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The quick guide to inventory management for ecommerce

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To build a sustainable, profitable, scalable ecommerce business this year, you need to understand the ins and outs of managing inventory. Poor inventory management can be a complex challenge to overcome for any ecommerce entrepreneur, no matter your expertise, the size of your business, the types of products you sell, or the audience you serve.

As the year progresses and you work through plans for launching a new ecommerce business, you’re likely thinking a lot about how to approach and optimize inventory management.

Making the wrong choices when it comes to how you manage inventory can be incredibly costly. Making the right choices can be incredibly profitable.

So, what do you need to know to be successful in the year ahead?

This article will provide you with a brief overview of inventory management. First, we’ll highlight a few terms you need to know, then we’ll detail some of the challenges that ecommerce business owners face, and finally, we’ll wrap up by providing you with a handful of actionable best practices and recommendations that you can use to build or optimize an effective inventory management strategy for your business.

Glossary of inventory management terms

Before we dive too deep into how to optimize inventory management, it’s helpful to first understand some of the terms and concepts that you’ll encounter along the way. Here’s a list of 20 words and phrases to become more familiar with:

  • Inventory: tangible items, products or goods that you intend to sell to customers.
  • SKUs: a stock-keeping unit (SKU) is an identification code that you use to classify and organize products.
  • Variants: variations of the same product, such as different colors.
  • Units of measure: whatever you use to measure your stock (items, pieces, bundles, kilograms, ounces, etc.).
  • Supply chain: the processes and systems involved in producing, managing and distributing products.
  • Deadstock: inventory that you have in stock but can’t necessarily sell anymore.
  • Buffer stock: the amount of extra stock on hand that’s used to limit the risk if supply and demand are uncertain.
  • Minimum viable stock: the minimum amount of product you need to have on hand to keep up with consumer demand and fulfill orders without delay.
  • Reorder point (ROP): the pre-determined level to which inventory must drop before ordering additional inventory.
  • Lead time: the time delay between when inventory is ordered from a supplier and when it arrives.
  • ABC analysis: a method for prioritizing your existing inventory using three categories: (A) high-value products with a low frequency of sales; (B) moderate-value products with a moderate frequency of sales; (C) low-value products with a high frequency of sales.
  • First in first out (FIFO): Shopify defines FIFO as an “accounting method [which] assumes that sellable assets, such as inventory, raw materials, or components acquired first were sold first. That is, the oldest merchandise is sold first, with its associated costs being used to determine profitability.”
  • Just-in-time (JIT): a fulfillment method where inventory orders are made just in time to keep up with demand from consumers. This method allows you to avoid tying up money in unsold inventory but creates potential risk of not being able to fulfill a sudden surge of orders.
  • Dropshipping: a fulfillment method where you don’t actually store any inventory onsite. Instead, orders are fulfilled, and inventory is shipped directly from a third party to the customer.
  • Centralized inventory control: software that allows you to easily manage, track and control inventory across multiple ecommerce websites like Amazon, eBay and Etsy.
  • Inventory management software: tools that help you track inventory, streamline processes, automate tedious tasks, and leverage data and other insights to boost success.
  • Cost of goods sold (COGS): your cost of production. (This is especially important from a tax perspective.)
  • Carrying cost/holding cost: the cost of holding your inventory in a year versus the value of the inventory itself.
  • Inventory auditing: the act of manually counting or checking inventory to ensure that it matches the numbers that exist within your tracking and automation systems.
  • Inventory forecasting: making informed decisions about ordering and reordering products based on historical data, trends and seasonality in your business.

Understanding these terms and concepts will ultimately help you become more informed and strategic when it comes to managing and optimizing inventory management processes and tasks at your business.

Challenges with inventory management in ecommerce

Every ecommerce business owner encounters inventory management challenges at one point or another. Knowing what some of these challenges are ahead of time and how to address them are what separates good inventory management from great inventory management.

