Back to the days where the society is still devoid from the so-called digital marketing, one-off marketing campaigns were the biggest game in town for many decades. However, since the rise of the Internet, social media, in particular, the behavior of customer dramatically changed.
And as social media becomes a necessary tool for many marketing strategies, customers in this generation (especially millennials) also expect for their relationship with brands to go beyond their product’s’ use value.
Hence, it’s time for marketers and business owners to harness a different approach, says Mohanbir Sawhney, Director of the Center for Research in Technology & Innovation and clinical professor of marketing at Kellogg School.
But What is Customer Engagement?
Customer engagement by definition is the most powerful indicator of your customers’ feelings towards your brand. That’s right. You’re investing all this money and time into trying to improve something mushy-gushy called emotions.
Emotions are one of the major factors in brand loyalty. If people love your brand, they will come back to purchase again. If people like your brand, they will certainly choose you over competitors. And if people will patronize your brand, you’ll get their loyalty and will spread the word to all their family and friends too.
In short, engagement is your way to measure the sentiment of customers to predict future loyalty. Below are the seven key tips that you should use to engage with customers authentically:
Develop Emotional Connections
The study conducted by the likes of Google, Forrester and The Corporate Executive Board explores the significance of building strong emotional connections with the customers.
Proving to customers that they are dealing with an actual person and not just a faceless, nameless business is one of the most effective rules of engagement to build an emotional connection. Here are a few ways on how you can interact with your customers while showing your human side at the same time.
- You must introduce yourself. Whether it’s via message, cheap business cards, email or direct message, always send a personalized and brief message when you are welcoming a new member or have a new follower to your online community.
- Use member images on forums and social media. For example, a customer has a concern or question on your forum or any other social media platform. Does your image as a team member answering the question or your brand logo will yield a stronger impact? The same thing applies when a customer likes or comments on your Facebook page.
- Incorporate author bios on your blogs. It will allow your customers to begin building a relationship and get to know you better.
- Appoint a brand ambassador. You can choose someone on your team. It could be even you, as the face of the community that you’re building.
Close the Negative Feedback Loop
Most companies aren’t making a genuine effort to improve their customer relationships despite all the buzz about customer engagement. The likes, shares, and comments you see on your marketing dashboard is not an accurate reflection of your status with your customers – whether you build something lasting and real.
And authentic engagement is all about listening. One good example is the McDonald’s recent global campaign. The fast food giant’s “Our Food. Your Questions,” campaign is a revolutionary take on corporate transparency. The company clears out rumors about its products and address those misconceptions head on after listening to its customers.
Build a Community
Building a community for the customers is one of the most efficient yet often disregarded ways to create authentic engagement. Many customers are not showy with their loyalty through repeated purchases but are great brand advocates whose word-of-mouth referrals will give you new traffic with social proof.
So, where can you find these customers and what rewards can you offer?
- Commence on social media platforms. Look for customers who are consistently re-sharing your posts.
- Initiate conversations with them to build a relationship, and look for other ways to leverage their passion for your brand.
- Give exclusive coupons on social media pages to reward customers who are actively following you. You will then see which customers redeem these coupons, reach out to them with your follow-up offers.
- Think of ways on how to make your loyal customers work for you.
Sawhney adds that when customers interact with you on social media, you can improve their loyalty to your brand. They will become evangelists for your brand that will help spread the word.
Individuals value convenience and useful information, but they also want some inspiration. And one way to inspire your customers is to share the vision of your brand to them. You must try to paint a picture of an inspiring future and show that you play a significant role in that future. It’s particularly true for companies who build next generation technology.
Another avenue to inspire your customers is to make your brand a platform of social impact. Collaborating on a cause that is important to your customers is a good way to build long term relationship, provided that you do it out of genuine intentions and not just for publicity’s sake. In fact, according to statistics from the Cause Marketing Forum:
- 80% of global consumers agree with the idea that business should play a role in addressing social-related issues.
- 72% of consumers donate to charity at the register while 65% feels confident about the retailer after giving.
- 33% of consumers prefer to purchase from brands aligned with a social or environmental cause.
Make It Entertaining – Hold a Contest
Who doesn’t love the idea of getting free stuff? No one! Take advantage of this fact and set up a contest for your customers. You will not only catch their attention, but you will also engage them through giving rewards and loyalty program for their participation.
For instance, you can ask customers to tag your business and share creative photos. The winner will receive a free one-year membership to your service or free product. Other ideas could be hosting a photo tagging contest or design contest where customers make affordable business cards for your company.
Host an Event
Whether it’s hosting an industry event or local meet up or hosting a webinar, hosting an event either online or offline is an excellent way for your customers to feel like they’re part of an exclusive community. It’s also a perfect setup for them to learn from their peers and of course, an opportunity for you to print business card too.
Regardless if you don’t host your event, set-up a booth at a trade show in your industry or look for local networking opportunities so that you can engage and mingle with your customers face-to-face.
Keep The Conversation Going
Part of an “always on” approach to marketing is to make a constant dialogue with the customers. Doing it well require constant innovation. It also means staying responsive and relevant to customer issues as they arise.
Allow your customers to ask questions and give them answers based on personal experience. It will not only provide them with real-time and reliable responses, but it also promotes a sense of connection to your brand.
While consumers are hoping for brands to take action on matters that are important to them, they will perceive an insincere marketing as another opportunity to make sales and consumers don’t want blatant marketing on the main issues. Listening to them and developing innovative and sincere means to meet their needs is the golden key to build long term relationships, if and only if you do it authentically.