Like it or not, your customers have the power in your relationship with them. Not only do they make the final decision when it comes to purchase, but they are also connected 24/7 to a network of information – and other options. With the tap of a finger they have the opportunity to compare pricing, check reviews, and ask a friend. The path to purchase has literally become a game show that customers always win at.

Knowing this, there is no excuse for running your marketing strategy on blind hope that it will engage your audiences. You need to build a strategy that is focused on your customers’ needs, wants, and behaviours.

Whether you have a small or a large audience, here are a few strategies that you can incorporate into your own customer engagement efforts.

  1. Use Social media to listen: Everyone knows that one person who ONLY talks about themself. Those times where you sit through an entire “conversation” and your only involvement is to agree with how great they are or express your wonder at what they had to eat yesterday when they went to that fancy restaurant. Don’t be that person. Engage your customers in dialogue and really listen to what they have to say in return. If you haven’t yet built up an engaged community online, find forums where your target audience is engaged online (ie. Reddit, Tumblr, etc). Ask questions, dish out compliments, whatever you can do to elicit a positive response.
  2. Real time updates: If you are running a live workshop, or an event, don’t be afraid to give updates via social media in real time. With so many live streaming options available, you have the platform already set up. Try to get creative, but make sure you stay on brand. If you’re in real estate, why not do a live walk through of a house that just went on the market? If you run a trade show, you could do a live walk through of the show floor and speak to someone at each vendor booth. Look for value add for your customers and for those on camera.
  3. Put the spotlight on customers: User-generated content is a great way to both listen to what your customers have to say while beefing up your own unique content library. Running a contest where customers have to submit photos or stories can be a great way to get product reviews and encourage general brand engagement. And your contest doesn’t have to be run on social media, you can set it up as a landing page on your website, have email submissions, or use a third party.
  4. Loyalty programs: it’s always nice to reward loyalty among your customers. While nothing can guarantee a loyal customer won’t go to one of your competitors, if you treat your customers well, there is a greater chance they will continue to stay loyal to your brand. Here are a few options:
    • Offer a discount for returning customers
    • Offer a volume discount for returning customers (ie. Buy 10 get 1 free)
    • Create a rewards/points program
    • Offer a referral discount
    • Have a regular event for your loyal customers
  5. Engage influencers: You can only engage with so many people through your immediate audience. By having an influencer tell your story, you can then engage with a larger audience as they act as a loudspeaker for your brand. A great way to include an influencer in your strategy is to have them review your product.
  6. E-newsletter: An E-newsletter is a direct line to your audience. They have already shown interest in your brand by signing up for your list. The key is to share valuable content and offers that will keep their interest. And sending a newsletter once per quarter isn’t enough. At the very minimum you should send something monthly so you stay top of mind.
  7. Customer surveys: Once a customer has tried your product, have them complete a survey to get valuable feedback. The key is turning the data into actionable strategies to better the customer experience.
  8. Offer a free trial: Sometimes getting that first nibble can be tough. By offering a free trial you have a captive audience that is trying out your product. This means that they are in the market for what you’re selling and they liked yours enough to try it out. It also gives you the opportunity for multiple touchpoints throughout their trial period to convert them fully to a paying customer.
  9. Content strategy: Your content should address customer needs and concerns. It should answer their burning questions. In short, it needs to provide value. By creating valuable and interesting content, you have a platform for customer engagement.
  10. Quicker turnaround times: Something as simple as not making a customer wait is a great way to engage them. If they send in an inquiry via your customer care channels, try to cut down on the response times and get to a quick solution. The more they wait, the easier it is to walk away.

This article was originally posted to the SongBird Marketing Communications Blog.