From the March 2010 issue of Startups

You've established your business, but unfortunately you made a mistake when trying to promote the business (say, a well-intentioned promotion gone wrong), and you may have alienated some of your customers. What do you do? Can you regain your customers' trust? Fortunately, there are a number of tips business marketing experts recommend to win those customers back.

Engage your customers. According to small-business marketing consultant Roberta Guise, in order to win back trust, engage your customers in your business and what it has to offer. "Businesses need to be communicating with customers, and they can do that in-store by handing each customer a card or a letter without being apologetic," she says. Discounts can also engage customers, but small-business marketing expert Erik Wolf warns that relying too heavily on discounts can lead to one-time business instead of long-term profitable customers.

Use social media. Establish an online presence on social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. Using these sites, you can answer questions and hear feedback from customers. In short, you'll be able to establish the connections you need to make up with your customers. "In terms of engaging people on a personal level, you're definitely going to get a lot further with social media than you are mailing coupons," Wolf says.

Be socially responsible. Show your customers that you care by giving a portion of your business' profits to charity. Hold a sale or discount day that is tied to the donation of a percentage of profits to a nonprofit organization, or change the theme of your business to emphasize its support of charities. For example, Oakland-based office-supply company Give Something Back Business Products prides itself on the fact that it donates more than half its profits to California nonprofit organizations. "In order to get your customers to want to shop with you, you need to give them a reason to believe in what you're doing, and being socially responsible can help you do that," Guise says.