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Having loyal customers is like hitting the jackpot. But remember, customers don’t owe you loyalty, you have to earn it. But once it’s yours, it could be the start of something beautiful. According to Alex Lawrence of Forbes magazine, 80% of your future revenue will come from 20% of your current customers. So how do you get them to fall in love with your brand? Engagement. Remember the days when advertisers and marketers told us what we need? As we mentioned in our previous blog, cold, hard advertising and basic marketing tactics don’t cut it anymore. It’s 2018, your customers are now your new marketing tool, so it’s imperative to embrace and implement customer engagement.

The power of customer engagement

Summarising ‘customer engagement’ into one sentence is a difficult one — there are many varying definitions out there. However, in simple terms, it refers to the way in which customers interact with brands; or, to go a little deeper, the way in which the relationship between customer and brand can develop. Smile, a company that offers reward programs for online businesses, defines the idea quite nicely — “Customer engagement is the degree and depth of brand-focused interactions a customer chooses to perform.” The operative word here is chooses. Customers can build relationships with brands in their own way, in their own style.

I often get asked, “is investing in customer engagement actually worth the money? Well, in short, the answer is yes. If you’re a new business, no one knows you exist yet, so how on earth do you expect a customer to suddenly purchase your product or service? If you follow LEP Digital on our social media accounts, you might’ve noticed that I recently got engaged whilst overseas in Europe.

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I’m right in the thick of planning, and it’s so much fun. I’m following a wealth of wedding-related accounts on Instagram — venues, florists, makeup artists and designers — I’m a marketer’s dream! I’m getting served more wedding-related ads than you could ever imagine.

So… what exactly has this got to do with return on investment on customer engagement? Well, take the wedding dress for example. At the end of the day, I’m going to need just one. However, I’m probably following 20, maybe 30 designers on Instagram. I’m in research mode — sourcing inspiration, learning more about the designers, seeing if their pricing and positioning work for me. As mentioned in our previous blog, you could say I’m in the consideration process of the buyer’s journey, working out if these designers align with my values. The ironic thing is that I may not even purchase a dress by any of the designers I follow. However, I’m actively engaged (pardon the pun) with these businesses and their social media accounts. Every time I double tap the heart, tag a friend or save an image, that’s me, participating in customer engagement. Later down the track, I might refer a friend to a designer, who in turn, purchases a dress when they choose to get married.

Here’s another example. A prospective customer purchases your product or service. Great, you’ve made a sale (yes, you’re welcome to do a happy dance). But from here, they are in a position to take an array of different actions. In the best case scenario, they might leave you a review, share their experience on their social channels, or refer you to family and friends. As Sujan Patel of INC explains, ”when the right systems for nurturing and mobilising customer advocates are in place, they can drive new and positive word-of-mouth – which is necessary for today’s well-educated buyers”. It’s these sorts of behaviours that indicate that these customers could be vocal brand advocates. They look forward to an opportunity to interact with your brand. It’s here where businesses’ need to focus on how to deepen their relationship with these sorts of customers. Getting this right is absolutely critical to your overall growth and success.

So ready to share the love? We’ve outlined three ways that you can be maximising your relationship and strengthening your customer engagement:

Get clever with your content

If you met someone for the first time, would you prefer being screamed at in your face or gently tapped with a lovely introduction to start a conversation? I’d probably guess the latter. The same applies when it comes reaching out to your customers in the digital space. Consumers have increasingly become desensitised to and disengaged from direct advertising. It’s harsh, it’s annoying and, let’s be honest, we all know it’s a bloody ad being served to us. To really win your customer’s trust, your content marketing strategy has to be softer, more persuasive and relevant. As Rebecca Sentance of Econsultancy explains, “brands have recognised that some sort of value exchange needs to take place: rather than simply directing consumers towards their product, they need to provide insight, inspiration, and an informative message”.

It’s all about bringing brands to life through storytelling. A study completed by Econsultancy found that an overwhelming 93% of marketers believe that customers increasingly want to buy experiences, not just the product or service itself. So what can you be doing to offer value to make the experience better? There are many ways you can keep your relationship going. A well-thought-out digital marketing strategy may include many digital touchpoints including inspirational social media posts, interactive stories, cleverly designed eDMs (electronic direct mail or e-newsletters) and beautifully written educational blogs. Whatever you do, make sure there’s consistency of brand, message and value across all of the platforms you use — you want your customers to interact with the content.

Listen to your customers

In relationships, communication is key. The same applies when it comes to building a relationship with your customers. Would it surprise you that many brands out there simply don’t listen? According to statistics provided by Bain and Co. in the Harvard Management Update, 80% of companies surveyed said that they offer superior customer service, but only 8% of their customers actually agreed with them. Yowsers. It’s all well and good to request customer feedback, but if you’re not going to interpret it or act upon it, then you’re wasting your time. As Frank Eliason, the Global Director of Client Experience at Citi explains, “truly listening is hearing the needs of the customer, understanding those needs and making sure the company recognises the opportunities they present”. Listening to your customers helps better the overall customer experience. As we’ve discussed, customers aren’t just buying a product, they’re buying a brand affiliation — therefore, if you focus on providing the best customer experience at every touchpoint (consideration right through to purchase) you’re more likely to build that loyalty. What’s the most obvious way to do this? By asking them. Provide surveys, polls across social media and post-purchase follow-up emails. If you want to say ahead of your competition, never stop listening to your customers — whether it’s positive or negative.

Be authentic

In a space dictated by the digital, customers crave a little bit of transparency and genuineness. Plus, they’ve become extraordinarily savvy and are perfectly capable of calling BS when it occurs (don’t forget the digital space is their platform too and, yes, many people know how to leave Google Reviews). As a brand, you need to be authentic: staying true to who you are and what you do. When putting your brand out there in the virtual world, the human elements matter. Authenticity creates value, builds loyalty and that all-important connection that can get lost when you’re dealing with digital matter. A study published by the Harvard Business Review, which included 7,000 consumers around the world, showed that loyalty to brands is almost impossible to achieve without one key element — shared values. According to the report, “of those consumers who said that they had a strong brand relationship, 64% cited shared values as the primary reason”. Take global cosmetic chain Lush, where sustainability, being charitable and ethical is at the root of their brand. Across social media, they create high-quality content to promote their ethical business practices and sustainability programs. However, most importantly, Lush always puts its audience at the heart of their social media strategy, thus building those all-important authentic customer relationships and increasing brand affinity.

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To the start of something beautiful

As you can see, building relationships with your customers is an extraordinarily powerful thing and can impact the overall growth and direction of your business. At LEP Digital, developing and implementing meaningful content for our clients is at the heart of what we do. We love bringing brands to life and giving brands a voice across the digital space. If you’re struggling to build your customer engagement, let’s have a coffee. (And, if you know of any wedding dress designers, please leave me a note below!)

LEP Digital

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