Customer engagement (CE) is an effect, a reaction, a connection, a response and/or an experience of customers with one another, with a company or a brand. The initiative for engagement can be either consumer- or company-led and the medium of engagement can be on or offline.
Love your customers.
I guess you already know that. But the question is, “do you really love them?” Think about it. If you truly love them like you claim, then why are you in such a hurry to get their money that you forgo getting to know them? Wouldn’t it be mutually beneficial to engage customers first, and fan their hunger and thirst for your product?
Customers are the lifeblood of your business. Whether you sell ebooks, software, consulting, coaching, or a physical product (e.g., clothing), without loyal customers, you’ll fail. If you’re looking for actionable “no regrets” strategies to engage your customers, this in-depth article is for you.
Customer engagement is no longer a series of one-off experiences—it's an ongoing dialogue. Companies need to be good listeners in the digital age, and that requires a new set of skills. It means listening to customers who are already having conversations about brands –yours and others—in traditional online channels as well as over the social Web. So jump into those conversations in a genuine and human way. Foster trust and form relationships through open, honest interactions over time—interactions that create positive experiences and outcomes for your customers. Positive outcomes include answering questions, solving problems, hearing ideas and supporting them (when possible), and also amplifying praise.
Another aspect of this spectrum is the relationships that your customers form with each other. The peer-to-peer relationships are core to the social Web. Because of course, your customers won't just be interacting with you, they'll talk amongst themselves, sharing their perspectives across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even YouTube. Your job isn't just to sell your product, it's also to facilitate an active, passionate online community around your product.
1. Use social media as an engagement tool and not simply a platform
When people follow you on Twitter, or like your page on Facebook, they took that action because they trust that you’ll help them.
Make no mistakes about it, these people have problems that need urgent solutions. Through customer engagement, you can retain and make customers happier.
Begin to see social media as a tool, not just a platform. This means that you can use the tool to connect, share, identify questions, research influencers and other experts, and create content that your fans will scream, “Wow, ‘ve been looking for this!”
Most brands merely regard Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks as platforms.
2. Engage customers with In-Product messaging
When it comes to product messaging (i.e., notifying your customers about your new product), there are several key channels that you can use: In-Product Messaging; Email; Mobile; Social media; Customer Care/Support.
Out of these four channels, in-product messaging happens to generate the best conversion.
Overall, follow up emails have poor conversion rate.
But you can improve your conversions, by sending in-product messages. Because, that’s what your intimate customers are desperately looking for.
According to Wikipedia, in-product messaging means:
Content, and related media delivered directly to a user’s internet-connected device or software application, with the purpose of informing, gathering feedback from, engaging with, or marketing to that specific user or segment of users at often-higher engagement rates than other digital marketing and online marketing channels.
3. Nurture free trial prospects and get them to upgrade
To nudge free trial users to upgrade their account and use premium features, you need to nurture them.
One of the proven ways to do that is through personalized communication. Getting to know your customers is easier if you give them the chance to get to know you. As simple as this might seem, it can help free trial users know you by name, and they’ll feel more secured about your brand.
4. Communicate with VIP customers with promotions specifically for them
VIP customers are not one-time buyers. But the good news is that through customer engagement, you can turn casual buyers (or one-off buyers) into loyal and trustworthy customers.
There are 3 types of retail VIP customers:
i). Liberal VIP Customers: These are customers who are loyal to your brand. They usually purchase the most over a period of time. Doug Fleener says he measures spending over an 18 – 24 month period.
ii). Community VIP Customers: These are important group of customers, too. According to Fleener, they aren’t actually big spenders, but you can’t do without them. Because, they refer qualified customers.
Social media influencers and pro bloggers fall into this category. When they tweet your post or new product, you can expect tens if not hundreds of new subscribers and buyers.
iii). Advocates/liberal VIP customers: This are customers who make impact in your brand. They’re brand advocates as well as big spenders. They’re not only happy after purchasing your product, but they can tell others, too.
As a rule of thumb, dazzle every customer. But elevate the DAZZLE or experience, and provide a more personal touch for your VIPs.
On the other hand, if you neglect or take for granted these very important customers, you’ll lose them. Top notch customer service is what brings about VIP customers, not just great products.
5. Create custom content that addresses bugging customer questions
Are you engaging your customers with custom content?
Overall, content marketing is used to drive leads and acquire new customers, whereas, custom content is primarily used to engage and nurture existing customers.
There you go. That’s the difference between content marketing and custom content marketing.
78% of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing. And 61% of buying decisions are influenced by custom content.
Your existing customers have questions bugging their minds right now. What are you doing to proffer answers to them?
