Working from home is a luxury that few people used to enjoy decades ago. But it has since become a new norm. Over the past few years more people have dropped the cubicle life for working at home. We can thank the internet for this rapid shift. We’ve also witnessed companies using this as an incentive to attract top talent. But now that most of your workers are remote, you’ll need a customer engagement strategy that caters to this lifestyle.
Not that long ago, you were able to engage potential customers by attending live events and having in-person meetings. But now that many of these occasions are scrapped — due to COVID — brands have to get more creative in how they create a good customer experience.
So we’re going to dive into some of the most effective customer engagement strategies. But first, let’s go deeper into what it takes to build a customer engagement strategy.
What is a Customer Engagement Strategy?
A customer engagement strategy is a plan companies use to build meaningful interactions with its customers. The goal is to make the brand memorable in the minds of customers. There are different methods used to achieve this, such as sending branded gifts, setting up lunch dates, and making the overall customer experience with the company great.
This will, in turn, help to build brand loyalty within your customer base. With loyal customers, you can reduce your churn rate.
How Do You Develop a Customer Engagement Strategy?
Before you can build a customer engagement strategy, you have to do a bit of research into your customer base. You have to first learn which channels they frequent, so you can meet them where they are. Taking an omnichannel approach to your marketing strategy is vital to delivering a cohesive customer experience.
For example, let’s say a customer engages with your brand on Facebook messenger. Then the customer visits your website and schedules a call with a salesperson or customer support. That salesperson will see the conversation on Facebook and can continue it on the phone when they chat. This makes the customer experience feel complete and shows your brand is on point with offering a personalized experience.
Your customer engagement strategy should also focus on offering value at every turn. So whether a customer lands on a product page or blog post, they should know exactly where they are and what your brand offers.
Here’s an overview of the steps required to create your customer engagement strategy:
- Gather and analyze customer data. Develop customer personas and information about each that helps you to improve your marketing strategy (pain points, channels used, and other preferences). You can use surveys and tools, such as a CRM, to gather this information.
- Find ways to connect on an emotional level. All the content you create and interactions you have with customers should be meaningful and relevant to each customer persona.
- Train your customer service to be helpful and “in-the-know.” Use your data tools to help your customer-facing teams to deliver personalized experiences.
- Humanize your brand. Your business is an entity, but it shouldn’t feel like one. It’s hard to connect with customers if you come off as corporate and cold. Find your brand voice and personality and stick with it (consistency and authenticity are vital).
- Simplify interactions with your brand. Make it easy for customers to find your business and make contact. Offer different methods, such as chatbots, live chat, phone, and SMS. Your website should also be user-friendly.
- Track and measure the right metrics. You need to use the right tools to gather and analyze information about your customer experience strategy. This way, you can continue to improve it over time. Make sure your customers are happy on all channels and with all interactions. If not, find out why and make changes as needed.
Now that you have an idea of what it takes to build a customer engagement strategy, your next question may be:
“What are some engagement strategies I can use today?” So we put together a list of the best ways to engage your customers in 2021.
Let’s dive in.
1. Get Face-to-Face with Prospects via FaceTime, Zoom, or Vidyard
If you had meetings booked with prospects or customers at the event, reach out as soon as you hear about the news and let them know that you’d still like the chance to get some face time—even if that means it has to happen through a screen. Ask them if you can keep the time you’ve already scheduled on the calendar, but simply meet over the video platform of their choice: Zoom, GoToMeeting, or even something like FaceTime (no pun intended).
If you don’t hear back from your prospects, send them a video recording with your face on the screen (with a tool like Vidyard) the day before your meeting was supposed to be scheduled. In the video, say that you were “hoping to get some face time.” Accompany your message with a coffee eGift card to simulate the comradery of sharing the coffee together that you would have had at the event.
2. Host Virtual Lunch & Learns for Target Accounts and Buying Committees
Maybe you had meetings scheduled with high-profile prospects already in a sales cycle or multiple members of a buying committee. Reach out to let them know that the event has been canceled, but that you’d love to still show them a demo (or discuss the information you were planning to review in the meeting, such as an ROI discussion or technical review) over lunch.
