At Vistage, we believe the experience and insight of our members is invaluable. That’s why we conduct regular surveys to better understand the real world concerns and challenges of UK business leaders.
At the end of last year, we asked over 250 members to share their business priorities with us, looking at five specific areas: talent management, customer engagement, business operations, finance, and leadership. Our participants were asked to rate these five areas in order of overall priority and then break them down further into more detailed sub-areas.
This series of blogs aims to explore the findings of our survey, and in this edition, we’ll be taking a closer look at the second biggest priority as voted for by Vistage members: customer engagement.
What is customer engagement?
Customer engagement is not the same as customer experience; it’s a fundamental part of the overall customer experience. Engagement comes from the ongoing interactions between a company and a customer. It’s the thing which drives people to read your blog, open emails from you, and participate in surveys or feedback.
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When customers are engaged, they are active participants in the relationship between brand and customer, meaning they’re more likely to listen, to respond, and to buy - repeatedly.
Customer service, marketing, your products and pricing, market development, and, finally, sales are all intrinsic parts of customer engagement. Strong customer engagement positively impacts loyalty, retention, word of mouth, and ultimately, your profit margin.
Within the umbrella priority of customer engagement, sales came out top. This is unsurprising when you consider that the point of better engagement is to drive customer satisfaction and retention, with the ultimate aim of increasing sales.
"A good place to start is with mapping customer journeys."
Customer engagement is inextricably linked to sales and profit. That’s why good customer engagement requires a strategic approach. A good place to start is with mapping customer journeys. Each customer has their own journey, which begins with some kind of interest in your company.
For example: someone sees one of your social media posts or adverts. They click through to your website and while there, a pop-up chatbot asks if they can help or offer more information about your products and brand. This person may then be convinced and add an item to their basket. Do they buy it or not? If so, why? If not, why not?
Mapping all the interactions a customer has with your company can help you pinpoint exactly where customer engagement begins and how it converts (or doesn’t) into sales. Once you’ve identified what’s working and where the sticking points are, you can look at how to make changes which will help convert engagement into sales.
Coming a close second to sales, was customer service. When it comes to engagement and retention, the service you offer your customers is everything - perhaps even more important than the product itself. And, when you consider that retention is 5 times cheaper than attracting new customers, it pays to prioritise customer service.
Back in 2013, Walker released a report on predictions for B2B customer experience in 2020. One of their most interesting predictions was that by 2020 customer service would beat price and product as a key differentiator.
"Finding out what people think about the service you currently offer customers is a good place to start."
Again, for businesses prioritising customer service in 2020, the approach needs to be strategic. Finding out what people think about the service you currently offer customers is a good place to start. Sending surveys out to customers - or those that nearly bought from you - is an effective way to find out what they think and what they expect from you in terms of customer service.
Once you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can design a strategy that aims to improve your service at every stage of the customer journey.
Voted the third most important priority, when it comes to boosting customer engagement, marketing is crucial. Often, your marketing is the way people find you in the first place - it’s the initial point of engagement with your brand - and we all know what they say about first impressions.
Marketing is such an intrinsic part of customer engagement that many companies are choosing to ‘rebrand’ part of their marketing strategy as Customer Engagement Marketing or ‘CEM’.
Customer Engagement Marketing uses personalised messaging to help direct a customer through the sales cycle. Instead of communicating the brand promise or broad marketing messages, CEM encourages customers to engage with your business across multiple channels, in a way that’s pertinent to them. It’s about finding touchpoints and key moments in the customer journey to interact with them in an authentic, personal way.
For example, if someone bought something from you six months ago, you could send them a personalised email from the company owner letting them know you’ve just launched a new range of products which may interest them. Of course there are numerous touchpoints over the course of a buyer’s journey, which means there are multiple ways of connecting and reconnecting with customers.
Rather than the traditional scattergun approach, CEM provides a more focussed, personal - and ultimately much more effective - way of using marketing to improve customer engagement. If people believe you’re communicating with them in a meaningful way, it reflects positively on your brand, and makes it more likely that they will buy from you - either for the first time or as a repeat customer.
Customer engagement isn’t just about engaging with existing or actively interested customers. It’s also about finding ways to draw completely new customers in. That’s why market development is a vital part of customer engagement.
Market development is all about making the most of the market by increasing sales within your existing customers as well as expanding your reach to new segments of customers.
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Like most business strategies, you need to start by doing your research. Segmentation analysis will help you define groups of potential customers. These segments could be divided according to demographics such as gender and age, geographical location, or psychographics such as personality traits, lifestyle and values.
Once you’ve chosen a segment (or segments) to target, you can create a marketing strategy to attract these new customers and begin the journey of active engagement.
Product & Pricing
Product and pricing are vital in running a successful, profitable business. The right products and the right price points can create better engagement - and vice versa: good engagement can help inform product development and pricing. So, how do you know what your product is worth to your audience? How do you know what types of new products or innovation you should be investing in?
When it comes to innovating new products, the focus needs to be solving a problem or satisfying the needs of your customers. In order to do this, you need to do your market research, which both relies on, and improves, your engagement with customers. What are your target market’s pain points? What value would they place on those problems being solved?
"If your audience feels like they’ve been acknowledged and listened to, their engagement with your brand will only grow stronger."
The best way to find out this information is through regular feedback and genuine two-way conversations between your product development team and customers. This will allow you to understand your target audience and their needs, which in turn will help you develop products which could disrupt your market. And, if your audience feels like they’ve been acknowledged and listened to, their engagement with your brand will only grow stronger.
Customer engagement is crucial in running a successful business. Just like your marketing or talent management, it takes careful strategy and planning. When your customers are engaged with your brand, they’re more likely to remain loyal, they’re more likely to say good things about you, and all of this ultimately translates to better profits. But it’s not just about getting people to buy more - it’s about the long game. When your customers are engaged, they will tell you what you’re doing well, what needs to be improved, and what they’d like to see in the future - and those are the things that can help you achieve real business growth.