Marketers looking to communicate with customers through their Web site should consider the following tips:
1) Include an RSS feed. Customers can subscribe to the feed, choose the information that interests them and have it delivered directly. Any content posted on a site can be organized into an RSS feed. It's easy for you and optional for your customer.
2) Start a blog. It's an opportunity to share more of who you are and what you do from an insider's perspective. It's easy to maintain and shows your customers that you are widely available and keeping information fresh. The common misperception is that blogs are informal, which does not necessarily need to be the case. If you want it to be, it's an up-to-the-minute newsfeed to which visitors can post comments, allowing them to connect directly with your company.
3) Provide “ways in.” Identify when a particular audience needs their own community and create a separate site catered to them. Though it's possible to tilt your messages so each segment of your customer base has a way in to your company, you might consider creating an entire site devoted to one particular segment.
4) Allow customers to communicate with one another. Provide a forum in which your customers can communicate with one another. Software companies have shown that even if it's not positive feedback, if your company is responsive, it shows you're growing, developing and evolving, and not avoiding even negative criticism.
5) Gather FAQs from clients. Take FAQs from your customers, not your team. You may think you understand the wants and needs of your customer base, but only they can tell you what they're looking for. Supply them with an easily accessible feedback link or contact form to show hat you're encouraging a response, and then be certain to actually be responsive.
6) Communicate, communicate, communicate. Regardless of how large your organization is, remain in contact with your customers. Give a more personal voice to your business and make your it look like an organization of individuals, not a monolith. Stay in contact with your clients.
Siobhan Kelleher is director of client services and digital media at Sametz Blackstone Associates (www.sametz.com), a Boston-based strategic communications consulting firm.