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Hook New Customers With an Online 'Hopeful Greeting'

To get ahead of the competition, your attention should be focused on making a great first impression, then building positive reviews and testimonials.
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Unless you're Google, McDonald's or Apple, chances are slim that people will suddenly think of the name of your business when making a purchase. For the lucky few companies with marketing budgets eclipsing the GDP of most small nations, awareness is part of their everyday existence. For the rest of businesses, however, the customer buying cycle begins with a hopeful greeting.

In the digital age, customer greetings occur online. As many as  56 percent of marketers  use various technologies to cut through the noise of competitors. There’s a good reason why. According to one study,  91 percent of online adults  use social media regularly. Another study show  77 percent of business-to-consumer and 43 percent of business-to-business enterprises  acquired a customer through social media in the past 12 months.

Related: Why You Should Use Blogs and Podcasts to Market Your Business

From an inbound-marketing standpoint, social media is about a brief impression. During the awareness phase, buyers are not yet ready to commit to one company or another, so statistics comparing the competition are likely to be seen as overly aggressive. Efforts to pitch to the unconvinced are likely to scare away customers not yet sure of the full scope of their needs.

Instead of saying "I love you" on the first date, make a charming first impression instead. Publish content on your social-media accounts and pair it with a photo or video that is digestible, entertaining and informative. Keep it succinct. For a snowboarding shop, this could include an Instagram photo of fresh powdery snow. For an industrial supplier, this may be a " Will It Blend? " type video showing the lighter side of commercial products.

Short, interesting, entertaining and friendly. Pair your messaging with compelling visuals to cut through the sea of Facebook feeds. Finally, show off your personality and knowledge without coming off as aggressive. Social media is about a handshake, and no one likes having their hand crushed by an over-eager stranger.

Preference/intent: The blogger’s wheelhouse. Not all human beings are 100 percent rational. If that were the case, then the company that developed the best product at the lowest price would win the buyer's affections without fail. Instead, purchases are often motivated as much by emotion as they are by cold, hard stats. 

Perhaps the most profound effect of successful inbound marketing is felt at this step, when buyers must make a decision based on trust, "gut" and emotional attachment to one business or another. Business blogs, when done correctly, create this connection through regular publication of important information, constant conversation and the construction of a reputation that buyers can trust.

So what makes a good business blog? Simply put, value. The reason that many blogs do not fulfill is that  66 percent of content is focused more on style than substance. Make no mistake -- a flashy or clever blog that does not contribute to the lives of your customers will fall short.

Related: Is Your Social Media Content D.O.A.? Try This. (Infographic)

Good business bloggers understand their audience and develop content around their interests. They are a portfolio of information that demonstrates the knowledge and understanding your company brings to the table when creating products and services. Begin with data.

Use your own marketing properties (social-media accounts, website analytics, customer information) and create "personas" for your buyers. Understand their characteristics, corporate positions, education, lifestyle, habits, aspirations and fears, and utilize this information to create articles, videos and infographics that are relevant to them.

Purchase: A time for engagement. A single purchase is exciting news, but a repeating customer is what turns startups into businesses. Request testimonials from and offer exclusive content to satisfied buyers. A clothing retailer may include a PDF copy of this season's lookbook, available only to paying customers. An industrial supplier may offer access to webinars and Google Hangouts with industry leaders as a reward for their patronage. 

Develop content that helps customers use the new product to the fullest by using video engagement such as demonstrations and help guides, and sweeten the deal with publications that make them feel that they're receiving more than their money's worth. Maintain presence through content and treat customers like royalty to make repeat purchases a reality.

Repurchase: Turning customers into brand evangelists. While your advertising team can convince the skeptics that your product is worth the money, nothing sways a prospective buyer like an already satisfied customer. In fact, 90 percent of customers say that their decision is influenced by an online review or testimonial.

Cycle your customer satisfaction back into the sales cycle with some well-targeted content. Tap raving fans for video testimonials and let the customer speak on your behalf.

Turn your customers into " brand evangelists." These individuals, satisfied by your product and happy to share their experience with others, become vivid testimony to your ability to take care of your customers. Post these videos on social-media accounts and company websites so that general knowledge seekers back at the top of the cycle can see them and begin their own journey.

Related: Cultivating the Right Attitude Turns Customers Into Followers