Here are some of the most common inventory challenges that can ultimately affect the growth and profitability of an ecommerce business as well as customer experience and retention:

Challenge #1: Overstocking & overselling

In ecommerce, a good grasp of your inventory and the shopping habits of your target audience will help you accurately stock and sell your products. If you underestimate your customers’ needs, your supply may not meet demand. If you overestimate how much product you need, you’re likely to spend more than you make.

Although it can be advantageous to keep a large supply of inventory on hand, especially as you approach a busy season, it can present some challenges:

  • It can be expensive. Unless you’re dropshipping inventory, you’ll need to store the products you order from manufacturers. As you can imagine, too much inventory and not enough orders can wreak havoc on your ability to come out ahead at the end of the month.
  • There’s potential for having too much dead stock on hand. As mentioned earlier, deadstock refers to inventory that you basically can’t sell because you have too much inventory and not enough demand. It happens when products perish or deteriorate over time, but it can also happen as trends and shopping behaviors shift.

On the flip side, not having a good pulse on your inventory can result in accidental overselling — i.e., letting customers buy products that are out of stock. When you oversell a product, you create customer service and reputation challenges that can take time to overcome and repair.

These days, consumers want transparency when it comes to working with ecommerce brands. They want to be able to know and trust that if you make a promise, you’ll keep your word. When you oversell inventory, you risk delaying fulfillment and potentially damaging the trust you built up with people who chose to order your product. A quick fix for this would be to flag products as in or out of stock online so customers can see available quantities for themselves.

Challenge #2: Manual management that doesn’t allow for scale

Another inventory management challenge that many ecommerce business owners face relates to scale. When you’re in the early stages of building your ecommerce business, it’s relatively easy — and tempting — to manually track and fulfill orders, even across multiple channels. But it becomes much more difficult as you work to scale your business to meet the growing demands of your customer base.

For many ecommerce business owners, scaling means selling products on additional channels, such as Amazon, Etsy, eBay and Alibaba. It also means working with multiple partners, vendors and manufacturers. It might even mean storing inventory at multiple warehouses around the country.

Taking such steps to grow your ecommerce business in this way is next to impossible when you rely only on manual management methods. With manual management, you also stand the chance of encountering data mistakes that affect inventory management. For example, this could lead to overestimating or underestimating the inventory available to customers.

Some examples of ineffective manual inventory management methods include:

  • Using offline spreadsheets to track inventory numbers
  • Using a suite of separate tools that aren’t integrated or synced with each other
  • Using an offline program that can’t provide you with automatic real-time updates
  • Using paper and pencil to manually track and fulfill orders

When you’re just starting in the world of ecommerce, it can be tempting to track and manage inventory manually to save money and keep a hand in every aspect of your business. To avoid and prepare for some of the challenges mentioned above, however, you must take the time to investigate and make plans to adopt more scalable inventory management processes, tactics and tools that support continued growth over time.

Challenge #3: Lack of visibility across multiple channels & multiple warehouses

Lack of visibility is another common problem that ecommerce business owners tend to face as product demand increases and inventory management becomes more complex. There are two main visibility challenges that can impact your ability to meet demand and grow your business:

  • Lack of visibility across multiple channels. As mentioned above, as you grow your ecommerce business, you’ll likely decide to start selling your products across multiple channels (Amazon, Etsy, eBay, etc.). The problem is unless you’re using inventory management software, it’s not always easy to keep track of the sales and orders that come in from each channel and how those sales and orders are impacting the inventory you have on hand.
  • Lack of visibility across multiple warehouses. As your business grows, you might find yourself partnering with more manufacturers and warehouses to meet the growing demands of your customers. Your goal is to have inventory on hand and accessible when demand suddenly increases. But again, without inventory management software in place, trying to keep track of orders, inventory and relationships across all warehouses, partners and manufacturers can be a dizzying process for anyone.

inventory management

[Source]

Without complete visibility across your entire inventory management system, it’s difficult to know which decisions need to be made and by when they need to be made to continue boosting sales and meeting consumer demand.

Also, keep in mind that a consistent brand experience across channels is key to maintaining customer satisfaction. For example, pricing and product availability should be monitored and adjusted uniformly across all channels.

