​2020 has been quite a year, and it has taken its toll on businesses, large and small. Having strong customer engagement strategies in place is a small business owner’s best defense against losing their customers to competitors. Now more than ever, businesses should be focusing on their communication with customers to secure lasting, loyal business from them.

Small businesses should create customer engagement strategies that give your customers the opportunity to connect with your business on multiple different platforms. According to DigitalCommerce360, companies with the strongest omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers.

What is a Customer Engagement Strategy?

A customer engagement strategy is the journey a business has created for its continuous conversations with each customer they meet. Your customer engagement strategy should be data-driven and focused on the needs of each of your customers. Sending too many or too few engagements is detrimental to a business, as is sending content that provides no benefit to your customers. Understanding and utilizing data is what will assist you in creating a strong customer engagement strategy for your business.

We’ve all seen the customer engagement strategies that have been adopted by big businesses because we receive the emails and/or text messages from those we’ve worked with. Take note of the types of content you appreciate, because being a consumer yourself is one the best ways to understand the consumers who your business works with.

The Benefits

There are several benefits of an effective customer engagement strategy. Businesses with loyal customers understand this, and businesses who haven’t yet created strong, loyal relationships with their customers should implement a customer engagement strategy right away. Among the benefits of engaging regularly with your customers are:

  • You Understand What Your Customers are Thinking. Your customers determine your revenue, and understanding what they are thinking is the only way to truly personalize your interactions with them. Why is this so important? Because personalizing interactions with customers builds a relationship with them and makes them loyal to your business. The probability of selling to an existing customer is up to 14 times higher than the probability of selling to a new customer. In order to strengthen your relationship with your customers, you have to show them that you value them as a person, and not just the money they spend with your business. One of the first steps to creating strong customer engagement strategies is to understand your customers and create an engagement pattern that is specific to them and their needs. 
  • You are Able to Keep Your Customers Happy. Consumers are happiest when their needs are met and they feel valued by the business they’ve chosen to work with. Keep your customers happy by humanizing your business and humanizing your customers at the same time. Some of the best ways to humanize your brand are to share videos and engaging content on social media, send out regular, targeted emails to your customers, and get to know your customers on a first-name basis. In order to create an effective customer engagement strategy, think of your customers as people instead of numbers. Write your engagements with your own experience as a consumer in mind. Keep all customer engagements compelling, personalized and worth their time.
  • You Keep Customers Loyal to Your Business. We can all learn from Coca-Cola’s 2014 marketing campaign that got everyone talking about their product. The #ShareACoke campaign removed the company’s logo on soda bottles and replaced it with 250 of the most common names in the U.S. The campaign was successful because of the strong customer engagement element. It wasn’t an everyday marketing campaign idea. In fact, the very personalized aspect made it even more engaging. Customers could physically see a piece of themselves on a Coke bottle. Even those without common names could get involved in the “Share A Coke” campaign when Coca-Cola made it so they could personalize their own cans. This was a simple campaign that related to Coke’s target audience and got people talking about the brand.

Small business owners can keep customers loyal to their business through similar marketing tactics. Personalize your interactions with customers and make sure they know that you know and care about them. The easiest way to personalize interactions with your valued customers is through automated engagements that are data-driven and targeted to each specific customer based on their needs.

1. Real-Time Communication

Over 75% of consumers say they would prefer to speak with a customer service representative through web chat than other communication channels. Why? Because chatbots offer immediate responses to consumer questions and inquiries. No more filling out a contact form and waiting 24+ hours to receive a response. One of the most effective ways to offer real-time communication assistance to your customers is through webchat.

One of the most important things for businesses to focus on right now is connecting with their customers. Consumers are looking for safe ways to engage with businesses in order to continue to live their lives as normally as possible. 92% of consumers say they feel satisfied with a business that offers a webchat feature, so they can get immediate feedback and answers to their questions. 

Sending your one-time customers automated engagements on a regular basis that are data-driven proves to be among the most effective ways to turn those customers into loyal lifelong advocates for your business. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com said it best, “Obsessing over your customers is key.” 

It’s estimated that Google handles over 5 billion searches every single day. Consumers have unlimited options when it comes to choosing a business to work with. Ensuring that your customers keep coming back to yours is necessary for small business success.

