To improve your customer engagement strategies, “Ask not how you can sell, but how you can help.”
-Kellogg School of Management
Mass Marketing: Marketing from the Past
If you do not have a customer engagement marketing strategy, you are missing out on opportunities to build your brand and grow your business. Businesses engaging their customers are also involved in customer relationship management. In other words, they are improving their brands effectively and quicker by managing their relationships with customers. Companies that operate under the old way of marketing are not effective at managing customer relationships and thus miss the mark in gaining valuable custom insights through customer engagement.
The way companies marketed in the past was a one size fits all strategy. The old way included mass marketing brands to broad segments of consumers. It’s sort of like casting a wide net into the vast ocean, hoping to catch a few fish, and as we have all heard by now, “hope is not a strategy.” At least I “hope” you have heard that quote.
A mass marketing approach created challenges for brands. Marketers had limited channels for customer involvement if any at all. Brands had little interest in customer involvement. Direct customer communication was practically non-existent, and marketers missed opportunities to profoundly and intimately engage with their customers’ needs and wants. Also, non-existent with the old way of marketing was collecting any customer data or sentiment they had toward a brand, and its products. Firms could not capture those insights that could lead to improved customer service or new product ideas, like Cake pops and Pumpkin Spice latte products consumers created on Starbucks customer engagement platforms.
Customer Engagement Marketing
The internet and mobile devices gave rise to a new marketing paradigm known as customer engagement marketing. Customer engagement marketing nurtures direct and continuous customer involvement in shaping brand conversations, experiences, and community. Customer engagement marketing leads to brands creating meaningful brand stories to make the brand a significant part of a consumer’s conversation and their life. A great example of customer-engagement marketing is the Dove brand.
Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign targets women of all ethnicities and allows them to engage via Dove’s social media pages directly. Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches campaign, a video depicting how women view themselves and how others see them, launched in 2013 and has received almost 69-million views on their YouTube channel. The campaign video has generated conversations from thousands of consumers that range from positive to cynical responses. By allowing consumers a platform to voice their opinions through their social media channels, Dove can gain valuable insights about their consumers as well as provide a medium for consumers to engage with the brand. Dove’s customer engaged marketing makes its brand a meaningful part of the consumers’ conversation and their lives.
What Drives Customer Engagement Marketing?
Ever since Tim Burns Lee created the first graphical web browser in 1991, businesses began populating the internet with their webpages. As consumers started to shop online, and social media took root, consumers became better informed about brands. They were more connected and empowered as consumers because they had a platform to voice their likes, dislikes, and opinions about brand products. Social media took away the power of marketing from brands and handed it to consumers. In turn, brands are engaging customers in ways that help forge and share their brand experiences.
Because consumers are more empowered than before, brands need to create market offerings and messages that engage consumers and not interrupt them as they once did with the mass marketing approach. Brands need to listen to customer sentiment and provide feedback as needed. Companies can do so through various customer engagement platforms, such as:
- Social media sites: LinkedIn and Facebook
- Microblogs: Twitter and Instagram
- Video: Youtube
- Blogs: Your company blog
- Mobile apps: Most social brands have apps that allow customer-engagement
- Consumer-generated review systems: Yelp
All of these platforms help brands entice customer engagement on a personal, interactive level.
The Key to Customer Engagement Marketing
There is no magic formula for customer-engagement marketing. The key is to find ways to enter target consumers’ conversations with engaging and relevant brand messages. Merely posting a random, funny video, creating a social media page, and not staying consistent with posts, or hosting a blog isn’t enough. Marketing managers need to understand their customers and the high target value social sites where their customers congregate.
Offer Real Value
An excellent place to start is to offer customers real value. Rather than providing only product information, create meaningful content that adds value to your customer’s life. For content to be valuable, the brand needs to connect to that content legitimately. Looking back at the Dove Real Life Sketches example, the brand can legitimately connect with the content. Dove produces beauty products, and women buy those products, and the campaign speaks to women about their perception of beauty.
Customers want real information and education about brands, but they also wish to be inspired. Airbnb’s Cheers to Ten Years of Hosting video inspires its customers while providing informational content.
Provide Entertainment Value
A brand can inform and inspire, but it also needs to entertain. The “stickiness” of a brand’s engagement message comes from its entertainment value. The stronger the entertainment value, the more your customer will remember and get engaged. Take a look at Always’ inspiring, yet entertainment video for their #likeagirl campaign. They deliver a powerful message that informs educates, inspires, and entertains.
You can have the best intentions as a brand, but if you are not consistent in delivering your message, your customers will not engage with your brand. Develop a brand engagement calendar that includes content posting days and times, along with your company’s communication channels to engage customers.
Remember, not everyone wants to engage deeply or regularly with every brand. Successful customer engagement marketing means making relevant and genuine contributions to target consumers’ lives and interactions. For customers that want to engage, you will gain valuable insights. For customers that do not wish to engage with your brand, your content will reinforce your brand story and message for them.