15 Dec 2015

Is Customer Engagement a Priority?

Your customers, and more importantly your prospective customers, are constantly being bombarded with marketing. It’s estimated that the average consumer is exposed to over 3,000 adverts a day in every form of media creating a lot of noise that you need to cut through for successful engagement. Customer engagement is the goal of all marketing, but is that where it ends? How often should you make customer engagement a goal through the rest of the sales cycle? If your service or product relies on continually gaining new customers for 100% of your revenue then customer engagement at the marketing stage is a perfect focus. If you want to build up a loyal base of ‘sticky’ customers that return whatever the cost, then moving your focus to engage your customers at every stage of the cycle is a necessity.

WHY ENGAGEMENT MATTERS

Engagement ensures a higher level of involvement from the consumer, making them a part of your company’s collaborative value chain. It also helps solve one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today: driving higher revenue from a shrinking customer base.

If you’re in business, any business, then you need to constantly revaluate what is effective at influencing your customers and building a brand for your company. Your customers are the most important element in the future of your company. Whatever brings a prospective consumer to your company and leads them on to buy should be a top priority. One principle that will always drive every sector of the sales cycle will be building a relationship with the customer and learning how they buy and what those decisions are based on. It is only by creating dialogue with your customers that you get the answers to these questions and anything that creates this dialogue is customer engagement.

Large corporations are experts on engagement and using what they learn about the customers to create more engagement.

  • Wal-Mart uses social data to engage with potential customers and to predict their purchase patterns based on their social media interactions.
  • Microsoft’s email campaigns are yet another example of customized engagement. Using advanced analytics, the software giant is able to create tailored offers in real-time, based on the recipient’s age, location and online activity.
  • Apple’s customized support centres called “Genius Bars” use the real-time, in-store customer interactions to up-sell and cross-sell additional products and services. Rightly referred to as the “the heart and soul” of the Apple stores, the Genius Bar is an interesting way to engage, acquire and retain customers.

Through these interactions with their chosen demographic the customers feels valued and understood, creating an emotional attachment to the company and the product. The trust engendered through the engagement sales cycle makes customers feel that their input is important and that they are included in the decisions making process. Whichever way you look at it, customer engagement is vital to the success of your company and should be the main goal of all you do.

Keeping your customer base engaged and loyal is not an easy as it sounds, but to fully understand how building on successful consumer interactions at every stage relies on skillfully navigating the stage before, we can use the Engagement Lifecycle.

THE ENGAGEMENT LIFECYCLE

The engagement lifecycle is a road map of how to produce the right action to influence your chosen demographic to at any stage of your consumer relationship. This understanding will increase the amount of productive engagement in your business relationship and build up a loyal database of willing customers.

Marketing

Customer engagement begins the moment that a prospective consumer is exposed to any marketing from your company. All your marketing should be focused on a call to action, an engagement, from your target audience. It should grab their attention, be relevant, current and expressive. There are no wallflowers in excellent content marketing, you need it to be noticed, clear, creative and offer value to your demographic. Most of all it should galvanize them into action to draw them to your product.

Once the marketing is noticed it will be converted into a lead through customer engagement by creating interest on what you offer and the value it brings to the consumer. There are many different ways that marketing is turned into a lead but each of them involve your company reaching out to the prospective customer and explaining the benefits of your product or service, all the time building a relationship of trust and building interest. Imagine trying to build this kind of relationship without engaging with the customer? It’s impossible. The bottom line is – companies survive on sales and engaging marketing is the way to achieve them.

Feedback from customer engagement at this stage will help in shaping the marketing, product development and management of your company and produce more effective campaigns.

Sales

As you engage with the prospective client you can overcome objections and turn your prospect into a buyer. You will find out who the decision maker is, what criteria you need to fulfill and work with them until a purchase is made. As the relationship matures through engagement you will learn about the company, how they purchase, what they need or want and be able to work on these facts to produce a solid foundation on which to build a long and productive relationship.

Feedback from this stage can shape product development and marketing strategy, producing more effective customer engagement strategies.

Customer Support

Once a purchase is made the temptation may be to reduce, or even worse, stop engaging with the customer as the goal of a sale has been fulfilled. Repeat business is not only necessary, but easier to achieve as the relationship is already established and your client knows what value you offer.

When your prospect has become a customer, he is simply someone what has bought one of your products. This is not brand loyalty, it is ‘box shifting’, purely a sale based on the customers ‘curiosity’. If your company is to have an image and a brand you need to have loyal customers that bring repeat business and sell your product for you.

Just responding to immediate requests or resolving issues is no longer sufficient to be called customer engagement. Customer service must carefully track, evaluate and measure every interaction (a phone call, an email/chat, a like on Facebook, a re-tweet or a comment on your blog) and nurture these to build long-term relationships.

Social media has changed the way consumers connect with companies. Today, consumers expect brands to respond to them in real time, they demand dialogue and true engagement.  Supporting these “digitally connected” customers requires a focused engagement strategy to keep the relationship building and customers returning to a trusted brand. It is an expectation you must rise to if you want to cut through the noise of digital age and create loyal customers.

Feedback from your customer rapport will mould the product and services you offer as you listen to what is needed, wanted or missing from your customers. This is the only way to be the company they want to deal with is to listen and give you consumers what they want.

The tactics for customer engagement vary by industry and company but is necessary for any company to future proof itself. One solution may not work for all your consumers, and you may need to change your engagement approach over time, but the most important thing to focus all areas of your company on customer engagement. Learn from them, encourage them, look to them for ideas and feedback and you will provide them with what they want, when they want it.

By using the engagement lifecycle in all areas of your company you can create an atmosphere for your customers that will ensure a long and profitable relationship.