The old customer engagement definition used to include a crack customer service team and email campaigns that resulted in decent open rates. Oh how times have changed. Today’s customer engagement strategies are more about creating ongoing meaningful interactions that not only drive revenue, but turn customers into brand advocates.
This decade has been dubbed by marketers as the “age of the customer.” For one, customers have nearly limitless choices – there’s an entire internet of competition out there. And, for another, the increase in Software as a Service (SaaS) companies has given customers, even more power – the power to choose whether to continue being a customer, or whether to leave for greener pastures.
In the Age of the Customer, the goal now more than ever is to retain customers by keeping them happy, successful, and engaged with your product. We’ve pulled together five strategies to help you do just that.
Whether you hold a summit, appoint a task force, or create a group of marketers, social media and customer success professionals – making engagement, specifically, a priority is the only way you’ll achieve it. Engagement isn’t the same as customer experience – it’s more about how companies motivate customers to invest in ongoing relationships with their brands. You’ll want to start by closely examining your customers’ purchase decision journeys to make sure the level of engagement you want matches with the level of engagement they’re prepared to give.
Customer engagement isn’t a series of single experiences, it works more like a Facebook friendship. The potential for interaction is always there, and sometimes your Facebook friend posts something so interesting that you can’t resist replying (or at least “liking”), which may spark an actual conversation. Social media is a significant tool in creating ongoing communication – a recent online report said that customers who engage with brands online spend 20 to 40 percent more on that brand’s products. But the dialogue also happens on other online channels, like user review sites or forums. Whatever the format, if people are talking about your company, join the conversation. Just be sure to add value when you do (nobody wants to be friends with someone trying to sell them stuff all the time).
Your user sees an ad and goes to your website. They read your blog. They follow you on Facebook and Twitter. They sign up for your emails. All of these actions provide you with the opportunity to create layers of experiences that reinforce the value of your brand (ie. why they should pay attention to you). Yes, they need to work together to provide one holistic experience, but they should also function individually to reaffirm the relevance of your brand. What is an “experience” exactly? It’s not empty marketing jargon, for starters. The dictionary definition of “experience” is: “Practical contact with and observation of facts or events” (noun), or “encounter or undergo an event or occurrence” (verb). You’ll notice that “experience” is a vague term – it needs an adjective to really make it sing. So what kind of experience do your customers want to have?
Once you define the kind of experiences your customers hope for, you can begin to layer them in such a way to draw people in and keep them coming back. Salesforce, a cloud computing company that primarily does customer relationship management, is one of the best experience-builders out there. From their user interface, to their blog, to the annual DreamForce conference, every interaction helps to create a community of engaged, enthusiastic users.
Customer engagement management relies heavily on content, but not just any content. The types of content that engage users best are relevant and responsive. Relevant means that it addresses what your customers want most and helps them get it. Responsive means that your content strategy has to change according to what serves your users best at any given time. That may mean rolling out a new content strategy around an observed trend (Modcloth noticed that its reviewers frequently mentioned their clothing size in reviews, and added a feature that allowed other users to search by which clothes fit their body types best). Or, it may mean sending different content at specific points in the user’s journey – like an automated email with a How-to video that deploys when a user performs a specific action.
Whatever customer engagement strategy you choose, there’s likely software that can automate it or make some part of it easier. For example, if your customer engagement strategy includes adding value through instructional content, it might be helpful to have a platform that makes creating interactive guides fast and easy (and how often can you say creating quality content is fast or easy?). Or, you might need an improved email marketing platform that uses customer behaviors to deliver the right messages at the right times, like Silverpop. Customer engagement does require the human touch, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be efficient.
What is your plan for creating ongoing, meaningful interactions? We’d love to hear about it on Twitter @whatfix Let’s start our own conversation, shall we?