Customer Engagement

For most businesses today, creating an ongoing relationship, in which multiple sales are made, is part of their business strategy. Customer engagement is based on the idea that simply focusing efforts with customers on the immediate sale that you are trying to make may not always be the best way to create an ongoing sales relationship with the buyer. Rather, engagement over time may create a stronger relationship with greater organizational benefits.

Customer engagement is seen as being a critical element in their marketing activity by many organizations today. This is because customer behaviour has changed significantly over the past decade, and because more opportunities now exist to create positive engagement activities using social media than in the past.

“Customer engagement is the emotional connection between a customer and a brand. Highly engaged customers buy more, promote more, and demonstrate more loyalty. Providing a high-quality customer experience is an important component in your customer engagement strategy.” – Clarabridge. Customer engagement has always been at the core of any successful business.   Making sure that the people your organization is trying to reach feel cared for and connected to your brand keeps you at the forefront of their mind whenever they are in need of a particular good or service.  And nowhere is an engaged customer base more important than in the case of a natural disaster.   However when you think of emergency services, you may not immediately think of the people they serve as “customers.”   After all, we typically refer to “customers” as “a person or organization that buys goods or services from a store or business.”  But, without spending money, people rely on the Red Cross, and the Red Cross relies on people for a very vital and essential service.

Lululemon Athletica is definition of a Canadian grassroots retail success story. From humble beginnings in 1998 starting in Vancouver, British Columbia, they went public in 2007 on the NASDAQ and for a period on the TSE, and now in 2017 they have over 10,000 employees and stores in 12 countries (plus lululemon.com) (Crunchbase, 2017; Reuters, 2017). Lululemon has won a tremendous following of loyal customers and employees. The culture of the company is contagious; the people that work there live and breath it. In turn, this creates an incredibly authentic dialogue between the company and its customer base. Recognizing that lululemon ran for the first 10-12 years on grassroots marketing (and two in-publication ads), the success the company is experiencing is a huge testament to who the brand is – product-wise and culture-wise (Carter, 2013).

In the midst of this Social/Mobile Marketing Era, business has changed its focus from being all about maximising a company’s financial return, to real-time connections, and social exchanged based on relationships driven by the consumers. An industry that understands and uses customer engagement as a tool is the beauty industry.

Social media has evolved into the new marketing and advertising platforms for business’s in the last few years. Top brands are using unique ways on reaching out to their consumers, they are also getting very creative by using special tactics. In the beauty industry, cosmetic companies use many strategies on reaching out to their audiences by educating them on cosmetics through different channels and platforms. Other companies tend to give PR packages and samples of their product in order to draw in customers. Even though in this day in age social media marketing and digital marketing is the new way to reach out to consumers for the best results, nothing beats the most valuable and effective form of marketing which is WOMM (word of mouth marketing). Tarte cosmetics has recognized that and has appreciated the individuals such as bloggers and vloggers that pass the message across to their following, therefore creating customers for Tarte.

In last weeks post, I discussed the benefits of social media being used at FlashStock to engage employees through the use of a social tool/central communications hub for driving improved business performance. This week, I will continue to focus on engagement, however, one form that businesses are consistently familiar with: customer engagement. I question and explore how FlashStock uses social media as a channel to help with brand awareness, creating thought leadership and market penetration to increase business performance. I think it is important to quickly give you a bit of background to FlashStock. Flashstock Inc. is a Toronto-based B2B tech start-up. We are part of a growing sector called CaaS (Content as a Service). FlashStock is a technology platform used by Fortune 1000 global brands to help accelerate the creation of custom images and videos, connecting a global network of creative contributors. We are partners with Instagram and Facebook, helping businesses generate higher engagement through social and digital channels. Since we are B2B, we use the likes or @mentions as ways to learn about what our clients like and understand their buying process better. Data that helps form what compelled a client to engage with us, helps us understand more about our target audience. As we understand more, we can continue to measure valuable and consumable data in the form of knowledge. As a growing B2B organization, our salespeople sell to business executives who are working over and above and often, over communicated to. FlashStock’s use of social media has been to help create brand awareness, position FlashStock as a leader, and operate as a trusted source. Companies seek assistance through Flashstock to rapidly measure their content needs and keep their clients engaged with relevant content. At FlashStock, we have a well-supported and staffed sales organization which is the main driver of revenue for the business today. As we continue to evolve and have more data to analyze, our marketing team is going to be able to understand what our clients and prospects are interested in. They want to learn about and serve up relevant content in the form of future webinars or whitepapers, which our founding leader, Grant Munroe, is a contributor.

