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Building a Loyal Customer Base Starts with Engagement
Technology innovations have transformed today’s businesses. From internal communications to storage and performance, different technologies enable productivity, efficiency and offer benefits such as cost savings. At ITEXPO Las Vegas, keynote panels, conference sessions and workshops sparked discussion on cloud computing, business communications, customer experiences and more.
In one session, “Marketing 3.0: The Engagement Impact,” Kevin Myers from Swiftpage, Michael Stevens from Spindle and David Vaughn from TSG Global discussed the transformation of customer engagement. From defining what engagement means to different organizations to using engagement to boost lead generation and loyalty, the session covered the whole journey of customer engagement: what companies are doing right, and how they can improve.
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How organizations define customer engagement plays a big role in how they deliver customer experiences. Some businesses may look at customer service as simply a tool to offer support, while some companies may revolve around consistently providing the best customer experiences. For Myers, engagement is the glue between marketing and sales, and means smart interactions, as engagement fuels growth from impressions to actionable insight.
Stevens worked in advertising before Spindle, and he saw firsthand many companies throwing money at media without having a concrete handle on what they were trying to achieve or what the impact of that media would be. The key to engagement today, Stevens said, is about delivering timely and relevant messages, and the way to do this is embracing mobile.
Organizations definitely have challenges to overcome when it comes to their customers.
“Customers are not easy to satisfy these days and they’re definitely not as loyal,” Vaughn said. “The world has gone from being a local market to a global economy – your reach has just extended to the entire world. Simply being there just doesn’t do it anymore.”
Vaughn emphasized that engagement is bringing back the human element to the customer experience.
How do you build loyalty through engagement?
In tough times such as today’s economy, your business will be as strong as your loyal customer base. But how do you get to that point? How do you build loyal customers?
First and foremost, you have to make sure you are targeting the right customers with the right messaging. Stevens explained that many organizations are giving away too much when they don’t need to – they give half off coupons to the people that would already pay full price. People who are signed up for customer loyalty programs are already interested in your brand; they’re already spending money in your organization. He said that technology allows you to scale the right message to the right people, enabling distribution of different tiered offers and delivering those offers to the right audience.
Take Coldstone Creamery, for example. Myers spoke of the ice cream brand’s birthday club, which quickly grew to more than seven million people after it launched. The idea, though, was that people do not generally go eat ice cream by themselves on their birthday. The birthday club rewards loyal customers and also acts as a revenue generating program by also bringing in new customers.
When it comes to loyalty, Vaughn says the key is building a community. He compares going to a local pizzeria or to your local Dominoes or Pizza Hut branch. The local pizzeria tends to remember you – not just because of an automated system with your information, but because the same guy working who talked to you about your son’s baseball team or weekend activity is the same guy who greets you the next time you come in and remembers your conversations. That’s building community, and that’s what building customer loyalty is about.
“Loyalty is about making people feel like part of a community. When tough times come, that community is what helps businesses stay open,” Vaughn said.
Discovery platforms like Yelp (News - Alert) and UrbanSpoon are great outlets to build engagement and gain new customers. “There’s a part of us that likes familiarity, but there’s also a part of us that inherently wants to try something new,” Stevens said.
Naturally, social media was a talking point in the panelists’ discussion. Stevens explained that social networking is a powerful tool in the hands of your friends. If you have an incredible experience, social media offers the tools to facilitate and share that and drive acquisition. Vaughn also agreed that social media is a powerful tool for sharing experiences, but also because it opens up avenues to listen to what’s going on in your community – including what’s happening with your competition and your competition’s customers.
One of the most important things to ask is how people are going to talk about you. More importantly, ask yourself what you want people to talk about. Think about what message you want to convey and then figure out how to deliver that. For example, if you want to be remembered for your amazing customer service, what types of initiatives do you have to take to make sure every employee goes above and beyond?
“Word of mouth will kill you in a heartbeat or spread like wildfire,” Vaughn said.
Edited by Alisen Downey