These days, most relationship-building happens online. Rather than meeting a client for coffee or sitting down with a prospect in their office, you often must connect with them on a screen. This can make it difficult to establish an authentic connection.

When you are accustomed to noticing your clients’ and prospects’ visual cues and reading their body language in person, how can you connect with them online? According to bestselling author Scott Steinberg, it takes a little creativity and some new strategies.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Steinberg’s best practices for building strong connections with your clients and prospects—even when you can’t interact with them face to face.

Give your clients a reason to want to connect. Just like you, your clients and prospects are probably short on time and trying to juggle many different responsibilities. Rather than reaching out with a routine check-in, Steinberg says it’s a better idea to create cleverly packaged offers that your clients can’t resist. Whether you contact them with a special discount or a first chance to enroll in a new program, give your clients something they don’t want to miss. He says that the more you help your clients gain access to the tools and insights they need to run their business or do their job, the more of a trusted resource you will become.

Express your gratitude openly. Another way to build meaningful virtual relationships is to show your appreciation for your clients. Thoughtful promotional items and care packages are always a welcome way to remind clients that you are grateful for their business. If you would normally treat your clients to lunch, consider inviting them to catch up online and have a restaurant deliver a meal right to their doorstep. Steinberg says this is a considerate way to show appreciation and spread goodwill.

Seek out ways to help your clients. If there’s a way you can make your clients’ lives easier or solve a problem for them, step into their inbox with your solution. This could mean offering video tutorials or virtual workshops or inviting them to a virtual community to share tips and best practices. Your aim is to become a go-to source of education and insight, says Steinberg.

Spotlight your clients. Do you currently use customer stories? Steinberg says these are a great way to keep your clients front and center, and they go a long way at building connections in an online world. Another way to focus on your clients is to team up for community-centric initiatives, whether that’s funding relief programs or contributing to charitable efforts. This a way for you to show your appreciation for what your clients are doing and to build stronger relationships with them in the process.

Ask for client feedback. If you wonder what clients think about a program or product, ask them. Steinberg says most people relish the chance to be the first to try out new products, services and solutions, and offer feedback on how to make the offering better. Fortunately, asking for input is easy to do online. Send your clients a brief survey to complete via email or reserve time at the beginning or end of a video call to get their thoughts. When you make a point to seek out clients’ input, they feel valued, which promotes ongoing collaboration.

Have you thought about how you can establish rapport and build connections in this new virtual-first world? Consider the best practices above to establish meaningful relationships with your clients, even from a distance.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Scott Steinberg is a bestselling author, consultant, public speaker and video host. He helps his clients create value and cultivate competitive advantage on the back of emerging innovations and trends.