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By Philip Piletic

Outreach is essential for both engaging with your current customers and finding new ones. There are now more ways than ever to reach out to your audience. Technology and new types of advertising provide many different options for customer engagement. Let’s look at some of the most effective tools and strategies for outreach.

Connect With Influencers

By partnering with influencers in your industry, you make your brand more appealing to both current and prospective clients. The first step for connecting with influencers is to follow their blogs and social media accounts. You can then share their content, respond to their blog posts and quote them in your own articles. Identify what’s important to these people right now so you can help them out. For example, when someone has just published a new book, you can help to promote it on your own social media pages.

Influencer marketing is not a strategy that usually pays off overnight. It’s all about building relationships, which takes time. Before you can expect people with large followings to support you, it’s only fair that you start out by giving them something. Look for mutually beneficial arrangements. For example, interviewing an author, business owner or other influencer for your blog or podcast provides both of you with publicity.

Focus on Building a Community

While building relationships with influencers helps you achieve your marketing goals, it’s even more important to build relationships with your customers. Loyal customers are the most valuable asset of any business. For inspiration, study brands that not only sell products but who also build communities around their brands.

Nike, for example, has created an entire online community called Nike+ where people interact. The community is based loosely on the company’s athletic shoes, accessories and apps but members discuss many topics related to sports and fitness. Other examples of successful brand-based communities include Sony’s Playstation Community and Walmart Moms. Smaller businesses don’t have the financial resources of a Walmart or Nike, but they can still take steps to build communities of their own, albeit on a much smaller scale. Anyone can create a discussion forum, membership site or mobile app that makes it easier for customers to interact with you and with one another.

Email Marketing

Email is one of the most efficient ways to engage with your audience. The great thing about an email list is that it lets you communicate with your customers whenever you decide. You’re not dependent on them logging on to your website or social media pages. It puts you in the driver’s seat. To build a responsive email list, you must identify the needs and preferences of your audience. If you want people to open your emails and click on your links, you have to provide them with consistent value. You naturally want to promote your business, but you also have to give some things away as well, even if it’s only valuable information.

You should also identify the best time to send emails. This will depend on your target audience and where they live. For example, college students, business owners and seniors all keep different hours. The time zones of your customers will also impact the optimal sending times. While you can estimate this based on demographics, it’s always best to do your own testing. Find out when you get the highest open rates and schedule your mailings accordingly.

Make the Most of Social Media

The growth of social media is one of the biggest trends of recent years. If you want to make the most of your social media outreach, you have to know exactly where your audiences is hanging out online. Different social media sites appeal to different demographics. Pinterest, for example, has a largely female membership. LinkedIn is the largest social network for B2B marketing. Snapchat and Instagram are especially popular among younger users. Facebook and Twitter, of course, are used by almost everyone.

Aside from focusing your energy on the appropriate platforms, it’s important to use social media in a way that allows you to engage with your audience. Be active and post content that’s helpful or at least entertaining. Avoid hard selling, as this is a turnoff no matter which sites you’re using. You can use social media to work hand-in-hand with your other marketing efforts, such as your website and email marketing. You can, for example, use your Facebook page to help you build your email list.

Broadcast Live Events

Many new technologies are helping to bridge the gap between the online and offline. Holding a live event in your own community gives you the chance to meet people in person. This can be a product launch, a charity event that you sponsor or co-sponsor, such as a concert or 10K race.

You can use social media and video to turn your live event into something national or even global. Extremely popular with millennials, Snapchat is a great platform for creating ephemeral but memorable events. Another option is to use new tools such as iBeacon, which allow event participants to interact with each other using a technology called Bluetooth Low Energy or BLE. Still another way to make live events more interactive is with SMS or text message marketing, which gives you the ability to create apps where participants can use text-to-screen apps that let them participate in discussions or vote in polls, with results shown on a large screen.

Outreach is the Key to Growing Your Business

There are numerous ways to reach out to new and existing customers or clients. You won’t be able to implement every single strategy, but you should be open to experimenting with new possibilities. It’s always worthwhile to test the waters and find out whether something might prove useful for you.

If you currently use Facebook, you might try branching out to try Snapchat, Instagram or Pinterest. If all of your efforts are strictly online, live events might infuse your brand with new energy. No matter which techniques you employ, it’s essential to discover the most effective ways to engage with your customers.

Philip Piletic is a freelance writer of technology, small business and marketing. Follow him at @Philip_Piletic.