Today’s consumers are a savvy bunch.
The lightning fast ability to sift through mountains of data has put the world in their hands - allowing consumers to find what they want easily.
Yet for business owners, that same availability to a web of information can be a challenge for you as you create a marketing strategy that increases customer engagement and stands out among your competition.
This news gets even more daunting if you’re stuck in an old school mindset. Unprecedented access to information allows consumers to easily tune out heavy-handed advertising and blatant marketing messages. For businesses that need to grow, relying on traditional marketing channels like direct mail and newspaper advertisements likely won’t work in today’s digital age.
Instead, today’s digitally connected purchasers find what they are looking for with a quick internet search, following their favorite brands on social media or taking recommendations from influencers in the blogosphere.
So, how do you make customer engagement a priority in today’s digital world?
It’s Time To Adapt Or Die
Charles Darwin best said it when he stated, “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one who is most adaptable to change.”
Competitiveness now and in the coming years requires companies to develop a new formula on how to reach their customers with their marketing campaign. Gone are the days of one-way messaging where a company touts its product or great service.
Today, consumers have become adept at tuning out marketing attempts, and instead, turn to the internet to research, look for reviews and ask questions about a product they need or want.
To remain competitive, companies must create online resources that offer significant value. This includes creating relevant content that will appeal to a company’s buying demographics.
Create Relevant Content
Now that you know you need to create relevant content, how do you go about doing so?
Here’s where the power of engagement comes in. Engagement requires companies to publish quality content, invest in social media and grow online communities. This content can come in all shapes and sizes:
- Entertainment: Videos, memes or podcasts
- Information: Blog posts or eBooks
- Instruction: Case studies or white papers
- Support: How-To guides or how-to videos
In order to create relevant content, however, you must have a detailed picture of your targeted prospects in order to create the right content for them. A great starting point is to create your buyer persona for your product or service.
A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer, based on real data about customer demographics and online behavior. A buyer persona also includes speculation about their personal histories, motivations and concerns.
Simply put, to create relevant content, companies need to be able to answer the following questions:
- Who are my customers?
- What problems do my customers need to solve?
- How do I position my company to solve these problems?
- Where do my customers hang out online and how do I connect with them?
- How do I get my message across to them in a way that will be well-received?
Once you create your buyer persona, and begin creating content based on that buyer persona, the next step is to kick customer engagement into high gear.
You’ve already begun engaging with customers by creating relevant content. Now it’s time to kick it up a notch and really see the power of customer engagement.
If you’re using social media to generate leads (here’s why you should be if you aren’t), one way to get more post likes and page likes is to engage with users. You can easily do this through interactive content.
In fact, a Content Marketing Institute found 81% of marketers said interactive content is better than static content if your goal is to grab readers’ attention.
Here are some easy ways to engage social media users, particularly Facebook:
- Ask questions in your posts. Focus on questions that would be of interest to your target audience. Don’t forget to use images with your questions, since posts with images receive 2.3 times more engagement.
- Hold a contest. It’s another great way to expand your reach, since many users share contest opportunities with their friends.
- Share other people’s content. Keep content diverse by including items from other contributors, including different businesses in the industry and even your followers and customers. This will keep customers interested.
- Respond to posts and comments. Engage directly with people who tweet to you or comment on your Facebook posts. You can do this either by ‘liking’ or commenting on the post.
Creating conversations, responding to customers’ posts and offering ways to expand your reach through the power of social media are great ways to heighten your customer engagement and take full advantage of it.
Offer Value Up Front
When we talk about engagement, we are talking about offering content that is both relevant to the needs of your clients and positions your company as an expert in solving those needs.
Content offerings must be made up front with little to no obligation in order to establish credibility, authority and trust.
A great example of this concept is the American Express OPEN Forum. This forum provides small business owners with insights, ideas and resources to help them grow their businesses. The forum also provides business owners with:
- Tools to connect and collaborate, such as features that can help generate new leads by intelligently matching businesses with similar needs and interests.
- The ability to share and obtain insights from industry experts and business owners.
- A range of blog posts and discussion boards to inform businesses of industry trends and other areas of interest.
By focusing on the company’s core customers’ (small business owners) needs and avoiding blatant product pitches, American Express has established themselves as a partner to the small business community and has developed trust with their core customers.
This is a great example of how companies like American Express have moved away from the noise of the marketplace (and disruptive advertising) and are instead reaping the benefits of brand loyalty by increasing interest in their product offerings.
Regardless of your company’s niche in the marketplace, adapting to changing times is not for the weak-minded.
Developing a community takes time, and most of all, great patience on the part of company leadership. Investing precious company resources and capital over time with no guarantee of success takes great courage from the executive suite.
Courage, however, is something that is in short supply for many companies that operate on a quarter-to-quarter basis.
Provided you have a good product or service to offer, moving your company to a customer engagement marketing approach will:
- Establish trust and social influence
- Increase brand awareness
- Develop a loyal customer following
- Ultimately lead consumers to your products
For those who move toward this model, stellar returns await. For those who hesitate or choose to ignore this dynamic shift in the marketplace, the end may be near.
Bill is the CEO and Founder of InTouch Marketing. Bill drives the vision and direction of InTouch except when England's playing in a soccer tournament, because everything stops!