The trick is to find the balance between providing your customers with relevant information, while not abusing your online access to them by trying to sell them more “stuff.”

Whether you have infrequent in-person contact with customers or you see them every week -- or even every day -- the No. 1 rule in moving in-person conversations online is to consistently provide relevant information to the customer that will improve at least one aspect of their lives.

So just how do you connect with those customers and engage them in both the real and virtual worlds? First, you need to get their permission to contact them via e-mail; do that by asking at the point of sale, on your website, on social media, at events -- wherever you interact. Then create content that will engage and help your customers, allowing you to be seen as a partner, not just a vendor.

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