We measure customer satisfaction in all sorts of ways. ROI, page views, time on site, bounce rates — all of it provides insight but pales in comparison to client engagement. Client engagement is perhaps the strongest indicator of a customer’s feelings for your brand.
Clients that engage with your brand develop brand loyalty, which is created most notably through likeability and trust. If they like your brand, they’ll be much more likely to come back and buy from you again.
Truly loyal customers will always choose your brand over the competition and your most loyal customers will even take up the mantle and help you promote your company. But client engagement doesn’t just come naturally. It has to be planned and executed to have the desired effect.
Effective client engagement can’t be automated, at least not fully. It requires commitment and genuine involvement from members of your team to make those personal connections with your customer. It must be custom-baked into every aspect of your business.
Let’s examine some simple strategies that any company can take to improve their client engagement and develop real, meaningful relationships with their customers:
View Social Media as an Engagement Tool
Most companies view social media in the wrong way. They see it as a platform, ripe for automation and effective for distributing the content that they publish.
Trust that your customers can see through a hands-off approach on social media. Even when done well, they can sense when there isn’t a real person behind the scenes engaging with customers. That isn’t to say that every update you post has to be handled by-hand, but in general, there needs to be a coordinated effort to engage and show a little personality to catch your ideal client’s eye.
By 2021, there will be more than 3 billion people on the varying social media platforms.
Social media is the preferred way for customers to interact with brands today. But the keyword there is “interact.” If you aren’t genuinely interacted with your audience, you’ll have a hard time getting customers to engage on any social media platform.
Interaction and engagement aren’t just about taking part in conversations, either. Brands that do social media well post content that encourages conversation.
Take this Facebook post from Staples, for example. You wouldn’t think that there would be anything interesting to talk about when it comes to notebooks and office supplies, but Staples manages to take the mundane and make it interesting on social media:
A timely Halloween post featuring some of their most basic products was shared more than 10,000 times across their various social profiles. A little creativity can go a long way.
There are many ways for companies to encourage client engagement through social media. Recently, Sprout Social conducted a study that examined the types of posts that lead to purchases.
When you provide real value on social media, your customers listen. It’s the most direct way to speak to them and develop real, lasting relationships that foster brand loyalty.
Offer Deals Specifically for VIP Customers
Your VIP clients are those that are most important to your business. They are those that have been with you the longest, bought your products, and referred friends to your business. They bring a lot more value to the table than a standard run-of-the-mill customer. A VIP’s long-term value far exceeds what they actually spend at your business.
With that said, engagement with VIP customers is simply worth more to your business. Each engagement increases the chances of them promoting your business and recommending your products or services to friends or family. Additionally, the cost of selling directly to a VIP customer is much lower than that of normal customers.
You should always go out of your way to interact with your highest value customers and reward them for their loyalty. Sending a handwritten (non-automated) letter or email to your VIP customers with a deal on a product they may be interested in is a great way to show them that you are appreciative of their business, furthering the loyalty that they already have.
Build a Branded Community
Building a community around your brand is a great way to get your customers engaged with your brand. Not only will they have more opportunity to interact with people within your company, but your customers will develop relationships with each other and further the value they receive out of their relationship with your brand as well.
A great example of a branded community comes from the GrowthHackers Community.
Although the company originally started as just a community, in the last few years they have grown into a full suite of marketing software products. Still, their community continues to thrive and attract some of the largest names in the industry to participate. This helps to keep the GrowthHackers brand associated with the top figures in the industry while growing loyalty with the other participants.
Join and Engage with Online Communities
You don’t have to limit your engagement efforts to your own community, either. There are likely dozens of communities focused on your industry that you can join and take part in, giving customers and prospects another way to directly communicate with your brand.
The web is full of forums and communities for you to take part in. Even a simple search for “Startup” groups on Facebook can yield dozens of interesting results:
Find the communities where your clients and ideal prospects hang out, and start engaging in discussions. Share valuable content and insights with the group and build a reputation. The only thing that you have to worry about is being overly self-promotional, as that will be frowned upon in any public group that you join.
Getting involved in communities that focus on your industry (or those of your ideal clients) can be a great way to foster an engaged client base. By taking part in public discussions you can start building brand loyalty with prospects that have yet to buy their first product from you, setting the stage for a fruitful engagement.
Hold Customer Summits
There are few actions that you can take that foster more brand loyalty than getting your team and customers together in the same location, face-to-face. Holding a yearly summit for your biggest clients can be a great way to develop deeper relationships and help them get a peek inside how your company operates.
Flying in for a meeting on the golf course is an old school sales tactic for securing and keeping high-value clients happy. Customer summits also give your customers the ability to have their opinions heard and affect decisions within your company.
