By Shawn Hunt

The internet has made it possible for businesses to reach out to more people than ever before – but at a price. Business is no longer conducted face to face or even over the phone, but behind a screen, making things impersonal. At the same time, customers have never had a greater choice of purchasing options. So how can businesses stand out?

The best way to rise head and shoulders above the competition is to create a personal connection with your customers that compels them to do business with you over and over again. These are some of the ways you can do that.

Develop a voice

Instead of trying to shout louder than the competition develop a distinctive voice that’s suitable for your business and attractive to your target market. Use this same voice throughout all your communications from email newsletters to Tweets and even your terms and conditions and checkout instructions. Give your business a personality that customers can warm to before they’re even thinking of buying anything – if they decide to purchase, use that same reassuring voice to close the sale.

Inject some life into your automated emails

After your customer checkout the first thing they receive is an email confirmation. Most businesses look like they’ve lost all interest once the sale has been made.  Remember the rule about keeping your communication consistent and write something that looks like it came from your business, not any of your competitors. By saying no to template automated email you’ll immediately stand out for all the right reasons to your customer, helping to establish a lasting relationship. Even if you’re not selling something customers will be needing for months, years, or even in their lifetime, if you can build that relationship they will happily spread your message for you.

Tell a story with your About page

Your business’s About page is an opportunity to tell the story of your company and what it stands for in an engaging way that lets customers know what benefits you can bring them . Don’t be afraid to feature you and your staff on the page to give customers an insight into the people behind the company. A few human faces can give character to even the most ‘boring’ of businesses.

Pack a surprise

Safely deliver your product on time and your customer’s expectations will be met. But why meet expectations when you can exceed them? A note thanking  customers for their purchase is the ideal way to reinforce your relationship with them – sales volume permitting, why not personally sign the note or even write it by hand to provide the ultimate personal touch?

Ask for feedback

Don’t forget that all relationships are two-way, and while some customers will tell you what they think without needing to be asked, others will need prompting. Remember that feedback shouldn’t just be collected for the sake of it – use it to improve your business. Let your customers know about changes you are making based on their input so they can feel like they have some ownership over the company.

Provide excellent customer support

Make it clear to customers how they can contact you and when they can expect a response – providing good customer support can be challenging for some small businesses, but in the age of online reviews and social media this is one area you really must excel at. Try your best to limit the use of template replies in order to focus on each customer as an individual. While it might take a little more time, the rewards are always worth it.

Shawn Hunt is the behind the satellite internet provider Follow him at @SatelliteBroadb.