Customer Engagement Is The New Marketing

Customer engagement is a very different matter online than it is offline.  Customer engagement offline has been defined as “turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context.”  It is the stages that consumers go through as they interact with a brand.  The customer engagement cycle (or customer journey) is made up of five stages:

  • awareness
  • consideration
  • inquiry
  • purchase
  • retention

These five stages enable marketing professionals to communicate with prospective clients/customers at each stage using the relevant media that will address their needs and interests.

“Businesses have lost the ability to control advertising consumption and are increasingly turning to online advertising.”

The advent of the internet has meant that customer engagement also takes place online and this has led to marketing professionals having to change and adapt the way in which communication with customers takes place.

Most importantly, organizations are losing the power to control the communications agenda – along with the traditional top-down, “interrupt and repeat” mass advertising model.  With more and more people spending more and more time online, marketers and advertisers have had to turn to online communication methods.

The customer audience is a powerful “broadcaster” and consumers are able to share their experiences of products and companies online in an instant and open fashion.  As consumers are speaking their minds and circulating their opinions on all sorts of products, businesses and companies have had to join in with this online conversation.

TV and print media advertising has decreased in effectiveness – businesses have lost the ability to control advertising consumption and are increasingly turning to online advertising.  Online advertising gives consumers more control over their consumption of the advertising – this has coincided with a decrease in trust in advertising and an increased trust in peer reviews/opinions.

This has all led to marketers having to turn to customer engagement as a solution to the technological, social and market developments that have been brought about by the internet.  Customer Engagement Marketing revolves around the behaviour and engagement of consumers online – especially the online inter-customer engagement that takes place in online communities – whether they are general or niche-based.

Engagement is a characterisation of consumers’ behaviour that covers aspects of behaviour like loyalty, involvement, complaining, satisfaction, word of mouth advertising, etc.  This means that it is vital in this day and age for companies to ensure that they have an engaged relationship with consumers to ensure success of products or services.  Communicating with customers online can be a very effective method of getting the word out – promotions, sales, and special offers – all can be done online much more cost effectively than via the print media.  A company that engages effectively with consumers will reap the benefits of this – from the development of brand advocates within the audience to an increased level of trust in the company and its products.

There are several methods that businesses and organizations can use to encourage customer engagement:

  • Use social media platforms (such as Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc) to communicate with your audience in real time.
  • Make sure that your organization/company has a blog that is relevant and interesting to your target customers and add content regularly (tips on blogging here).
  • Provide a platform for consumers to engage with each other and provide content that will stimulate debate and discussion.
  • Help target customers to develop their own communities or create new ones.
  • Find target customers at their preferred online hangouts and engage with them there.
  • Provide an online space for customers to create a customer service blog or wiki and ensure that you engage with users to provide direct technical support/help and advice.
  • Encourage customers to have their say in products/future products by communicating with them with a view to co-developing products/services.

As more and more consumers turn to the internet to research products/services before buying, customer engagement will play a vital role in marketing.  The success of companies in the future will often depend on how much time and effort they’re willing to invest in customer engagement as a means of promoting their brands to an online audience.

Written by Jonny Ross from Jonny Ross Consultancy specialises in Social & Digital Marketing and Organic Search.