Keeping customers happy is the only way for a business to survive 2020. The best thing a business owner can do right now is focus on what a customer wants, and make customer engagement innovative. Real-time communication is in high demand among customers today so if your business is working to implement ways to keep up and decrease response time, your customers will thank you by increasing your revenue. 

2. Respond to Online Reviews

Every business, at one point or another, receives the always-dreaded negative reviews. Unhappy customers are emotional, angry and they want to feel heard. The best thing a business owner can do is respond professionally and with a helpful attitude.  No matter what, your business won’t be able to please everyone, and that’s alright. More importantly than worrying about receiving a negative review is knowing how to respond to that feedback. 

As they say, “no press is bad press.” This is sort-of true when it comes to online reviews. All customer feedback, good or bad, provides your business with big opportunities to grow, learn from your mistakes and make necessary adjustments moving forward.

According to Industry Analysts, Inc 70% of buying experiences are related to how the consumers feel they are being treated. If a mistake has been made or a customer is unhappy, your business has the opportunity to make things right and turn a bad situation into a positive experience for your customer by how you treat them. 

Too often, businesses get caught up responding only to the bad reviews and ignoring the positive feedback they get from customers. It’s easy to overlook positive reviews because as exciting as they are, they typically don’t require action from the business. However, in order to nurture your relationship with those happy customers, you should always be responding to the positive reviews you receive, too. 

3. Personalize the Customer Experience

Personalization is critical in 2020. You can’t treat every customer the same and expect them to continue choosing you over your competitors. Not only does your business need to be listed everywhere online that searchers are browsing, but customers nowadays are accustomed to businesses following up and putting the work in to build a relationship with them. Personalizing your interactions with customers is one of the best ways to build trust and a strong relationship with your customers.

Personalized emails result in six times higher transaction rates, but still 70% of businesses fail to use personalization when messaging their customers. When a business sends out engagements through email, the end goal is to gain new business/purchases through their message.

The truth is, you won’t get sales from every customer after sending an engagement text message or email, no matter how compelling and strong the message is. However, there are many things you can do to increase your click-through-rates (the percentage of people visiting a web page who access a hypertext link through a particular advertisement) and, in turn, your chances of a sale:

  • Personalize your message by using a customer’s first name. When the body of the message is personalized, emails have an average open rate of 18.8% and a click rate of 2.1%.
  • Send messages that warrant a response from your customer. 74% of marketers say that targeted messages and personalization of emails improves customer engagement rates. Prompting your customers to engage with you in return helps to build loyalty and a stronger relationship with them. 
  • Use data to understand what your customers need from you and what products or services of yours they’ve used in the past. Over half of consumers expect that companies will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they make contact. The only way to anticipate the needs of a consumer is knowing and making sense of transaction data. 
  • Provide your customers with a positive customer experience by only sending them content that is valuable, interesting or relevant to them and your business.

Personalizing your interactions with customers is the key to creating a successful customer journey. Making the first sale is only the very beginning of your relationship with a new customer, and the way to make them an advocate for your business is through personalized engagements. 

It’s important to keep past customers in mind when writing your personalized engagements. Remember, just because someone has stopped working with you and stopped responding to you, doesn’t mean they won’t come back to your business with the right message. Some things to keep in mind when engaging with your former customers are:

  • Keep customers in the loop about improvements you’ve made to your product or services, ex. “It’s now safer and more effective!”
  • Grab your customer’s interest by telling people about themselves, ex. “Since you last worked with us, 3 of your neighbors have signed up for our services.”
  • Offer an incentive to come back, ex. “Give us another try and we’ll take 15% off your next two services.”

Whether you’re engaging with past, present or future customers, personalization is important. The more information you know about your customer and their buying habits, the better. Use that information to your advantage.

4. Create Custom Content

Businesses should not create “blanket content,” but instead customize it for every customer, based on what you know about them. Data can come from past interactions, reviews, and order history. This data should be stored and carefully tracked so that future content and customer interactions are based on important factors that will entice your customers to come back to your business.

One company that does an excellent job at creating custom content for its users is Spotify. Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist is a playlist of songs that it creates for each user based on what their algorithm believes the listener will enjoy. The feature incorporates an algorithm that discovers each user’s “profile” based on the songs they listen to and similar songs featured in other users’ playlists. This campaign is a unique offering for now, but soon businesses will all be tracking data to better serve their customers, and now is the time to make your business one of the first to utilize the modern technology that will make it possible. 