Time is precious. The easiest way to address that question is to create a custom content. I told you earlier that custom content is a type of content written to customers who are familiar with your product.
You could create custom to inform your customers about new features of your software, or how to install and setup a feature.
6. Hold a customer-engagement summit
There are so many ways to learn today: books, blogs, articles, magazines, newspapers, journals, videos, podcasts, and multimedia.
However, attending a summit or conference will broaden your horizon, and upgrade your learning curve in a dramatic way. The benefits are enormous.
Adobe conducted a study on the impact of summit in attendees’ lives.
The company found that 98% of attendees met or exceeded their expectation. And 80% of them discovered new skills to impact their organization and their career.
If you’ve the resources, I encourage you to host a customer-engagement summit. You could collaborate with other businesses to make this a success.
It’s really not about the ambience, but the value you plan to bring to the table. What matters is the impact you’ll make in customers’ lives as they come.
When you attend academic conferences, you’ll learn from others and dramatically improve your own skills and knowledge about your field.
As you engage with other people’s work, dare to ask questions.
In like manner, hosting a customer-engagement summit gives you the rare opportunity to meet face-to-face with your customers (especially the VIP customers).
These customers can ask questions, and instead of answering via email, support system, or phone, you can infuse personality and humor while providing answers and your brand will stand out in the crowd. Customer engagement goes beyond managing the initial touch points. It also cuts across understanding what your customers want and how they want it.
It’s through engagement that you become certain. Customer engagement is your responsibility – and you’ve got to do it now. By the way, it’s not a destination, though, but a journey that never ends.
7. Produce interactive content to feed customer demand
What type of content are you producing?
When you come over to online, content is king.
Your ability to produce the right content is your one-way ticket to generating more leads, more inbound links, and more sales.
But it’s easier said than done. 52% of B2B content marketers are struggling to produce the kind of content that engages. 39% do not have a budget in place to hire professional content creators.
No two articles are created equal. Or should be.
Do you realize that two writers can write an in-depth article on the same topic, one of the articles could go viral – generating thousands of social shares, comments, links, and clients, while the other may not even reach a few hundred readers. What could be the cause?
A typical blog post is not really an interactive content, but it can become if you spice it up.
Generally, humans live to interact. Consequently, if your content follows that pattern, your customers will not only be engaged, but they’ll feel at home with your brand – and become motivated brand advocates.
By its very nature, interactive content engages participants in an activity: answering questions, making choices, exploring scenarios. It’s a great way to capture attention right from the start. Individuals have to think and respond; they can’t just snooze through it.
8. Create a “listening center” to drive conversation
Your customers are in a haste. It’s your responsibility to shorten response time – especially when they ask questions that’s been bugging their minds.
Knowing which questions to answer first, and how to send it across to your customers will go along way to excite them. That’s what customer engagement entails.
With a listening center, you’ve got a system that you can leverage on to further strengthen relationship with your existing and new customers.
9. Scale your customer engagement budget
There are new strategies, tools, vehicles, and content types at every corner. Most companies are confused, because they can’t figure out how they can afford all of these with their limited budget.
Content marketing is expensive.
If you consider the time, research required, money, and sometimes the network that you need to build to make it work, you can’t really equate it with anything.
However, it’s important to scale your customer engagement budget. If a large portion of your budget goes into content creation and distribution, your engagement will suffer.
A wise marketer will always put the customers first. After your content has attracted new customers to your business, you need to motivate and fan their zeal.
If you don’t do it, your customers will likely switch – irrespective of the value that your content delivers.
If you’re in a tough niche, then creating more content may not help you trounce the competition – but creating the right content and scaling your network.
This means that you connect with more businesses, marketers, influencers, and content curators – who can help amplify your content to reach more people.
10. Improve customer support by making it your team’s duty
No matter the product you deal on, what you’re truly selling is experience. Core values that are based on human psychology – and what makes people happy.
I’ve a question for you: “Are you satisfied with your present customer support system?”
To help improve your customer support, one thing I recommend for my clients is to make customer service everyone’s responsibility.
Yes, “everybody should be involved.”
It doesn’t matter whether you have a sales team (you should), or administrative team – all hands must be on deck. Poor customer service will cripple your business.
$41 billion is lost by US companies each year due to poor customer service.
If you’re engaged with a particular task outside of customer service, and you receive complaints from a customer, what should you do?
Pause whatever task you’re handling and address the customer’s complaints. Be kind to them. Show them that you’re not after their money, but their love and trust.
When customer service becomes your no #1 priority, customers will trust you more, and refer new customers to your business. Drive this urgency into every of your team member.
