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How to Engage Customers (And Keep Them for Life)

How to Engage Customers (And Keep Them for Life)

Honestly, without happy customers who keep coming back repeatedly, your business would fail. In this ultra-competitive market, it is essential to engage customers' attention to remain loyal.

What was the last time you had a fantastic experience as a buyer? Was it at a café where baristas knew exactly what you liked? Or an online store that fixed its mistake in delivering goods? Most likely, such businesses made you feel valued and well-served, making you want to spend more money there next time.

On the other hand, if people don’t engage or serve customers properly, everything can go down very fast: reputation and sales numbers. Just look at different social media platforms full of stories about bad service, which ends up with vows never to revisit any establishment!

So, what do we learn from this story? Surprise them! How much do they need us? Ultimately, who writes checks for whom?

What is Customer Engagement?

Increase Engagement Put Customer First

Customer engagement means the continuous contact and interaction between a company and its clients. It’s about fostering authentic relationships and building long-term emotional ties.

By all means, repeat customers are engaged; they also refer others to the business and spend more money with the brand over time. They have gone beyond being just episodic transactional buyers.

However, authentic customer engagement goes deeper than that. It entails making individuals feel listened to, valued and recognised as part of your brand community. It’s not only about selling things; it’s also about letting people know you care about them as human beings.

Why Should You Engage Customers?

Is customer engagement worth your time? Consider these eye-opening statistics:

  1. Acquiring new customers can cost up to 5 times more than retaining current ones.
  2. Increasing customer retention by only 5% can boost profits from 25%-95%
  3. Engaged clients spend 23% more than an average buyer.
  4. Companies with active customers outperform those without by 26% in gross margin.

The maths don’t lie – disregarding customer engagement leaves so much potential revenue untapped. Therefore, investing in lasting client relations pays back handsomely in time and resources.

Foundations of Star Customer Engagement

Retail Customer Relationship

Enough introduction – let’s get to the meat of the matter. How can you truly engage customers in a meaningful and sustainable way? Here are the essential foundations:

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Know Your Customers Inside Out

The first step is to recognise what your customers want, their pain points, how they behave and what they prefer. Sending out generic messages or experiences which fit all won’t work.

To understand your audience better, you should:

  1. Create detailed customer personas backed by accurate data and research
  2. Listen actively for feedback on every channel (social media, surveys, reviews, etc.)
  3. Study customer information such as demographics or purchase patterns for insights
  4. Carry out user testing, interviews and other voice-of-customer studies

Only when you have this full-circle view can you begin adapting your engagement strategies in a way that resonates?

Charting The Entire Customer Journey

Customer engagement doesn’t just happen during the purchase – it stretches across the whole awareness-to-post-purchase cycle, so adopt an omnichannel mindset.

Map every potential touchpoint where someone could interact with or encounter one of your brand assets, both online and offline. This might mean looking at:

  • Your website & digital marketing channels
  • Advertising placements & social media presence
  • In-store or branch experiences
  • Sales processes used by staff members, e.g., face-to-face meetings or phone calls)
  • Customer service/help desk support systems (including technical assistance)
  • User account areas (including loyalty programme access points, etc.)

Any of these touchpoints represents an opportunity to drive positive sentiment through creating engagement – miss anyone out, and the whole thing could fall apart!

Gathering The Right Data + Tools For The Job

If we want to engage consumers living in our digital era effectively, then there are certain technologies/capabilities which must be present:

Attempting to engage with customers on a half-baked basis will not work – ensure you have the necessary data, systems and personnel in place.

Key Customer Engagement Strategies

Now that we've covered the foundations let's explore some specific tactics and strategies for cultivating long-lasting engagement with your customers. Get ready to take some notes!

Personalisation is Non-Negotiable

Let's be brutally honest – nobody likes being treated like a faceless number. We all crave personalised, human experiences that make us feel unique and understood.

Using the customer data and insights at your disposal, you need to tailor every experience and interaction as much as humanly possible, including:

  • Customised website content and product recommendations (Because one person's “blazer” is another's “sports coat”…)
  • Personalised marketing messaging based on preferences and behaviours
  • Additional services or guidance based on their specific situation
  • Proactive outreach and follow-ups based on milestones or issues
  • Commemorating essential dates and occasions

Master personalisation, and watch as your engagement metrics (not to mention the warm fuzzies) go through the roof.

Prioritise Convenience & Accessibility

We're living in an instant gratification culture – customers want things to be simple, seamless and readily accessible at all times. Frustration and friction breed disengagement faster than you can say “abandoned cart.”

To keep customers engaged long-term, prioritise ultimate convenience at every step, for example:

  • Intuitive, user-friendly digital platforms & mobile apps
  • Multiple purchasing and support channels (in-person, online, phone, etc.)
  • 24/7 access to help without being stuck in endless phone queues
  • Rapid conflict resolution and issue handling
  • Automated processes and self-service tools for everyday tasks
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Remember – today's customers have a million other options at their fingertips. They'll drop you like a hot potato if you make things even slightly inconvenient.

Find Creative Ways to Delight

Which would you prefer: a dry, run-of-the-mill transaction? Or a memorable, maybe even delightful, experience that puts a smile on your face?

Going above and beyond with little surprising and delightful tactics can forge strong emotional connections and a sense of loyalty. Some ideas:

  • Personalised thank-you notes or small gifts with purchases
  • Exclusive access to new products, content or experiences
  • Random acts of kindness, helper tools or educational resources
  • Celebrating milestones like birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
  • Contests, games and fun branded merch/swag

The possibilities are endless to inject some much-needed humanity and light-heartedness into your customer interactions.