Use your own voice when writing content for your customer engagements. Of course you want to keep messaging professional, but don’t be afraid to show your customers the personable and “light” side of your business as well. When it comes to marketing, it’s good to stand out. “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” – Mark Zuckerberg

Creating custom, worthwhile content for your customers is a must when it comes to creating a customer engagement strategy. Regardless of how great your product or services are, consumers won’t know what they’re missing out on if you’re not engaging with them through customized content that meets their needs and shows them why it’s in their best interest to work with your business. 

5. Engage Across Channels

There is more to customer engagement than using one channel as a point of contact. Your customers aren’t all contacting you through the same channels, so you could be missing out on new opportunities and building stronger relationships with current customers simply because you’re not engaging across multiple channels. Some of the most important places your business should be reachable and responsive include:

  • Social Media: Over 240 million people in the United States are regularly using social media channels for engaging, researching, getting recommendations and browsing. Your business should be active on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to attract customers who are frequenting these sites. Engaging with customers on social media is increasingly important and no business can afford to ignore social media in today’s world. 
  • Company Blog: Does your company have a blog? If not, you should. Keeping a blog page regularly updated on your website not only helps to increase your SEO score, but it’s also a great tool for engaging with customers. You’re the expert in your industry, so writing valuable articles that are helpful to customers builds trust. Readers can then leave comments and start conversations with you that will help in creating a stronger relationship with them. 
  • Review Sites: We talked about the importance of responding to every review your business receives online, and customer engagement is a big reason why. Engaging on review sites should be a part of your customer engagement strategy now that we’re well into 2020 and consumers 97% of consumers say they read a business’s online reviews before deciding whether or not to work with them. Responding to all feedback on these sites like Google, Yelp and Facebook is a big part of customer engagement. Your engagements and responses to customer reviews also gives other searchers insights into what your business is all about. Keep that in mind when writing your responses, especially to those pesky negative comments! 
  • Text: Over 6 billion text messages are sent every single day. The chances of your customers being a part of that statistic is pretty high. In other words, you should be accessible to answer customer questions, concerns or scheduling requests through text messages.
  • Email: Emails are one of the most effective ways to engage with your customers. Sending automated, targeted emails to your customers is a big part of most customer engagement strategies that most companies utilize. Why? Because most people use email, they get it on their phones, and you can add more text and images than you can to a text message. Emails are a great way to engage with customers to build customer loyalty.
  • Webchat: Over 70% of consumers say they expect immediate answers when they reach out to a business. That seems daunting since you’re busy at work, and not all businesses have the means to pay someone around the clock to be on customer service calls (in fact, most businesses don’t!) Instead, implementing a webchat functionality on your website is a great way to get leads throughout the day, while also taking care of the needs of current customers when they want to chat about a question or concern they might have.

Having a platform that tracks, stores and organizes all of your engagements for you will go a long way in saving you time, while also increasing your customer satisfaction.

It’s Time to Create Your Customer Engagement Strategy!

Customer engagement is a critical piece of the customer experience puzzle. Once a customer has worked with you and enjoyed your service, it’s your job to keep them coming back. Remember, they have many options right at their fingertips so it’s easy to forget which business they used last time they needed a plumber, HVAC specialist, carwash, pest control service or any other type of service.

Creating an effective customer engagement strategy is crucial to keeping your business running in 2020. You’re busy as a business owner, so using an automated customer engagement tool is the best way to ensure that your customers are hearing from you at the right time, in the right place and with the right message. 

In conclusion, business owners should be working toward creating a customer engagement strategy that fits their business model, appeals to their customers and brings them back through the door frequently. When it comes to engaging with customers, remember, “Even when you are marketing to your entire audience or customer base, you are still simply speaking to a single human at any given time.” — Ann Handley

For more insights on marketing strategy that actually works for small business, subscribe to the FreshLime Newsletter here. Connect with Jay Bean, CEO and Founder of FreshLime and Small Business Marketing Expert on LinkedIn and Twitter. And last of all, if any of these tips have helped you or if you have anything to add please comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

 

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