Thoughts on Customer Engagement Marketing

I recently stumbled across a whitepaper from Experian’s titled Customer Engagement: A new paradigm?.

The message is very valid, and what I aim to achieve companies I work with.

Stop mass marketing to your clients and start moving up through the stages of segmenting them, personalising content for them, and finally REALLY engaging with them on a one-to-one level.

Stop the hard sell and start offering people value. Aim to improve their lives in some small way. In turn they will grow to love your brand, promote it at every opportunity, and become frequent purchasers.

Despite being written in 2011, I still don’t see many companies who have put in place the people or technology needed to execute an effective customer engagement strategy.

The department closest to the customer seem to be the social media team. They often interact and engage with their customers, monitoring for mentions and responding to questions and complaints.

The eCRM and web analytics teams tend to lag behind. They have a rich set of quantitative data, but qualitative information about their clientele is rarely used. And doing any sort of real engagement with your customers is tough if you don’t turn the quant data into qual data.

The information you do have in your CRM system only applies to customers, and I rarely see companies effectively linking it to their web analytics data.

So what can you do to move towards customer engagement nirvana?

How can you make people’s lives better?

What information, free advice or assistance can your business give to people? That’s right – GIVE. For free.

Your company makes money by solving a challenge or problem people have. What can you give them that will help them lessen that problem. You don’t have to provide the complete solution – after all you charge for that. But providing something of value for nothing is part of engaging your customer.

Where does marketing technology fit in?

The problems people are trying to solve when considering your product and service are never alike. You have to learn the subtleties between their situations.

Three puppies

Suppose you sell dog collars.

Person A wants a new dog collar to replace their old one because they are worried it is hurting their dog.
Person B has just got a puppy and doesn’t know which dog collar to buy.
Person C wants their dog to be a fashion statement (!) and needs a blinged up collar.

How you engage with each of these people must differ because their situations are all different. And this is where marketing technology comes in.

You could probably figure out who these people were if they walked into your store, but you only have a website. You’ve got to identify them in the dark, purely from the one and zeros that are streaming into your web analytics tools.

You could do this by:

  • Creating pages for each of your main customer groups. Assign someone into a group according to which page they most frequently visit.

  • Show them an on-site survey, asking them why they need a dog collar – so simply but people just don’t do it. Make sure you are recording their response in your data warehouse, CRM or web analytics tool.

  • Scoring the type of keyword they used to reach your site (damn you, Hummingbird!)

  • Grading each of your products in terms of which customer segment normally buys them. Whichever type of product the person looks at most, give them that label.

This is segmentation. What about engagement?

Right. So you’ve estimated what segment the three people belong to. Now it is time to start engaging with them on a personal level, based on what you know.

Person B is someone who will respond favourably to being engaged with. Buying a new puppy is exciting, but they need reassurance. Are they going to buy from a company that tries to flog them the most expensive collar they have without even asking what type of dog it is, or from your company who really cares about helping them become confident dog owners?

And how do you do that?

  • Replace banners on your site in real-time promoting your ‘Everything you need to know about your puppy’ e-book. Offer it in exchange for an email address. (This could be done using a A/B or behavioural targeting tool such as Adobe Test & Target, Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer, Qubit platform or Rekko)

  • Replace your default pop-up survey with one unique to this person, asking ‘What information would help your puppy best?’ with a handful of answers like ‘When to feed’, ‘What is the best exercise’, ‘How to train’. When they answer, this information should again be logged in your email tool, web analytics tool and CRM (This could be done with Qualeroo or Web Engage).

  • Once you have their email, and know what type of information would help them best, enroll them in a virtual ‘Puppy Training’ course that features weekly videos on your site. Set up an email autoresponder to drip feed this campaign over the course of a month. (This could be done with ExactTarget, Customer.io or Vero.

  • Monitor if they are opening and clicking the emails, and if they are watching the videos. If not ask them why.

  • When they finally do buy from you (and you bet they will buy more than just a dog collar because you have been so helpful and given them tons of value), ask them for their twitter handle. Set up a automated tweet to go out 4 weeks from now asking them how they are getting along with the collar and if they’ve got their pet trained.

Obviously you can also engage with the other two people as well, although the strategies for doing that may differ.

Summary

  • Try and engage with your customers where possible.

  • To engage effectively you have to have both quantitative and qualitative data about them. The more you know, the better you can engage.

  • Use marketing technology to collect the information you need and to deliver value to your prospects and customers, without the hard sell. This may be at a cost to yourself, but ultimately you are investing in your customers in order to increase the customer lifetime value with you.

Ed Brocklebank is the founder of Metric Mogul, a digital analytics consultancy. He helps business of all sizes become more data-driven through marketing technology. He runs training for General Assembly London on Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.