Are You Engaging Your Customers Yet?

Church of the Customer recently shared about a fascinating marketing strategy called the "Social Engagement Journey". It detailed how companies could embrace ever growing levels of interaction, engagement and relationship building with its customers.

Using a diagram to illustrate this idea (adopted by their consulting firm Ant's Eye View), Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba postulated that there are five levels in social engagement.

Stages 1 to 4 (Courtesy of Church of the Customer)

Arranged in stepwise fashion from Stage 1 to Stage 5, they represent incremental levels of customer engagement. The initial phases revolve around a purely command and control style of traditional one-way marketing, and gradually move towards disparate teams experimenting with customer engagement, a more consolidated and integrated listening and responding model, and a final "Fully Engaged Enterprise" stage whereby companies manage to elicit deep customer engagement akin to a long-term trusting relationship. Each step upwards represent a more precise and holistic manner of customer engagement - from listening, focusing, measuring, to responding and co-creating.

Stage 5 - the Nirvana of Social Engagement (Courtesy of Church of the Customer)

While one may automatically associate such a framework with increasing levels of social media activity, I'd like to think that it can easily apply to offline and face-to-face relationship building endeavours (or better yet, integrate them all). In fact, the most successful firms know that engaging one's customers is a 24/7 effort across all touch points.

Smart companies know that a customer's lifetime value is often far greater than just one shot purchases made after a spur-of-the-moment buying decisions. A long-term customer is a valuable customer. The costs of acquiring new customers are just too high, and often there are huge wastages in advertising and marketing spend - just like a leaky bucket.

Courtesy of Mindshare

Unfortunately, satisfying your customers and retaining them alone isn't enough. While loyal customers add significant lifetime value, truly engaged customers help to act as your business advocates and may even assist to co-create new products and services, often in a collective manner with other equally engaged brand believers.

Courtesy of Innovation Playground

The lesson for us as managers and leaders of corporations is that we should work with our customers as extensively as possible in an enduring and cross-organisational manner. Find ways to involve them in your company's thinking and product development process as early as possible, and actively solicit their inputs at every step. This goes way beyond a mere customer loyalty or a members rewards programme.

You should also keep your customer relationships warm with frequent - but not spammy - communication, and try to make it a dialogue rather than a sermon. Learn to listen more than talk, and find ways to seek their views, wishes and desires both online and offline, through spoken, written and behavioral cues.

Eventually, get everybody in your organisation - R&D, production, logistics, HR, Finance, and of course marketing - involved in listening and interacting with your customers. A totally engaged enterprise is one where all hands are on the same deck, heaving and ho-ing, when it comes to steering and navigating the Customer RelationSHIP.

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