A Customer Engagement Strategy Framework

Use Customer Engagement to Improve Customer Affinity

Highlights

  • Customer Engagement is the exchange of interactions between a customer and brand.
  • A customer engagement strategy framework designs proactive interactions to create a dialogue and personal connection. It grows customer relationships and the ensuing business benefits such as customer loyalty, referrals, purchases, lifetime value and retention.
  • It's an effective business growth strategy that requires comparatively little investment and delivers a compelling return on investment (ROI).
  • This business growth strategy is best suited to highly competitive industries where customers perceive multiple substitutable alternatives; and where repeat business is essential to company revenue objectives.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Active communication is the bedrock of relationships, whether personal or professional.

A Customer Engagement strategy framework is a business communication program built on proactively designed interactions to create a dialogue and emotional connection between a customer and brand.

Success is based on the quality of interactions more so than the volume or duration of connections. Engaging customers across touchpoints and throughout their lifecycle helps companies create a personal and emotional connection and grow customer value beyond just products and transactions.

A Customer Engagement strategy framework is directly focused on value creation and not revenue extraction. That focus will create valuable customer relationships that deliver downstream payback in the forms of increased purchases, referrals, customer lifetime value and retention.

A Compelling ROI

A primary reason for the seismic rise of this customer strategy is that the investment is low, the payback is high and that creates a compelling ROI.

A study by Gallup found that companies successful with this growth strategy experienced 63 percent lower customer churn and 55 percent higher customer share. Those figures are extraordinary and create significant revenue gains. Gallup research also found that fully engaged customers deliver 23 percent more revenue than average customers.

Another customer engagement study by Constellation Research found that "Companies who have improved engagement increased cross-sell by 22 percent, drove up-sell revenue from 13 to 51 percent, and increased order sizes from 5 to 85 percent."

It's simple logic really. Periodic communication keeps the company top of mind, builds a better relationship and when done well, results in evangelists who advocate for the brand.

A 7 Step Customer Engagement Strategy Framework

Successful engagement depends on sending the right message to the right person at the right time and place. The message should be designed to create a connection, encourage a dialogue, strike an emotion and lead to the desired business outcome of an improved customer relationship.

Achieving this at scale can be done with a 7 step plan.

Customer Engagement Strategy Framework Steps
1

Start with Customer Personas

It's critical to understand your audience. The first rule of engagement is that the more you try to connect with everybody, the more you end up appealing to nobody.

Customers choose if, how and when to engage with brands. Brands may make the first effort, but for that to work they need to know how, when, and why customers want to be engaged.

Because people are different, a best practice is to define customer personas that then define customer journeys and relevant communication.

Personas are archetypes that mimic and represent real customers to anticipate their goals, pain points, interests and behaviors.

Persona

In the above CRM software persona record, note that the persona includes problems, obstacles or challenges. That is important because if there is no problem there will be no solution. Knowing the most pressing challenges allows the company to engage on hot button issues.

The success of your engagement is equal to the quality of your customer intelligence. Other methods to identify customer criteria that lead to more relevant interaction plans include customer segments, customer insights, online behaviors from the marketing automation system and the 360-degree customer view in the CRM system.

360 Degree Customer View
2

Align with Customer Journeys

Communication is enhanced when you engage at key moments.

To make communication contextual, it's helpful to define interactions pursuant to customer journeys.

A customer engagement plan based on journeys will define milestone touch points, content types and communication cadence or frequency. It will also allow triggering events to override the plan.

A prescribed plan shifts interactions from reactive to proactive and ensures that the relationship with your customers doesn't end at the time of purchase. A regular level of communication, as opposed to just engaging when you want something, develops a dialogue and trust.

In the early stages of a customer relationship, engagement is all about ensuring your product is delivering the intended value. Later stages will apply creative communication to shift customer affinity from the product to the brand.

For example, the company may apply a persona-based nurture marketing campaign for prospects, deliver a welcome letter from the CEO during onboarding and provide a newsletter over the course of the relationship. The plan should periodically request feedback to solicit ideas for innovation or product improvements. It should also include the more standard transaction-based communications such as sending customer satisfaction surveys following customer support calls.

Customer Engagement Continuum

There are a few things to keep in mind. More communication is not necessarily better. Monitor frequency to understand how often each customer type or segment wants to hear from you.

Communication is generally not marketing promotions or sales offers but content that aligns customer interests with the company brand, your unique value proposition or your sustainable competitive advantages. Things that truly make the company unique.

3

Design Brand Messaging

Customers are loyal to brands not products.

Customers prefer companies that align with their values. Purchase decision-making criteria have evolved from products and price. They now include doing business with a brand that the customer can identify with and share the same values.

Emotion, not products or price, drives engagement. And engagement that includes a distinguishable brand identity creates a connection and deeper customer relationship.

Humanizing your brand, adding personality to your messaging and promoting core values creates and reinforces a brand identity. That identity gives customers a reason to be proud of being associated with your brand.