Challenge #4: Lack of insights

The final inventory management challenge that many ecommerce business owners face is a lack of data insights. Data and data analysis will help your company find areas of improvement that can lead to an increase in your engagement and revenue.

To boost profits, support growth, and cater to the needs of your customers, use data to help you understand how your inventory is fluctuating over time and how demand is changing over time. Your insights can aid in forecasting what your inventory should look like in the future when to reorder products, when to scale back on products and where breakdowns in your processes are happening.

Oftentimes, you need to be able to access and act on inventory data within a day or even a few hours to capitalize on or fully understand an emerging opportunity.

Without a centralized system that pulls inventory information from every source on a real-time, 24/7 basis, it’s virtually impossible to leverage data to make these kinds of informed decisions about your business.

Getting started with inventory management

Now that you understand some of the concepts and challenges relating to inventory management in ecommerce, it’s time to take action. To build an optimized inventory management system for your ecommerce business, take the following steps:

1. Understand basic product category demand

The first step in getting a better handle on inventory management, especially if you’re launching a brand-new ecommerce shop, is to understand how demand fluctuates for your product category over time. You can achieve this by using Google Trends to look at how search demand and interest have changed over the past 12 months or even the past five years.

Here’s a dramatic example showing when people are searching most often for snowblowers throughout the year:

ecommerce inventory

[Source]

As you can see, interest begins to grow as early as October 2021 and peaks between January to February 2022. By understanding trends in this way, you can gain a better understanding of when you might want to order more or less of the products you sell.

If you have an established ecommerce site, another option is to use Google Analytics to see which pages and products your audience visits the most and how long they spend there. This insight will not only tell you what types of products attract your audience’s attention but also which products are popular and require more buffer stock.

2. Forecast future demand based on past sales

The second step in optimizing inventory management is to attempt to forecast future demand — including seasonal demand. To do this, simply look at past sales and determine when demand and interest were highest. Also, look ahead to find major selling opportunities throughout the year — like holidays and events — and plan for increased demand.

From there, order and store inventory accordingly to prevent any items from going out of stock during peak demand times. If you don’t have any sales history, refer back to the analysis you performed with Google Trends and Google Analytics.

3. Set initial minimum viable stock or minimal stock levels

If your ecommerce shop is already running, you should also take the time to set minimum viable stock levels for every product you sell. Remember: your goal is to determine the lowest possible inventory you can have in order to meet demand and avoid delays in fulfillment.

To land on your number, you’ll need to have a good understanding of demand and the amount of time it takes to replace out-of-stock inventory. When quantities dip below the number you designate, place a new order with your manufacturer or wholesaler. Think of this exercise as a starting place. Don’t be afraid to adjust this number over time as you experience growing or waning demand from consumers.

4. Prioritize products with an ABC analysis

To boost efficiency and save money, take the time to prioritize products using the ABC analysis. The ABC analysis is a method for prioritizing your existing inventory using three categories:

  • (A) high-value products with a low frequency of sales. For example, big-ticket items like workout and sporting equipment.
  • (B) moderate-value products with a moderate frequency of sales. For example, electronics and jewelry.
  • (C) low-value products with a high frequency of sales. For example, clothing and food.

ecommerce inventory

[Source]

ABC analysis is based in part on the Pareto Principle, which explains that 80% of your sales can be attributed to 20% of your customers. These customers buy category A products, which account for the majority of your revenue. Therefore, it’s more costly to your bottom line to lose these customers than it is to lose customers who buy category B and C products.

Your goal here should be to understand which products need the most attention from an inventory management perspective. For example, products that fall under your A category (the highest-selling products) may need to be ordered more often than products that fall underneath your C category (the lower-selling products).

5. Gear up for seasonality

If you’re running an ecommerce store that will take advantage of a particular shopping season — like holidays — or time of year — like summer — do what you can to be prepared.

Keep inventory levels low during slow months, but don’t wait too long to ramp up your supply. Near the end of a peak season, promote special offers to sell off the majority of inventory to avoid carrying too much dead stock.

