How To Truly Engage Your Customers
Just as core business functions have evolved, the way consumers interact with businesses has changed dramatically. Customer interactions are no longer about just a sales transaction. Consumers want valuable relationships with their brands, a connection that goes beyond the value of a product or service, explains Mohan Sawhney, clinical professor of marketing and McCormick Foundation Chair of Technology at the Kellogg School.
As a result, businesses today are highly focused on engaging their customers on a more personal level. “If you only talk to customers about what you sell them, they have the option of tuning out,’’ says Sawhney. ‘‘The motto for engagement marketing is, 'Ask not how you can sell, but how you can help’.''
Taking the right steps toward better customer engagement
Businesses looking to better engage their customers, need to actively create campaigns and programs that appeal to customer needs and desired outcomes.
So - how can you improve your engagement levels in the modern business world?
1. Put people at the center of everything
Understanding your audience is the crucial first step to engaging customers. According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), this kind of people-centric focus hinges on three main elements: culture, community and credibility.
- Culture: Relates to societal factors. How does your audience communicate? What kind of outlook do they have? What is the current cultural climate? Where do they fit within this space?
- Community: Focuses on stakeholders. Some of your customers may have different needs. How do you communicate with different demographics? How do you ensure engagement attempts hit the mark for all of them?
- Credibility: This element is all about building trust through all of your actions. Your influence is built through continued credibility in the eyes of your customers.
When you understand how to relate to your customers based on these elements, you can actively build trust and establish a foundation for genuine engagement. Customers are less likely to interact with a company that does not have these core pillars of understanding in place.
2. Serve up real value
Modern marketing needs to offer offer value. Sawhney explains that marketing current content must be genuinely useful on some level.
‘‘It's advertising as a service, as opposed to advertising as interruption,’’ argues Sawhney. ‘‘Essentially, you're offering customers value in exchange for their attention.’’
When you offer up useful advice or insights in your space, you have effectively earned the right to then start talking about your products. Provide your customers with things they can use and they will naturally start engaging with your platforms and products.
Let everybody in your business know that customer experience is their responsibility.
3. Don't silo the customer experience
One of the biggest mistakes companies made in the engagement arena was trying to separate customer experience into its own box, explained HBR. In reality, customer experience extends to every corner of an organization. The way your business works should be centered around the effective engagement of your audience.
This isn't something delegated to your marketing department or even a customer service team - it has a much wider reach. Communicate this to your entire team. Let everybody in your business know that customer experience is their responsibility. Empower people to act. Show them how to best interact with clients.
4. Pick the right drivers
HBR argues that a central part of effective engagement stems from choosing the right tools to drive these interactions. The end goal here is to promote customer action through three things: context, catalysts and currencies.
- Context is all about delivering ‘the right offer to the right person at the right time,’ according to HBR. This involves factors such as location, timing, platforms etc.
- Catalysts are what encourage people to act. For example, loyalty and rewards programs are great at driving engagement. When a customer sees that X amount of interactions result in a tangible reward they are more likely to engage.
- Currencies are all about encouraging behaviors through a tangible value. This takes the form of cash rewards, discounts etc. but can also include non-monetary measures like loyalty points or general customer recognition.
Having the right drivers in place allows you to maximize your customer engagement levels through strategic moves. The culmination of these three factors is what makes for sustained engagement levels.
Engagement is something every business struggles to master. However, these steps are a great starting point. If you're looking to learn more about how to keep your customers engaged with a variety of incentives and rewards, talk to the Incentive Marketing Association today.