Customers expect marketing to do more than just sell to them, they expect more than just the product from the brand. This is the basis for customer engagement, for emotional involvement and commitment from the customer.
A few years back, all a brand was required to do was to put up a very big ad on a billboard, magazine, or any of the electronic media; telling people how great they are and how better they are than all other brands. The truth is that customers were taken in by these ads and funny enough, life moved on.
However, technology and advancement in digital marketing as well as the new channels of communication they have created varied and assorted ways of advertising and reaching across to customers. The potential for customer engagement is being discovered by brands and there is the absolute need to meet customers where they are and have genuine conversations with them.
You need to tell them inspirational stories that will lead to their emotional involvement and commitment. You must court their loyalty to enable them to spread the word about your products, buy, and remain loyal to the brand.
Most marketing practices are aimed at stimulating and influencing customers’ behavior, with this, conversion takes its pride of place and the unequivocal truth is that if a brand is able to maximize conversion, there will be no need to repeat such conversion again.
Customer engagement is aimed at long time-term interactions that encourage customer loyalty and advocacy by the word-of-mouth referral.
Brands that continue to engage with their customers benefit from doing so in these 3 basic ways:
- It differentiates brands. Consistently finding opportunities for customer engagement results in memorable brand touchpoints.
- It increases customer satisfaction, which helps to retain customers while also making them your biggest advocates.
- It creates trust between the brand and their customers. It’s hard to feel buyer’s remorse over a purchase when a brand is consistently interacting with the buyer—even after the sale.
These measurable, proven benefits are responsible for 98% of marketers who say their brands have developed a clear strategy to address customer engagement. Forrester reports that most B2B marketers can tie revenue results directly to advocacy programs. Among those interviewed, roughly 50% of participants said they saw higher conversion rates, more qualified leads, and greater sales efficiency when they involved advocates in their campaigns.
But while you may think that you are doing some good to the customer by putting in place a well-developed customer engagement strategy, you need understand that less commitment is required on the part of the customer, it’s easier and cheaper than ever to leave and seek alternative solutions if the value isn’t being delivered. Because of this, great customer experience can become a prominent competitive differentiator.
The buyer is now the determinant factor and you must be in place to adapt your brand to the new trends and changes in the business world. Michael Fallon, Director of Customer Success at PTC, says, “customers have a voice and a choice.” Customers now have, “the power to remain or take their business elsewhere, and to tell others about why they decided to do so.”
At the very end, the brand loses without customer engagement. With customer engagement in place, you are correctly positioned to benefit from customer advocates who can help your brand by writing online reviews, referring prospects, acting as references, driving event registration, giving product feedback, writing testimonials, increasing social shares and engagement with your content, and even creating content. Depending on your needs and strategies, you have varying degrees of other ways to gain from customer engagement.
What is more? You are not left hanging out on a limb. You have new types of technology like augmented and virtual reality to expand and build on this trend, as they give marketers the tools to tell even more immersive and impactful stories.
William Douglas, Chief Marketing Officer at JLL EMEA says, “The purpose of content marketing is to inform and inspire so marketers have to work hard not to sell. Brands need a content-driven engagement strategy and need to execute this in innovative ways.”
Not to be left out Alison Lancaster, former interim Marketing Director at House of Fraser, strongly believes that marketers can forge a more genuine connection with consumers through referrals, recommendations, and demonstrating a cause that aligns with their passions.
“No one cares about buying more stuff, but if there’s an interesting story behind the item or service or it connects with their tribe or their community and is more homegrown and relevant to their interests and their passions, then I think the brand preference will come from that,” she said. “Brand owners are going to have to really think about differentiation – but on multi-dimensions, rather than just pushing out an ad or message.”
What marketing used to do was to broadcast to consumers instead of initiating conversations among them, that era is clearly gone. The new shift is customer engagement and Alessandra di Lorenzo, Chief Commercial Officer (Media and Partnerships) at lastminute.com group, describes it this way:
“The social influencer place is one example of the new forms of evolved marketing that we are going to see… Marketing when it was born was about ‘one-to-many’ and now we are moving to the concept of ‘many-to-many’, which is about people talking to people rather than companies talking to people and that’s where the future of marketing is going.
“It’s about companies understanding that if they want their products sold, they need to endorse the many-to-many paradigm, and that’s a massive shift in the way we communicate.”
Customers are the focal point of your business and you could easily lose them. They have used your product and formed an opinion on whether to continue with it or not as well as whether to become customer advocates or not.
The underlying factor is customer engagement. You definitely can’t substitute poor-quality product with great experience, but the experience you can offer your customers will increasingly differentiate your brand in a competitive marketplace. Personalization will be a key factor in this, with new innovations like Content as a Service, delivering real-time personalized experiences to customers as they browse a website, or guiding them towards content that will suit their needs.
This statistics will greatly enhance your decision.
- 60% of consumers expect an improved experience from brands they are engaged with.
- 54% of consumers engage with brands in order to get the latest news on products and services.
- 66% of B2B consumers want to advocate for brands that engage well.
- 66% of B2B consumers fully expect that all communications with a brand to be personalized.
Photo Credit: GMC Software Flickr via Compfight cc
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