Direct Sales has never been a business for the faint of heart or weak-kneed. Stella & Dot creator Jessica Herrin succinctly expressed this sentiment in a 2016 Forbes interview where she noted the huge ‘ick’ factor associated with the industry. Direct Sales may get a bad rap because of its potential for people to feel locked-in by high quotas, awkward customer engagement strategies and defined territorial boundaries. However, by adopting a social selling approach that’s creatively coupled with the most visually engaging social media tools, Stella & Dot  has positively re-shaped the image of direct sales in the jewelry and accessories realm. Under Herrin’s leadership, Stella & Dot is an indisputably profitable enterprise with $300 million in revenues. The company has also paid some $300 million in commissions to more than 50,000 stylists, who keep up to 35% of the value of sales they make. Herrin’s successful approach is an example of how to lead with product, be customer-obsessed and leverage technology.  How has Stella & Dot managed to bring these three elements together so masterfully, and which technologies are incorporated into its social selling approach?

“Engaging customers through social media is an important tool for R3. Our Facebook live feeds allows us to build TRUST with our clients and enables them to know who we are” – Coach Crystal Mallari – Owner of R3VOLVELIFE fitness studio and online services. Opening its doors in 2013, R3VOLVELIFE Studio (aka R3) is a Coaching and Weight Loss Studio located in Mississauga.  R3 is not a commercial or “big-box” gym. It is a unique boutique fitness studio with a tight knit community of members.  At R3 you will experience the benefits of one and one personal training in a class environment, hands on instruction, and encouragement from all their coaches.  In the last 2 years, after feedback and comments from its members, Coach Crystal decided to expand its brick and mortar business to an online enterprise by offering a digital library of workout videos and online weight loss challenges.  These online services are facilitated through social media platforms in order to engage its customers.

Emco is a wholesale and retail plumbing supplier with highly sophisticated B2B clients doing multi-million dollar projects, and also has many ordinary B2C folk who just need a new faucet for their bathroom reno. How does a conglomerate like Emco engage their diverse customer base through social media, and, how effective is Emco’s social media customer engagement? There are two types of B2B Emco customers. Let’s consider the “3 bids and a buy” customer who calls late Friday afternoon for a price comparison. Sure, the customer is just price shopping, but Emco’s local branch will gladly fill out the RFP (Request for Proposal) and email it back promptly. They’ll follow-up conscientiously, but they know only the lowest price wins with this particular client, and this time, it may not be in Emco’s best interests to match the competitor’s lowest price as margins, ROI, and the intrinsic cost of time necessary to get this sale may not fall within their sales formula. Emco’s sales professionals know that selling on lowest price isn’t going to create an ongoing sales relationship. Emco wants all their customer’s business, and they are highly motivated to take a lot of time to cultivate multiple personal contacts to develop deep customer engagement, often requiring complicated engineering solutions to alleviate their customer’s pain points along the way. Emco’s mantra is “Get your customer out of pain”, and much like the intimate relationship between a doctor and his patient, Emco works fiercely to foster strong customer relationships based on person-to-person meetings, expertise, collaboration, and transparency formulated on correct customer problem diagnosis and resolution. Emco’s core belief: develop mutual respect and confidence based on providing solutions, and the customer–corporate relationship will have deep roots, based on mutual trust, and will have long-lasting mutual value. Sometimes, that makes their products more expensive than their competitors’, but for a large B2B customer working on a multi-million dollar project, it’s getting the job done on time, and within budget that matters most. Is it even significant then, if the customer pays a few dollars more for Emco’s product if that special valve to finish this vital stage can arrive on-site tomorrow? Suppose there’s a crew of engineers stuck out in the field, ground to a halt in BC’s interior, because they can’t move on without that specialty item. The clock is ticking and time is money – big money. Often, taking the time… Read more »

Budget Marine is the Caribbean’s leading marine chandlery with retail locations throughout the Caribbean.  Budget Marine’s customers range from live-aboard cruisers, to power boaters, to megayacht captains & crew.  Generally, their customers fall into two categories: boaters who are there for high season, and resident “yachties” who live in the Caribbean and migrate up and down the island chain to avoid hurricane season.

