Before selling to your customers, engage them first.
Today’s customers are smart, technologically adept and unwilling to be lumped in with “the masses.” That’s why marketing techniques from even a few years ago no longer get the job done. The key is getting customers engaged with your business and your products or services — not the same thing as selling to them.
Here’s a look at some of the best ways to increase customer engagement and gain an audience who believes in and stays loyal to your business:
1. Personalize your message.
As noted, attempts to blanket a list of prospects with a “one-size-fits-all” marketing message is doomed to fail. Even more specific targeted marketing isn’t necessarily the answer. Customers respond best to timely, personalized content, in the form of email messages, product recommendations, blog posts and so on.
2. Create buyer personas to achieve personalization.
Some business owners get caught up in a “gut feel” for their target audience, believing their in-depth knowledge of what they sell provides all the insights they need into what their customers want. What if simply asking them is a better approach?
Increasingly, consumers are willing to share an appropriate amount of personal information, as long as they receive targeted offers and related content in return. Suggested questions to ask:
- What do you like most about our product or service?
- What’s least appealing?
- How do you most enjoy using our product?
- What benefits are the most important to you? What features are the most effective?
- In what form do you like to get information about upgrades, industry news, etc.?
Whether through online surveys, responses to email newsletters or social media listening, gather data to compile an accurate buyer persona for your business.
3. Bundle targeted recommendations and ease of purchase.
“Consumers want convenience, comfort and a sense of belonging,” notes marketing expert Kevin Lindsay. “That’s the real payoff for them.” Using the knowledge you’ve gained, aim to delight customers with content of value and personalized product recommendations — providing that sense of comfort and belonging.
However, don’t stop there, Lindsay adds. Do all you can in terms of “capturing shipping, billing and payment information so they can zip through checkout when they do convert.” The goal is achieving a process akin to Amazon’s one-click buying process.
4. Cultivate an integrated “customer experience strategy.”
Don’t forget that today’s consumer operates across a broad spectrum of platforms and channels. To stay competitive, your marketing strategy must recognize and adapt to this capability.
According to marketing expert Peter Schmitt, the ideal approach to serving customers is an integrated strategy “that combines the traditional elements of direct marketing and customer contact centers.” Such a process makes use of data analytics, customized marketing strategies and e-commerce and fulfillment “to deliver relevant, personalized and timely customer interactions across all channels.”
The end-result, Schmitt adds, is establishing “one-to-one customer experiences at every touch point,” carried out in a seamless manner.
5. Use chat tools to get people talking.
Apps and in-app chat tools are increasingly popular resources that businesses employ to strengthen engagement with customers.
Ty Magnin, blog contributor at Appcues, points to a Forrester Research study highlighting online customers’ preference to getting their questions answered by a live person “during moments of choice — like making a purchase.” People are drawn to mobile and web options like chat messaging apps, not only for their convenience, but “because they’re matching the same level of quality as person-to-person phone calls.”
Also, these chat tools ensure a high level of customer engagement due to a business’s quick response to customer inquiries.
6. Make sure everyone in your business is on the same “customer engagement” page.
You can’t guarantee high-quality service unless all of your employees have the same commitment to customer engagement that you do. Contributor Sally Lee at Yahoo’s Aabaco Small Business points out an obvious example of “employee evangelism” that we all experience upon entering an Apple store.
There’s the unmistakable Apple look and feel, but more importantly, employees there exude “an attitude and energy that embody the brand” and they “immediately engage you and provide you with the optimal experience.”
Customers want to feel engaged with companies they do business with. It’s up to you to provide the experience that fuels that engagement, and build lifelong loyalty from there.