Mar 16, 2011

Engage your Customers

CE, or customer engagement, may be a buzzword in marketing circles, but what is it and how can the small business owner use it?

Customer engagement involves a paradigm shift from one-way communication, such as radio or newspaper ads, to building a two-way relationship with customers and prospects. This long term focus may make statistics like conversion rates and return on investment obsolete, as the goal is to engage customers over a longer period of time. For brick and mortar establishments, customer engagement can take form in formal or informal surveys, suggestion boxes, and free samples. It also may involve different tools beyond traditional media, which may include blogs, website forums, email communication, and smart phone applications.

Old schoolers are often resistant to the idea of allowing customer feedback on the company website, especially if it might be negative. One of the bonuses of engaging the public is not only increased loyalty, but tips for improving products or services.

Today’s consumer is not the same as 50 years ago. He has developed an immunity to the constant barrage of ads in newspapers and magazines, and on the radio, TV, or internet. He is usually well-informed before making a purchasing decision. And, based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, he is motivated by feeling safe, being part of a group, and increased self-esteem. He doesn’t want to feel like just a number or a sale. He wants to be a groupie for your product or service, if it’s deserving. He wants to contribute to its success.

The idea of customer engagement also makes the best use of the fact that customers are at different stages of the buying process- from simply being aware of the company or product to become a repeat customer. Again, he wants to be treated as an individual. Focused customer engagement processes, including outstanding customer service, communicates a desire to meet the customer where they are at, rather than blast them with generic “buy me” messages. A happy customer is a repeat customer, and someone who will refer your business to others. That’s what makes the business grow.