For Metroland Media, customer engagement is essential for many aspects of their business since there are such large selections of print publications and other media sources available to the public. Although all media channels are equally important to Metroland Media, their community newspapers and print publications are their number one source of revenue.  Today we see the Internet evolving into a larger number of social media channels and television alternatives; this puts customer engagement at the top of their priority list. With the amount of choices available, competition amongst companies and brand loyalty becomes a problem.

In a world where social media can make or break a business, Tripcentral.ca puts it all on the line for their customers. The only major travel agency to leave their Facebook reviews open for public comment (with a 4.8 star approval rating and immediate responses to any negative comments), they put their reputation to task daily to hold themselves accountable to their customers, and to be the best they can be.

TripAdvisor is a good example of how to build successful business and sustain YoY growth by customers’ usage and engagement. Once a website for hotel reviews, TripAdvisor became an online place where customers can plan and book nearly everything for their trip: starting with accommodation, restaurants, guiding tours etc. Nowadays, TripAdvisor provides both its customers: businesses and travelers, a platform to socialize. Travelers share their experiences via reviews and businesses have an option to respond directly to the traveler. TripAdvisor is one of the largest travel sites that offers advice from millions its users. With 465 million reviews, covering 7 million accommodations, restaurants and attractions in 49 markets worldwide, TripAdvisor is branded the largest travel community in the world. TripAdvisor attracts 390M unique visitors every month, more than 280 reviews are submitted to the website every minute and more than 10 000 businesses are added to the website and apps every week.

Deyaar is one of the largest property developers in Dubai, They strive to serve their customer in the best possible manner, came up with the idea which will create value for Deyaar’s customers by saving their time and effort by streamlining the processes and providing an online channel to manage their properties from anywhere.

When teaching future film makers, there are many ways for the discussion points between teacher and student to begin. For instance, we might examine product construction or production events a “the making of” sort of thing. Or, we might follow the money, the funding, focus on budgets, etc., or perhaps look to  the personalities be it the film maker or the “Stars” of a narrative piece. On the other hand, we might also start with the story or interesting plot points, “based on a true story” notion. Theme alone, the purpose behind the product, might also drive the conversation like a Michael Moore documentary. I try something different and it is the reason why I am consumed with the idea of learning the practicality of social media. I ask my students to think about consumption and the elements that make motion picture consumption work. Why would you watch it? Motion pictures are essentially experiential products, meaning the product is that the audience experiences the work emotionally and intellectually. There is actually no physical commodity to walk away with, perhaps a dvd, but even that technology is becoming obsolete. The product is also ephemeral, linked to a momentary audience connection with the material. Film is a moment in time. If you accept this notion, artistic statement becomes less the author and more feeling. Heresy in my world!  No matter. As a teacher, I always begin my Sheridan College Producer course by asking my student this question. If your product is an experience, who as a film maker, is the product designed for, as an artist who do you want to speak to? And why? With the integration of social and transmedia platforms, the equally important question is how will you reach your audience? For purposes of this case study, the great question driving the study is whether the audience is the customer we seek to understand? You cannot actually address this question without digging a little deeper which leads to my choice of companies to study. Today, the primary conduit for a film maker to reach this illusive, experiential audience is the film distributor, and the subject of my case study this week is Mongrel Media, a leading independent film distributor based in Toronto Canada. This week we are exploring – through a motion picture Distributor – the idea of Client Engagement, an exploration that asks whether an on-going long term… Read more »

