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Lately I have seen a lot of companies and marketing agencies taking the marketing gospel of "engagement" to the extreme, trying to interact as much as possible with their customers in order to manufacture a personal relationship. It can be an overload at times, “Like us”, “tell us how we’re doing”, “follow us on twitter.” Why should I interact with you on my social network?
What do customers really want?
Some type of relationship is formed when customers interact with you online––don’t let it go to your head. Like any relationship there is a give and take. You can’t demand attention from your customers without giving them something in return. So, what do customers really want from the relationship? I have narrowed the answer down to three areas that will help you meet their needs and increase customer engagement.
Customers want to know that you will be there for them when they need you. As the industry and technology evolves, they want to know that you will adapt to meet their changing needs. What can you do to build trust? Your web presence needs to be dynamic, not a static website which never changes. Updates and new blogs will tell your customers that you are still going strong.
If you are a business that offers services that are slightly complex, it will serve you well to educate your customers about your product and how it benefits them. How can you help them increase their knowledge? Your marketing campaign should include blogs and monthly email newsletters with informative industry specific knowledge. Doing this will create intangible value with your customers.
Customers want to feel like they are gaining value from their interaction with your company. Knowledge can help create value but so can special offers and discounts. However, don't bombard them with useless information. Send them targeted offers that they consider relevant and valuable.
Instead of demanding more attention from your customers, treat the attention you do get as priceless. If you are doing everything right then your customers will consider themselves lucky to be with a company that provides them with valuable resources. In return they will be more likely to recommend you to their contacts and peers––and that means more sales.
Don’t “fake” a relationship
Nurturing leads and interacting with your customers is important; however, customer relationships are not the same as human relationships. The problem is that some professionals, particularly the social media and online marketing types have blurred long held boundaries, treating customer relationships like human relationships. Guess what? When customers are asked if they have a relationship with a brand or if they even want one, the majority of respondents say “no”. They reserve that privilege for friends and family. Still, some companies persist in trying to create a bond where there is none. Sure there are a few types of products that are more personal then others but at the end of the day it’s just a brand not a member of the family.
I am reminded of a recent ad campaign that I found humorous and borderline ridiculous. A certain fast food chain (who shall remain unnamed) released a new taco with a shell coated in nacho cheese dust. The television ad relates the “true” story of a man who drove almost 1000 miles to sample their new taco because it wasn't being tested at his local restaurant. REALLY? 1000 miles, at 20 mpg and $3.80 per gallon, is roughly $190 each way for a taco. That's the kind of behavior people reserve for a family reunion or spring break road trip with college friends, not to sample a fast food taco. I’ve tried the taco in question, it’s ok, but I wouldn’t even travel 10 miles out of my way to get one. The advertisement immediately created suspicion in my mind as to whether it was really his idea, or if the fast food chain put him up to it in order to show how strong of a personal relationship they have with their customers.
Many television ads lately literally repeat the good things customers say about them on Facebook. But if you have to tell people that you are doing a good job then there might be a flaw in your marketing campaign. It may be tempting to exploit social media to fake a personal relationship with your customers, but don't do it. If you are a fast food chain chances are that people aren't going to your profile to tell you that your company has changed their life for the best. In fact, it has been my experience that people will go out of their way to post about how displeased they were with their most recent experience. The topic of using social media to manage customer feedback is a discussion reserved for another day.
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