For some, the entire process of enhancing customer engagement seems to be more about black art than science. However, whether you sprinkle eye of newt around the office or regularly wade through stacks of metrics, the goal is the same: drive customers to interact with a particular brand, then turn those meeting opportunities into sales revenue.
Effective customer engagement is all about communications: the customer talks, and the company listens, then the company provides appropriate value points that encourage further discussion. This round robin goes on until either the customer virtually nods in the affirmative and buys something or the brand fails to convince the sales prospect and loses the sale.
So, what strategies work best? Well, there are many to choose from, but here are five strategies that definitely work. Five Approaches to Better Customer Engagement.
1. Make Brand Communication Personal
According to a recent Emarketer analysis, as of last year 70 percent of US retailers have been making customer personalization a priority as part of their engagement strategy.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the brand holders were providing direct messaging on a weekly basis. Most have been adopting less direct approaches to personalization by leveraging email or text-based “anniversary of business” mentions or individual birthday greetings.
For example, a Texas company called Wondercide markets their organic pet control products by means of periodic mentions based on anniversary announcements. These remind the customers that the company is still interested in his/her business, and along the way, they also mention various discount sales offers. The actual messaging is not the focus of the effort, but the repetitive process is.
As the old saying goes, “stay in front of the customer everyday, and you’ll have a happy company in the end.”
2. Listen Rather Than Talking
Although conversation is the central vehicle required to ensure effective customer engagement, the goal is to get the customer to talk while you listen. There are two central reasons for this guidance, and is particularly important when working virtually.
First, the longer the customer talks, the more details the customer will reveal regarding the real reasons they’re talking in the first place. This is sometimes called “consultative selling,” since in the early stages of most virtual business relationships what the customer says he or she wants is not necessarily what he or she really means.
This is not to say that companies should ignore the customer early on. It just means that the first response should not be taken as the full story. If a customer says he or she wants to buy an electric toaster, does that really mean a two-slice vertical unit--or perhaps a toaster oven? The point is to understand exactly what the customer wants, then provide a necessary solution to close the sale.
However, the sales rep will never get to the right answer if they assume things. And the only to avoid this is to shut up and let the customer talk until the any confusion is resolved.
3. Engage on Your Front Door
Earlier we mentioned Wondercide and how effective they are at customer personalization. However, this customer engagement element is not the only way that the company encourages repetitive customer engagement.
In a second-tier effort, the company also uses live chat application to ensure that all customer questions are responded to quickly and accurately. Customer engagement is not just something that happens only on social media—it also happens during customer service when a customer or prospect reaches out directly to a company.
Live chat software makes it easy for companies to respond quickly when a potential buyer wants to talk with a brand; it collects all the various channels that a customer may reach out from and helps customer support agents see and prioritize customer engagement quickly.
Don’t underestimate the potential for meaningful customer engagement right from your website.
4. Lead With Little Bits of Useful Information
Sales come from addressing customer needs. Businesses can boost their customer engagement by offering up solutions that potential buyers can find along their buying journey.
Evergreen articles that address particular pain points for customers are a great way to draw attention and start a conversation with buyers. If you provide a solution to a problem (and all businesses provide solutions either directly or indirectly), there should be evergreen content created by your brand that covers the problems your products or services address from every possible angle.
Evergreen content can either be part of your web site or you can build micro-sites that focus exclusively on a particular problem and lead back to your company. Either way, though, this content tends to be shared and talked about. And that’s a good thing for engagement.
5. Skip the Hard Sell
Perhaps the most obvious element in the customer engagement toolkit is the social network. As one might expect, this approach is considered to be the bedrock of effective customer engagement, although it’s not as easy to leverage as one might expect.
Using social media for engagement is about more than just about posting quotes and shameless product sales pitches. Where social media actually works for engagement is when your business uses this channel for starting a conversation.
That means avoiding the hard sell and posting interesting content not only from your brand but also from other brands and news sources. The point with social is conversation and sharing interesting pieces of content, not direct selling. If you skip the hard sell, you’re much more likely to get the engagement you expect from social media.
Don’t rely on hope for customer engagement. You must put in the effort. But if you do, you might find engaging with customers is easier than you think.