I originally posted this article on Advantage’s corporate website after attending Inbound 2018…

Last week, we attended the 2018 Inbound Conference and one of the central theme’s was the move from the traditional marketing funnel to the concept of a flywheel where the customer is at the center in a continual journey that never stops. We wrote an article last week about some of the tools and strategies to build out your client intelligence, and now the next step is actually putting this insight to work to truly engage and delight our customers.

Customer engagement is the emotional connection between a customer and a brand. Highly engaged customers buy more, promote more, and demonstrate more loyalty. Providing a high-quality customer experience is an important component in your customer engagement strategy. CX Dictionary

This idea has always resonated with me because when I was young, I started my entrepreneurial days behind a lawnmower and as I grew my business, I quickly learned that focusing on the personal relationships I had with my customers is what allowed me to grow my business and better navigate issues as they arose. Those were simpler times where I relied on word-of-mouth and flyers; I was known as the “Lawnmower Boy with the Yellow Tractor.” The theory remains the same for me since then—your customers should always remain the center of everything you do and if you have a unique and genuine story, you can be successful! I just wish that I had the amount of client intelligence that is available today to have made better-informed decisions and truly grown my little business.

During the 2018 Inbound conference, Dharmesh Shah (HubSpot Founder and CTO) talked about the importance of engaging with current and prospective customers and listed out the company’s “Customer Code,” to help companies become more customer focused and meet customer needs by engaging all aspects of the company:

• Earn their attention, don’t steal it;

• Treat them like a person, not a persona;

• Solve for their success, not your company’s systems; 

• Use their data, but don’t abuse it; 

• Ask for customer feedback and act on it; 

• Own your screw ups; 

• Help customers help you by letting them help themselves; 

• Customers don’t mind paying, but do mind being played;

• Don’t block the exit. (i.e. don’t make it difficult for customers to end the relationship); and

• Do the right thing, even when it’s hard.

Simply put, the recipe for success is the relationships that we as brands need to have with our customers. While we can gather more data than ever before, we will have to prove that we put our clients at the heart of everything we do with the actions that we take.

“Consumer ignorance is no longer a viable strategy.” – Marcus Sheridan

 This is where our customer engagement strategy gets a bit interesting for us here at Advantage because we have a few different “customers.” We have our clients, we have our publications audiences, and we have the attendees to our conferences and events. We utilize different tactics for these groups, however here are some of the basic principles that we have woven through all of our departments to help ensure we do not lose focus:

• Customer Experience Is Priority #1 – Ensure customer satisfaction is set and manage client expectations, communicate regularly and deliver consistently; documenting and disseminating as appropriate – And then ask yourself, is this delighting the customer? 

• Show some love – Train and on-board new clients and users on your platforms / services as well as the existing client base on new tools/solutions.

• Humanize your brand – Customers have more options then ever and the more you can provide a look behind the curtains and help you customers better understand how the sausage is made, the better.  

• Create Useful and Compelling Content – Do you have a good understanding of the different types of touchpoints your user experiences through their journey and  specific content that relates to each step?  

• Drive adoption and manage change development – Execute plans to drive customer usage and “stickiness” by focusing on people, process and technology

• Personalize Customer Communications – Who doesn’t love a note addressed specifically to them? 

• Really Listen to What People Are Telling You – How are you collecting feedback – Actually, are you even collecting feedback? Do you have a way to collect all of the feedback and ensure it’s being considered and acted on? Are you utilizing a  Net Promoter Score to determine how well you have performed? 

• Be honest – Help the customer set ambitious yet realistic business goals and ensure that all internal teams are aligned with these expectations

• Foster – Broaden engagement over time proactively identify opportunities to grow the business based on a deep understanding of your customer’s needs and your capabilities

• Become a trusted advisor – Establish credibility with key partners by being a thought leader, presenting sound recommendations and delivering reliably

From here, measuring the various aspects of your customer engagement strategy is vital because it is intrinsically tied to the strength of your brand community. In brief, the following metrics are the most important to watch as you begin to monitor your customer engagement at the ground level:

  • Touch Points, Attributions and Engagement
  • Churn Rates
  • Retention Rates
  • Purchase frequency
  • Average order value
  • Overall lifetime value of clients

In short, it’s all about valuing relationships over revenue. Successful, lasting businesses provide genuine services and support their customers for the lifetime of their product, creating a conversation and loyalty that is unparalleled by the average competitor.

“Want to change the world? Upset the status quo? This takes more than run-of-the-mill relationships. You need to make people dream the same dream that you do.” – Guy Kawasaki