- Customer engagement refers to the level of enthusiasm your business generates among its customers.
- Customer engagement is critical to driving repeat business and maintaining a strong brand reputation.
- Maintaining customer engagement is an ongoing process that continues long after a lead converts into a paying customer.
- This article is for small business owners who want to retain customers and encourage repeat business.
Engaging your customers is an important part of running a successful business. Simply selling products or services is not enough to attract and retain loyal customers. If you want to truly connect with your audience and build lasting business relationships, you'll have to make an ongoing effort. Customer engagement marketing is not a one-and-done process, nor is it a one-size-fits-all approach. To create your own customer engagement strategy, follow our strategy for tips and tricks.
What is customer engagement?
Customer engagement involves improving the customer experience through positive customer interactions and company efforts. This can be achieved through various channels, from social media platforms to your company blog, and extends beyond simply attracting consumers to your brand. The idea is to maintain and continue to strengthen your relationship with your customers on an ongoing basis so you can continuously cultivate an engaged audience.
Your products and services shouldn't be the only value you offer your customers, although you should also support them throughout the customer journey. While they might be the driving factor, especially in the beginning, you should ensure you're creating quality content your customers can access for free – and only from your business. This will improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Key takeaway: Customer engagement is about more than just driving a sale. To keep customers engaged, you need to offer support and meaningful communication.
Benefits of building a customer engagement strategy
Building a customer engagement marketing strategy is crucial in order to build lasting relationships with your audience. An engaged customer is typically a loyal one.
"Customer engagement aims to improve the customer experience to create a deep, personal relationship with the brand," said Gilad Rom, founder of Huan. "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."
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," said Chris Brenchley, co-founder and CEO of Surehand. "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
Here are a few examples of successful customer engagement campaigns.
In 2014, Coca-Cola launched a campaign called #ShareACoke, which replaced logos on Coke bottles with 250 common names. Because it was such a personalized campaign (or felt like it to those who had their names printed on 20-ounce bottles), it attracted the attention of people across the country. Customers bought bottles for their friends and other loved ones, took photos to share online and purchased drinks with their own name to take part in the fun.
2. Starbucks Reserve Roasteries and Tasting Rooms
Starbucks started an initiative called Starbucks Reserve Roasteries, which opened roasteries around the world, allowing customers to visit and see firsthand how the brand's coffee is brewed from fresh beans. At these locations, you can also taste various types of unique coffee and chat with coffee specialists. By offering customers an inside look at the company's coffee-making process, Starbucks actively engages interested customers with an immersive coffee and retail experience.
3. Casper Insomnobot-3000
In 2016, Casper mattress company created Insomnobot-3000, a late-night chat bot that keeps customers company when they can't sleep. The bot operated from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. and held conversations like a friend would. It also pulled $100 million in sales for Casper the first year, then doubled to $200 million in sales, as well as secured customers' phone numbers for SMS marketing purposes. Key takeaway: Big brands create customer engagement campaigns all the time, and while they don't always directly drive sales, they usually strengthen brand loyalty.
Customer engagement tips
Keep these points in mind when developing your customer engagement strategy.
1. Maintain the customer lifecycle.
A customer lifecycle is the length and nature of a customer's relationship with a particular brand or company. For marketers, the goal should be to make the customer's lifecycle as long and prosperous as possible. That means maintaining and continuously improving the continuum by supporting a customer journey that's mutually beneficial to the customer and the marketer. Maintaining the cycle involves acquiring the customers, retaining their interest in the brand and extending the relationship beyond a single purchase.
2. Look past the purchases.
While purchase history is the most likely insight beyond basic demographic data to influence campaigns, it doesn't go far enough. It's also important to consider your customers' channel-preference data, propensity scores, household composition and other metrics. These often-overlooked pieces of information will yield results, both because they're inherently valuable and because your competitors aren't likely to consider the information.
3. Use all available data.
There is a plethora of information marketers simply do not have access to when crafting customer communications, including behavioral data and online/offline profitability. With the rapid growth in digital channels, the only way for marketers to remain competitive is to use all of the available information about their customers.
4. Think like a big business.
Small businesses should think like large businesses and then act using the tools available to them. Data analysis may take place on a smaller scale – in a spreadsheet, rather than a custom-built system – but this analysis is still more valuable than simple hunches or preconceived ideas about who your best customer might be. If acting on that data means sending individual emails or making one-on-one calls, so be it; at least you know you're targeting your best possible customer.
Small and medium businesses actually have an advantage when acting on insights and reacting to market trends. For large businesses, it's often a challenge to present data and propose ideas in a way that resonates with senior leaders. Similarly, institutional habits can be difficult to overcome for businesses that have been established for some time. Solopreneurs or small teams of entrepreneurs don't face that challenge. Take advantage of your flexibility, and experiment intelligently to find what matters to your customers.
5. See what's right in front of you.
While it's important to append existing data and obtain the most complete profile of your customer as possible, don't ignore information that's right under your nose. With Facebook analytics and other free tools available, there's no reason to overlook information about how consumers interact with your brand. When searching for more insights, it never hurts to ask customers. Most will readily give information so long as they receive something in return. Loyalty programs, social media interaction and surveys can be great ways to obtain the insights you need.
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 lives and purchase cycles.
7. Challenge assumptions.
This is as much a business philosophy as a marketing tactic. Don't assume that methods and practices that have worked well for the past year will work in the future. Consistently reframe your existing data and insights to make sure you have (and, more importantly, are acting on) the best available data.
8. Build a brand voice.
Your brand's voice is essentially your business's personality. You'll want to maintain it in every post you share, blog 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," Rom said. "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. Using social media will help you both attract new customers and reach repeat customers, especially on their mobile devices.
"It's no secret that social media is the obvious go-to choice for customer engagement strategies," Brenchley said. "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.
"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," he added. "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."
Brenchley recommended doing a small prize giveaway that requires users to tag their friends on your post. That way, more people will be brought to your page, and engagement will skyrocket.
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 in a dress from your e-commerce shop, ask for permission to share it on your Instagram account. Small gestures like this will help connect you with your audience.
10. Invest in content marketing.
Content marketing can look like a lot of different things, like blog posts, webinars, e-books and videos. The benefit of this form of marketing is that it positions you as an expert in your industry. Your content should be valuable to your target customers and consist of information they can't get from anyone else. In other words, you'll want to cater your content to your audience's needs while injecting your brand voice into it.
If you're going to choose one form of content marketing to pursue, Rameez Ghayas Usmani, digital marketing executive at PureVPN, said he recommends video.
"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 for 2020," 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."
Key takeaway: These 10 tips can help you create customer engagement strategies that not only strengthen brand loyalty but also drive sales in an organic way that keeps customers coming back for more.
Customer engagement tools
There are a number of ways — many of which are already at a business owner's disposal – to boost customer engagement. These methods include:
- Live chat: "For online stores, live chat can be a great boon," Rom "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: As previously stated, social media is a crucial customer engagement tool. Your social media presence will keep you relevant and connected to your audience.
Messaging platforms: Apps like Facebook Messenger, and even SMS messaging, are great investments, as they ensure that your customers can reach you if they need assistance.
Chatbots: Chatbots offer guidance when a human customer service representative cannot. Offering a chat bot 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 better understand what's working and what's not.
- Email: Email is essential for both marketing purposes and customer service concerns.
Key takeaway: Customer engagement strategies can be achieved via a variety of digital marketing channels.
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.