Keep your operating costs down for as long as you possibly can, and while business is slower, use the time to make sure you have all the pieces in place — like partners, tools, warehouse storage, people resources, etc. — to ensure a smooth and successful sales period.

6. Implement inventory management software

To build and scale an ecommerce business today, invest in inventory management software. You can manually work through some of the tips outlined above, but using software will help maintain accuracy while saving you time and money.

The benefits of inventory management software include:

  • Helping you keep a pulse on inventory
  • Ensuring you’re never overstocked or understocked
  • Syncing inventory tracking across all the channels on which you sell products
  • Compiling real-time inventory data within one convenient system
  • Leveraging valuable insights

With more time and data added to your business, you can take advantage of new product opportunities, boost sales and successfully grow your ecommerce business.

Think about your inventory management strategy

As you think about improving inventory management for your ecommerce business, there are a few questions to ask yourself. How do you approach inventory management at your business? What challenges have you faced and been able to overcome? What have you learned that might help other entrepreneurs and business owners?

The answers to these questions will inform how you implement inventory management, how your business grows, and how you continue to meet the needs of your customers.



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In Business, Image Matters. How to Improve Yours?

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Your business may boast of excellent products and/or services. However, nowadays, excellent products and services simply aren’t enough to help a business survive and thrive in the long run. What your business also needs is a strong image – one that can help it stand out from its competitors.

But how exactly do you go about improving the image of your business? To know the answer to this question, read on as we take you through all the steps you can and must take to take your business forward towards success.

photo credit: August de Richeliu / Pexels

1. Face-to-face interactions with people

We may be living in the digital age, but nothing can beat face-to-face interactions when it comes to telling people about your business. Here are some ways through which you can inform people about your business and what it’s all about:

Meet people and start conversations

It’s unrealistic to expect that people will know about your business if you don’t reach out to them. So, start going out and attending events.

Business-centric open meetings and conferences would be the best place to start. At these events, you’ll run into several businessmen like yourself. You should make the most of these opportunities to start conversations with others from the world of business. This will gradually let people know about your business and the products and/or services it has to offer.

Prepare a pitch

When you meet potential customers, you have to be prepared to speak spontaneously about your business. At this juncture, it’s important that you don’t fumble or sound unconfident. After all, what you tell people about your business will form impressions in their minds – and you’d want those impressions to be positive, wouldn’t you?

This is where preparing a pitch can come in incredibly handy. Write it down first and then keep practicing it out loud, and make changes where necessary.

Participate in community events

Your local community is the first pillar of support for your business. So, get out there and try playing a role in all community events. At these events, you should promote your business in a friendly and welcoming manner.

This should encourage members of your local community to take an interest in your business and what it has to offer. Sure, this may not result in immediate sales, but it will definitely improve your business’s public visibility.

Businessman in a fancy coffee shop

2. Make your business appear professional

A surprising fact is that the modern-day consumer values professionalism more than the quality of products and services. Of course, product and service quality is important, but if your business lacks professionalism, it will lose out on customers.

So, to make your business appear professional, you can put the following steps into practice:

Invest in a business website

The internet is arguably the biggest platform for businesses nowadays, which is why you should invest in a dedicated website for your business. We recommend hiring professional web developers and designers to curate your business website. This will ensure that your website looks and feels professional.

Apart from setting up a website, you should also pay attention to its content. Quite simply, it should have all the information that your target audience may want to know, i.e., contact information and information about the business. Your business website should also have a blog with consistent posts. This can go a long way towards ensuring your expertise within your niche.

Set up a dedicated email account for your business

Using your personal email account as your business’s email account is nothing short of a criminal offense. That’s why you should set up a dedicated business email account. It’ll help you achieve consistency with your branding, and it’ll also allow your business to look professional to the people who subscribe to your business newsletters.

To set up a business email account, you need to first create a domain name and then get in touch with an email provider. Two of the best email providers out there include Office 365 for Business and Google Apps for Business. Both options provide business-class email along with features such as online storage and document editing. The best thing about these options is that they’re quite inexpensive.

