as the consumer – have the company’s details, but they don’t have mine. Only 1 way communication is possible.

The only way they can follow-up and take me to the ‘proposal stage’ is by capturing my (the consumer’s) contact details. In order to foster the relationship they need some way of contacting me and continuing the conversation.

As an online company, what can you offer to get those contact details?

A FREE enewsletter – If people opt-in to your newsletter signup they are interested in what you have to say. Sure, some competitors might opt-in but in general, anyone who opts-in will be very interested to hear and read about what you have to say.

A FREE eBook – Wrap up all that initial information you would normally give a prospective client in a first meeting into an ebook. An ebook has 1 rule, “It must contain high quality information or you will lose ALL credibility with your subscriber.” These ebooks do take some time to prepare although they are a master capture device for contact details once you get it them and running.

FREE articles related to your product or service – You are an expert in your space, and as a prospective customer I want to hear what you have to say. I want to see how your products/services might benefit me. A great thing to realise here is that anyone who provides their contact details because they want to read your articles is very interested in what you have to say. Your credibility as an expert is increased immediately and the prospective customer will be more interested in building a relationship with you.

A FREE download – Giving away a trial version of your software or a free version of a little software tool to help them is a superb way to collect contact details if you are selling software.

What I like about it is that the visitor can experience what your company is like to work with by using your software. I also like the tangible nature of an actual piece of software being installed on their computer. This is a good sign of relationship potential as they had the confidence to install your software on their computer. I would say that this is an “involvement” with you. If you were to meet this person who has downloaded and installed your software and have a chat with them you wouldn’t be coming in cold. They might say, “Oh I know your company I have been using your trial software for ages.” This is a relationship that has been going on without you knowing.

Sparking that 2 way relationship

You have collected their contact details, they might have started an involvement but you haven’t spoken back yet. To build that relationship and not let it fizzle out Send them an email. You must be tactical with what you send them but say something back. Your communication is enabling that customer to build a connection with your company. If for example you were to meet this person at an event and you said you were from XYZ company they might say, “Oh, I know your company I downloaded your ebook and you sent me a mail the other day that really inspired me to reconsider my options about your product.” You are not a stranger, you have a connection with this person.

How do you get an online customer to look at your proposal?

Just as with the face-to-face example, when your customer has expressed an interest in you, you need to give them your proposal. At this point they are clearly interested in building a “more intimate” relationship with you. The online way of doing this is to include an offer in your email.

An offer is a proposal shortened to a good headline, linking to a web page with more details. Your proposal/offer needs to be in line with what you have been discussing in your communications. You don’t want to be randomly discussing a completely different product.

Once they have accepted your offer this is not the end of the relationship. Customers like to continue to building confidence in you. They may repeat purchase, or if yours is a one-time-use product (such as laser eye surgery) they could refer you to friends and family – especially if rewarded for doing so. So after they have accepted your offer, send a thank you email.

If they don’t accept your offer there are other ways to continue building the relationship and we will address these in later chapters. However the key steps covered in this session are to:

1. Get online browsers to give you their contact details
2. Email them in response to their action/request and include an offer
3. Reply with a thank you (or follow-up) email.

Get started with these steps and by the time that “How to build an online relationship with customers: Part 2” reaches you, you will have many consumer leads upon which to implement my next chapter. See you next time.

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