The 10 Commandments of Customer Engagement
by Ian Doescher
Customer engagement is more important than ever. This article isn’t exactly Moses on Mount Sinai, but here are the 10 commandments of customer engagement we all should keep in mind:
- Thou shalt engage your customers, for to do so is to build relationships. One of the most effective way to win new customers and keep your existing customers it to form authentic relationships with them. Relationship marketing became a buzzword in the late 1990s, and its importance for marketers hasn’t waned. With tools like social media, customer engagement is easier than ever. That said, you still need to be intentional about how you do it.
- Thou shalt go where the customers already are. When you are thinking of engaging your customers, don’t expect them to come to you. A lemonade stand on a quiet block in front of a child’s house won’t do nearly as well as the enterprising young lemonade seller who takes her booth to the finish line of the local 5K, or to the summer street fair when temperatures are in the 90s. Don’t expect to engage your customers by having them come to you. Instead, go where they are: to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, to their inboxes, to wherever they would be even if your company didn’t exist. Put up a table at the county fair or the farmers market—wherever you can reasonably expect your customers to gather, whether it’s online or in person.
- Thou shalt engage customers involving something they already enjoy. Talking to your customers about the latest development in your industry isn’t necessarily going to spark their passion (remember, not everyone cares about your industry as much as you do—that’s why it’s your job!). Instead, talking to them about things everybody is already talking about—movies, TV shows, college and professional sports, the latest events in town—is much more likely to start an engaging conversation. You’ll want to be mindful of copyright laws, depending on where and how you are promoting this conversation, but piquing people’s interest about things they already enjoy is much easier than getting them excited about something you want them to like.
- Thou shalt use thy personality. Customer engagement should never be stodgy or reserved. When you’re trying to engage customers, you should let your company’s wonderful personality shine through. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be constantly hilarious, but do be expressive. If your company were a person, what positive words would people use to describe that person? These are the positive personality traits that should shine through in your customer engagement efforts.
- Thou shalt not be afraid to tease. Depending on the engagement opportunity, it’s fine to tease your customers or (particularly around sports) have good-humored trash talk. Obviously you don’t want to let it go too far (see the next commandment) and you’ll also want to make sure customers are treating each other with respect. That said, a little teasing goes a long way to making your company seem approachable and a little more human.
- Thou shalt remember that thou art still the company. The people leading your customer engagement efforts—posting on social media, responding to customers, writing customer emails—are, of course, human, and their humanity should come out. Nevertheless, they also need to remember that they are representing your company. What is said publicly by your company is assumed to come from everyone in the company, from the CEO on down, so customer engagement is both an opportunity and a responsibility. You can’t treat customers with disrespect. You can’t let controversial opinions fly. You can’t get involved in an argument or appear defensive. Be engaging, but don’t forget to be professional.
- Thou shalt not be salesy, though thou mayst give stuff away. If you had a friend who was constantly trying to sell you something or get you to do something you really didn’t want to do, you’d tire of that friend pretty quickly. The same is true of customer engagement. If you are constantly selling to your customers, or even if you slip a sales pitch in the middle of an otherwise friendly, social interaction, your company will soon be criticized for using a bait and switch—pretending to engage your customers when all you want to do is sell stuff. You are still the company, though, and it is fine to give stuff away or offer people discounts. A friend who demands that you go see a movie you don’t want to see gets annoying. A friend who says, “Hey, I’ve got an extra ticket—want to come?” is a friend indeed.
- Thou shalt seek out engagement opportunities with a limited timeframe. Although it’s a good idea to engage with your customers regularly, particularly over social media, it’s also helpful to find times to engage with your customers that have a definite end point. A festival or fair going on locally is a great idea. Engagement around a particular sports event—like the baseball playoffs—or the local high school’s performances of Fiddler on the Roof can also be fruitful. These time-based events give you a chance to get people excited before they happen, engage with them while the event is going on, and follow up with them afterward. Which leads us to our next commandment…
- Thou shalt have a follow-up plan. Focusing your customer engagement efforts around an event without a follow-up plan is like blowing up a balloon and then letting it fly around and lose its air before you tie it off. You’ve created a mass of enthusiasm, positive feelings and excitement, and all you’re left with is a limp balloon. Make sure your time-based engagement has a good follow-up plan, and at that point it is okay to be a bit more sales-oriented, while maintaining your engaging tone. Here’s a little follow-up madlib, as an example: “It was so much fun to [verb: see, play with, talk to] you at [event]. Remember when [this fun thing happened]? It was great, and we couldn’t have done it without you! As you know, we offer [great product] and we’d love to tell you more. Contact us today!” That’s a simple example, but you get the idea.
- Thou shalt not get hung up on ROI. The first question your accounting department will ask is: how much will this cost and how can you prove it’s successful? Most marketers know that customer engagement is worth its weight in gold when it comes to building relationships with customers. (Yes, that was a trick: customer engagement doesn’t actually weigh anything, but it’s still worth it!) Whatever it takes, convince your accounting department or your company’s leaders that customer engagement is worth the effort. If it helps, tell them you got the idea on Mount Sinai!
And while you’re up here on the mountain with me… If you are looking for a fantastic customer engagement tool, with a 99% participant satisfaction rating, look no further than Pivot’s Pick-It Challenge, which combines the excitement around college sports with a fun online game. Take a look at Pick-It here!