Provide 24/7 Customer Service

These days, consumers expect the companies they buy products and services from to be available for them 24/7. Fortunately, the widely availble virtual assistant and reception services such as those provided by www.virtualreception.com.au can do that for you – both on and off office hours – to any types and sizes of business, from freelancing digital nomads to multinational corporations.

Social media manager

3. Set up your social media for success

Social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are excellent places to market your business and its products. Here are a few ways to make your business succeed on social media:

Create business profiles

On all major social media platforms, you have the option of setting up personal profiles and business profiles. It’s best to create the latter type of profile as it is designed specifically for business purposes.

During the setup process, make sure that you include relevant info in the bio sections. Don’t forget to add links to your official website and other social media handles as well.

Post relevant content regularly

All social media algorithms tend to favor accounts that post relevant content on a consistent basis. So, irrespective of the social media platforms you’re active on, make sure that you’re posting new content as much as possible.

Not posting regularly can limit your business account’s reach and stall its growth on social media.

Keep branding elements consistent across all platforms

If your Instagram page looks drastically different from your Facebook page, your target audience is bound to get confused. That’s why it’s vital to use similar branding elements across all social media platforms.

The branding elements you should focus on keeping consistent include your business’s logo, its imagery, and its voice, i.e., the tone of communicating with your audience.

Encourage users to engage with you on social media and interact with them: Through the use of call-to-action (CTA) messages, you can encourage your followers on social media to engage with your posts. You should also spare time to respond to your followers’ comments.

Business owner in the Portugal-based office
photo credit: Fauxels / Pexels

Takeaway

There are quite some things to consider in your endeavor to increase your buisness image. However, focusing on the three above is more than sufficient to get started: Meet people and tell the about your business; make an effort to be professional, especially in your online presence; and lastly, make use of social media platforms to your advantage.

Be sure to do a lot of trials-and-errors so that you can form the best practices for your company.

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5 Ways to Control Your Inventory So It Doesn’t Control You

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Managing inventory is a task that can make or break your small business. With too much inventory, profits suffer and storerooms overflow. With too little, items get back-ordered, customers get frustrated and business is lost. And striking a balance is hard, especially with disruptions to the global supply chain in the last few years causing delayed deliveries.

While you can’t control the supply chain, you can take steps to prevent common problems like product shortages and excess stock. Here’s how.

1. Stick to the story

Donna Daniel owns and operates three connected small businesses in Claremont, California: The Grove Clothing, The Grove Home and The Outdoor Store, which sell women’s clothing, home goods and unisex adventure-themed gear, respectively. To run all three of her stores, Daniel needs to keep an impressive variety and quantity of inventory in stock — and ensure it moves quickly to make room for seasonal items and new shipments.

To keep her inventory cohesive within each store, she arranges it in themed displays — or what she calls “stories” — which tie together dozens of different items to appeal to a color, season or activity.

“I don’t buy anything outside of the stories,” she says, which helps her collect data on sales and seasonal trends, and keeps her stock to what’s most likely to sell.

She keeps most of her inventory on the shop floor, with stock in each store’s backroom and larger items in a nearby storage unit. In the backrooms and warehouse, she stores items according to product type and size — not by story — so employees can easily restock displays and substitute a similar item if necessary.

2. Double down on your reliable inventory

“Just-in-time inventory is much more difficult to do today,” says Mark Baxa, president and CEO of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, a global trade association for supply chain professionals. Baxa adds that since the supply chain is less stable than it was pre-pandemic, businesses may need to lean on their most reliable products and vendors.

Courtney Cowan, owner and founder of Los Angeles bakery Milk Jar Cookies, keeps supply needs and consumer demand stable with a very consistent product line. Her 16-flavor menu has “changed very little” in the bakery’s nine-year history, though she leaves room for a rare seasonal standout to join the rotation. Since her store pre-mixes and preserves dough in a deep freezer, she can ensure that her bestsellers are always in stock.

Though some businesses may prefer a bit more variety, in uncertain times — over-ordering on go-to products with a dependable profit margin can help fill the gaps and keep sales steady.