Adobe is an example of one company that holds a customer summit every year. They also conducted a study of the results that attendees experienced from attending their summit that yielded some pretty eye-opening results:
- 95% of attendees received practical information
- 93% of attendees would recommend the summit to their peers.
- 93% of attendees said the summit met or exceeded their expectations
- 90% of attendees said their objectives for attending were met
Now, results like this depend on your ability to plan and execute a worthwhile summit, but it does go to show how beneficial one could potentially be.
Create Interactive Content
Content marketing is rapidly growing in popularity. Almost half of 18 to 49-year old people get their news and information online, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. As more children that grew up with the web come of age, these numbers will only continue to grow.
Creating content helps to educate your customers, but giving them content that they can interact with takes things to a whole new level. According to a study from Demand Metric, interactive content outperforms standard content in educating buyers:
There are many types of engaging interactive content that you can create. Quizzes have become a popular way for companies to learn more about their customers while giving them something fun and interesting to do.
If you’ve spent any time on social media, you’ve likely seen quizzes like the one above. They can be a great way to engage with customers and help educate them while collecting information and generating leads.
Other types of interactive content that you could publish include assessments, polls and surveys, calculators, contests, and infographics. Fostering client engagement isn’t just about having conversations. It’s about giving your clients the chance to engage with your brand in as many ways as you possibly can.
Prioritize Quick Responses
The Internet has changed customer expectations for good. Today, customers expect brands to promptly answer any questions that they have about your product or service. If you take too long to respond, they are much more likely to take their business to a competitor. This is one of the many reasons why software tools like live chats have become increasingly common in recent years.
A recent study examined the revenue returns generated compared to reply times on social media. Focusing on the airline industry, the study examined how much revenue a Tweet could generate based on how quickly they responded to the customer. The study showed, resoundingly, that fast replies led to purchasing decisions more reliably by the customer:
Social media replies that came within 6 minutes generated more than double the revenue of replies that came within the 6-22 minute window, and more than 5x the revenue of replies that came within the 22-67 minute window.
Invite Opinion-Sharing in Your Content
To encourage engagement from clients, invite them to be part of discussions. How many blog posts have you read that never invite the reader to share their thoughts or their opinion on the subject? It may seem simple, but sometimes prompting your clients to engage with your content is all you need to foster a discussion.
Try replacing some of your lead-generation calls to action with calls for your customers to share their own opinions. This tactic is particularly effective when you have shared an opinion that is controversial or simply goes against the grain. While inviting arguments against a position your brand has taken may seem counterproductive, the discussions that it will invite in the comments section and on social media will outweigh any negative effects.
Host Webinars and Q&A Sessions
Webinars are an ideal way to deliver information. They offer all of the benefits of a live seminar with minimal investment and commitment on the part of the brand. Attendees are also able to attend at their leisure, with minimal commitment on their part.
Your customers have questions. Those questions might be about your product, company, industry, or even the people that work at your company. The best way to facilitate conversations with clients is to give them the chance to ask questions and learn more about your business.
The end of the webinar gives you an excellent opportunity to speak directly to your customers and clients by giving them a chance to ask any questions they may have about the content they just viewed. 92% of webinar attendees want a live Q&A session at the end of the webinar.
This kind of unstructured impromptu Q&A session can quickly get into the weeds and divert from the main subject of the webinar, but even then you are being given the ability to engage with your customers on the subjects that they consider most pertinent.
Respond to Negative Feedback Publicly
Customer reviews are an extremely powerful tool and also provide an excellent opportunity for client engagement. Today 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase, with only 3% of shoppers saying that online reviews never factor into their buying decision.
A lack of reviews can create big problems with prospects.
Source: Fan & Fuel
The only thing more impactful than having no reviews is negative reviews. 82% of customers seek out negative reviews to help them better understand a product. For businesses, it might seem like the right move to ignore negative reviews and hope they get swept under the rug, but it’s more beneficial to respond publicly than it is to leave them as-is.
If possible, publicly respond to any negative reviews. Be professional and courteous. Dispel any misinformation that you think could mislead future customers, but admit if any mistakes were made and offer to make things right.
Customers trust negative reviews but are understanding of the fact that not every customer interaction is going to go as planned. By responding publicly, you display your goodwill and willingness to interact with clients that haven’t had the best experience with your company. This helps to restrict the impact of the negative review while giving you the opportunity to score points in the eyes of other prospective customers.
“Genuine” is the Key Word
To improve client engagement, you have to employ strategies that facilitate genuine interactions. Customers can tell when they’ve received an automated message. Getting your brand out there in communities and inviting discussion around the subjects that you cover will not only help you to inform your audience but begin to build relationships with prospects and customers in the process. Finding ways to bake genuine client engagement into your everyday tasks is a difficult but important step toward creating a loyal client base.