Build a Thriving Customer Community

What Is Customer Experience

One of the most potent drivers of long-term engagement? Fostering a vibrant, actively-participating customer community around your brand.

People crave feeling like they belong to a “tribe” of like-minded others. They'll stick around for the long haul if you can create that sense of kinship and togetherness.

This could involve:

  • Official customer forums, groups or discussion channels
  • Private member areas or exclusive content
  • Events, meetups and in-person experiences
  • Brand affiliates or ambassador programs
  • Customer co-creation initiatives and feedback loops

The more involved and valued customers feel within your brand community, the greater their engagement and emotional investment will become.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Here's a typical customer engagement pitfall – only reaching out or trying to provide value when there's an issue, complaint or cancelled subscription. This reactive mindset is a surefire way to frustrate people.

Instead, you need to flip the script and be proactive in nurturing relationships and preventing potential disengagement before it even happens. This means:

  • Checking in regularly just to ask how things are going
  • Providing tailored tips and guidance before issues arise
  • Actively monitoring data for potential churn risks
  • Celebrating successes and positive milestones
  • Having transparent processes for feedback loops and iterative improvement

Be relentless in over-delivering value and personalised attention. Let customers know you're always looking out for them.

Embrace New Technologies & CX Trends

Customer experience expectations and technologies are evolving at a dizzying pace. Things like:

  • Conversational AI and chatbots
  • Augmented/virtual reality
  • Internet of Things and connected devices
  • Omnichannel integrations
  • Immersive digital experiences

…are rapidly becoming the norm. Stay caught up – continuously explore and embrace new ways to engage customers through innovative experiences and frictionless service.

At the same time, be cautious of trends that could disengage customers if handled poorly. Things like over-automation at the expense of human touch, data privacy concerns, technology implemented just for gimmick's sake, etc. Always consider balancing innovation with your customers' core needs and values.

Connect Through Emotive Storytelling

Emotional Storytelling Marketing

In our ad-saturated world, sometimes the best way to engage customers is by telling authentic, emotionally resonant stories that forge real human-to-human connections.

Your brand, customer, and employee spotlight stories – focusing on the raw experiences, challenges, and triumphs- can be compelling. It shows you're about more than just making a sale.

To leverage storytelling effectively:

  • Find the universal, relatable themes that transcend products/services
  • Use humour, drama, and personal anecdotes to pull people in
  • Weave in your core brand purpose, mission and values
  • Share across multiple channels and formats (written, video, experiential, etc.)
  • Always strive for authenticity over manufactured corporate-speak
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Stories allow customers to glimpse your brand's humanity. Used thoughtfully, they can solidify meaningful, lasting engagement.

Make Customer Engagement a Company-Wide Obsession

As the old saying goes, “A culture of customer engagement doesn't start with the customer service reps. It starts with the CEO and leadership team.”

Customer-centricity and engagement must be embedded into every organisational function, level and process. Here are a few tips:

  • Make it a core part of the business strategy and decision-making frameworks
  • Train all staff with robust customer experience principles
  • Establish company-wide engagement metrics and incentives
  • Encourage cross-departmental collaboration around the customer
  • Empower staff to make things right for customers without bureaucracy
  • Celebrate and promote customer engagement wins at all levels

Get everyone laser-focused on going above and beyond for customers every day. It's the ultimate competitive advantage.

Customer Relationships are the Ultimate Investment

And there you have it – a complete playbook on building customer relationships to drive business growth and sustainability.

But in the end, it’s all about respect for others, trying hard to figure out what they want and need, and then finding ways of delivering genuine value over time because the truth is that any number of price cuts or clever marketing schemes pale when compared with one single authentic human-to-human connection.

When you invest this much into hearing your clients out and going above and beyond for them, their commitment towards your brand becomes the most important thing you own as a business, not to mention peace at night, knowing that even though small, your organisation is changing lives.

So why wait? Start focusing on engaging customers today; never stop.

FAQs About Customer Engagement

Should marketing/sales teams be responsible for customer engagement?

No; companies need to engage customers company-wide, and involving each department and all employees is essential. Every function should provide excellent customer experiences, from product development through logistics to customer support.

What should I look at to know if my customer engagement strategies work?

Do not limit yourself! You can use several indicators like retention rates, NPS (Net Promoter Score), share of wallet or community involvement, which shows that customers feel connected with the brand. Measure against current levels, set targets for improvement and track changes over time.

Our product/service is really niche – does engagement still matter?

It matters a lot. Even in highly specialised or B2B products, establishing genuine client relationships remains critical for differentiation and referrals, thus increasing longevity. Engagement is not about what industry you operate in.

What if I don’t have enough resources for customer engagement?

Start small, but think big. Begin with simple acts such as regular personalised emails, keeping active on social media platforms, collecting client feedback, etcetera through existing channels before building upon them over time.

Is employee engagement critical for customer engagement?

It’s essential indeed! Your workers serve as ambassadors who directly interact with buyers on behalf of your organisation, thereby shaping their perception of it. Clients will notice if they lack motivation or dedication towards providing excellent service. Therefore, invest in internal culture, too!

Which technology tools matter most?

A minimum requirement would include a CRM system, analytics/reporting platform(s), marketing automation tool(s) & social media management capability(-ies), although phone calls/emails/communities also cannot be ignored either since people may want different methods of communication depending on where they are at.

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How frequently should we be communicating with customers proactively?

This largely depends on the customer, but it is essential to have a customer communication plan that reaches out regularly and proactively based on their preferences or situation. This may be monthly, quarterly or triggered by specific actions/occurrences – ask them what they think, too.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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