3. Keep products moving

Longtime retailers know that while running out of inventory is bad, having too much can be worse. “Too much backstock eats up all your capital,” Daniel says. She prevents this from happening by planning ahead and using sales sections to make room for new merchandise.

Daniel reorders seasonal inventory as far as a year ahead by using recent sales reports as a baseline. But with this commitment to hundreds of new products arriving every month, she makes sure that items don’t sit on shelves for more than a few weeks.

“I do not like merchandise hanging around,” she says, explaining that if an item isn’t clearing out quickly enough, she’ll move it to the sales rack and discount it until it’s gone.

Though selling an item for a fraction of its original price may seem painful, it may be worth doing to keep inventory moving and keep customers coming back for new products.

4. Get to know your supply chain

Especially in periods of supply chain disruption, getting to know your vendors can make a big difference in your day-to-day operations. “Hold your supplier base accountable,” Baxa says. He suggests finding the “shortest path” possible, including finding local and sustainable suppliers, to help ensure consistent, reliable supply.

Daniel follows the same principle, sourcing her inventory from mostly local vendors so she can pick up items instead of shipping. She weighs several factors, including production time, available quantity and shelf life to figure out how much to order and how often.

Cowan’s inventory is perishable, so she needs her wholesale ingredients to arrive on a tight schedule. Her bakery receives truck deliveries directly from the restaurant supplier Sysco and wholesale store Costco, which keeps her supply chain close to home.

“We keep it as centralized as possible,” Cowan says. For special ingredients like nuts and candy, she places advance orders with small online vendors.

Clear communication with vendors can help business owners figure out limitations, plan ahead and mitigate risk.

5. Use a point-of-sale system with inventory management tools

For the past five years, Daniel has been using Lightspeed, a POS system with standout inventory management tools. The software can track her inventory across all three of her stores, and it generates reports that help her analyze seasonal sales data and follow her businesses’ growth.

This data is essential for her to plan reorder points and determine which items will reliably sell. Especially with a small staff and multiple locations, an all-in-one POS system can help minimize costs and labor.

Best POS for inventory management

Lightspeed Retail POS

Cost: Software $69 per month (billed annually) and up. Hardware quote-based.

Lightspeed’s retail point-of-sale system is built for inventory management. It can keep detailed records of your products across multiple locations and set automatic reorder points, so you don’t run out. The software also offers employee and customer relationship management tools, as well as advanced analytics features on its higher-priced plans.

You have the option to use a third-party payment processor, or Lightspeed’s in-house processor with per-transaction fees at 2.6% plus 10 cents for swipe, dip and contactless payments and 2.6% plus 30 cents for keyed-in transactions.

Square for Retail

Cost: Software free and up. Hardware from free card reader to $799 terminal and up.

Square’s retail-specific POS software offers inventory management tools and multi-location capabilities as well. The free version has a variety of other useful features including reporting tools, customer and employee management. Email marketing, loyalty programs and payroll are available with a higher-priced plan or as a paid add-on.

Though its inventory management isn’t quite as deep as Lightspeed’s, Square’s user-friendly interface and accessible pricing make it a great choice for most retail businesses. Payment processing fees vary per plan, but with the free retail plan, costs are 2.6% plus 10 cents per in-person transaction, 2.9% plus 30 cents per online transaction and 3.5% plus 15 cents per keyed transaction.

Shopify POS

Cost: Software $29 to $299 and up. Hardware $49 and up.

Shopify’s point-of-sale system is geared for businesses that primarily sell online. The software tracks inventory, hides out-of-stock products on your website and offers basic inventory analysis. It also facilitates drop-shipping, curbside pickup and local delivery options, plus access to vendors and third-party applications.

Shopify helps businesses manage inventory across online and in-store locations. Its Pro version can create purchase orders, run inventory counts, perform advanced inventory analysis and generate low-stock reports. However, it’s not ideal for a business that only sells in store. Payment processing varies by plan, with in-person fees starting at 2.4% with Shopify POS Lite.

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14 community management tips for meaningful connections with customers

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Community building blocks

The idea for sharing community management tips came to me about a year ago. That’s when I synced up with the GoDaddy Community team to host a webinar for small business owners. As hundreds of attendees rolled into the Zoom, I had a realization: “GoDaddy has a strong community.”

