Online Customer Engagement – Part 1: Transitioning the Conversation
May 26, 2016 by Brasco ///
We are well beyond the newness of the digital age in which we live. Telling you that an overwhelming majority of people in the United States are frequently online (nearly 85%) will not make any headlines. What may peak your interest, however, is HOW people engage online and what exactly triggers it. We’ll have another article soon that talks about some of the important recent data out about true buying behaviors and customer engagement online. In this piece we are focusing less on engaging new customers, and more on what to do with your existing customer database and lists. It is all about online customer engagement in the digital age.
If you’re like many businesses, your lists are probably pretty cluttered and disorganized. The most important thing you can do to nurture existing business, channel partners, and warm prospects or other contacts you’ve made is to have a well organized and segmented list.
Segmenting Your Lists
Doing basic segmenting of your customer and prospect lists will not only allow you to carve out your message and calls to action, but also save you a lot of time down the road when you will eventually need to transition or migrate your lists for other needs. The basic segmenting starts with customers vs. partners (vendors, referral partners, community networks, etc) vs. warm prospects (people and companies that you have interacted with or had contact with at some level which could be new business, different from cold prospects or purchased lists). Once you divvy up the list in this basic fashion, you can further cut it up and create sub-lists in a wide variety of categories that make sense for you. Common segmenting categories include customers by vertical, type/priority, geography, and new/old. We recommend chopping up your “partners” list by what customer segment they serve you, and/or create a new “MISC” list for those partners which may help you in many different ways. You can segment your contact lists in hundreds of different ways which we could write an entire blog on, but its most important that you do it.
Move Your Mailing Lists Online
When you have a giant list of customer names attached to mailing addresses, and who you interact with on a regular basis, it makes sense to make the lists digital. Even though email is becoming more and more perceived as a required nuisance, it’s free–thats an economic advantage of keeping in touch through day-to-day emailing.
Now, take this with a grain of salt, we aren’t telling you to discard your tangible, postal mailing lists. Special occasions and holidays are great times to sending out direct mail, and create a custom interaction for those times.
Migrating Toward Online Customer Engagement
A common misconception with online marketing is that it is reserved exclusively for online businesses. This adds an unnecessary layer of skepticism. If done well and the right way, online and social media marketing can have positive effects on your “in-store” sales. For example, when it comes to better understanding your customer, you can use certain data capturing techniques to complete a job. Basically, data collection and analysis can help you study and determine customer behaviors, preferences and demographics, which is critical in determining your effectiveness of your marketing and engagement.
When customers visit or interact with your business, attempt to connect with them through social channels which offer contact list scrubbing API’s. If they do, ask them what channels appeal to them the most and why? The more information learned about your customers the better you can serve them. To show your customer’s how much you care about their needs, you could ask the same in emails or e-newsletters. Best practices still including attaching a brief feedback form with any email. This form should be nothing long, including only 5-9 questions asking customers what they think.
Low Hanging Fruit
Social Sentiment Monitoring
Social listening has become a key part of maintaining not only your company brand and reputation, but also listening and understanding customer needs. There are some free tools available, but as we know free usually doesn’t mean good. Many of these free tools help you track a particular discussion or topic every time it gets mentioned on the internet. We like to use tools that give a slightly deeper dive insight. Brasco /// developed its own social sentiment and patient listening tool called PractImage to monitor patient conversations for our healthcare clients.
Search Function on Social Channels
You can certainly find more information about your customers by analyzing customer behavior and preferences on a particular social media platform. While we all have our social media preferences, you can find out if your customers have some too. Platform’s often have search functions which you can utilize to determine your customers’ visibility. This can also help expose things like relevant industry leaders, niche brands and topics.
Obviously, if your user base is significantly large, no one has time to search through all the list; shorten your list to focus on a particular demographic you are trying to sell to. Finally, always stay up to date with the changes on social platforms.
Researching this way helps you devise a social media marketing strategy; you’ll know exactly who to invest in and where to invest.
Coupons and Promotions
Here at Brasco /// we love a good deal, and we have found that a great way to connect with your customers online is through offering coupons and specials, but by limiting them to web-based marketing only. You can do the same by offering promotional codes for your online store (if there is one) and Facebook page. Same thing with Twitter; offer twitter-only deals and specials. Have a point-of-sale display saying to focus on a social media platform you want to push. This also helps build brand loyalty with you and your customers.
Create Your Online Community
Everything you need to know about an online brand community is that is needs to build loyalty toward a product or service. Why not build one around your brand? Start by utilizing a social space where you can engage users. Start discussions on what has been going on at your workplace or if you’re offering a new product, announce launches and special online promotions, or simply start asking people about their experiences with you (and your product).
The main focus is to creating a great brand-focused online community, and the only why you will achieve this is to practice honesty at all times, and to create genuinely interactions with your audience. This means listen and pay attention, whether feedback is good or bad.
Manage Relations Online
While phone calls and emails are great, now you can use your audience’s favorite social media platform to begin addressing customer feedback. Even those customers who avoid computers go online to interact with a business to voice their opinions. Monitor your social pages and try to join any conversation as well as respond to users promptly.
Website’s like PractImage can help you keep an eye on your reputation if needed.
Optimize Those Social Media Accounts
Why not take advantage of these accounts? Optimize them for relevant keywords by using keywords that go along with or complement your business. Think about what keywords customers are searching on Google when searching for a particular products and services or other similar businesses. Think outside the box, and use those keywords in some, if not all, your posts.
And That’s All She Wrote
By utilizing these online tools and your social media platforms, and you can turn the relationships into sales. While that is the main goal, don’t forget that relationships vital–they are the back bone of your business; they are primarily responsible for driving businesses.
The most valuable customers are the ones you hold onto. This is nothing new. Today, this means interacting and engaging with them online; engagement has become a standard business practice, no matter the size of your company.
Have you found other strategies to be successful? Let us know what has worked for you, we love to share war stories!