5 Steps to Successful Customer Engagement that Leads to Sales
Online engagement is another one of those “social media buzzwords” that gets thrown around incessantly, but has lost it’s meaning.
But we need to look at this closely because online engagement is one of the key factors to driving long term customer relationships.
As Wikipedia says:
“Customer engagement marketing places conversions into a longer term, more strategic context and is premised on the understanding that a simple focus on maximising conversions can, in some circumstances, decrease the likelihood of repeat conversions…”
I know it’s a little rich coming from a landing page company, whose purpose is to sell a landing page software to allow marketers to close the deal NOW.
But as a responsible company who cares about the long-term success of our own customers, we want to emphasize the importance of driving your own successful long-term customer relationships online.
What are the keys to online customer engagement? We have developed five steps to help you navigate the customer engagement lifecycle.
1. Start by Providing Value to Your Customers
In today’s world of a trillion web pages, we have been trained to look online to the answers to our questions. We go on Google and type in “How do I…<achieve particular goal>,” or ask our friends on Facebook what they recommend.
The best way to start engaging our customers is to answer those questions. This is the premise of content marketing: providing blog posts that answer our customers’ fundamental questions about a topic that we’re familiar with and that coincides with our industry or product expertise.
But providing value is more than just providing content. We need to provide that content in the format our customers want to consume it.
If most of our target audience are senior citizens, they’re not very likely to download an app from the iTunes store or Google Play. We probably need to think about sending a physical newsletter.
Premier Austin, Texas based restaurant Contigo gives potential restaurant goers an inside look into how Contigo sources it’s food, prepares it’s meat, and entertains it’s guests on it’s video channel.
Contigo is providing value by answering restaurant goers’ questions: “what’s it like to dine at Contigo? How do they prepare their food? Will I have fun there?”
But engaging customers is more than just providing them value. At some point you need them to start engaging with the value you provide, which leads us to the next step.
2. Ask Your Customers to Engage in the Conversation
For some reason, we all love to comment and answer questions ourselves, especially when asked. You need to start asking your prospective customers what they think about the content you've shared. Or you can ask them to provide their own point of view.
This can happen on your own blog. Blogs were the first social media because they gave us the ability to answer back.
But you can also ask them to comment on social media. Contigo could take their video channel concept further by asking people to comment on this video about the Texecutioner cocktail: “What’s your favorite kind of drink?”
But to become more effective at asking your customers to engage in a conversation online, it’s best to use a human face.
3. Get a Real Human to Engage With Your Customers
It’s a myth that people want to engage with a brand. Brands are not people. People are. And brands are made by people. So why not use a real person from your company to represent your brand?
Many people worry that the person representing your brand is going to become more important than your brand.
That’s a very old-fashioned way of looking at business. Don’t be afraid if somebody becomes famous representing you or your brand. Maybe you, as the owner or CEO of your company, should become the face for your brand.
The advantages are hard to deny.
When Dell Computer was having a hard time with negative publicity because of their perceived lack of concern for a laptop battery fire. It’s solution? It reached out to blogger Lionel Menchaca to “give the company a frank and credible human voice.”
That turned around a very serious negative PR situation which could have gotten a lot worse.
For a more current, and maybe more mundane example, I’d like to turn to John Jantsch, author of some best-selling books such as Duct Tape Marketing and The Commitment Enginge, and CEO of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
Jantsch regularly posts questions on his Facebook page to elicit responses from his customers (or in his case, potential and actual Duct Tape Marketing consultants).
For example, in this post he asks: “I’m working on my next book…Want to be in my book, click here and share your thoughts…”
As of the writing of this post, Jantsch had elicited ten responses. Even more importantly, four people shared his post for him, which leads me to the next step.
4. Let Your Customers Engage On Your Behalf
It’s become common now for passionate customers to become passionate customer advocates who answer questions on behalf of the company. This is evident in many online communities that have been established to enable the crowd-sourcing of answers to common product questions.
There’s power when your customers answer questions on your behalf. Not only is there a cost-saving component, but you gain credibility.
In his new book Youtility, Jay Baer cites a recent ExactTarget study of the “Hot 100” retailers with ecommerce sites, which found that 51% percent of the companies surveyed saw their fans answer questions on Facebook before the brand itself could answer.
But beyond public social networks, many companies are establishing private communities for their fans and advocates. Baer gives the example of ExactTarget’s 3Sixty community.
At some point, however, you’re going to have to leverage all this engagement into a commercial relationship. Your prospective customers know that you’re not in business to provide them with free information and a chance to sit down with you and have a coffee. They expect that you’re going to offer them something to buy.
Which leads me to the last step in the customer engagement lifecycle.
5. Ask For the Sale
The difference between a traditional sales pitch and the sale pitch at the logical conclusion of a customer engagement lifecycle like night and day. When you ask for the sale after your potential customer is fully engaged with you, it’s more like a logical next step rather than an awkward attempt to close a sale.
In fact, asking for the sale is expected.
Ramit Sethi, owner of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, is a master of this. He drives subscribers to his newsletter into a fever pitch of expectation. He shares how-to blog posts and video interviews with successful clients that gives his subscribers a sneak peek into the tremendous benefits you could get when you buy one of his programs.
It’s almost like he holds out on you until you’re begging for him to finally tell you how to buy from him.
And that’s the secret to the sales part at the end of a successful customer engagement lifecycle. You build enough engagement with your potential customers that they’re literally begging you to offer them something to buy.
Are You Engaging Your Customers?
When you engage your customers, you create a relationship with them. You build goodwill. You become a destination for them that they want to come to.
But there are a few important steps. You need to provide your customers something that’s valuable for them first. Something that answers their questions or solves their problems.
Then get them to start talking to you. Ask for their opinions. The best way to do that is to provide a human face to your company, because your customers want to engage with other people, not a faceless brand.
Next, you want to leverage the goodwill and passion of your fans and loyal customers. There are no better ambassadors than somebody who is not a paid employee of yours.
Finally, ask for the sale. Or rather, give them an opportunity to buy, because if you engaged your customers in the right way, they are literally looking for a way to buy from you.
And let us know how you’ve started engaging your customers – we’d love to hear from you!