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Be an Expert: How to Build Customer Relationships By Being an Online Resource

Your sales associates do a great job of educating customers when they're in your store, but they still need your expertise when they go home — or before they ever set foot in your lighting or home furnishings showroom. Be a resource and expert to customers online with these tips.

Alison Martin
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Photo: Pexels

Every day, your sales associates help customers find products, explain warranties and answer questions of all types, and while your customer service may be exceptional in-store, that doesn't mean much to the potential customers who visit your website and social media platforms and find nothing useful or helpful.

The most successful lighting and home furnishings showrooms don't wait for customers to come to them with questions. They're sharing their expertise through blog posts and social media channels and keeps their followers informed of the latest news from the industry. This may seem like a lot of work (and it is), but in the long term, customers — ones who have shopped with you and ones who have only followed you — will feel like they know and trust you and will continue to give you their business for years to come.

Becoming an expert and a consumer resource can help you build and nurture relationships with consumers, whether they've been in your showroom or not. Read on to learn why being a resource is so vital — especially in today's retail market — and how you can be one for your customers and online followers.

Why being a resource to consumers is so important

Let's say you love to cycle. There are two bike shops in your town. One likes to post photos of new bikes when they come in the shop and any promotions they have running on social media. The other posts photos and deals, but it also writes informative blog posts such as tips on simple tune-ups, creates videos and shares content and news from cyclist magazines and its own blogs on social media. Which shop would you rather follow on social media?

You'd probably rather follow the second shop because their blog and social media channels make them seem like experts on cycling. If your bike needs a small repair, one of their blogs or how-to videos can tell you how to fix it. If you were planning your next cycling adventure, then their advice on where to go nearby might inspire your next trip.

You would also be more likely to give that shop your business because you've seen their expertise at work and have built a more trusting relationship with them. Even if you'd never been in that bike shop before, you feel like you know the staff a little bit, and you feel confident going to them with your problems because they've already demonstrated their expertise through their blogs.

Essentially, this bike shop won your business because they provided free resources to help you better enjoy your hobby. You feel like you know them a little bit because you've read their blogs, watched their videos and scrolled through photos of their shop posted to social media. When you want to know what's new in cycling, you turn to that bike shop because they're always sharing the latest news on new cycling paths and local cycling laws.

This could be you. By positioning your lighting or home furnishings showroom as an essential resource for your customers, you build and maintain relationships with customers. Your helpful how-tos, industry news and design tips give them a reason to keep checking back with you. For new customers who have never visited your showroom, being a resource is an excellent way to make a good first impression. Who wouldn't want to go to a showroom that seems so knowledgeable? 

How to be an essential resource for consumers

In addition to having great customer service, there are a few things you can do online to position yourself as a resource for customers.

Blog and share posts on social media

Blogging alone helps your SEO, but sharing your blogs regularly on social media helps your status as a resource for consumers. A blog is an easy way to address frequently asked questions in your showroom and give consumers a little advice along with it, and when you share them regularly on social media, you start to build a connection with your consumers. As they follow you, they will come to expect these blogs and even look forward to your thoughts and expertise. 

If you're not sure where to begin, try a few simple how-tos and tips-for-design blog posts. 

Share consumer news and feature stories

Whether you post a direct article from Consumer Reports or write about the news in a blog post, sharing consumer news and feature stories with your followers is an easy way to establish your expertise as a resource. 

A good example of news to share is the recent furniture tip-over story from Consumer Reports, which found that many consumers didn't know how dangerous furniture tip-overs could be until it was too late. This is a great way to keep your audience informed, so share the original story on your social media channels, then follow up with a blog post about how your showroom can help consumers keep their children safe from dresser tippings. If you sell the tools needed to anchor dressers, mention that. If you know some or all of the manufacturers you carry comply with the voluntary 50-pound test outlined in the article, tell your customers.

You can also share stories from Elle Decor, House Beautiful and other home design magazines with readers. For a local touch, share stories from regional magazines.

Go live on Facebook with a how-to

Video is becoming increasingly important to a good social media marketing strategy, and now going live on Facebook has made producing videos easier than ever. 

Facebook Live videos get real-time interactions from viewers, and the videos are consistently pushed to the top of news feeds. If you feel that Facebook's latest algorithm updates are hurting you, regular live videos can help give your page a boost.

Here are a few tips for going live:

- Promote your video ahead of time. Pick a good time of day to go live, and let your followers know about it ahead of time. They'll be more likely to tune in.

- Plan for a 30-45 second video. It doesn't have to be long. Just say what you need to say and end it.

- Choose a simple topic. A quick how-to or 3-tips video gives bite-size, actionable information that consumers can use right away.

- Act natural. No one is expecting a completely polished video. If something goes awry, roll with it and get back on track.

No doubt, this is a long-term digital marketing strategy. You won't see results overnight. But by positioning yourself as a resource, you're giving customers a good reason to check back with your showroom even if they just purchased a sofa or aren't ready to buy.

How will you be a resource for your customers? Share with us in the comments!

Photo: Pexels

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