Effectively engaging customers is key to running a successful digital marketing strategy. But many businesses fail to comprehend what it means to engage customers or why it’s even important to get customers to engage with your brand.
For many businesses, they think of online marketing as getting people to convert directly, handing over their cash the moment they see an online ad. But in the real world, that’s not how it works. If you want to get people to part with their money, you must create a story that shows them how having your products will make their lives better, build trust, develop an effective lead nurturing program, and give customers an excellent experience from first interaction through purchase to repurchases far into the future. And, that means harnessing the power of the engagement engine, a more nuanced and modern version of the old conversion funnel represented by the AIDA model. As a means to help you understand how effectively engaging customers support your marketing efforts, check out this graphic showing how engagement moves prospects from awareness to purchase.
Engagement is a funny thing. It doesn’t actually relate to how much a company spends on marketing at all. It’s all about the narrative you create and the community your build between your business, customers, and between customers. Just look at the world’s most successful businesses. Tesla, for instance, barely did any advertising at all for the first ten years of its existence and now it is one of the most valuable automakers in the world. Something similar happened to Monster. The company barely did any advertising. But the outreach that it did conduct was incredibly effective.
Here are some of the reasons you might not be effectively engaging customers online and what you can do about it.
Effectively engaging customers
What is engagement?
Customer engagement is the ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer.
Smile goes on to include a dimension to customer engagement based on the degree and depth of customer interactions with the brand, arguing that deeper relationships generate increasingly positive results.
Why effectively engaging customers is important
Effectively engaging customers isn’t an end unto itself. Rather, customer engagement translates to positive marketing outcomes. A recent study found that increasing customer engagement led to increasing cross-sells by 22% (cross-sells involve customers purchasing additional items as part of their order) and drove upsell revenue by as must as 51% (upsells involve customers purchasing more expensive products), which increased order size by as much as 85%.
I think these stats speak for themselves and argue strongly why effectively engaging customers is critical to your success. If you need more, look at the graphic above to see how engagement drives in-store sales as well as online sales.
How to implement strategies for effectively engaging customers
Engage across multiple channels
Engaging across multiple channels is incredibly important. No two people use the internet in the same way when searching for product purchase information, as you see in the graphic below. For some, social media, with its myriad of different platforms, form their most prevalent use of the internet. People do their chatting, shopping, and research through social platforms. For others, it’s a traditional search that initiates most product searches. Some people primarily use messaging apps. As a digital marketer, you never quite know where your customers live online, so you must be wherever they choose.
Thus, failing to engage across multiple channels is a big mistake.
Using every channel as a means for pumping out product information and promotion isn’t the right strategy either, as you can’t build engagement by talking about yourself all the time online, any more than always talking about yourself doesn’t make you many friends. Similarly, you don’t want to say the same thing across every channel, since technical differences require different types of posts, while customers and prospects connected to your brand across different platforms find your unimaginatively similar posts don’t look like you care much about them. Finally, demographic and geographic differences across platforms mean you need different messaging to engage the types of users on a particular platform.
Responding on Facebook or other channels
Your audience wants to communicate with brands directly via Facebook. People expect to type in their questions and comments on social platforms and get a response from a company. Social media is now such a ubiquitous social media channel for communication that many brands now offer customer service hours on one or more social platforms.
The atmosphere of these interactions, though, is a little different. Yes, people want a quick response about shipping times and issues with their deliveries but they also want to create relationships with the companies they buy from.
In the modern world, people are fickle. They don’t usually stick with a brand for long, especially if something better comes along. However, when companies engage with them as friends on Facebook or other social channels, brands increase the lifetime value of those particular customers. A simple conversation and personal engagement boosts trust and makes a brand feel more personal and relatable. All of a sudden, the customer stops looking elsewhere for a better deal and just incorporates a select brand into how they live their lives. It becomes habitual.
Moreover, engagement drives customer-to-customer interactions that fuel market performance. When customers feel valued, feel they have a relationship with a brand, they share positive sentiment about your brand, which translates into increased sales, as you see in the graphic above.
Offer exclusive content
A lot of companies believe that the purpose of content creation is to boost SEO. The more engaging material you create, the more people will organically arrive at your site, right? In practice, that’s true but it’s only part of the story. Yes, creating valuable content that’s freely accessible to all is important, but it’s not the only way to engage people with your blogs, videos, and infographics.
