How to Engage Customers Using Inbound Marketing
If you’ve been following along with our inbound marketing series, you now know that inbound marketing has three stages: attraction, engagement, and delight. Each step requires thorough planning and creativity to help customers move through their buyer journey. In this section, we’ll focus on how to engage customers.
Engagement is technically the second step of the buyer journey. It takes place after attracting that customer to your business through marketing materials or offers. When a customer is engaged, they begin to interact with your content and experience your services in new ways.
Let’s look at what customer engagement means to inbound marketing and why it even matters. You’ll also discover practical tips and strategies for creating an engagement plan that produces big results.
What is Customer Engagement in Marketing?
According to Hubspot, customer engagement is “the process of interacting with customers through a variety of channels and strengthening your relationship with them.” As a business owner, you may not be able to accomplish a full inbound strategy all on your own. It’s important to enlist a team of marketing professionals who can help strengthen your company’s engagement.
Customer engagement often takes place through common communication channels. These can include your website, calls to action on blog posts, landing pages, and content download forms. Then members of your sales team can further engage with these customers through calls, follow-up messages, and email nurture sequences.
Why Customer Engagement Matters
Although customer engagement is not a closed sale or won deal, it shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact, even after the customer has signed on the dotted line it’s important for business owners and team members to remember that just because you acquire a customer, doesn’t mean you’ll get the privilege of keeping them in the future.
Customer engagement matters because it’s the tool you can use to strengthen brand loyalty. As your business grows, you have the unique power to create more experiences for your customers and prospects. Doing so can help your organization stand out from the competition since you’re committed to providing value rather than a sales pitch.
One reason engagement matters is that it can help prevent customer churn. “Churn” describes the time when prospects, customers, or email list subscribers stop initiating business activities with your company. They may have found an alternative option, run out of budget, or experienced a staffing change. The more engaged you are, the more you can reduce churn rates.
What does an Engaged Customer look like?
Customers fall at different spots on the engagement spectrum. Most are busy people with many responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean they won’t engage if they love your product or service. Engaged customers are marked by several characteristics, including:
- Responsive. Engaged customers open your emails, answer questions from your sales or support teams, and keep you in the loop about any big changes.
- Involved. Engaged customers like your content and want to share it on your behalf. They follow your company’s social networks and engage with you in conversation.
- Flexible about price. Engaged customers understand that price levels fluctuate, but they know what they like. If your offer solves a pain point, they don’t count it out simply because of the price tag. They are informed and ready to invest.
- Provide honest feedback. Engaged customers are your gold standard in market research and feedback. They might deliver unexpected opinions, but you know that you can count on them to be transparent and responsive.
How to Engage Customers with Inbound Marketing
As you work to plan an engagement strategy, keep in mind that the numbers are in your favor. According to Outbrain, 50% of marketers say that inbound marketing produces higher quality leads than outbound tactics. This is perhaps because inbound promotes a customer-first mindset.
Inbound strategies have also been dubbed the “new normal” in content marketing. If you want to jump on the bandwagon, here are ten proven strategies for boosting customer engagement.
Strategy #1: Create thought-provoking content
The first step in engaging customers is to create helpful, compelling, and interactive content that draws readers in. Content creation isn’t just about advertising your business. Rather, it should focus on starting a conversation in a way that drives curiosity, interest, and education.
A few methods for producing thought-provoking elements include:
- Asking open-ended questions on your blog and in social media posts
- Producing educational, expert-level resources on a topic of concern
- Experimenting with short video clips or other eye-catching media
- Showcasing the human side of your brand or business
Strategy #2: Tell customer stories
When it comes to marketing your solution, most potential customers are looking for some kind of social proof. It’s one thing if you tout your own success, but what happens when your current customer roster can do this for you?
When future or current customers see other customers engage with your business, it can help create a cycle of continuous activity. What’s better than a group of happy buyers collectively sharing their stories and inspiring other people to hop on board?
Strategy #3: Gather honest feedback
As you participate in engagement marketing, ask your customers about their likes and dislikes. You can use one-on-one questions or broad surveys to better understand your target market.
