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Updated Oct 27, 2023

10 Ways to (Really) Know Your Customers

Follow these customer engagement tips and tools to help you build brand loyalty and drive repeat business.

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Sammi Caramela, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
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Editor Reviewed
This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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Engaging your customers is a critical element of running a successful business. Selling products or services isn’t enough to attract and retain loyal customers. It requires ongoing effort to genuinely connect with your audience and build lasting business relationships. 

Customer engagement marketing isn’t a one-and-done process or a one-size-fits-all approach. We’ll explore tips for creating a unique customer engagement strategy and share tools for building and tracking audience engagement.

What is customer engagement?

Customer engagement means improving the customer experience through positive customer interactions and company efforts. You can engage customers through various channels, including social media business accounts and your company blog. However, engagement extends beyond attracting customers to build your brand; you must continuously maintain and strengthen customer relationships to cultivate a loyal, engaged audience.

Even though they might be the driving factor in the beginning, your products and services shouldn’t be the only value you offer customers. To improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, ensure you develop a content strategy that produces unique, quality materials that customers can freely access. 

To improve communication with customers, address unhappy customers' issues directly, always reply to customer queries promptly, and take responsibility for mistakes.

10 tips to improve customer engagement

Keep these points in mind when you’re developing your customer engagement strategy.

1. Maintain the customer life cycle.

A customer life cycle is the length and nature of a customer’s relationship with a brand or company. Marketers should aim to make the customer’s life cycle as long and prosperous as possible. 

To cultivate a healthy customer life cycle, maintain and continuously improve the customer journey. Maintaining the cycle involves the following:

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
The best CRM software solutions include customer life cycle support. For example, Zendesk manages post-sale activities and renewals and is our pick for the best CRM for the complete customer life cycle. Read our Zendesk review to learn more.

2. Look beyond purchase data.

Although purchase history is the most prominent marketing campaign insight beyond basic marketing demographics, it doesn’t go far enough. You must also consider the following data:

  • Your customers’ channel preferences.
  • Propensity scores.
  • Household composition. 
  • Additional metrics, including CRM metrics

This often-overlooked information will yield results because it’s inherently valuable and your competitors likely aren’t considering it.

3. Use all available data.

There is a plethora of information marketers can’t or don’t access when crafting customer communications. For example, behavioral data and online-offline profitability are often overlooked. With the rapid growth in digital channels, the only way for marketers to remain competitive is to use all available customer information.

4. Think like a big business.

Small businesses should think like big businesses and act using available tools. For example, small businesses may analyze data on a smaller scale – for example, in a spreadsheet instead of a custom-built system – but this analysis is still more valuable than hunches or preconceived ideas about your target customer

If acting on that data means sending individual emails or making one-on-one calls, do it; at least you know you’re targeting your best possible customer. 

Small and midsize businesses have an advantage over big companies in that they can quickly act on insights and react to market trends. In contrast, it can be challenging for large businesses to present data and propose ideas that resonate with senior leadership, as well as to overcome institutional habits. 

Solopreneurs, entrepreneurs and small business owners don’t face these challenges. Take advantage of your flexibility and experiment intelligently to discover what matters to your customers.

5. See what’s right in front of you.

While many businesses strive to obtain a detailed customer profile, don’t forget to consider easily accessible information. With Facebook analytics and other free tools, it’s easy to gather information about how consumers interact with your brand. 

When you’re searching for additional insights, consider asking customers directly. Most will readily offer information in exchange for something of value. For example, customer loyalty programs, social media interactions and customer surveys can be rich data sources.

Did You Know?Did you know
Sentiment analysis tools can scan online mentions and conversations to give businesses a better read on their customers.

6. Identify and act on customer triggers.

Go to your customers; don’t wait for them to come to you. An engaged customer is most likely to spend or keep spending. Identify your most important customers, but don’t forget to determine the most valuable time to reach them within their customer life cycles and purchase cycles.

7. Challenge assumptions.

Challenging assumptions is as much a business philosophy as it is a marketing tactic. Don’t assume that methods and practices that have worked well for the past year will be successful in the future. 

Consistently reframe your existing data and insights to ensure you have (and, more importantly, act on) the best available data.

8. Build a brand voice.

Your brand’s voice is essentially your business’s personality. You should maintain it in every article you share, blog post you write and interaction you have.

“Build a brand voice with a distinct personality that resonates with both your values and the values of your target audience,” said Gilad Rom, founder of Huan. “This allows you to create a human-to-human connection with your customers. This connection allows your customers to trust you and the products you offer.”

9. Connect with consumers on social media.

Social media networks such as Instagram and Facebook are must-have customer engagement platforms for businesses. Social media will help you attract new customers and reach repeat customers, especially on mobile devices, as mobile and social shopping continues to grow.

“It’s no secret that social media is the obvious go-to choice for customer engagement strategies,” said Chris Brenchley, co-founder of Surehand and Intelirex. “The more likes, shares and comments you receive, the greater feedback you’re essentially receiving from your customers. If your business is not on social media, then you’re missing out on so many opportunities of connecting with your customers.”

Here are some ways to boost social media engagement: 

  • Encourage followers to tag friends. Tagging is a way to increase each social interaction’s power on platforms such as Instagram for business. “The one actionable tip that I can give you is, post something on your social media accounts that makes people want to tag their friends,” Brenchley said. “Tagging other people creates a chain reaction for your post. Each tag makes its way to another person’s timeline, and the whole process continues.”
  • Conduct giveaways. Brenchley recommended doing a small prize giveaway that requires users to tag their friends on your post. More people will arrive at your page, and engagement will skyrocket.
  • Repost content. Additionally, consider reposting customer content, like photos or videos of your products or services. For example, if a loyal customer posts a picture of themselves wearing an outfit from your e-commerce shop, ask permission to share it on your Instagram account. Small gestures like this will help you connect with your audience.

