Enhanced customer outreach is one the hallmarks of business success in the current economy. In fact, customer service is a primary goal of building and maintaining a solid customer base. Although this goal is generally considered to be part of the overall marketing plan, special attention to customers may fall under a different line item in the company budget for additional expenses. Fortunately, customer outreach can be achieved without significant cost by utilizing the following activities.

Publish a business blog

Blogs are everywhere these days, from home improvement to fashion design websites. Industry experts can build a professional reputation by writing visitor posts for other blogs or by publishing their own company blog. The typical company blog may be posted five days per week or once a week. Of course, the more often a new article is published, the more attention customers will pay. Blogs can take almost any tone, from humorous to analytical, depending on purpose and audience. Goals may range from increasing awareness to introducing new products while informing or entertaining readers, or both. For example, this blog post outlines the key differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org (which happens to be a pertinent topic for aspiring bloggers.) A blog is often based on the writer’s personality, which can draw readers who develop an appreciation for or affinity with his or her mindset and style.

Upgrade customer service operations

Reaching out to customers without advertising can take many forms. One of the most obvious is to evaluate the venues through which customers contact the company. For most businesses, this will be through its website, which costs very little to set up and maintain. The website should be monitored for efficiency, hits, and purchases, and updated periodically as needed. Company background, product descriptions, customer reviews, and interactive chat features help to connect visitors to the hub of operations without wasting time. Similarly, the Customer Service Department, which is another target area for visitors or customers who have questions or complaints, should be streamlined to provide prompt, courteous service. If a caller must be placed on hold for several minutes, a clear recording should indicate the estimated wait time, with relaxing music playing softly in the background. Customer service employees should remain calm and courteous at all times, even with irate callers. Customers should feel valued, or they will take their business elsewhere.

Engage customers in company activities

Customers who feel as though they are part of a business are likelier to stay connected and to refer others to the company. One way to engage customers is to sponsor a contest to name an upcoming new product, with the earner being featured on the website and perhaps receiving a prize. An online suggestion box that draws helpful feedback can take a similar approach to reward participating customers with recognition and prizes. Quizzes, surveys, and discussion forums are more ways to get customers and visitors involved with the organization so that they feel welcome and somewhat invested.

Dedicated customers enjoy being part of the company climate. When a business involves customers in various levels of decision making and participation, they are more apt to keep coming back and remain active clients while also referring others to the company. Simple acts like those mentioned above require minimal time, effort, and cost, but may yield measurable results.