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7 steps to cost effectively connect and engage with customers online

Top ideas to build better loyalty and boost customer engagement without breaking the bank.


With customers more likely than ever to come across your brand online, it’s important that you’re digitally savvy. But competing online doesn’t have to mean matching more established brands’ outsized marketing budgets – in fact, it would probably be detrimental to your business. These seven tips, based on key learnings I have gathered from speaking with SME business leaders regularly, will help you connect with customers online – and best of all, they won’t break the bank.

  1. Have a clear vision 

The first step to any successful strategy – digital or otherwise – is to have a clear idea of what it is you’re trying to achieve. This helps to focus your attention and resources in the right places and will stop you wasting precious time and money. If you’re a tradesperson, looking to build on a solid local reputation, a full-service website with the option to buy products and services online almost certainly isn’t the way to go – instead, keep your web presence simple and try promoting positive word-of-mouth reviews via social channels

  1. Find your audience 

With a clear vision in mind, now it’s time to map your audience. That means addressing a few key questions: Who are they? Where are they? What topics are they most interested in? If you’re an artisan bakery, your audience is far more likely to be interested in colourful cake shots on Instagram than in your status updates on LinkedIn. Go to your audience and give them what they want.

  1. Make sure people can find you 

Finding your customers where they already are is a must, but you also need to make sure they can find you. That’s where SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) comes in. SEO is all about figuring out what your customers type into a search engine when they’re looking for a product or service that you offer, and then designing your online presence so that they find you. A website provider such as Wix will be able to help you understand the ins and outs of SEO, as well as creating a website that is easy to find and more likely to be ranked highly by Google algorithms.

  1. Gather customer data, and guard it 

As you’re building your customer base, you’ll need their data. A solid database of customers who have opted-in to receiving information from you is vital, so find a smart way to gather that information – a loyalty scheme, giveaway or free downloadable content can all be tied to a customer’s contact number or email address. That data you’ve gathered is a valuable currency, so protect it – with UK SMEs facing upwards of 10,000 cyberattacks a day, don’t forget to bolster your cybersecurity.

  1. Prioritise quality over quantity 

When you find a channel that delivers great results, the temptation is to return to it again and again. But be careful you don’t overdo it. While it might look like email marketing drives a huge spike in sales each and every time, what’s really been converting those opportunities is the relevance and timeliness of your mailers, rather than simple frequency. Keep the quality high, and don’t oversaturate – remember, customer engagement is a two-way street, and it’s more about value than it is views.

  1. Invest where it counts 

The golden rule with digital is don’t spread yourself too thin – it’s always better to do one channel well than three badly. If one channel is driving lots of traffic to your website, that’s probably the channel that needs the bulk of your energy - and your money. Digital presence is a core aspect of running a small business today, so make sure every pound spent is going in right place.

  1. Test, measure, optimise 

How do you know which channel is driving that traffic? Or which campaign delivered the results? Data on your own work will be invaluable to you as you build your digital presence. Google Analytics is a key tool to get to grips with, and you’ll find plenty of resources on how to use this and much more as part of Vodafone’s partnership with Udemy. Measurement is the key to optimising your digital spend so you can keep focusing on the platforms that are delivering the best results. Testing and measuring what is and isn’t working on your website is also crucial – it can be as simple as asking friends and family to tell you if your website is as easy to navigate as you think it is. Or if you’re thinking of introducing a new feature, before investing time and money to build it, create a test link to see if it’s really something that your customers will want to click on. It’s vital to avoid wasted effort.

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Andrew Stevens, Head of Small Business, Vodafone UK

Andrew Stevens


Andrew Stevens is Head of UK Small & Medium Business at Vodafone, and leads a team providing insight, expertise, and SME-focused tech solutions for the UK’s growing network of small and medium businesses.

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