In our saturated marketplace and overload information era, it is harder and harder to make personal connections and engage with customers. Customers are never more than a text, search, tweet, post or question to Google or Siri away from finding another option to fulfill their needs if you can't get it done. Same process if they're just not having the experience with you that they expected. Customers have become so volatile, unpredictable and their consumer behavior so hard to track. How do you get customers back to stick to your brand and buy your products? By creating a unique experience that will engage and connect them to your brand.
In one of his blogs, Harry Klein suggests companies should move from B2B and B2C to P2P (People to People).
Engage and empower your workforce
Good social adoption starts with a focus on people, not the technology. It is important to get your employees engaged because customer engagement is a shared responsibility across the organization. Great customer experiences come from great employee experiences. In order to engage customers with you brand, your people must be empowered to create a unique experience, across all functions. From R&D (designing or creating a new product – see Apple products), to production (manufacture zero-default product), to marketing (tell a story, create a unique message), to sales (sales people don’t sell a product, they must sell a vision and an experience), to customer service (your customer service staff must be empowered to resolve customers’ complaints themselves and instantly without escalating to a supervisor – the Zappos way)… Every employee must be empowered to recognize a customer engagement opportunity and act on it.
That means investing in people and processes, as well as technology. Finding ambassadors within your company to champion social media, and selecting tools for your business that your employees use at home, can help to promote social behaviors internally. Gamification principles are a growing way to encourage adoption and social-savviness within your organization. When implemented correctly, with added consultancy and strategy, it acts as an essential element to ensure adoption at all levels by addressing individual's specific drivers and needs.
Get personal with your customers
To maximize customer engagement, it is important to nurture your prospects as individuals, with their own stories, rather than anonymous transactions. Social media channels are a key way to interact with customers and build those human relationships. A recent webinar titled High-Tech Tuesday Webinar: Profile of Marketing as a Technology Buyer hosted by Laura McLellan speaks to this point. Social media (84%), digital content creation (79%) and digital advertising (76%) are the three most common digital marketing strategies companies are planning on. The sample includes both B2C and B2B companies. Of these, social media is the most effective in creating and sustaining communication with an entirely new segment of customers that aren’t being listened to today.
Missed opportunities like these cost companies revenue in the short term and damage brands for the long term.
Customers are more informed and have more choice than ever before, so if their expectations aren't met, they'll move on quickly. Engaged customers, however, reward consistently strong service by spending more and becoming influential brand advocates on social channels.
The key here is to use all marketing channels (social media, customer service line, sales force…) to TELL YOUR STORY.
- Storytelling is a proven way to develop brand identity, build your client base, and increase sales.
- "Humans remember stories," says Christina Cheng, area manager of the Chicago Magnificent Mile AT&T store. "So explaining things with stories instead of specs is a much easier way for people to understand how technology can help them."
- In this era of over flooded information, storytelling is the best way to differentiate your company from competitors, to create a unique experience for your customers.
- Stories immediately focus on engagement, experiences, and emotion – key customer touchpoints.
- Narrative makes your message relevant and memorable through personalization.
- Through narrative, you can create campaigns to challenge the big players, even on small budgets.
- Storytelling conveys to customers, the media, and investors the information, hard facts, and dry data they need in an easily digestible way.
- Creative narrative is guaranteed to get people’s attention and keep your business front of mind.
When customers are engaged, you become their primary buying choice. They are loyal. They become advocates for your company. With social media, engaged customers can – and do – endorse your company to tens of thousands of people instantly.
By taking the time to listen to your customers across social channels, your organization can become empowered to turn a customer's negative experience into a positive one. A potential public relations disaster can become a positive story for if your company responds to customer complaints on social media (Twitter, Facebook) in a light-hearted and personal manner, winning your consumers back. The best way to turn your customers into advocates is to own mistakes, failures and successes. Be accountable. After all, we are all humans.
More than 70% of customers will spend more with a company because of a history of good service. That's where the real upside potential is for companies. And it's why customer engagement is set to overtake productivity as the primary driver of profitable growth.
Social media is a key channel for mobilizing customer engagement in this interactive economy. Customers are truly engaged when they feel known and that is what the best use of social media can achieve.
The Whole Foods experience
Whole Foods is a great example about creating a unique experience. In addition to the in-store experience, the company has been successfully executing its social media marketing plan, playing a significant role in its growth, by engaging customers and turning them into advocates.
Its social media strategy is built around the company website and 6 additional social platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, their blog, and recent additions of Foursquare and Pinterest.
Its Twitter accounts are used primarily as a customer service tool, responding to individual customer questions and requests. Whole Foods even has several niche twitter accounts for such specialty topics as wine and cheese, as well as separate accounts for most of the local stores.
Whole Foods’ Facebook and blog platforms allow the company to promote widely its product information, health, recipes, or cooking tips, engaging as well as educating its customers. It also uses both platforms to develop its brand awareness.
Here are several key reasons why Whole Foods social media strategy is a successful difference maker for its marketing campaign:
1. Whole Foods, while a large, international company, puts priority on the local component of its strategy. There is a community manager assigned at every store, who manages customer engagement through multiple platform accounts. The company focuses on being where the customers are.
2. The company’s decision making process is decentralized, with very loose control from corporate headquarters. The HQ assist and collaborate, but the local stores are empowered and keep lots of freedom of initiative.
3. All of the efforts are continually focused on improving relevancy of customer engagement. Whole Foods is not afraid to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t.
4. Each social media platform has its primary objectives – with some flexibility and adaptability maintained. All platforms are fully integrated in the social media strategy, each playing a different role.
5. The company believes in letting customer engagement and conversation occur as naturally as possible. Whole Foods listens, observes and applies new ideas from what it learns from customers.
Which ones can you apply to your business? Share your experience.