If they agree, send lunch to their team on the day of your meeting via a food delivery service like Caviar, GrubHub, or Uber Eats. Pro tip: Schedule it to arrive 10-15 minutes before the meeting starts so they won’t have to worry about being late.
3. Guest Post on Event Website
You can still utilize the digital real estate surrounding the events you were planning to attend, as many people will likely still be googling them or poking around their websites. Take the content you were planning to present at the event, a long-form article you’ve written on your website, or an important thought leadership concept your team has been focusing on and recycle it into a piece of content the event host can use in their digital platforms.
That might mean you participate in an upcoming webinar they host, or you publish a piece on their blog, or you participate in an interview on their podcast. Make sure to pitch something relevant and useful to them; don’t assume they owe you digital real estate since their event was canceled.
4. Offer Swag Store Credit in Exchange for Taking a Demo
Let’s say you have top target accounts that you haven’t been able to meet with yet, but were planning to engage at the event. Reach out to them and say you’d still love to give them the trade show floor experience—meaning that if they take a demo with your team, you’ll give them credit to a swag store, where they can pick and choose what promotional items they want to be shipped straight to their office.
When they select an item, you can set up rules in your swag store so that informational materials (like case studies, technical one-pagers, printed eBooks, or other collateral) are automatically included in the package with the item(s) they selected. With a Sending Platform integration, swag store fulfillment is automated and tracked in your CRM.
5. Host a Live Virtual Event on LinkedIn or Facebook
Emulate the real-time feeling of an event on social media with live broadcasts on LinkedIn or Facebook (or wherever your audience spends their time). You can take the content of a session you were planning to host at the event and turn it into a live broadcast, where you talk through slides the same way you would have in an auditorium.
Another option is to host your own “virtual panel” discussion between a few of your team members about the topic of the conference or event you were planning to attend. You can even allow audience members to chime in with comments and reactions, or host a live Q&A session at the end where you respond to people’s comments! (Note: It can be tricky to present and monitor comments at the same time, so you’ll likely want to dedicate a separate person and computer for that.)
6. Use Your Show Floor Swag as a Demand Generation Campaign with SDRs
The swag you ordered for events doesn’t have to go to waste! Take all the items you were going to give away on the show floor and send them to your top prospects as part of a demand generation campaign. Bundle together a few pieces of swag with printed collateral and a handwritten note from an SDR with a message about how you were hoping to give this to them on the show floor.
If you execute this with a Sending Platform, each SDR will get alerts once the individual sends are delivered to potential customers. They can follow up with a timely email or LinkedIn asking if the prospect received the items. This creates the perfect opportunity to start a conversation with the prospect, see if they’re a good fit, and book a meeting.
7. Land on Your Prospect’s Desk
Without an event, you can still create a powerful offline experience for your audience. Start by segmenting the audience you were hoping to engage into three tiers based on priority: top, middle, and bottom.
For your top priority audience members, take the time to send each one something personalized. Are they passionate about a certain top within their industry?
Send them a book about it. Are they originally from a different region than they currently live in? Send them something from their hometown. Do they post about their love for LaCroix? Send them a 12-pack of their favorite flavor. Send your middle tier a branded bag of coffee with branded mugs and a message that you still want to energize their day even if you can’t meet them at the event. For your bottom tier, send a handwritten note about how you’d still love to get some (virtual) face time—see customer engagement strategy #1 on this list—even though the event has been canceled.
With each send, be sure to connect what you’re sending with why you’re sending it and what value you have to offer. Simply sending something will not guarantee a meeting; you need to be strategic and thoughtful just like any other form of outreach. Follow up each send with a quick email asking if they received it and whether they’d like to connect.
8. Team Up With Other Sponsors and Host a Virtual Event
Other companies in your industry are likely affected by this, too. See if you can connect with others that were planning to sponsor the event and if there’s any interest in hosting a virtual event together.
