Attracting a potential customer’s attention is one thing. Actually driving engagement with that potential customer is another matter entirely. Customer engagement is a critical component of growing your business. At each stage of a customer’s interaction with you, you’ll want to engage them as effectively as possible. This means considering engagement:
- Before you’ve made the sale, when you’re still trying to persuade them
- Throughout the process of securing their business
- Post-sale, after you’ve secured their business, when you want to delight and retain them
The best organizations are able to work through these processes no matter what the external circumstances are. Look at the advertising industry during the COVID-19 pandemic: the shutdowns fundamentally changed the way consumers lived and purchased. In response to this, companies had to rethink the way they engaged customers, pivoting to match everyone’s new normal. The alternative was to fall by the wayside and risk losing business in record numbers.
How you engage your customer is going to vary depending on the particular product or service you offer, but there are some general principles you can follow to maximize your success. Outlined below are three measures you can implement today to help optimize your own company’s customer engagement. By using these tactics, you can engage your customers more effectively.
Have a process in place to prototype your ideas
When you’re brainstorming ways to better engage your customers, you’ll want to have a wealth of ideas to choose from. The best way to do this is by encouraging your team members to meet and explore their ideas. It helps to have a diversity of opinions, which means casting a wide net to find the best ideas possible. These ideas can include marketing campaigns, promotional strategies, or ideas for new products or services that address your customers’ needs in new and inventive ways.
Once you’ve identified the ideas you want to execute, you’ll want to test your ideas. That’s when you’ll set up A/B testing on your prototype. Having an A/B testing process in place for any type of customer engagement strategy is key to testing your ideas and evaluating how well they’ll work. Your prototype process should include:
- Individual tasks assigned to a group of people (or in some cases, one person)
- Time built in to hold ideation workshops in which you promote collaborative thinking among your team members
- A timeline for completing and testing the prototype
- Goals for the project
Collecting data and testing it before taking it to your customers is a great way to fine-tune it and troubleshoot for any issues. Increasing your speed-to-market by going with half-finished ideas isn’t the best way to ensure you’re coming up with something your customer wants. A/B testing on prototypes provides you with actionable evidence you can use as you appeal to your target audience.
Of course, before you begin to develop a prototype, you’ll want to understand your customer (more on that below). But once you have a handle on what your customer is really looking for, you’ll begin the development process and get it headed in the right direction. The prototype phase is the first stage of ensuring you’re engaging the customer with a product or service that’s worthwhile.
Selection of projects is critical to ensure success
The most critical question you must ask yourself and your company as you begin to tackle the challenges your customers face is this: what projects am I developing that will help the customer solve a problem? If you have trouble answering this question, you may be choosing the wrong projects.
As important as A/B testing and prototyping, these functions won’t matter if you don’t pinpoint the right projects to work on. Your project selection ensures that your organization is on the right track, moving towards solutions that are more likely to provide positive outcomes for your customers. Choosing the right projects isn’t always easy, but as with anything you do, it comes down to focusing on what will benefit your customer.
So how does choosing the right projects help increase customer engagement? The project you opt for is going to be a reflection of what your company predicts your customers will want or do. They’ll examine valuable data such as customer behavior insights to determine which direction they go in and what projects they undertake. When you use customer data to guide your company’s direction, you’re increasing the likelihood that your customers will be delighted with the results of your work on the backend. This is quite simply the best way to maximize customer engagement.
In our current climate, this means taking on projects that embrace forward-looking thinking rather than living in the past. This shows your customers that your company is a flexible one that understands how to pivot. For a great example of this, look no further than Paris’s Fashion Week, where visors and masks are no longer just medical necessities worn by participants — they’re now viewed as fashion accessories. Less adaptable organizations refuse to adapt for the future, while the ones who engage their customers best refuse to do anything but.
Ideally, the projects you pursue represent a reflection of the benefits your customers are looking for. Of course, to best do that, you’ll want to know what your customer needs are exactly.
Focus on the real needs of the customer
The very best way to engage your customers is by focusing on what’s driving their purchasing decisions. That means understanding customer behavior that focuses on what they need in the products you develop as well as your marketing, communications, and outreach efforts. When you’re attempting to connect with your customer, you’ll want to set the stage for them. You do this by stating upfront that you understand their unique concern or problem. Then, by sharing through storytelling, you help them understand how your solution is the best fit for their situation. Finally, you engage them by presenting an offer and engaging in offer reinforcement — reminding them of how you can help them and why they won’t want to pass it up.
Your customer’s needs should be your primary area of focus when thinking about engagement. To determine what your customer needs, you’ll want to do the research necessary to better understand them. What demographic does your customer fall in? Are they young, old, or in-between? What stage of their career are they in? The answer to these questions will help you streamline your communications in a way that optimizes engagement. After all, if you’re preparing messaging for the wrong audience, it will be a wasted movement.
It’s also important to understand that your customer’s needs will extend beyond just the use of the product itself. Ganni Software has a line of leisurewear for its customers. Where it varies from its competitors, however, is that its clothes are produced sustainably with recycled materials. This taps into the need of its customers looking to remain environmentally conscious. Aligning your brand’s values with your customers’ values is another winning way to drive engagement.
For another example of addressing a customer’s needs, consider TypeO Loft, a Swedish bed and breakfast. With tourism numbers plummeting, the hospitality industry is in critical condition and has had to offer creative solutions to its customers’ concerns. TypeO Loft is tailor-made for guests looking to achieve relaxing isolation. It has stunning views in its spacious living areas, with pre-prepared meals ready to be ordered from local restaurants. Rather than getting stuck in the past, it’s adapting to the current needs of its customers.
Once you understand your customer’s needs, you’ll also want to understand how to best communicate what you can offer. You do this by explaining the experiences they seek from your product or service. This is where it’s critical to understand the customer’s goals, the meaning behind their activity what they actually think. The benefits are all the great ways it can help your customers experience the value that you’re offering to them. Telling your customer about the features can be an important part of the engagement. But if you really want to address their needs, you’ll put the benefits front and center.
Your customers want to know, “How can this help me get better, improve, or solve a problem?” Outlining the benefits does exactly that. Great customer engagement is all about defining what your customer needs and explaining to them how your product or service addresses one or more of those needs.
Optimizing customer engagement is a key to success
Simply put, you can’t demonstrate your value to your customers without first engaging them. You do this by communicating with them, clearly and concisely, so they know you understand them, and they understand what you’re offering. Three ways to get the most out of your customer engagement efforts include:
- Testing your products or services in the prototype phase first to iron out any issues before offering it to your customers
- Selecting the right projects to dedicate your time and resources to
- Focusing on your customer’s real needs by collecting insights
Taking the three steps listed above is how organizations build successful and strong customer bases. Mastering the concepts outlined above will lead to greater engagement and more customers willing to invest in your brand.