Successful organisations have one common central focus: Customers.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a business, a professional practice, a hospital, or a government agency, success comes to those, and only those, who are obsessed with looking after customers.
11. Respond promptly to customer calls
How fast do you respond to customer calls? By “calls,” I’m referring to feedback, not just phone calls or emails. The customer is the absolute priority.
In case you don’t know, here’s a shocker: Customers are impatient.
It’s estimated that humans attention span is 8 seconds – which is 1 second lower than that of a goldfish.
You’ve got to understand that people are not ready to wait for 48 hours to get their questions answered, when another brand can answer within 24 hours.
Even if the question requires some technical know-how, it’s vital to up your game. You can achieve tremendous results if you have a technical team or department to handle these technical issues.
When it comes to responding to customer’s feedback quickly, don’t make excuses. How fast you respond will help you gauge and understand the difference between customer service and customer experience. “Experience” is as a result of the service you provide.
12. Create a mobile app
Have you created your first mobile app yet? If no, what are you waiting for?
Deep analytics combined with good psychology for user behavior are the defining factors that differentiates an app from a website or other software.
When it comes to customer engagement, we’ve seen firsthand how apps can turn a casual conversation into a bonded relationship that generates sales.
If you’re looking to engage your customers, while providing unfeigned value that will remain fresh in their minds for years to come, then you should seriously consider creating mobile apps.
Keep in Mind
Engagement needs to be results-driven
Although communication with your customers is an ongoing dialogue, you need not be chatting just for the sake of it. When you engage your customers, have a goal in mind, whether it's improving your product or nurturing loyalty and increasing sales. While traditionally the product team manages product and marketing is responsible for increasing brand awareness and driving sales, the lines are blurred now. Nurturing an ongoing and genuine relationship with your customers will naturally make a major impact in both these arenas.
Naturally, how you engage with your customers impacts how customers view your brand. 70% of Americans are willing to spend an average of 13% more with companies who they feel provide above-par customer service. That means that all your customer engagement efforts should lead clearly in the direction of resolution. Know what the outcome should be, and provide your customers with clear tools that make it easy and efficient for them to get what they need.
It happens anytime, anywhere
In the past, company-customer interaction happened in siloed, closed-off settings. Customers had to make a phone call or write an email. But now, we're living in an "always-on “world ruled by the mobile experience. In 2011, customers were using mobile apps 10 times a day and a growing number of customers have used an app to buy a product. But here's the big news: an astounding 78% used mobile apps for customer service purposes. In other words, if you're not engaging your customers on-the-go—in the context of their daily lives—you're essentially neglecting them, or are at least missing an opportunity to nurture the relationship through an open, honest interaction.
You want to be able to interact with your customers in the context of their daily lives. Not only are you able to provide them with better, more immediate service, but you also gain loyalty and stay in the forefront of their minds. When the time comes to make a purchase, they'll choose the product they've come to trust through a series of positive experiences.
It's mutually beneficial
The new customer engagement strategy should feel less like a marketing and sales campaign, contest, or tool, and more like a well-developed friendship founded on the basis of interdependent needs and mutual respect. The feedback you get from your customers isn't just important for you, it's important for them, as well. If you can listen to what your customers are saying and improve the product and their experience, everybody wins. You get more loyal customers; they get what they really need and want.
The relationship you build is a two-way street. On one hand, your customers feel heard, and they can see the ways they're actually contributing to your company. At the same time, you get free feedback, and have the opportunity to improve your business, thereby by attracting more customers.
It's fundamentally customer-driven
Remember the days when cold-calling part of your marketing strategy? Now, imagine the opposite of a cold call, because that's how customer engagement works today. Your customers decide if and when to communicate. Your job is simply to give them the tools that make the interaction and communication easy and natural. Not only should these tools be easily accessible and highly visible, but they should also offer options for different types of conversation. Do they have a question? Do they want to post a rave review? Are they experiencing a technical difficulty? Present your customers with an intuitive tool for communicating with you, and let them initiate.
When you put control in their hands, you're more likely to be able to meet their needs, but you also win their trust, and ultimately, you build the loyal customer base you need to grow and succeed
The key learning here is that customer engagement isn’t a destination, but a journey. Because it doesn’t stop.
I’m yet to find any brand, business that can boast of mastering customer engagement 100%.
If only you can take these strategies to heart and implement them, you’ll not only inspire your customers, but you’ll build a brand that thrives in the midst of market downturns.
Which of these customer engagement strategies have you used in your business?
Contact us for help implementing any of these strategies you would like to utilize.