[Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series on the primary focus areas of R.A.C.E. Digital Marketing: Reach; Act; Convert; Engage. We will expand on these articles to create longer guides for Digital Marketers and make them available at our training division site: CollegeofMarketingPros.org]
How to use the R.A.C.E strategy to connect and create loyal, engaged customers for the long-haul
As part of Webdirexion’s continuing series on R.A.C.E strategy, today we’ll be talking about Engagement, which is all about keeping your customers happy, loyal, and interested—for good.
The “E” in Race is all about engaging your customers, particularly first-timers, for the long term in order to build loyalty. You want to keep your customers for life, get them repeating purchases by engaging them through social media, email, and even direct interactions.
A good way to gauge loyalty is by looking not only at repeat purchases, but also at how your customers interact with you through social media. Do they share your content? Have they referred others either through social media or more traditional word-of-mouth forms?
As seen in the above graphic showing how Webdirexion is guided by the R.A.C.E., amrketing model from Smarter Insights, engagement can be analyzed and strategized through traditional systems such as SWOT analysis, from which goals and objectives will naturally emerge — in the case of engagement, the focus should be on digital marketing and other aspects of B2C communications in order to come up with an optimal integrated communication strategy. Suggested tactics for engagement are designed to retain current customers and fans in order to encourage loyalty, which manifests itself in repeat site visits and sales. Smart Insights suggests using content marketing tactics ranging from promotional emails and e-newsletters to social media relationship management to optimize, maintain, and build engagement.
The Nitty-Gritty of Engagement
According to Smart Insights, the group behind R.A.C.E., engagement strategy can be broken into three parts: opportunity, strategy, and action.
Let’s look at opportunity first. When looking to engage your customers, you need to have a good idea of who they are and where they stand in relation to you and your company. Smart Insights suggest starting off by reviewing customer loyalty using RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) analysis in order to get a solid idea of which customers are the most loyal and engaged to begin with. This technique hones in on how recently customers have bought products or services, how frequently they buy, and how much they spend on each purchase.
It’s also important to review customer satisfaction drivers, examining what motivates your customers not only to buy, but also to continuously, and loyally, engage with your company, products or services. It’s also important to review the effectiveness of your current customer communications, from social media engagement to email strategy. This can be measured using a variety of tried and tested content marketing analytic strategies, from A/B testing to employing Google Analytics. You can learn more about this in Webdirexion Chief Optimizer Scott Frangos’s recently published guide to Conversion Rate Optimization.
Once you’ve got a solid idea about opportunity, you’re ready to look at strategy. The first step in this is creating a customer engagement plan. How are you going to tailor your specific plan for engagement based on what you already know about your customers’ likes, dislikes, expressions of satisfaction, etc. You know what works and what doesn’t in terms of your customer communications strategy, so it’s only logical to focus on what has proven to work. This doesn’t mean you can’t experiment; it’s never a bad idea to keep testing and analyzing throughout the lifecycle of your engagement strategy plan. A second part of strategy involves creating what Smart Insights refer to as an online personalization and merchandising plan.
“…it’s important to understand who your customers are, how they currently interact with your company, services, and products, and their satisfaction drivers and motivations.”
There are lots of ways to personalize your website, some of which are pretty straightforward and cost effective. For example, you can easily customize your website to show different content to different customers based on whether they are new or returning visitors, their geographic location, etc. You can also use software to add more specific personalized features to customers depending on behaviors gleaned from Google Analytics. For example, if you find that customers from Australia are consistently spending x amount of time on your site and going to y page, you might be able to quickly figure out what Australian customers are most likely to be after and create custom web content specifically for Australians.
Part of your strategy, should also be about creating a customer contact plan, with a primary focus on email marketing and social media marketing. At Webdirexion, we are always suggesting to clients and online followers the importance of “selling the sizzle.” This old adage, credited to Elmer Wheeler, the godfather of persuasion marketing. The idea comes from steak: a steak is just a steak, but when it sizzles is when diners really get engaged. The sizzle is that “something else” that gets clients going, and at Webdirexion, we believe that a big part of selling sizzle comes down to mastering the art of storytelling.
All of our customer engagement plans have a heavy emphasis on telling the story behind products and services. This doesn’t mean you should forego promoting the main function of your product or service. It just means that your customer contact plan should engage customers through stories, adages, and interesting features that set you apart from the competition and make your company interesting enough that customers will be motivated to engage with and share your content without a lot of prodding. Wheeler is quoted as saying “The sizzle has sold more steaks than the cow ever has, although the cow is, of course, mighty important.”
The third step is taking action, which you can break down into three steps. Much of this final phase essentially involves taking the strategy and putting it to action. This is the time when you will sit down and customize your desktop and mobile sites to reflect the personalization rules that you’ve determined in the strategy phase of your planning. This is when you will use your email and drip marketing software to create personalized emails and e-newsletters based on event triggers specific to each customer. This is also the time when you’ll set up all your email campaigns and social media accounts—either individually or using a marketing platform—to optimize customer engagement and advocacy.
In conclusion remember, one of the most important steps to keep your new and established customers or clients satisfied, loyal, and interested is by engaging them, preferably using a variety of different interaction tools. In order to do this, it’s important to understand who your customers are, how they currently interact with your company, services, and products, and their satisfaction drivers and motivations.
You’ll also want to have a plan for engagement that uses marketing tactics such as personalization and storytelling. Remember to sell the sizzle! Once your strategy is in place, you’ll need to put it into action through customization of your sites and personalizing your email and social media marketing campaigns to maximize customer engagement