To be motivated and inspired.  That’s all anyone wants when they start a new fitness journey.  Often times this can be the biggest struggle of them all. Beachbody has created a winning formula of pairing accessible fitness, nutrition plans and supplements. Complimented by  social media inspiration and accountability that not only engages the customer but also empowers the customer to engage others. Beachbody is the online powerhouse that has brought to your home award winning workouts and well known brands like the P90 series, Turbo Abs , The 21day Fix and Shakeology.  Started in 1998 with the belief that that the focus should be on progress not perfection.  Founders Carl Daikeler and John Congdon continue to live by this philosophy by sharing their own story on social media .  Today with their community of 350,000 the idea is that you will “never be alone ” in your journey due to the company support.  https://www.beachbody.com/product/about_us/company_overview.do  

I was watching CNN the evening of January 3, 2017, when The Ridiculist segment aired on Anderson Cooper 360°.  Much to my amazement and delight, I witnessed Anderson Cooper and Frank (a member of the studio crew) re-enact a twitter feud that had taken place the day before between Wendy’s social media manager and twitter user Thuggy D. Thuggy D had taken exception to a tweet touting Wendy’s claim that their beef was never frozen. The ensuing exchange between Thuggy D and Amy Brown, Wendy’s Social Media Manager, was not only re-enacted on CNN, but was covered extensively by online media outlets like Mashable, Mediaite, The Daily Dot, Forbes.com and more.

Accor Hotels  is a world leader in hotel management, with more than 3500 hotels in the world, their well-known brands include Sofitel, Fairmont, Novotel, Ibis Hotel, Pullman, and more. When it comes to customer engagement, Accor is strongly committed to providing individualized, memorable customer experiences that fully integrate the use of social media to engage the customer. Accor understands that through heightened customer engagement comes heighted customer loyalty and ultimately, heightened corporate revenues.  Accor is continuously looking for innovative ways to further engage their customers in order to provide the  ultimate customer experience that will have them returning again and again. Given the ever increasing competition for customer attention, Accor has embraced social media and has become a global leader in digital presence focusing on multi device engagement with emphasis towards the management of its on-line reputation.      

This season marks the 60th Anniversary of varsity athletics at the University of Waterloo.  Sixty years have come and gone, and along with those years, so have the traditional posters and signs around campus advertising games and building team pride.  Today, social media marketing makes up approximately 75% of the department’s advertising efforts according to the department’s Social Media and Brand Manager, Steve Brooks.  

Paul Sperry hailed from a family that had a longstanding relationship with the sea. As a result, he went on to become an accomplished sailor himself. Sperry was a Seamen, First Class in the United States Navy and in his spare time sailed aboard his own boat ‘Sirocco‘. During a chance encounter with rough seas, poor shoes on a slippery deck nearly cost Paul Sperry his life. It was at that moment that he began searching for a solution to the unfortunate problem of many sailors. After much trial and error, it was eventually Sperry’s dog who would help him come to a solution. After watching his dog run across ice without struggle, Sperry decided to create grooves in a rubber sole, similar to those that were in his dog’s paws. In 1935, the first Sperry deck shoes were made. The sole of the Sperry Top-Sider deck shoe “sticks like a barnacle” and was therefore trusted by the United States Navy as an official shoe during the Second World War, The Kennedy Family during their sailing adventures, and as the official shoe for the America’s Cup. Given the fact that the Sperry brand of deck shoes were, and continue to be the top choice of such customers, it is no wonder that the Sperry brand entrusts their customers to ensure the quality and the longevity of the brand.

Toronto-based Lulu et Elle Photography specializes in stylized newborn imagery. Owner and principal photographer Lana Polashek is at the top of her game on account of her innovative and personalized approach to documenting the arrival of newborns. Her success lies in the ability to produce photography shaped by client-driven narratives and share the studio experience through social media. “Being a newborn photographer allows me to document intense moments of vulnerability. The fragility of the baby, along with the vulnerable state of the parents, are all essential parts of the story. This is where my brand is – excuse the pun – born. Customer engagement starts at the most fundamental level – the photography session – and continues through my social media strategy.” Lana Polashek Customer engagement can be understood as the psychological state emanating from a collaborative customer/brand experience. Engagement reflects a motivational state which occurs through an individual’s interactions with a particular product or service. Engagement differs from satisfaction, as the former is focused on consumers’ cognitive, emotional and behavioural patterns during specific brand interactions, whereas the latter may only develop thereafter.

