Bringing in customers is important. Holding onto those same customers is even more crucial. Which is where customer engagement comes into play.
Engagement is the act of building authentic relationships with your target audience. It involves any and all communications that you leverage throughout the pre and post-purchase process. Which can be disastrous if you’re delivering different messages or even a misaligned tone through every channel.
This is why you need to develop a customer engagement strategy.
What is a customer engagement strategy?
Similar to your growth strategy, a customer engagement strategy is all about improving satisfaction while increasing conversions. The most successful engagement strategies attempt to meet your customers where they’re at. Choosing to message through the channels they use most and proactively reaching out.
Now more than ever that requires you to communicate digitally.
7 Online customer engagement strategies
Diving into online communication can be both a challenge and a benefit. You can more easily track the success of engagement, but the learning curve for digital channels can be frustrating without a clear method in mind. To help you find the best way to engage with your audience, here are 7 potential strategies you can utilize.
1. Build a community or group
There are several great ways to build an online community to more effectively interact and engage with your customers. Forums have been around for years and are still a widely used method of engaging with customers and allowing customers to engage with each other. Forums will likely still be around for the foreseeable future, but many companies are now finding it more advantageous to leverage social groups.
Customers are already on these social networks every day, so instead of relying on customers to regularly visit your forum to interact and engage with you, why not bring the conversation to them on their social networks of choice?
Facebook Groups and LinkedIn Groups are just a few of the many social networking sites that allow individuals and companies the ability to set up topic or brand communities.
2. Host a webinar
A webinar is another innovative and effective way of engaging with your customers. They allow you to reach a large target audience on a platform that is very user-friendly and interactive. People love the visual aspects of a webinar with live video of the presenter, slides, graphics, and other interactive options.
Webinars also allow you to make a very personal connection with your current or potential customers. You as the presenter of the webinar can also be more passionate, entertaining, and engaging than you could otherwise be by just writing a blog post and short e-book.
Pro Tip: Allowing users to tweet or email their questions or comments to you during or after the webinar is a great way to encourage more interaction with your audience.
Planning to release an e-book, redesign your website, or launch a new product? Consider reaching out to your customers to help you co-create something or at least provide their input and suggestions.
While this would not be advisable in all situations, getting your customers’ input and assistance can really help you develop a much stronger bond. They will feel proud that they were part of the effort and process that made your product better.
When you encourage customer participation on a project, just be sure to reward the people whose ideas and input you implemented. Try to turn it into some sort of contest and recognize the people who helped. You can reward the key contributors with a prize, but sometimes recognition alone is a good enough reward for certain people.
4. Celebrate together
Did you just reach 5,000 registered users on your site? Did you attract 25,000 new visitors to your site last month? When your company reaches milestones like these, celebrate your success with your customers and make them feel like they contributed to your success.
The reason some people are so passionate about sports is because they feel as if they are literally part of their favorite sports team. When the team wins, they win. Instead of saying, “The Cowboys played a great game last night,” a real Cowboys fan will say “We played a great game last night.” That’s the mentality you need to develop with your customers—make them feel part of your winning team, and thank them for helping your site to be a success.
5. Offer exclusive content
Create content that is not available to the general public—content that is so special and exclusive, that only members can view it. Require users to log in to this area. You don’t necessarily have to charge for access to this content, but require users to at least go through a registration process to gain access to it. It will make them feel special and part of your exclusive group.
You may also want to offer special discounts and pricing to this group as well. A members-only forum where registered users can discuss industry-related topics is also a great way to build unity and engage your customers.
6. Respond to feedback
Part of successfully engaging with your customers is being sure to take the time and listen to them. It’s not enough to just have a conversation, you need to show that you value their insights. This is especially important with online communication, where the majority of your interactions, or at least the start of them, will be visible to other customers.
Be sure that you actively maintain your online presence and respond to both positive and negative feedback. This can include everything from social comments and reviews to email and direct messages. Then, if you do happen to make any changes based on customer feedback, be sure to shout out the user that presented the idea in the first place.
This is a great way to show that you’re actively listening to more than just the individual you’re responding to. And actually acknowledging changes that you make further solidifies this idea.
7. Engage across multiple channels
When working with your customers online, you need to be flexible. This doesn’t just mean providing more channels for engagement but allowing conversations to transition between them.
For example, let’s say a customer question starts as a comment on your latest Facebook post. Now after reviewing, you realize that you’ll need to ask about potentially sensitive info to provide a solution. So, rather than keeping the conversation going publicly, you instead send a direct message.
Or you can even list out a support email address or phone number to give the customer the best option. The key here is to be consistent between platforms. Your messaging, follow-through, and timeliness should all remain the same.
As long as you don’t lose track of your conversations, this flexibility will be perceived as positive engagement.
Finding the right engagement strategy takes time
Technology today offers so many great ways to interact and engage with customers online. Take advantage of all the free tools and resources available today and devise a plan to better engage and interact with your customers.
Just know, it might take some time to find the strategy and channels that work best for your customers. Set parameters for success, be willing to pivot when engagement isn’t clicking, and be sure you listen to your customers.
*Editors’ note: This article was originally published in 2013 and updated for 2020.