Social Q&A has a variety of applications, but small businesses have their own unique set of challenges, so I thought I’d spend a little time talking about how social Q&A can help small businesses create and maintain relationships with their customers, so those customers are more likely to complete a sale and then keep coming back when they need support or new products or services.
(Not sure what social Q&A is? See my last post here.)
As a small business, you’re probably not thinking about creating a “community” on your site; you’re interested in marketing your products or services, and you’re interested in making sales.
So to help you make sales, let’s first look at the typical customer decision-making process. It goes roughly like this (I’ll use the word “widget” here in the classical sense, representing a product or service that you offer.):
- Problem recognition (“Hey, I think I need to buy a widget!”)
- Information search (“What kind of widgets are available?” 36% of consumers do research on a company’s website before buying, so you need to be ready for them.)
- Evaluation of alternatives (“What kind of widget is best for me?”)
- Decision Implementation (“Here’s some money for that blue widget in the corner.”)
- Post-purchase evaluation (“Is this really the right widget for me?”)
In the pre-sales phase, you are reaching the customer while they’re in Steps 1-3. The customer may not even know that they need the widget yet, so you may need to first convince them of why they need it, show them what widgets you have available, and show them how your widgets are better than that other guy’s widgets, all BEFORE they can get to Step 4 and actually BUY your widget.
That’s a lot of convincing, and you have very little time before the customer gets bored and moves on!
This is where Q&A comes in. No matter how comprehensive your site is, these customers WILL have questions that your site doesn’t answer. Don’t lose these customers! Give them an easy way to ask you questions directly about your products or services, right there on the page they are on. Do not rely on contact forms or email, because these feel “faceless” to visitors, and they often won’t bother contacting you because they’re not sure if they’ll get an answer.
With Q&A, your customers can see that you are available and eager to answer their questions, and this puts you in a very positive light in their consumer’s eyes. Would they rather buy this service from the woman who’s actively answering her visitors’ questions on Site A, or the guy who has a “Contact me” form on Site B? I know which one I’d choose.
Customer service is the name of the game these days; if people think you’re attentive and looking to help them, you give them confidence in their purchasing decision, and they’re more likely to buy from you. And that leads us to the next phase of the purchase:
So your customer has now purchased something from you and they have questions for you about how to use it, how to maintain it, or about additional services that they might require. They may call or email you directly, but…they may not. They are likely to look at your site, especially if it helped them get answers in the pre-sales phase, and again Q&A can help:
You want people to ask their questions on your site first. If they don’t, what are the alternatives?
- They ask on a forum somewhere
- They ask a friend
- They ask on a competitor’s site
- They don’t ask and just stop using your product/service
Of course none of these options are good for your potential of making a new sale or maintaining a positive brand image. You want to have the first opportunity to give a good answer to your customers, so they feel confident in you and your products or services, and because they already saw that you have Q&A before they bought, they know that they can get support directly on your site.
It’s MUCH cheaper to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one (the numbers vary by industry), so save yourself some time and money and support your existing customers by allowing them to easily ask questions and to find answers to questions you’ve already answered.
The more you connect with your customers and show them that you are there to support them, the more likely they will be to buy and return to you for future purchases, and Q&A is an ideal way to provide both pre-sales and post-sales support.
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