Behind every good brand and business, there’s a solid community of supporters, stakeholders, and sometimes, even haters.

But building a community and maintaining connections is one of the most misunderstood and least talked about topics within the small business world. For a business with fewer than five employees and a handful of customers, community building might seem like just another marketing tactic that is just out of reach.

To help small businesses build and manage an online community, I asked other business owners and marketers what community management tips they had for creating meaningful connections with customers.

14 community management tips to create meaningful customer connections

Given that creating and maintaining a strong community can help retain and attract customers, consider following these 14 community management tips:

  1. Be quick to address negative experiences
  2. Filter out spam
  3. Showcase success
  4. Send a postcard
  5. Get your customers involved in important decisions
  6. Bring Up topics that encourage engagement
  7. Provide talking points and engage with your community
  8. Engage regularly
  9. Be the face of your brand
  10. Choose a channel that works
  11. Create content that addresses customers’ specific needs
  12. Consider a brand ambassador program
  13. Reward loyalty
  14. Recognize the importance of inclusivity

Read on to learn more.

1. Be quick to address negative experiences

A bad customer experience can quickly escalate to a brand reputation crisis, and the company’s response must be fast to revert the situation.

Monitoring social channel mentions is an easy way to keep an eye on conversations surrounding your brand and detect potential concerns.

Once a customer posts a comment that threatens your brand reputation, listen, honestly apologize and be willing to solve the issue in the best possible way. Your unsatisfied customer will feel appreciated and perhaps even become a brand advocate.

-Rebeca Sena, GetSpace.digital

2. Filter out spam

The most important thing you should be doing in regards to community management is interacting with your community, and you cannot do that properly if you have to work through a bunch of spam. There are many programs out there, even some within the different social media sites, that can filter out spam in your comments and messages so you can focus on addressing your community. Plus, getting rid of the spam and moderating harmful comments creates a better space for your community to contact you through.

-Jacob Dayan, Community Tax

3. Showcase success

Develop case studies from your successful community members. This is a practical way of propagating the core values of your online community and encouraging new users to join your community.

The more these members contribute to the community, the more impact these case studies have. You can start by creating basic reports to identify the members who are actively contributing high-quality content, assisting other members, and elevating the community.

-Hasan Farahani, Yocale

4. Send a postcard

postcard with other travel items

Many of my customers spend $15–$20K on medical care in Latin America. I send my customers handwritten postcards to remind them of their journey, thank them for their business, and to stay engaged while they recover from procedures like dental implants or plastic surgery.

The cost in time and money is very low, but a human touch in the healthcare space is increasingly rare.

-Wesley Jacobs, Apollo Medical Travel

5. Get your customers involved in important decisions

Taking the time to follow up with your most active customers and getting their insights on important decisions makes them feel like their opinions are truly valued and cared for.

In the long run, this forges a strong connection between you and your audience that relies on more than simply a transaction.

An added benefit of doing this is that you may even get some eye-opening suggestions and creative ideas that could end up benefiting your business.

-Harry Morton, Lower Street 

6. Bring up topics that encourage engagement

Meaningful connections need to originate from a common source that offers a moment of relatability, which can further build brand trust. Social platforms offer numerous opportunities for these types of exchanges. When managing your social community, bring up topics that encourage engagement so you can connect on a level that goes beyond the basic company/customer relationship. In doing so, the consumer will feel more at ease to comment, ask questions and even provide more detailed feedback.

-Lindsay McCormick, Bite 

7. Provide talking points and engage with your community

It’s important to recognize that community management is an ongoing responsibility. If you want to see your community thrive, you must create opportunities for customers to voice their opinion, communicate with other community members and provide you with feedback. Finding success is contingent on your ability to encourage participation from users, so you must provide talking points and give them plenty of avenues to stay involved.

If you leave your community dormant without your administrative oversight, engagement will start to dwindle as fewer users initiate conversations and take part.

Communities rarely function autonomously, so be sure to play an active role as you connect with and safeguard your community.

