In the past, many marketers sought to create messages that spoke to a broad audience. Because interpersonal communication wasn't possible at the same speed and ease that it is today, many brands competed to have the largest megaphone, blasting out the most creative message to large swaths of customers.
More recently, with the rise of new digital technologies and platforms, customer engagement has become an increasingly two-way street. Brands that have discovered meaningful ways to have a conversation with their customers, instead of just talking at them, are reaping the rewards of brand advocacy. Wendy Lea, CEO at Cintrifuse, highlights this in an article for Inc Magazine,
“[Companies are] using social technologies to form meaningful, ongoing relationships that involve frequent online interactions… [and] customers who engage with a brand online report spending 20% to 40% more on that brand, or on that company's products.”
So, how do we get our customers themselves to advocate for our brand? Let's take a look at good ways to start a conversation and build a relationship.
1. Listen, Answer, Apply
Customer engagement is defined by extended dialogues — sometimes verbal, sometimes digital. With the ubiquity of smartphones and social media, customers can interact with our brand's pages and platforms whenever and wherever they want. This can be scary if we're concerned about negativity about our brand popping up on internet platforms. If customers are able to share their opinions twenty-four hours a day, what can we do?
“So jump into those conversations in a genuine and human way. Foster trust and form relationships through open, honest interactions over time—interactions that create positive experiences and outcomes for your customers.”
These positive experiences create two major effects. First, those specific customers will notice your sincerity and share their positive experience with your brand. Second, due to the public nature of social media, any candid and honest interaction with one customer not only shows them our loyalty but possibly reaches thousands of eyes beyond theirs. If we want to increase brand advocacy, we can't be spectators.
2. Be Prepared
How often do you see someone without a phone in their hand? Likely not very often. People are texting, tweeting, shopping, reviewing, and comparing prices on all their possible purchases.
If we want to have customer conversations, we need to be fully mobile. Our platforms and web pages must be optimized for mobile if we want to drive engagement, because so many of our customers' conversations are happening while they're away from their computers. Providing them with a high-quality mobile experience is no longer an option. It's a necessity if we want our customers to be engaged with our brand.
3. If You Build It…
If our goal is increase to customer advocacy, why not give them a place to do it! Beyond having a positive mobile experience, it's necessary for our brands to have a vibrant social media presence. Social media groups provide an excellent platform for conversations about our brand and branding efforts. Not only will you be able to interact with them, but your customers will also begin to interact with each other, sharing stories and experiences that will assist you in telling your story and spreading your brand message.
4. Share Your Perspective
If the content on our website is halfhearted, their response and advocacy will be the same. Content is king in this day and age. Give your readers some quality content to comment on, share, and discuss! Victoria Treyger, CMO at Kabbage, explains in an article for Business2Community,
“Offering your customers exclusive content that can increase their knowledge on your industry, services, or products is a great way to gain their trust and engage with them, as well.”
Thoughtful content shows that we have personality, and it adds an emotional and human connection that can be lost in today’s digital age. When we do this, our brand advocacy can soar. In a world where nothing seems personalized, creating real connections with our customer can change our brand advocacy efforts.
The Customer Conversation
When done well, customer engagement won't just mean that our customers are talking to us, it'll mean they're talking to each other (and their friends) about us. Like many other relationships, communication is key. Perhaps the single most important step to take to increase the conversations around your brand is ensuring your social media platforms are active and engaging when your customers do stop by. Those platforms ensure that there's a space for these conversations to take place, and further, that there's a space for your brand in the marketplace.
How are you encouraging your customers to interact with your brand? Join the conversation by tweeting @EidsonPartners!