Keeping up with my favorite businesses has become part of my daily routine. I check the class schedules on my yoga studio’s Facebook page and look for emails about sales and events at local stores. By making it so easy to get the information I need, these businesses are saving me valuable time, not to mention increasing my loyalty toward them.

A recent AT&T poll* shows which online tools small businesses use most to build customer relationships. This got me thinking about how they might make those relationships even stronger. Here are three tips to try in the months ahead:

Refresh old strategies

Email ranked highest among the outreach tools small businesses use, with 43 percent saying it’s the main way they build relationships with customers and prospects. Are your emails as effective as they could be? Try segmenting messages based on what you know about your subscribers. For example, you might notice that some customers tend to open emails about a certain product or service, and could target those subscribers with similar emails.

Websites also ranked high in the poll, with 35 percent calling the company website a key way to building relationships. Does your site accurately reflect your products or services and highlight what visitors need before contacting or visiting you? Make sure you know which keywords they use to find your site, and consider whether optimizing your site for other keywords could help attract more prospects. This blog post offers more tips for polishing your website.

Explore mobile marketing

One thing that struck me about the poll results was the low number of businesses using mobile marketing. Make 2014 the year you change this. First, check how your website renders on different devices. If pages are slow to load or require a lot of scrolling to find information, consider a mobile website tool to build a mobile-friendly version of your current site.

When emailing customers, keep messages short and minimize the use of images so they are easy to read on smartphones. You might also explore using text messages. This can be particularly effective for announcing daily specials, extending special deals or sending appointment reminders.

 Get strategic with social media

Many small business owners use social media to maintain awareness and build relationships. No matter which social platforms you are on, reviewing how you use them might help you get more from your efforts. A few ideas:

Post regularly.

If you post to your social media pages only a few times a month, you may be losing valuable opportunities to build relationships with customers. Tap into their preferred channel to increase open and response rates and get your message heard. Post more frequently — at least a few times a week — and respond to comments, including critical ones.

Improve service.

One of social media’s greatest strengths is that it can help businesses learn more about their customers and find ways to serve them better. Ask your Facebook or Twitter fans for feedback on how you can serve them better.

Branch out.

Depending on your business and audience, it may be worthwhile to use more than Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. For example, companies with highly visual work might try Pinterest or Instagram to share images and photos. Creating YouTube videos, such as tutorials showing how to use a product, can also boost your presence.

How are you improving your outreach in 2014? Please share your thoughts.

 

*The Small Business Omnibus poll was fielded October 28-30, 2013, among 294 decision-makers with 1-99 employees. Interviews were conducted online through the U.S. Research Now business panel. Panelists indicated that they participate in decisions to purchase supplies or services for their companies and have more than $100,000 in annual revenue.