10. Invest in content marketing.

Content marketing includes blog posts, webinars, e-books, videos and other channels that position you as an expert in your industry. Your content should be valuable to your target customers and include information they can’t get from anyone else. In other words, cater your content to your audience’s needs while injecting your brand voice.

If you must choose one form of content marketing to pursue, pick video, recommended Rameez Ghayas Usmani, digital PR and link-building specialist at Thrive Internet Marketing Agency.

“Written content is undoubtedly useful, but today, videos are outperforming for content marketing purposes, and they will continue to be one of the most frequently used content marketing strategies,” he said. “Because the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text, it is far simpler for people to remember visual information than the same information in a written form. That is why marketing videos are all the rage now for increasing traffic to your website.”

Did You Know?Did you know
Video livestreaming is a powerful marketing tool that offers customers and prospects a window into your brand and the people involved in your business.

Benefits of building a customer engagement strategy

Building a customer engagement marketing strategy is crucial for creating lasting relationships with your audience. Here are some of the benefits of building a customer engagement strategy: 

  • You create deeper customer relationships. A customer engagement strategy helps create dedicated, loyal customers to support your brand. “Customer engagement aims to improve the customer experience to create a deep, personal relationship with the brand,” Rom said. “Customers need to feel appreciated and valued for more than just the money they spend. Brands who show they are dedicated to their customers’ needs will be rewarded with engaged, loyal customers.”
  • You set your business apart. Additionally, customer engagement helps differentiate your business from others in your industry. “Building a customer engagement strategy is of immense importance because this is what gives your brand the edge over the competitors,” Brenchley said. “You have to remember that your brand has a life of its own, and if it has a positive impact on your customers, then you’re likely to gain more business. For small companies, a positive customer engagement strategy can lead to higher referrals through word of mouth.”

Customer engagement examples

Consider the following examples of successful customer engagement campaigns. Use them as inspiration when you’re building your customer engagement strategy. 

  • IKEA Kreativ. IKEA’s mixed-reality Kreativ tool lets customers use their iPhones to scan their living space and insert IKEA pieces into the image at scale. It’s a near-real-life, 3D picture of how IKEA furnishings look anywhere. This tool helps customers achieve a custom look and fit before they purchase an item, haul it home and assemble it. Kreativ can inspire customers to purchase and prevent returns (and ill will) while creating a seamless process for adding items to a cart or shopping list. And, of course, customers will share their results on social media.
  • Major League Baseball theme nights. MLB teams host Community Nights and Theme Nights, often with themes unrelated to baseball. Community Nights recognize community contributors such as teachers, veterans and first responders. Other Community Nights highlight current or past baseball stars. Theme Nights have included Shakespeare, boy bands, Margaritaville, Star Wars and other themes that draw diverse fans to the ballpark. These promotions often include giveaways that feature the team name and theme. They also sometimes include a postgame concert or other events. MLB’s promotions attract fans who may not otherwise attend a game, and they provide yet another chance for customers to post about a product and an experience.
  • Share a Coke. Who doesn’t remember #ShareACoke? This campaign replaced logos on Coke bottles with 250 names. Because the campaign felt so personalized to customers, it attracted the attention of people across the country. Customers bought bottles for their friends and loved ones, took photos to share online, and purchased drinks with their names to join the fun. 
Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Big brands create customer engagement campaigns frequently. Although they don't always directly drive sales, they usually build customer loyalty.

Customer engagement tools

Many channels and tools can help you boost customer engagement, including the following:

  • Live chat. Utilizing live chat best practices can dramatically improve customer service and engagement. “For online stores, live chat can be a great boon,” Rom said. “Instead of browsing your website in silence, visitors can be invited to chat with a customer service representative, which can start a dialogue where engagement can be nurtured. Customers love live chat because it’s convenient and saves them time.”
  • Social networks. Social media is an essential customer engagement channel as well as a tool to generate new leads. Your social media presence will keep you relevant and connected to your audience.
  • Messaging platforms. Apps such as Facebook Messenger, and even SMS (text) messaging, are excellent investments because they ensure customers can reach you if they need assistance.
  • Chatbots. Chatbots offer guidance when a human customer service representative isn’t available. Offering a chatbot will increase your professionalism and show customers you value their time and concerns.
  • Website analytics. Monitoring web analytics will help guide your customer engagement tactics, as you’ll gain a better understanding of what’s working and what’s not.
  • Email. Email is an essential marketing and customer service tool. Check out our reviews of the best email marketing software to evaluate solutions that fit your needs and budget.
  • Phone system mobile apps. Phone system mobile apps can streamline customer communication by connecting callers directly to employees even if they’re away from their desks. 

Create a plan to get – and keep – customers engaged

Customer engagement is an essential element of your marketing plan. It means building a loyal base of return customers who will want to share your brand with others. Using these tips, you can create personalized ways to make your customers feel appreciated and invested in your brand enough to engage beyond a single purchase.

Ross Mudrick and Nicole Fallon contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

author image
Sammi Caramela, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Sammi Caramela is a trusted business advisor whose work for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others centers around creating digestible but informative guidance on all things small business. Whether she's discussing cash flow management or intellectual property, work trends or employer branding, Caramela provides actionable tips designed for small business owners to take their entrepreneurship to the next level. Caramela, who also lends her expertise to the financial outlet 24/7 Wall St., has business management experience that allows her to provide personal insights on day-to-day operations and the working relationship between managers and independent contractors. Amidst all this, Caramela has found time to publish a young adult novel, develop a poetry collection and contribute short stories to various anthologies.
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