Most companies have a customer engagement strategy, but that strategy views customers as one type and structures the strategy accordingly.
Yet your customers are very different people, they might be a part of a larger group, but there are many smaller subsets of the larger group that your company should be aware of.
Let’s review the Buyer’s Journey:
In looking at this process, you can see that some customers would be at each of these four stages leading up to a purchase. Let’s quickly review the type of content you should deliver to these customers at each stage, and then talk about how to engage each group:
Unaware: These are customers that don’t know who you are or what you do. The content you create for these customers should be focused heavily on the customer, and light on the brand. When you create content that talks about the customer, it gets their attention, and you will need their attention to move the customer closer to a sale. When you hear companies talk about wanting to ‘build awareness’ via social media and content marketing, these are the customers they are wanting to reach.
Engaging With Unaware Customers: When engaging with these customers, remember that they aren’t ready to buy, so attempting to sell to them will be a waste of time. This stage is about gaining attention, and developing trust. It’s why you want to invest so much time talking to and about the customer. Doing so will get their attention, and it helps them lower their guard and begin to trust you.
Years ago, I worked as a vendor for a company that sells consumer pesticides. Part of the job required that on the weekends, I had to sell the products. My trainer taught me how to sell the products, and he told me to never sell the product until you had talked to the customer, and then always suggest the best product to help them, even if it wasn’t the vendor’s product. I stocked the shelves during the week and on weekends I would be in the store primarily to sell the products, as were the competitor’s vendors. One weekday I was stocking the shelves and an older gentleman came up and I asked him if he needed help and he started explaining an insect problem he was having in his lawn. After hearing his story, I saw that my company didn’t make a product to treat his particular issue, so I recommended a competitor’s product, which he bought.
That Saturday, myself and another vendor were selling on that same isle. I looked up and noticed the older gentleman I had sold the competitor’s product to walking up. The other vendor stopped him immediately and asked if he could help him. “Nope!”, he replied. “I came to talk to him!”, and he pointed at me. He then told me how the product I had suggested worked for him then asked me to tell him about the products MY company sold! Remember when you craft an engagement and content strategy for Unaware customers, that you want to focus on the customer because you want to get their attention, and you want to build trust with them. A hard sell at this point will turn them off immediately.
Slightly Aware: These are customers who are beginning to understand who your brand is, and what it does. Content aimed at these customers should help them understand how your brand’s products and services fit into their lives. So at this stage, you want to shift your content a bit to begin to discuss your product and services, but in the context of ‘Here’s how our stuff can help you”. In that way you are communicating that you know and understand who the customer is, and also that you know how your products and services can help them.
Engaging With Slightly Aware Customers: Here, you want to remind the customers how your products and services fit into their lives and IMPROVE their lives.
— Marriott Resorts (@MarriottResorts) June 19, 2018
A good example of this is using a Twitter chat to talk about the larger topic that’s relevant to both your brand, and your customers. Marriott has a #ParadiseChat, which is focused on travel, but in the context of the chat, Marriott can help establish the link between traveling, and staying at a Marriott hotel or resort. The Twitter chat also gives Marriott’s social media team a way to engage directly with potential customer before, during and after the chat, giving them more information about the brand’s offerings and how they could fit into the customer’s future travel plans.
Interested: Customers at this stage are now considering making a purchase. So your content should shift more toward the product itself. NOW is when you can FINALLY start to sell your brand’s products and services. Customers at this stage are doing research in your products and services and those of your competitors, before making a purchase decision.
How to Engage With Interested Customers: Customers at this stage will be doing research, so you want to engage with them in a way that helps them get the information they need. These customers will be consulting online reviews on sites such as Amazon, so if you have a current brand ambassador or loyalty program, you want to encourage its members to write reviews on sites such as Amazon for any of your products and services that they use.
Another example of how you can engage these customers is by giving them better access to product information. Taylor Guitars began to notice in its retail stores that customers would inspect a guitar in the store, but when they saw the price, they would often put the guitar back and decide to go home to do more research. Taylor Guitars took this customer behavior into account, and incorporated research tools into its smartphone app. This gives customers access to better product information in store, and can help them justify the purchase. Too many companies attempt to change customer behavior, when the smart play is to accept customer behavior and work with it, not against it.
Ready to Buy! Customers at this stage are…ready to buy! Your content should do one thing, help them complete the sale.
How to Engage With Customers Who Are Ready to Buy: Sell to them. Don’t ask them to sign up for your newsletter or follow your brand on social media, just help them complete the purchase because that’s all the customer is interested in doing.
As you can see, your engagement strategy can’t be ‘one size fits all’, because you don’t have just one type of customer. You have to take into account what type of customer you are attempting to engage with at any touchpoint, and adjust your engagement strategy accordingly.