6 keys to successful customer engagement in a multi-screen, omni-channel world.

It’s critical for small business owners today to craft and implement an effective customer engagement strategy. The reason is simple—it will do wonders for your bottom line. The higher your engagement levels are, the deeper your relationships with customers become. Engagement fosters loyalty and drives customers to spend more money.

The process isn’t as simple or easy, though. Today’s generation of consumers is more proactive and discriminating than ever. They’re “multi-screening” and interacting with all sorts of media content using different kinds of devices: desktops, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. They’re conducting their own research before they think of making a purchase decision. Businesses, large or small, can’t simply distribute a press release or place a 30-second ad on prime time TV and expect a sudden boost in calls or sales. Potential customers will Google you first, look up your business on Yelp or TripAdvisor, and read between the lines of your posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Customer engagement is a challenge for small business owners and large-scale company executives alike. It seems there’s an infinite number of things to consider—yet you have so little time. To help you reach and engage with customers successfully in a multichannel world, as well as create compelling experiences that give you a much-needed competitive advantage, remember these six key points:

Extract Customer Insights From Available Data

Get to know your customers. These days, it’s not enough to know who they are, or which of their email addresses you can send newsletters to. You have to be able to understand their thoughts and behaviors, their interests and priorities.

Don’t worry; there is no lack of tools and technological resources available to help you gain critical customer insights. You can conduct customer surveys, track your online reviews, integrate analytics and reporting features to your website, receive Google Alerts for the latest news and research in your industry, or measure the effectiveness of your email marketing campaign. The key is you’re able to leverage available information to gain as many insights as you can; that way, you’ll be in a position to engage with customers more meaningfully.

Join the Conversations on Social Media

You should be engaging with potential and existing customers whenever and wherever possible. This goes beyond posting a customer support phone number or email address all over your website pages. If people are talking about you on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, or on review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, you have to be there to listen in and join the conversation. Spend 15 to 30 minutes a day on channels where customers are talking, and very quickly you’ll begin to gain valuable insights about what customers really want. Also, be sure to monitor social channels for comments, complaints, and criticisms. Your ability to respond to what your customers are saying is crucial in boosting your business reputation and increasing your engagement levels.

Recognize an Issue and Apologize

Ignoring issues can destroy whatever goodwill you have built with customers. On the other hand, you can win over even your harshest critics if you demonstrate your business cares about and listens to their feedback. If a complaint is legit, don’t hesitate to say sorry. A business that’s sincere and humble enough to apologize is more likely to win the trust of consumers than those that are oblivious or apathetic to feedback.

Establish Your Presence Locally

It’s impossible to engage with customers if they don’t know where to find you, which is why it’s so important to build out your local business presence on as many traditional and digital properties as possible. Claim your listings, add your business information, make sure you can be found, and post content regularly. If you don’t know where to start, focus on popular search platforms like Google+ (via Google My Business), Yelp, YP.com, Citysearch, Facebook, and similar sites.

Get Your Business Mobile-Ready

There are approximately 1.75 billion mobile users worldwide. And, according to Google, 4 out of 5 consumers look up local information using mobile search engines. Show your responsiveness to consumer attitudes and behavior by getting your business mobile-ready.

Implement mobile-friendly web design and optimize your content so it looks good on multiple screen sizes. Offer special deals and coupons for mobile users, and make sure your customer support features are available via mobile. Connect your business to Google Maps (again via Google My Business) and apps like Yelp. By strengthening your business’ mobile presence, you can attract not only the passive audiences sitting at home on their couches, but also the on-the-go consumers who are ready to spend and make a purchase decision.

Excel at Face-to-Face Engagement

Amidst all these trends and technologies, today’s consumer generation still highly values face-to-face interaction. Commit to delivering excellent customer service and positive, personalized customer experiences. You can start by transforming your employees into powerful brand advocates: people who are vocal about the core values of your business, who are passionate about increasing brand awareness, and who recognize that engaging with customers is the responsibility of everyone in your team.

Be sure to check out our other posts from Chris on managing your online reputation, “8 Tips and Tricks For Building a Winning Reputation” and “Avoid These 5 Mistakes When Responding To Negative Reviews.”

Chris Campbell is the CEO of ReviewTrackers. He has helped tens of thousands of businesses hear, manage, and respond to what their customers are saying online.