Brand messaging communicates the reasons your company exists and the purpose you put above all else. One caution though. Your brand identity must be authentic, which means being yourself. Authenticity transforms the brand from an unfeeling entity to a company that is genuine and relatable. Customers can sense disingenuous brand messaging, so transparency and honesty are essential.

4

Personalize Communication

Delivering personalized messaging, content and other interactions aids the goal of encouraging a dialogue and achieving an emotional connection.

Monologues are just company-initiated outreach (too often promotions) and are far more likely to be ignored than achieve engagement. What's needed is a communication shift from a monologue to a dialogue. That means a change from a one-way vendor-initiated broadcast with content important to the company to a two-way customer accepted conversation exchange with content important to the customer. The beauty of social media is that dialogues can be performed at scale.

Personalizing customer communication is aided by tracking behaviors (i.e., interests, likes, psychographics) captured in your marketing system. You can also apply customer segmentation and rich snippets of customer data from the 360-degree customer view in your CRM system.

Personalization incudes meeting customers in their preferred channels. Engagement is stimulated when you meet customers where they reside and, on their terms, not yours.

That means engaging on multiple channels, and especially social networks. Customer research shows that dialogues and relationships are enhanced when communication spans multiple channels. Johnny Grow clients often ask how they can possibly be aware of all customer conversations related to their brand and products on what seems like a limitless number of online channels.

The answer is to use a social listening tool to scour the Web and retrieve mentions and messages that the company should be aware of. Most CRM systems have their own social listening tools or integrated point solutions.

5

Insist on Remarkable Content

Engagement must be focused on topics the customer cares about. Creating remarkable content is essential.

Content serves multiple goals. First and foremost, it provides value to the customer. This may come in the form of onboarding information, How To instructional articles or videos, advanced capabilities training for your product, or self-service channels that include best practices or knowledgebase articles.

Additionally, remarkable content demonstrates expertise. It aids the company in being recognized as an industry thought leader and champion of things important to the customer.

The challenge with content is quality. And to be blunt, most company content is lame. People are bombarded and overwhelmed with content so unless it stands out it just contributes to the noise. When creating content, quality wins over quantity.

Clients sometimes ask how I define remarkable content. The simple answer is content that gets remarked upon. When your content engages customers they respond, comment, share, like and forward to their friends.

"The effectiveness of communication is not defined by the communication, but by the response."

— renown psychiatrist Milton H. Erickson

6

Apply Technology Automation

Software technology is needed to achieve process automation, information reporting and scale.

The customer system of record is the Customer Relationship Management application.

The CRM software must first acquire and store customer data so that the data can be used to deliver relevant, personalized and contextual communications.

Customer behaviors are normally captured by the marketing software. Customer insights are collected via market research or with tools such as Voice of the Customer. Customer transactions are captured by the ERP system. The list goes on.

The path to success lies in forwarding all customer information to a central location where it can be harvested, converted to customer insights, shared and acted upon. For example, customer company data is centralized in the CRM account record, people data is unified in CRM contact records and sales data is put into the opportunity record.

Customer Insights Integration to CRM

Once the data is properly captured, it's simple to assign each account to a defined engagement plan. But remember, customers are not homogenous so you will need multiple plans – based on persona, customer segment or financial factors such as customer lifetime value.

Based on changing customer behaviors you will periodically move customers from one plan to another. Most CRM systems give you the tools to do this dynamically or to move customers by group.

7

Show the ROI

A customer engagement strategy framework is no different than any other customer growth strategy in that it must be designed to show a measurable and compelling ROI. Otherwise, the program will not be sustainable.

Analytics are needed to show progress, payback and opportunities for continuous process improvement.

The challenge is to know which metrics to measure. Having implemented about two dozen customer engagement programs for clients, we've found displaying cascading metrics in tiers delivers the most actionable information to the most people.

The top tier is called headline metrics and includes the measures that directly demonstrate revenue growth and profit. These may include Account Engagement Score (AES), Account Health Score and customer sentiment. These measures are leading indicators to financial outcomes such as Purchase Frequency (PF), Repeat Purchase Rate (RPR) and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).

Secondary metrics are often departmental measures that roll-up to the headline metrics. They include things like customer satisfaction (CSAT) for the customer service organization.

The final tier of tertiary metrics are activity-based measures. They include things like content effectiveness (number of RSS subscriptions, volume and quality of remarks, interactions, responses, comments, trackbacks, links, etc.) and website metrics (bounce rate, average time on site, repeat visitor percentage, frequency of visits, depth of visits (percent of site visited), click-through rate, etc.)

Analytics can be delivered with reports, but dashboards are typically more effective at keeping the most salient performance measures front and center. They also highlight variances in real-time and make the information actionable.

See a Customer Engagement strategy framework with best practices to rollout a program that grows customer relationships and the ensuing business benefits of customer loyalty, referrals, purchases, lifetime value and retention.

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