At this point, customer engagement still feels a bit nebulous. Some, including yours truly, have put definitions and ideas around it. For the most part, it's far from an exact science.
Which is a good thing, if you think about it.
It means that, for now, you have the freedom to do what you like, try new things, and chase your customers around until you find what works.
Of course, that lack of an instruction manual means you might just fail.
That's okay. Failure is just another word for learning.
What's important is that you do something to build better customer relationships.
You can't just brush aside the idea or executions of customer engagement. Here's why.
Your product isn't enough. Your service isn't enough. Your experience isn't enough.
It's one of the harshest lessons new businesses experience.
You spend years and countless dollars building something - a cool piece of software, a waffle food truck, or even an HVAC business - and you do right by your customers…
Most of them never come back.
It isn't you; it's them. But blame doesn't put any more money in your pocket. They make the rules.
What you want is brand loyalty. You want those people to come back to your business again and again. To win their adoration you have to woo them.
It's not going to happen on its own. Even after a good experience, people need coercion, to be reminded of your value.
They need to be guided into the best possible experience with your product or service. They need you to remind them to report back and let them know if things are working out or not.
Otherwise, it's just silence. They're alone with your product or service, and all you can do is cross your fingers things work out.
In this way, customer engagement is critical.
“Fully engaged” customers (those with a strong attachment to the brand, or brand ambassadors) deliver a 23% premium over the average customer in share of wallet, profitability and revenue (Cap Gemini)
People are Distracted by Shiny Objects
People have the attention span of goldfish and the herd mentality of lemmings. These aren't bad things; it's just how our brains are wired these days.
It makes sense that we're overwhelmingly brand-apathetic. There's too much to see and do and learn and explore.
Consumers make brand loyalty decisions in two ways, really: bad experiences cause us to vow never to do business with a brand again; and repeated exceptional brand experiences that connect with our personal values.
Kind of unfairly slanted to the negative side, huh?
Ongoing engagement is how you regain the advantage to the positive side.
It's things like social media interactions, tutorials, member benefits for associations, customer feedback surveys, mobile apps, and basically every interaction a customer might have with a brand that isn't a transaction. You're adding value to the conversation, and asking nothing in return except a few moments of attention.
It's like tapping someone on the shoulder every once in a while and giving them a dollar, or telling them how nice they look. Do it enough times, and eventually people proactively seek you out.
Customers who are fully engaged represent 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth (Gallup)
Loyalty Comes from Relationships
As we mentioned above, long-term loyalty isn't transactional. It's emotional.
As "marketing boardroom talk" as that sounds, it makes sense.
Think about the brands you've kept going back to over the years. It isn't because of price or convenience. There's always someone cheaper and closer or faster.
No, loyalty goes deeper. You stick with the brand because they always deliver value, or they fix every issue you throw at them. Or it might be that they are active in your community or cause.
And because of those, you feel like you're part of those brands. You root for them in much the same fashion you'd root for a sports team.
Like a "real life" relationship, this develops over time. It stretches over the course of several transactions and interactions.
We've compared it in the past to 50 First Dates. Every day brands have to wake up and prove themselves anew, and get customers to fall in love with them all over again. You're forever reminding people who you are and what you do for them.
Engagement is the glue that keeps the relationship going in between transactions, and draws customers into those emotional connections.
Engaged consumers buy 90% more frequently, spend 60% more per transaction and are five times more likely to indicate it is the only brand they would purchase in the future. All of these factors lead to engaged customers delivering three times the value to the brand over the course of a year (Rosetta)
Customer Loyalty Often Happens by Chance. Engagement Doesn't.
Like we said, there's no science to customer loyalty. Your efforts might work, or might not. It's as difficult to grasp as an iPhone from a pre-teen on a PokemonGo binge.
The act of earning engagement, however, is deliberate and intentional. You - the brand - must take the steps to build relationships.
Those efforts are best served by taking the time to know who you're talking to, what they value, and where they hang out, and what they need to hear from you.
Your competitors are probably relying on their products to do all the work for them, and maybe mixing in a spammy email or two on occasion.
Meanwhile, you're out there building true engagement, and it's maybe the best long-term investment you can make in your customer relationships.