You can mirror numerous elements of a live production with digital experience: sessions can be hosted over a webinar platform; the exhibitor floor can become a dedicated section of your event landing page, where each sponsor can have their own dedicated section or page; lunch, coffee, and other refreshments can be imitated with eGift cards; and giveaways can be facilitated via a swag store.
9. Increase Investments in Targeted Digital Channels Like Ads
With the money you don’t end up spending on events, you can double down on digital channels and/or invest in some truly engaging digital experiences. Create an integrated experience when reaching out to the prospects you were hoping to engage at the event by adding more layers of targeted ads and social media—either retargeting people who visited your event landing page or people you know have attended the event in the past. Include messaging that, “[Event] isn’t happening, but we’d still love to meet!”
Also, consider putting budget into a piece of interactive content. Consider creating interactive top-of-funnel content, case studies, or sales demos using something like Tiled or Pitch, where prospects can peruse through information at their own pace whenever they have time. Alternatively, you could create something like an ROI calculator or a self-serve learning center. The possibilities are limitless here, and generally evergreen, so you have the opportunity to generate an ongoing return.
10. Turn Session Into On-Demand Webinar Series
Did you already have an amazing session (or ten?) baked out with slides, talking points, and speakers? The content is still valuable, so use all of that to record the sessions via webcast! Package up that content into a single “virtual” panel with multiple speakers, or create an on-demand series that people can access at any time after filling out a landing page. Coffee or lunch eGifts can come in handy here, as well, to imitate the live session experience. With a Sending Platform, you can easily trigger these after some registers.
11. Create a Personalized Nurturing (Re-Engagement) Campaign
Email marketing continues to be one of the best ways to engage your current and prospective customers. The key is to personalize the campaign so everyone’s getting messaging and content that resonates with them and their situation. For example, you can have one campaign that retargets a specific group of customers who haven’t interacted with you in a while. Your intel may tell you they’re on the market for another product you’re offering, which presents an ideal opportunity to market it to them. Consider doing this by sharing blog posts that talk about their problem and videos showing how the solution works.
12. Start Conversations On Social Media
Social media is a great channel for having meaningful conversations with your customer base. You can promote engagement by starting conversations they’ll want to join. Or better yet, you can join in their conversations. The goal is to be seen and to offer insights that position you as a trusted leader in your industry.
13. Host a Live Q&A with a Trusted Expert
Do you know of influencers in your industry you can bring on a live stream to answer your audience’s questions? Then invite them and let your customers know so they can prepare their questions. You can host this on Facebook or another platform — just make it accessible so no one misses out. You should also consider recording the event so you can share it in your email and social media campaigns.
14. Create Content for Every Stage of the Funnel
The blog posts and content you share should resonate with your customers. To do this, you need a marketing strategy that focuses on customers at every stage of the funnel. For instance, at the top, you want to help your prospects do research on their problems. In the middle, you want to focus on guides that help customers learn how to resolve their issues. Then, at the end of the tunnel, you can show social proof in the form of reviews, case studies, and/or product/service comparisons.
15. Use Personalized Sending to Entice Prospects and Woo Customers
You have two goals as a business — to win new customers and prevent churn (so you can increase revenue). You can hit both targets on the mark with personalized sending. This works best if you take the time to research and learn about your customers so you can make the send meaningful. For instance, if a customer likes wine, then why not use a Sending Platform to send a virtual wine-tasting class and a box of their favorite wine?
Start Designing Your Customer Engagement Strategy with Sendoso
Keeping customers (and prospects) engaged with your business isn’t a new tactic. However, the way you go about it will have to shift, thanks to the new norm we now live in. Hopefully, these tips help you find unique methods to improve customer engagement to continue winning in 2021 and beyond.
To all our fellow marketers, salespeople, and go-to-market teams at large, we’re with you. We hope these customer engagement strategies can boost your current programs and enable you to still achieve your goals. Wishing you the best from team Sendoso.