When I was a child, I remember eating my breakfast at the kitchen table each morning as my parents listened to the latest in local news and weather through a little radio on the counter. This is how many people would get their information to start their day, but now, there are other options. Now-a-days, I set my alarm 30 minutes before I need to get up to allow myself time to check personal email as well as scroll through Instagram, Facebook and Twitter – and I’m certain I’m not the only one.

Living in a era of technology and connected devices , we all know the importance of being connected to the outside world through our electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and etc, as necessary as it seems , this need increases the degree of reliability and dependency of most of us on our smartphones even for very basic stuff; navigating yourself to get to your desired destination, getting access to meal recipes, learning new workout moves and the list goes on. It is incredible how technology changes people’s habit over the years.It was not even 30 years ago when the first generation of handheld devices got into the consumer’s market with essential features, solely designed to make telephone contacts, whereas the latest generations will bring more and more mind boggling features at our fingertips. Speaking of mobile technology evolution, Samsung and Apple are by far the best in class quality mobile manufacture leaders in the world’s marketplace, two biggest competitors which are always introducing top-notch products to the market since the 1990s’.

In a digital age, where consumers are less likely to respond to traditional marketing/advertising techniques, organizations are tasked with trying to understand the modern consumer. With so many options to choose from, a well-informed consumer base, and a diverse and ultra competitive landscape where the concept of  brand loyalty is a thing of the past, corporate social media strategies now play a vital role in the success of today’s global organizations. One such organization is Maryland based, Phillips Corporation. Phillips Corp is a global supplier of manufacturing technology products and services primarily focused on CNC machine tools. Over the years Phillips Corp have relied on the great marketing efforts of the manufacturer’s they represent for building/growing the brand. They are also globally renowned for providing legendary customer service and an enduring competitive advantage to the end user.  Although Social media is somewhat of a new realm for Phillips Corporation, in a highly competitive global product market, they have tried to differentiate themselves by focusing on their people and the service they provide to the customers. Phillips is aware that nothing will substitute the relationships that their sales and service people have with the customers. Conversely they are cognizant that social media has developed a larger role over recent years as an additional avenue for engaging with that same customer base. At first their social media strategy was designed just to be presence on social channels, but it quickly developed into a more streamline avenue for them to have conversations with people in their industry. This is where I believe Phillips have taken a unique approach in an attempt to set themselves apart from the competition. A lot of companies use social media to tell everyone how good they are, and while Phillips do want to promote themselves, they also feel that it is important to recognize, at least from a marketing perspective, that they don’t own their brand, their customers do.   Matthew Nardangeli-Marketing Director at Phillips Corporation explains the importance of social media and customer engagement in below audio file:

Traditionally, Black Friday is a day for consumers to spend mad amounts of money on discounted wares. More and more in recent years, there are videos and phone captures of in-store fights, parking lot brawls, and general retail unpleasantness. But one company decided that there had to be a better different way. Cards Against Humanity, everyone’s favourite “party game for horrible people,” has spent the past three Black Fridays requesting that their customers pay a price increase or donate their money to the game’s creators. Though this is a clearly unconventional request, their customers passionately and quickly respond, giving their funds freely. Let’s look at how a start-up has not only turned their consumers into passionate product advocates, but also into willing financial contributors who receive little, if not nothing, in return.    

In 2006, I remember standing in line of a grocery store and noticing that TIME magazine had named You as the Person of the Year. At the time I was in grade 11 and I likely didn’t fully comprehend the cultural shift that was taking place, but I did understand what TIME was getting at. The Internet, and namely the adoption of Facebook that year, was giving a voice to anyone who wanted to engage and be heard. Individuals were beginning to wield power greater than companies and media outlets, thus requiring organizations to rethink how they talk to their audience. It has been over a decade and savvy businesses have learned that customer and client relationships are built on a two-way street, and traditional means of broadcasting messages in print or through television ads are no longer as effective. Today, customer engagement is not about how customers feel about a brand, rather it is about what they do, or how they act. Leveraging social media tools that cultivate dialogue allows for the opportunity to build positive, loyal relationships.