The process of gathering feedback should be fun, interactive, and personal. Make sure to incorporate serious questions (like what pain points the customer is facing) with more entertaining questions (such as what to name a new business service). Not only does the customer feel included, but your team gains valuable research.
Strategy #4: Build a village
Big-name companies like Nike and American Express have capitalized on the community aspect of engagement marketing. By opening forums and starting online connection spaces, these brands cultivate a village mindset. Whenever you can remind your customers that they’re part of a collective effort, you’ll see an engagement boom.
Strategy #5: Be positive & inspirational
There’s a reason that marketing campaigns that hone in on human emotion and grit perform well. Inspirational messages can help a customer paint the picture of what the future of innovation could look like.
Start by figuring out what your customer hopes for and dreams about. Leverage this imagery to provide hope, build confidence, and create action. This is how brands become iconic thought leaders. As Simon Sinek has said, people don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.
Strategy #6: Have a social media strategy
Most modern business owners want to know how to engage customers through social media. After all, social media is an integral part of everyday life and communication. The more you begin to view social media as an engagement tool, rather than just a platform to stream your messaging, the more you’ll begin to see results.
One great thing about social media is that you can use it for social listening. This means that your team can get an insider’s view of what real customers are saying and thinking. You can also use it to measure analytics about behavior, preferences, and demographics.
Strategy #7: Set up a referral program
Do you want to mobilize your customers to spread the word about your offer? Invest in a referral program that offers benefits and incentives when buyers recommend your product or service to others. While word-of-mouth sometimes happens naturally, having a referral structure in place shows your customers that their engagement is valuable and appreciated.
Strategy #8: Be human
Showing the human side of your brand is where thought leadership comes in. To illustrate your business as approachable and relevant, you may consider nominating a spokesperson. This brand representative showcases your organization’s values and beliefs in a natural way.
If that’s not an option, you can “be human” simply by showing up consistently and listening to customers at every level. Whether that means giving your phone support representatives more training, or helping your sales team meet customer needs with more flexibility, being genuine matters when it comes to engagement.
Strategy #9: Remove contact barriers
One of the easiest ways to stifle your customer engagement is to make it difficult for customers to contact you. Always create multiple methods of contact that are easily accessible on your website, social media profiles, or in email signatures. Customers can’t engage if they don’t know how to find you, and they may get frustrated if the process is too difficult.
Strategy #10: Create a fun experience
An emerging pattern in engagement marketing is gamification. This term refers to crafting a fun, interactive experience that would otherwise be stale, text-based, or boring.
Interactive status bars are an easy way to incorporate gamification in your marketing efforts, but you may also try engaging challenges, buttons, and guessing games. These elements provoke curiosity and participation, which is a huge boost for engagement stats.
How to Measure Customer Engagement
Now that you have a basic understanding of customer engagement and practical strategies for setting it in motion, it’s time for the fun part – measuring success! Most marketers call these numbers key performance indicators, or KPIs. In engagement marketing, KPIs might cover:
- Interactions such as likes, comments, or shares on social media platforms
- Emails, calls and form fills
- Website and blog pageviews, often measured monthly
- The number of active users on an app or within a product at a given time
- Product and service reviews on your website or an available marketplace
Fortunately, there are several marketing tools that can help you navigate customer engagement metrics. Whether you’re looking for an app, customer relationship management software (CRM), or interactive customer dashboards, there are a variety of options available.
Negative customer engagement scenarios
While it’s important to measure good engagement, you must also be mindful of negative experiences on your company’s performance. Examples of negative customer engagement include:
- Customer complaints relating to a product or team member
- Increased customer services requests or long wait times over phone, email, and live chat
- Non-contact rates, which refer to customers who had issues and never spoke up
These negative examples, along with many more, can help you solve problems in your marketing, within your product, or even within your own team. Although never fun, these statistics can help you identify when change is needed.
Create a Customer Engagement Plan that Works
Are you ready to create a strong, engaged customer base? These buyers can boost your marketing efforts, strengthen your sales, and encourage others to purchase your product or service.
If you’re looking for customer engagement marketing services, turn to the team of experts at Striventa. Our inbound specialists can help you create a powerful plan to drive customer engagement to the next level. Contact us today to jump-start your strategy.