Stop for a second and think about how nice it would be if you could boost your company’s profits by 95 percent. Or let’s be conservative and ask for a smaller number like 25 percent.
The truth is that all it takes is a 5 percent increase in your customer retention rates, according to research by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company (who invented the Net Promoter Score, so he knows a thing or two about the relationship between customer experience and business growth).
Nurturing existing customers is not as sexy as getting new ones, but it is far easier and more important for a business than fishing for new buyers.
At the heart of this nurturing is customer engagement. Think Apple fanboys during the Steve Jobs era, or the cult following of Zappos. When customers identify with a brand and engage with it, good things happen for that brand.
So if you want profit increases like Reichheld predicts, here are five tactics you can use for increasing your customer engagement.
Tactic #1: Create a Slack Channel for Your Community
If you run a business based in Silicon Valley or have even a single Millennial employee, you probably use Slack today. The communications software has become almost as important as email for many companies when it comes to collaboration and communications.
But Slack isn’t just for your internal team. It also can be a useful tool for creating community and engaging with customers.
Businesses like social media posting tool, Buffer, have found great success by creating a lively forum for their customers through a public Slack channel, and other businesses such as Crispy Mountain are doing the same.
Tactic #2: Nurture Customers Instead of Selling Them
We’ve reached a saturation point as a society when it comes to marketing and sales. People are fed up, and they see right through sales-driven customer engagement. It just doesn’t fly any longer.
Thankfully, there’s another way: Make your company a friend, not a transaction.
As Gary Vaynerchuk hammered home in his classic book with the funky title, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, you don’t make and keep customers by just selling to them every second. Instead, you build loyal customers by offering value again and again. Only every once in awhile do you slip in a sales pitch.
So don’t make your social channels all about pushing your brand (or even with your email campaigns). Offer up interesting or useful information instead, nurturing your customer until they are loyal and trusting. You’ll get the next sale from them. You just have to have patience and faith enough to not over-sell.
Tactic #3: Implement Live Chat
I know what you’re thinking: Live chat? Really? Slack I can see, but live chat is just icky.
You’re not alone in having that first response. But look again, because companies like LiveAgent have overhauled it to rock for customer engagement.
“Live chat is one of the quickest methods of customer service, but it used to be horrible,” marketing guru Neil Patel noted in his paean to the need for live chat functionality on your company’s site. “That’s not the case anymore. In fact, it’s become the exact opposite.”
That’s because customers don’t like to wait, and modern live chat properly implemented is an extraordinarily simple way to enable customers to interact immediately with a brand when they have a question, comment, or need some help.
Tactic #4: Make Customer Stories Easy to Tell
Social proof is a powerful force in marketing. It also builds great customer engagement, because customers are fans for live when you feature their comments on your site. By including their testimonial or story, you help them identify with your brand because they’re now a part of the brand’s story.
So make it easy for these customers who want to share their tale.
One easy way to build engagement with your customers through the stories they tell is by having a page on your site where customers can easily submit their stories and thoughts on your brand. Don’t hide this submission page, either—promote it in every marketing communication and receipt.
Another good way to encourage stories about your brand from customers is to ask for it on your company’s Facebook page. Just ask. It is that simple.
Tactic #5: Run Collaboration Contests
Finally, a good way to increase customer engagement is to build collaborative contests between your brand and the customer—then reward those customers who enter the contest with something like a coupon or special offer, encouraging further purchases subtlety while rewarding customers for engaging at the same time.
A good example of this was the Domino’s Pizza Mogul campaign.
The pizza company offered customers the opportunity to make their own pizza offerings and then share and sell their recipes on social media, paying customers between $0.25 and $4.50 every time someone bought one. More than 204,700 customers engaged with the campaign, according to Domino’s, earning themselves roughly $965,925.
That is a lot of customer engagement!
So the next time you sit down to plan your sales and marketing strategy, stop to give your existing customers some love. Encouraging customer engagement doesn’t sound as impressive as nabbing a host of new customers, but it sure is good business.