This gives you a chance to speak with your customers on a personal level, helping you learn about their likes, dislikes, objections and pain points directly—all of which are crucial in building meaningful connections with customers.

-Mike Grossman, GoodHire

8. Engage regularly

The best community management tip is to engage regularly and don’t neglect questions or threads you didn’t start—even better if they aren’t getting a lot of feedback. If you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to regularly interact with your customers, make sure you’re commenting often and have a badge next to your name letting them know you’re a moderator or part of the company. That will really cement that feeling of connection and letting members feel heard. Plus, we’ve found that a community manager can really breathe life into a topic by offering input and pushing it to the front of that community for more engagement.

-Sylvia Kang, Mira

9. Be the face of your brand

Revealing the human side of your brand is without a shadow of a doubt an efficient strategy to boost your customers’ connection. It conveys transparency and accountability, building a stronger human bond. Consumers tend to trust people more than a company, and showcasing real people will make you and your brand easier to remember and trust.

-Chiara Sternardi, Passport-photo.online

10. Choose a channel that works

social media apps on iphone

The best way to build an authentic community is to have everyone communicate using the same social media platform. Make that a crucial part of your strategy.

If it’s a professional audience that you’re going after, choose LinkedIn. If it’s a broader audience, use Facebook or Instagram. If it’s a young audience, try Snapchat or WhatsApp. If it’s a politically charged audience, maybe try Twitter.

YouTube is a great way to encourage people to watch videos that provide clear instructions on how a product or service works.

Users flock to YouTube for instructions on everything from how to change batteries on a device to playing scales on a guitar. The comment section can be useful for feedback purposes, and it also can be a way for customers to communicate with one another.

-Joel Jackson, Lifeforce

11. Create content that addresses customers’ specific needs

By creating audience and buyer personas based on different client categories, content marketers can create social content that speaks to people rather than just industries. Learn where your customers hang out online using your social media demographics. Then, narrow those results using audience research to help you define a specific audience and channel. You can then customize communications by researching the LinkedIn profiles of potential customers. Doing so will allow you to identify different stakeholders within the organization and determine their pain points. You can then create better content that addresses their challenges. But it’s all about finding an interesting angle for each segment.

Content that is too broad won’t result in authentic engagement with your followers.

Social media posts that offer helpful information are guaranteed to stand out in your clients’ feeds, resulting in more likes, shares and leads.

-Daniel Tejada, Straight Up Growth

12. Consider a brand ambassador program

A great way to create authentic connections with customers is with an acquisition and advocacy program like a brand ambassador program. For example, if a user can get five people to sign up for a service or product, they become an ambassador.

These brand ambassadors can help your business acquire new users. You can reward them with swag and access to special products or services … maybe even a special event!

-Jennifer Pieniazek, Resume Now

13. Reward loyalty

You can create meaningful connections by rewarding loyal customers to show how much you appreciate them. Just like any relationship, whether it’s personal or professional, people appreciate rewards. Show your customers that they matter and are top of mind in your decision-making. That’s how you create a stronger, more loyal customer base—one that will continue to pay attention for new initiatives and future rewards.

-Alyssa Berman-Waugh, Level Home, Inc.

14. Recognize the importance of inclusivity

To create meaningful connections with customers, recognize and accept diversities within your community. Each of your customers will differ in terms of their culture, orientation, ability and life experience. It’s imperative that you celebrate these differences and welcome input from individuals of all walks of life as you advocate for equity and inclusivity. This will develop your community’s reputation and attract diverse groups in greater numbers.

Communities that cater to just one group of people almost always become echo chambers, creating a suboptimal environment for connections to form and important discussions to take place.

By listening, asking questions, and welcoming input from diverse groups of individuals, you’ll cement your community as a welcoming place for diversity and insight to flourish.

In doing so, your ability to build a rapport and create meaningful, lasting connections with your customers will blossom.

-Patrick Casey, Felix

The community management tips used in this article were gathered using Terkel.
Terkel creates community-driven content featuring expert insights. Sign up at terkel.io to answer questions and get published.



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