Create engagement by reading and responding to comments posted by your readers, by thanking users who share your content across social platforms, and by mentioning audience members for their efforts to promote your brand by sharing user-generated content.
Content strategy should also consider your audience and construct content that speaks to their problems and questions while speaking as if you’re talking to each one individually.
Celebrate success with your customers
Have you noticed that people with large audiences enjoy celebrating both the brand and members who engage with the brand? There’s a reason for this; it helps everyone feel like they’re one big team. It’s not just “you versus them,” it’s “us.” There’s a big psychological difference.
Audiences like to feel like they’re part of a community. Many people who buy from you genuinely feel like they are part of a team, trying to make the world a better or more joyful place. This aspect of marketing is particularly true in companies that serve hobbyists.
Celebrate your success by recognizing the importance of your customers to that success. But, more than that, actually involve them in aspects of the business. For instance, ask your community to vote for a new logo or menu item and you’ll find they increase their loyalty to your brand as well as share more about your brand and the contest. A great example of this comes from the Lay’s campaign where customers create new flavors of chips.
Communicate with customers directly
Being able to communicate with your customers directly is critical for anyone looking to create a successful enterprise in the long term. Without that essential two-way communication, you’re stuck with banner ads and PPC, neither of which is able to engage customers the way that personal and direct communication can. Mention customers by name or handle to show you value them as meaningful parts of your endeavor.
Most enterprises now accept that webinars are among the most powerful tools for building an authority brand. Companies that host webinars build compelling communities and set themselves up as rank experts since attendees see the people behind your brand and have a chance to ask questions that build engagement.
Unfortunately, there are still many small-time brands out there who don’t host webinars. A webinar is an opportunity to allow potentially thousands of people to actively engage with your expertise. Usually, you start the event with a theme, message, or presentation then provide people watching with opportunities to interact with you and ask questions. By recording the webinar and sharing it with attendees and on your YouTube channel, you make double duty out of your webinar material.
The ability to ask questions is actually a great outlet for your audience. And answering one question can provide answers for many people at once, helping you avoid confusion.
Host a group
Building an online community is easier than ever these days. But many companies still aren’t doing it because they don’t think that it’s “in their line of business.”
The truth, however, is that virtually every business can build a community because every business solves a problem. Builders, for instance, can create communities that serve clients who want to construct offices or homes. Plumbing companies can create groups that assist with blocked toilets and so on.
Hosting a group might seem like it takes up your company’s precious resources, but it actually solves a host of problems. Your audience feels more connected to what you’re doing. And you encourage active engagement for greater participation.
Tell a story
When it comes to engaging customers, your brand’s narrative is perhaps the most important aspect of the entire enterprise. People want to feel like they’re a part of some bigger story when they engage with your company.
All companies have the ability to tell stories because all companies solve problems. It’s just a question of finding your story and telling your audience an interesting story.
Your story could take any form you like, but the best approach is to describe how you overcome a problem your rivals don’t. A brand story involves characters who overcome some issue in an entertaining way. Your brand story might involve your origin story highlighting how you came upon the idea that solves a common consumer problem or how your brand overcame challenges in gaining traction. For instance, I used to tell the story of how the founder and I were stuck on I-95 coming back from an innovation conference in NY when our bus broke down. I embellished the story by showing our personal discomforts such as the mosquitoes that nearly ate us alive or the toilets that back up after 5 hours stranded on the roadside.
The key is to be personal, to be authentic, and to be entertaining.
Once you have a story, push it. Your online audience will remember it and then use it to justify buying your products.
Problems firms encounter in effectively engaging customers
For some, it’s bandwidth. They just don’t have the resources necessary to fully engage customers. Often, it’s not a true problem with bandwidth, it’s a failure to recognize the impact of engagement on your firm’s bottom line. For others, the problem occurs because they don’t know how to build engagement, and I hope this post helps you build better engagement with your audience. For still other entrepreneurs, the problem is a lack of equipment and poor phone signals. Investing in systems like the WilsonPro cell signal booster for home & office with VoIP can help remedy this, allowing you to have uninterrupted chats with your customers, no matter where you happen to be.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.