Customer Participation: Why it's Important to Create an Engaging Marketing Strategy

Customer Participation: Why it’s Important to Create an Engaging Marketing Strategy

A good relationship is a two-way street — this wisdom rings true for all relationships, and in this context, between brand and customer.

While traditional marketing and advertising channels only worked in one direction (think billboards, radio, and television commercials which project a message at customers), today’s digital channels allow two-way interaction. As much as your brand can reach out to customers, your customers can also participate directly in building a relationship with your brand through social media platforms, email, phone, and other avenues.

In a world of two-way communication, one-directional marketing won’t cut it.

In order to create strong, memorable relationships between a customer and brand, your customers need to be actively participating in your marketing efforts. Customer participation includes everything from sharing your brand’s social media post and responding to online surveys, to attending an event or recommending your brand to friends and family.

Your marketing approach should encourage customers to participate in commenting on your brand’s social media posts, interacting on your company website, providing direct feedback, and more. Research shows that fostering customer participation brings a wealth of benefits to a business, from improved retention and loyalty to increased customer acquisition and revenue.

To garner positive and consistent customer participation, you need an engagement marketing strategy. Here’s what engagement marketing is and why it’s important for your organization’s success.

What is Engagement Marketing?

Engagement marketing refers to marketing strategies that promote and foster customer participation and interaction with a brand throughout all stages of the customer journey.

The goal of engagement marketing is to build and strengthen a relationship between the brand and the customer by encouraging participation from both sides. When done right, engagement marketing is a win-win: it benefits your company by helping to increase brand awareness and strengthen brand loyalty while benefiting customers by delivering a positive and valuable customer experience.

The impact of engagement marketing goes beyond just a “feel good” relationship between brands and their customers — it’s backed by data showing that businesses succeed when their customers participate and engage with the brand. A recent report from the Event Marketing Institute revealed that 74% of customers are more likely to buy a product that is promoted with branded engagement marketing than other types of marketing.

Here are 6 reasons why it’s important to create an engaging marketing strategy that encourages your customers to participate.

1. Keep Up with Modern Customer Expectations

The most important reason you need an engaging marketing strategy? It’s simple. Your customers expect it.

Recent research from Salesforce revealed that 64% of customers expect brands to deliver personalized engagements that take into account their past interactions with the brand. Brands that aren’t fostering authentic customer participation will fail to meet consumer expectations.

Modern customers incorporate brands into their lifestyles and identities. Thanks to social media and other digital channels, customers have direct and authentic ways to connect with businesses of all sizes. They expect brands to be active on these channels, to represent their values genuinely, and to incorporate customers into product development and marketing.

The modern customer is more aware than ever that it’s in a brand’s best interest to deliver a superb customer experience. They want a mutually beneficial relationship, in which brands ask for and incorporate their feedback; in exchange, they deliver engagement, loyalty, and even brand advocacy.

An engagement marketing strategy is quickly becoming a necessary tool to meet your customers’ expectations.

2. Increase Customer Loyalty and Trust

PWC reports that 73% of customers indicate that a positive customer experience is key to influencing their loyalty to a brand. By directly involving your customers in your brand’s marketing strategy, you will naturally increase their feelings of trust and loyalty toward your brand.

Your customers should be at the center of your brand story. Involve them in your process for crafting promotional materials, engage them in campaigns to give back to the community, and encourage them to advocate for your brand through discounts and giveaways. For example, some brands will send each customer a free product sample and ask them to give it to a friend — garnering action from the customer while also spreading brand awareness. You may consider sending out surveys or hosting trial events to allow customers to test and give feedback on products that are in development.

Many brands find success in asking directly through polls — in email or social channels — what types of content customers would like to see from the brand. More and more brands are leveraging user-generated content by asking customers to help contribute to the branded content through photos, hashtags, and more.

Encouraging your customers to take action in supporting your brand can make them feel more invested in the brand’s success. The more opportunities you give customers to help build a brand story they feel strongly about, the more trust and attachment they’ll feel toward your organization.

3. Acquire New Customers

Loyal customers can be your most powerful resource for customer acquisition. Customers who feel involved, included, and attached to your brand are most likely to recommend your products and services to their friends and family.

One McKinsey study found that engagement marketing accounts for 50% to 80% of all word-of-mouth activity. Loyal customers can become your best brand advocates, as they are inclined to share their positive experiences with others.

This is not limited to B2C companies. B2B customers are just as likely to recommend products and services to colleagues in their network if they feel they’ve had a great experience with a brand. Keep in mind that loyal purchasers of your B2B offerings are also more likely to stick with your brand even as they change jobs and companies, spreading brand awareness throughout their career trajectory.

4. Gain Valuable Customer Insight

The ability to collect customer feedback directly is one of the biggest win-win scenarios that engagement marketing creates: customers are pleased when brands ask for (and use!) their opinions, and businesses benefit from collecting more information about customer interests, preferences, and behaviors.

In a 2017 Microsoft report, 77% of consumers said they view brands more favorably if they ask for and apply customer feedback. This is great news for your marketing teams, as more data and insight into customers means more effective marketing and sales strategies.

Marketing teams are constantly on the hunt for insights to better understand what customers want, need, and like or dislike. Engagement marketing gives you an avenue to collect quantitative and qualitative data straight from your customers themselves, by sending out customer surveys, polls, and fostering conversations on social media.

Your business can leverage the insights you gain from customer participation to make better decisions about product development, sales strategies, user experience, and more. As an added benefit, the more that your customers see their feedback reflected in your products, services, and content, the more delighted and connected to your brand they will feel.

5. Increase Sales Team Efficiency

With engaged customers and a wealth of customer insight at your fingertips, your sales team will be better armed with the tools they need to close more deals.

This proves true for both B2C and B2B sales teams. Gallup reports that fully engaged customers represent a 23% higher share in profitability, revenue, and relationship growth. The same report revealed that B2B companies that successfully engage their customers see 63% lower attrition and achieve a 55% higher share of the wallet.

Engagement marketing gives sales professionals more touchpoints with customers, which helps them cater their approach to increase conversion rates and customer retention rates. Customer participation also helps you provide more specific and tailored insight to your sales team. With more detailed information, sales professionals can make the most of their time and resources to tailor their outreach to what they know customers want.

6. Stay Competitive

The harsh truth of the business world is that your customers always have other options they can turn to, which would be a similar product or service to yours. All modern brands, including your competitors, have access to the same social media platforms and digital channels that you do. This means that competition for customer attention and engagement is at an all-time high and will continue to rise.

As customer participation and engagement marketing become the expectation and the norm, brands that are still relying on one-way marketing messaging will fall behind the pack. Consumers are more likely to leave brands that don’t deliver personalized interactions, in favor of brands that make them feel they have a voice in the relationship.

Your consumers know they can go elsewhere, so it’s your job to make it worth it for them to stay.

When Your Customers Participate, Your Brand Thrives

Data shows that a good engagement marketing strategy that fosters customer participation can improve the customer experience, increase trust and loyalty, give you access to better customer data and insights, and help to fuel sales and revenue.

In the modern landscape, customers want to help shape their own experiences with brands. They want brands to engage with them, ask for their input, and incorporate their feedback. The businesses that build strong engagement marketing strategies will be able to deliver on this expectation, strengthening their relationships with customers.

Make sure your marketing approach is a two-way street. While it will always be important to carefully craft what you say to your customers and the images that your brand puts out into the world, it’s equally important to give your customers opportunities to speak to your brand.

You can benefit from hearing their genuine feedback and gaining deeper insight into how to best deliver an experience that keeps them coming back again and again.

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