How much time, commitment, and research do you invest in your customer engagement strategy?
Sadly, too many businesses fail to dedicate enough of all three in their plans. In fact, one survey revealed over 50 percent of companies have no formal customer-engagement strategy in place whatsoever. And even more companies have no idea how many consumers they have lost in the past year from lack of engagement.
That’s a big mistake when fully-engaged customers account for almost one-quarter of revenue, profitability, and relationship growth. Not to mention that it’s five times more expensive to find new buyers than to keep current ones.
So, what can you do to connect with your online audience and build a stronger bond?
1. Don’t Make It All About Business
Engaging your audience demands far more than just promoting your products or services. It can’t be all business all the time.
This may seem contradictory, but it’s true. Connecting with your audience and strengthening your business-customer relationships means recognizing followers as human beings, rather than faceless shoppers.
We’re talking specifically about social media and marketing emails/newsletters here. Try sharing content that you think your audience will appreciate without it bearing an obvious link to your business.
For example, if you specialize in catering services, don’t be afraid to post videos based around cooking tips or lists covering “the 10 worst birthday cakes ever” (for example). Make them smile. Make them think. Make them laugh. Heck, make them cry if you need to.
- 42 percent of customers questioned made a purchase after a brand shared educational content
- 36 percent of consumers found businesses “being funny” engaging
- 38 percent of buyers responded well to companies sharing interesting visuals
The key is, a significant part of your audience is likely to feel a stronger connection to your business when you diversify your content and activities, instead of pushing your products/services ad nauseam.
2. Survey Your Audience to Identify Needs, Expectations and Service Gaps
One of the simplest ways to find out what your target customers want and like is to ask them.
By picking your audience’s brains, you can find opportunities to forge tighter connections and deliver a stronger customer experience. And a staggering 86 percent of people will pay up to one-quarter more for this.
Invite customers to take part in a survey over social media and/or after they make a purchase. But keep these key factors in mind:
- Keep your surveys short — comprehensive research conducted by Vision Critical found more than half of people won’t spend any longer than three minutes completing one
- 87 percent of consumers who agree to respond to a survey are keen to have a say in a brand’s future
- Make sure all surveys are optimized for mobile devices, as nearly one-quarter are completed via smartphone
- Ask only the most relevant questions to find ways to improve your customer support, range of products/services, communication channels, social-media response times and other vital aspects of strong engagement; take action on responses and seize opportunities to deliver a better experience
3. Support Good Causes to Show There’s More to Your Brand Than Business
A survey conducted by Foresters found 82 percent of customers questioned were more likely to choose a business that supported charities and its local community.
Supporting a charity and engaging with community activities or initiatives may show your business cares about more than the bottom line. It also provides a valuable opportunity to generate positive press and interact with a broader range of people on matters unrelated to day-to-day business.
Undertaking activities, hosting events and running competitions to benefit charities offers a wealth of material to inspire content. Create:
- Blog posts
- Press releases
- Videos covering the charity and your company’s efforts to support it
- Audio interviews with representatives of the charity to help promote it
Lastly, invite followers on social media to suggest fundraising ideas (running a marathon, hosting a bake sale, finding brave volunteers for a sponsored skydive, etc.) for further engagement.
4. Host Webinars to Demonstrate Thought-Leadership and Encourage Interaction
73 percent of leaders in sales and marketing cite webinars as the most effective technique to generate quality leads.
Any viewers who stick with the webinar for around an hour (the average length) may visit your site, choose to support your business or (at the very least) return for further webinars in the future.
Here are some key factors to bear in mind when planning webinars:
- Promote your webinar a few weeks in advance, but don’t forget to share reminders across social media and your website regularly, as more than half of registrations take place the week before the webinar
- The best time for webinars is between 10 am – 11 am, ideally on a Wednesday or Thursday
- Invite registrants to submit questions for a Q&A session, to make viewers feel part of the conversation and increase engagement
- Appoint a host who speaks clearly, can remain calm when performing to an audience and is able to keep a conversation going over a long period
5. Thank Customers For Choosing Your Brand and Reward Loyalty
Finally, showing gratitude to customers for their interest is another powerful technique to build connections.
Research by HubSpot found sending thank-you emails to customers after they perform a desirable action (such as making a purchase or registering for a newsletter) achieves an open rate of 42 percent and a CTR of 14 percent.
HubSpot compared this with standard marketing emails, which led to an open rate of 12 percent and a CTR of just 6 percent.
On a more basic level, thank-you messages can help to make customers feel more valued and respected. Your business is taking a step to acknowledge them rather than treating buyers as anonymous drones (especially when emails are personalized). You may want to include a discount against future purchases, too, for extra impact.
Building a stronger connection with your online audience takes time, effort and persistence. But it will pay off if you’re committed enough.
Follow the five tips explored above to increase your engagement, drive more traffic to your site and improve your ability to convert visitors. Never let yourself or your team become complacent and take buyers for granted — they may have plenty of other businesses to choose from.
Do you have any tips of your own to help businesses connect with online audiences? Share your ideas below!
The views included in this article are entirely the work and thoughts of the author, and may not always reflect the views and opinions of Regex SEO.