Posted: Mon 29th Jan 2024
Finding effective ways to engage with your customers is so important. Is your current approach failing to connect with your target audience? Don't worry, there are lots of things you can do to improve your customer engagement and build long-lasting relationships.
Customer engagement is crucial if you're going to thrive in a highly competitive market. But as more digital platforms spring up, and consumer preferences change, the traditional ways of engaging with customers may no longer be as effective. You must be able to adapt and find new ways to connect with the people who buy from you.
Successful customer engagement goes beyond a mere transactional relationship. It means having meaningful interactions and providing a great customer experience.
If you want to better engage people and foster that vital customer loyalty, there are several ways to do it. Here, we explore some of the most effective strategies and tell you how you can start to develop deeper relationships with customers.
What is customer engagement?
Customer engagement is simply the level to which your customers interact with your brand. For you as a business, it's about building strong relationships with customers through various channels such as social media, email marketing and customer support.
Customer engagement is important in helping you retain existing customers and attract new ones. When people feel an emotional connection with your brand, they're more likely to:
become long-time, loyal customers
buy from you again
recommend you to other people
On top of that, engaged customers are great sources of valuable feedback and insight, which you can use to improve your products and services.
Overall, customer engagement activities are crucial if your business is going to build a positive reputation, boost customer satisfaction, and drive long-term success.
What is successful customer engagement?
Today's customers have many opportunities for engagement with your brand. They're no longer just passive recipients of your sales patter.
Successful customer engagement is about:
understanding their needs
providing intuitive solutions to their problems (sometimes before they even know what the problems are themselves!)
Whether it's a mention on a social media platform like Instagram or X (Twitter), a review on crowdsourcing sites like Trustpilot or Feefo, or an email to your customer service team, you have a chance to go above and beyond and stand out from the competition.
All this matters because the balance of power in the economy has shifted from producers to consumers, from business owners and sellers to customers. More importantly, it's vital for your bottom line.
You likely believe you deliver a great experience to your customers, but do they hold the same view? Watch this webinar to learn how to fully understand your customer and create a customer-orientated mindset:
How do you measure customer engagement?
There are lots of ways to measure customer engagement. You don't need to score top marks on every one, but it's important to know where your strengths and weaknesses are, and how they affect your business.
It's also good to see how you compare with your competitors. After all, if you can't provide your customers (and potential customers) with a solution, there are hundreds more companies who can.
Here are some simple questions to ask yourself. They should help you pinpoint the most important factors when it comes to your customer interaction and engagement efforts.
How much do we value customer engagement?
We've already said how important customer engagement is for the actual customer. But what are the benefits to you as a business? A study by Gallup showed that "fully engaged" customers accounted for a 23% increase in business income, on average.
If your business place a lot of value on customer engagement, that's great. Without a commitment from the top, plans are impotent and intentions fall flat.
Do we know our customers?
You can have the greatest product the world has ever seen, but if the right people aren't seeing it, you might as well have no product at all. Really understanding your customers is the first step towards engaging with them effectively. How can you address their problems if you have no idea who they are?
Often, companies that see a fall in revenue from sales say a lack of customer contact or insight is the reason they're unable to engage with their customers. On the flipside, growing businesses don't tend to identify this as a problem. It's a telling difference.
Research helps, and marketing personas can be a powerful tool for unlocking insight and developing a personal connection with customers.
Are we better at offline or online engagement?
We now operate in an omnichannel environment where a retail customer could browse products online, view them in store, and then make the final purchase on their phone.
If you haven't adapted to this behaviour – the rise of what John Lewis calls the 'master shopper' – you must. You need to be excelling at online engagement as well as offline.
The best way to do this is by using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool that gives you a unified view of your customers, however they interact with you. If you can master the art of omnichannel engagement, there's a big opportunity for you to set yourself apart and gain a competitive advantage.
What tools do we use to increase engagement?
There are so many different customer engagement tactics, and every day software companies are developing new apps and tools to make engagement more straightforward.
It's not good enough to only be using one or two – at least not if you want to compete with your business peers. You need to be taking advantage of a variety of channels and building engagement into your content marketing strategy.
Some tools you can use to support your engagement strategies:
user-generated content and user reviews
guides and "how-to" articles
Are we using social media effectively to increase our engagement rates?
A vast number of businesses are already using social media, some of which may be your competitors. And it isn't just consumer-facing companies – business-to-business (B2B) companies are in on the act as well.
According to Jason King, head of marketing at 4CornerNetworks:
"You have to remember social is social. You're entering into their world so you can't be all promotional. Overall, about 80% of all our content is social or conversational with no more than 20% promotional."
Being active on your social media channels doesn't just mean posting and updating your status every now and again. It's about getting involved in conversations within your industry and listening to your customer base. Use tools to help you listen, interact and engage customers effectively and at scale.
How consistent is our knowledge and data?
The black hole of unknowing is a very stressful place for your customers to be. For example, if you can't track their orders or see where they are in the customer journey, neither can they. Not knowing creates uncertainty, and uncertainty creates distrust.
Using a dedicated tool makes it easy for you to have a single view of your customer. This can benefit your business growth significantly. Linking this knowledge to operational systems – such as warehousing, stock control and billing – using resource-planning applications is vital to giving your customers a joined-up story and the latest information.
What's stopping us from engaging?
The road to success is rarely free of potholes and hurdles. It will come as some comfort to know that whatever challenges you're facing, others are facing them, too.
The most common problem is predicting the future. Trends and buying habits change so often that keeping up with customer attention and demand isn't easy.
However, having accurate data in CRM and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and using business intelligence applications to visualise it, can turn hindsight into insight.
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