Are you engaging with your customers – or simply talking ‘at’ them? Find out why interaction is an essential part of a marketing strategy, and read six ways you can engage with your customers.
One of the biggest mistakes we see businesses making with their marketing is talking ‘at’ their customers. They believe they have an amazing product or service, and are convinced that customers will just LOVE it (and want to buy it) when they hear about it, so focus all their communications on broadcasting that message.
But it’s all too ‘me, me, me’ and too often ignores the needs and desires of their customers. Instead, if you want to get people’s attention, buy their goodwill and make sales, you need to stop talking at them, and start finding ways to interact with them.
In short, you need to engage.
Engagement leads to greater brand and product awareness and loyalty and, importantly, sales conversions. But just how do you ‘engage’? If you’ve built your marketing strategy on one-sided, broadcast-type communications, what should you be doing instead?
Six ways to engage with your customers
To help you make some simple tweaks and additions to your marketing strategy, business writer Patrick Vernon shares six ways you can engage with your customers.
1) Use SMS marketing
SMS is a greatly underused marketing tool but also one of the most effective (perhaps for that very reason). Compared to other methods of marketing, SMS has a fantastic return on investment because the clickthrough rates are so good.
How good? While URLS in email marketing campaigns can get click through rates ranging from to 1.96% to 5.65% (according to MailChimp), click through rates for SMS campaigns can get as high as 14%. Other stats say that 98% of text messages are opened within 15 minutes of receipt, and the opt-in SMS user market is said to be increasing at about 100% each year. (You can read more about SMS marketing here.)
Done well, SMS marketing can feel more personal than other forms of marketing. But you do need to do it right. Simply sending out generic sales texts won’t win you many fans (or customers).
But more tailored, subtle marketing tactics that encourage more engagement and add value can be a cost-effective and powerful way to connect with people. Some examples of how you can use SMS marketing to increase engagement include:
- Ask for customers’ feedback and opinions.
- Letting customers know when their favourite product is back in stock.
- Texting to let people know a delivery is on the way.
- Asking if they need help with a product they’ve bought from you.
- Asking if they’d like a text reminder when it’s time to re-order or re-book.
- Running an SMS-based competition.
2) Make the most of video content
Video content gets a huge amount of engagement because it’s just so easy to absorb. Which may be why it’s such a popular growing media (a study showed that by 2017 video will account for 69% of all consumer web traffic) and why Facebook is so keen to grow that side of their business.
And the great thing about video is that you don’t need a huge budget to use it. Just focus on your ideal customers’ needs, and create videos that add value – that entertain or inform.
Get video right, and now only can you increase your reach by shares, but you can also help increase brand awareness and loyalty by being more ‘real’ and accessible.
3) Be genuine
If a customer doesn’t think they are going to get a genuine response, they probably won’t bother to engage with your brand. Genuine content, marketing communications, and social posts that show the personality of your business will develop your brand into something that can be trusted.
It’s this kind of trust that will have customers coming to you for advice, getting in touch, sharing content and buying products. And it’s easy to do too – all you need to do is create authentic content, make sure you respond to social media posts and comments, and show people that you genuinely care what they think.
Of course, all this depends on you understanding your brand in the first place – being aware of your brand values and tone of voice, and using it consistently.
4) Build a community
If you can build a community around your customers then you’ll be able to engage with them on a regular basis. This might be a Facebook group where people can discuss anything to do with your business or products or, if you have a large following and a lot of information surrounding your business, then you may consider starting a forum.
For example, if your target market is graphic designers, you could start a forum or LinkedIn group where they can share ideas, problems and advice.
The key to making a success of communities is to realise that they’re essentially there for others and avoid being too ‘salesy’. By branding the space, and guiding and monitoring the chat to ensure it’s on topic (and fits your brand essence), you can build trust and awareness of who you are and what you do, without making an overt sales pitch.
5) Provide exclusive content
In order to make your customers feel special, you can offer them exclusive content. This might be a sneak preview of a new video before it goes live, or a free ebook for your newsletter subscribers (you can read 12 easy steps to writing a brilliant newsletter here).
Not only are these pieces of content great incentives to get people signed up and engaging with your brand, but they can also help to convert to sales too.
As always, you need to make sure your content is on-brand and is written and designed around the needs of your target audience.
6) Offer different ways to interact
Make sure you offer your customers a number of different ways to interact. Aside from the expected email and telephone, encourage customers to find and follow you on your chosen social media channels, such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and/or Instagram (as a rule we recommend picking a maximum of two to avoid spreading your efforts too thinly).
Used well, social media is a perfect opportunity to show a more rounded side to your brand, and encourage your customers and fans to interact with you and grow awareness and loyalty. Especially if you get the right balance between quality shared content and sales messages. (Read 10 common mistakes on social media and how to avoid them.)
Find out what’s right for your customers
Engaging with your customers is a vital element of your marketing strategy, and is worth the effort so experiment with some of the ideas here, or add others of your own.
But remember, what works for another business might not work for yours, so keep listening to what your customers want (an essential part of engaging!) and go from there.Patrick Vernon