It was 2004 and it was the first time I had executed a marketing campaign. The objective of the campaign was to expand our organisation’s membership and promote an upcoming event that was yet to generate much interest. We posted our members a paper based newsletter and sent out a group email to the hundreds of people on our database, regardless of their market segment. We were all about mass media, mass markets and impersonal interactions. Looking back, given our approach to marketing, it was not surprising that our membership failed to grow and our event had a low turnout.
If I was executing a marketing plan to engage customers in 2014, my approach would be radically different. Developments in the digital space in recent years have dramatically transformed how businesses and organisations engage with their customers. There are many strategies for ensuring effective engagement with customers. The five most important ones are outlined below:
1. Ensure interactions with customers are personal
As suggested by Rust, Moorman and Bhalla in Rethinking Marketing is the need to remain relevant and to effectively compete in this aggressively interactive environment. Businesses and organisations must shift their focus from driving transactions to maximising customer lifetime value. This can be achieved through engaging target customers in conversation on topics relevant and of interest to them. In times gone by, there was little, if any, direct communication between individual customers and a business. Social media platforms now provide the opportunity to generate and maintain personal interactions with customers. On these platforms, businesses and organisations should have an authoritative yet relaxed and open personality and should interact with, and respond to customers on a regular basis.
2. Develop good content
For a business or organisation to remain relevant to customers, and be perceived as an expert in its field, it must do more than just develop good content on its website; it must also ensure its dissemination online across social media channels, blogs and other websites. A business or organisation should develop a schedule or content calendar so as to provide a clear plan for regularly providing new content.
3. Build customer relationships over pushing products
To generate sales, businesses and organisations need to make the shift from marketing products to cultivating customers. In Rethinking Marketing, the authors highlight that it was not long ago that businesses looking to get a message out to a large population only had one real option: blanket a huge swath of customers simultaneously, using mostly one-way mass communication. They go onto say that a traditional company is one that is organised to push products and brands whereas a customer-cultivating company is designed to serve customers and customer segments. In the latter, communication is two-way and individualised, and relationships are built which provides the conditions required to generate sales.
4. Know where your target customers ‘hang out’
There are a growing number of social media platforms but they will not all be relevant to your target customers. It is therefore important that businesses and organisation undertake research into the location of their target customers – ie the social media platforms in which they engage, and the sub-groups within these platforms in which they participate. For the target customers identified, it is possible to apply demographic filters to major locations where digital strategy activities take place. It is pointless promoting and marketing your business or organisation on a social media platform that your target customers do not engage with.
5. Involve customers in the design of products
In Rethinking Marketing, it was suggested that businesses and organisations should invite their customers into the design process to ensure their product decisions reflect world-wide needs. The Nokia Group in Asia use a customer-focused innovation tool that brings users and developer teams together to virtually prototype new features and products. This approach has assisted them to have well over 60% of the market. Interestingly, Nokia adopted a different strategy in the United States, using far less customer input, and has seen its market share slide.
Contact us to find out how your business or organisation can engage more effectively with customers.
Post Written by Alana Smith