In a recent webinar hosted by HootSuite, they stated the number 1 reason it’s challenging to track ROI for social media (and digital media as a whole I would add) is the inability to attribute success to any one source. In fact, they’ve estimated it can take up to 37 digital interactions from various sources before a customer actually buys anything.

The question is: for those 37 or so interactions how do you get the attention of a potential customer? And, what keeps them engaged enough until they make a buying decision?

One of the most specific ways of doing this is through strategic customer engagement. This involves understanding how to interact with customers online in an effort to get to know them better. The aim is to ultimately develop a deeper emotional connection by cultivating their loyalty.

WHY DO IT

Building engagement through long-term, consistent valuable information is what businesses should look to achieve. The fact is, customers don’t like being interrupted with irrelevant online ads that block digital content and no one wants generic mass emails sent to them. Today, the number of ad messages that come across our screens is likely in the 10,000 range on a daily basis. With this inundation of messages, it’s no wonder that people have little or no time for clicking on your online ad.

As a part of your marketing strategy, look to include digital content that's intimate and relevant to your audience. What’s important is to not only engage, but also to get to know your customers’ behaviours through interaction with them, and leverage that knowledge to increase their share of wallet and frequency of spend with your business.

"Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet." ~ Kevin Stirtz

HOW TO DO IT

How do you reach out and create more enduring valuable relationships by increasing engagement with customers?

Research has shown consumers are willing to trade personal information, such as demographics and behavioral data, in exchange for relevant, personalized content. You can capitalize on this concept by capturing data about your audience so that it can give you the opportunity to enhance the customer experience, by giving them more of what they want. That’s one strategy.

Here are a few other strategies to increase customer engagement:

·        Once you've got their contact info, you can create an email process to give customers offers that are specific to their needs. Loyalty programs are great at doing this. If you can capture a customer’s buying tendencies, you can email them information about other products or services that can fulfill their related needs.

·        Have a personalized reply to all requests online. When a customer sends you an online request for your offer or has a question about your products, make sure there is a process in place to get back to the individual immediately.

·        Have a live chat. There are a few live chat solutions. This is a great option for companies who want to answer any questions immediately that relate to product or service options.

By using strategies that are more insightful and relevant, brands can create customer loyalty that keeps customers coming back. This is what inspires them to become repeat buyers and to tell their friends about you.

MEASURING THE RESULTS

The cost of capturing information is relatively low in digital marketing. You can simply have an opt-in page to get their name and email address in exchange for something they value. Then you can work on building an online following with relevant information though blogs, videos, social media, etc.

The real trick is taking the time and effort to analyze the data you capture in order to gain insights for success. Some of the performance indicators to look for include:

·        The number of new customers through multiple channels. Don’t just focus on one avenue of capturing customers. Spread your attention across varying social media channels where your customer is actively participating.

·        Track what customers buy. Segmenting your customers by their buying habits and targeting specific groups within your database with customized offers will entice customers more than a generic email that doesn’t pertain to their needs.

·        Set up your own metric analysis. Track customer interactions through pay per click campaigns (each platform comes with its own metrics), sentiments through online comments and their shares of the type of content they find valuable.

Overall, customer acquisition and retention are key performance indicators for digital marketing efforts.

"The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing." ~ John Russell

How do YOU interact with your audience online? To create a strategy for increasing customer engagement start with assessing what you are currently doing to interact with them online. Next, decide what your intention is for attracting and keeping their attention. After implementing specific tactics, track the results of your efforts. Finally, take the time to get to know your audience to serve them better.

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