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.

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.

When you think about customer engagement, it is quite easy to make the connection with customer satisfaction.  In the for profit world the importance of winning new customers and keeping the customers to generate increased profits is a given.  As expected, when I first searched for information on this topic I found plenty of examples of how for profit businesses were using social media for a business purpose.  However, being from the Not-For-Profit world I wanted examples of how social media could be used to engage clients for the purpose of increasing their satisfaction with the services provided.

When you ask an old person what their biggest regret in life is, an overwhelming majority lament that they wish they had travelled more in their youth. They often cite a lack of funds, or life’s responsibilities as reason for postponing their plans. Contiki was a company that was created to address this issue. Contiki is a tour company that connects like-minded people, by offering affordable trip packages for ages 18-35. The organization’s slogan is “No Regrets” which shows that they know what note they need to strike with their customers to encourage them to book a trip. Contiki uses social media effectively to encourage their customers to tell their story, and by doing so, market the service to all of their friends. While not the only marketing technique they use, this is one of the many ways Contiki keeps their customers engaged.

Sue Bryce is is one of the most recognizable photographers in the imaging industry. Her glamour, fashion and portrait style transcend past stereotypes and has changed the face of portrait photography. After becoming the most watched instructor on CreativeLive, Sue has created her own ground-breaking educational platform, in which she uses her signature techniques to educate photographers and empower businesses internationally. Photographers looking to build their social media presence are often focused on the tactical questions of who to follow, how often to post and what networks to exploit. But according to Sue Bryce the route to success in social media doesn’t follow a neat script and has far less to do with a given tactic and far more to do with honesty, positivity and having something of value to share with the world.  “Emotion, entertainment, engagement and education. If you’re touching one of those four things, people are going to be interested in whatever you’ve got.” Sue Bryce

How does a graduate in Software Engineering with an established career in his field, all of a sudden tell his parents that he no longer wants to continue doing that, and instead wants to get into the sporting events business? Burhan Ehsan who is founder and president of theFanchize had to experience just that. Being born to South Asian parents, that was probably his toughest hurdle in life. But with a venture that has reaped the rewards by getting into the Toronto Raptors-ticket selling game early, being called on by many media outlets due to the craze amongst Toronto sports fanatics, and now boasting over 4,000 clients – which most of them are recurring – breaking the news to his parents went fairly smoothly. Back in 2004, Burhan already a rabid Toronto Raptors fan, decided with a friend to purchase season tickets in the upper bowl of the Air Canada Centre (ACC). Something the Toronto Raptors organization wholeheartedly welcomed as the NBA team just wasn’t performing well on the hardcourt, nor in ticket sales at the time. Burhan utilized his time wisely while at these games and during ho-hum affairs, or breaks in between games, he would coolly network and schmooze with anyone affiliated with Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment – owners of the Raptors – such as Ushers, Security and also ticket sales representatives that worked directly under management. The sales reps took a liking to Burhan and made him a deal to try and attract more visitors and put bodies into the empty seats at games. He took up the challenge. With no social media outlets at the time, he did use what he was good at: Word of mouth. Talking to his family members and friends, Burhan showcased the Raptor ticket as valuable as a Toronto Maple Leafs ticket. When he needed to get more exposure, he resorted to an obscure mass texting application as the growing use of cellphones was apparent at that time. The phone calls then started to come in. Perks were given directly to Burhan from the Raptors such as playing time on an NBA floor at the ACC, meet & greet with players and also receive gifts such as jerseys and t-shirts using this as leverage to bring in more customers. With the client base growing and time becoming more and more scarce, people had to be hired to man the phones, the former website Raptorfan.com had to be designed… Read more »

Hamilton Tiger-Cats is the oldest professional sports team in north America. The Hamilton Football Club was formed on November 3, 1869, and played their first game on December 18, 1869 against the 13th Battalion (now Royal Hamilton Light Infantry). Some of the early history of football in Canada and Hamilton is a bit vague, but by 1883, there are records of the Hamilton Tigers playing in the Ontario Rugby Football Union playoffs. The decades and the game have changed but the Ticats commitment to  community and  fan engagement has not.  Being active, accessible and current  with their fans is critical on and of the field  even during off-season times. In the ever changing landscape of professional sports and out-bound marketing, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have kept up with new  technologies and successfully tackled challenges to reach their fan base.

When asked to name a business which utilizes Social Media to effectively reach out to new customers and maintain contact with existing ones, I immediately thought of The Furtado Group. Operating under the Rock Star Real Estate umbrella, they are a Real Estate Team based in Oakville, primarily servicing the West GTA. The Furtado Group is not your average Real Estate Brokerage and this is evident across their unique branding efforts. And, they surpass any expectations one may have for effectively using Social Media to interact with their audience. Each of the Team’s members has their own Social Media presence. The Team is led by Ruben Furtado. He is considered “a true expert in his field, a trusted advisor and mentor to many in the real estate community” (The Furtado Group. 2016). They have a dedicated Art Director & Brand Communications Manager and each member of their team contributes to content for all social media platforms. Mary Da Rosa has her own blog in which she writes about her business life and market trends. And, there’s Austin Furtado who shares his personal and business goals on his own You Tube channel, Auzzy TV. Clearly this Team has made Social Media a priority in their communication strategies.

What is your impression about a credit card with $450 annual fee? When first hearing about the new Chase Sapphire Reserve, I had to make the assumption base on its annual fee that it could be another fancy luxury credit card for a small group of customers. It turned out that Sapphire Reserve started a credit card frenzy, Chase application page is swamped by tens of thousands applications and the company ran out of actual cards in the second week. “It significantly exceeded our strongest expectations,” said Lauren Francis, Communication Director – Chase Card Services

Even if you’re not in the market to buy or sell a home, you’ve likely had your eye caught by a realtor’s face on a bench sign, bus stop ad or other billboard-type promotion.  It has been a successful exposure-gaining method used for decades by people in the real estate industry, one that has often been a strong step to gaining contacts for potential deals.  But did you know that according to Realtor Social Marketing, 90% of home buyers begin their search online? Nicole Bafaro, Sales Representative with Sutton Group Heritage Realty in Ontario’s Durham Region, has successfully built her real estate career by venturing beyond the goal of simply making contacts; she is building and strengthening relationships through online client engagement within her community through her use of social media.

In 1872, long before the invention of social media, Mildmay’s Commercial Hotel began it’s first days of operation. It has since welcomed thousands of visitors to the small town located in Southwestern Ontario with its country charm and welcoming flare. In 1919 the the business was bought by the Schmalz family and has remained with them ever since. In 2006 the business was bought by Nicole Wise (Schmalz) and became Harleys Pub and Perk. Harleys Pub and Perk has proven that some things will just never get old with it’s almost century old charm, Grandma Schmalz’s Ribs and Kraut, and even with a few of the regulars; however, the functionality of the pub and it’s marketing tactics have had to be changed with their times.

In a rapidly expanding town that has seen its farm fields disappear under housing developments and many small businesses go under due to the influx of nearby big box stores, Victoria Hunt, owner of Carousel Kids, a children’s second-hand clothes & new toy shop in Waterdown, Ontario, has discovered that utilizing social media to connect with the community can have a profound impact on the success of a business. With a Facebook page and an unapologetically authentic personal social media account, Ms. Hunt has shared the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur with a huge heart and a desire to succeed in what some would say is a difficult sector of the retail industry.

No matter which social media platform I’m on, there it is…. No matter which conversation I join, someone brings it up…. Turn on the news and there is again… Pokémon GO. Pokémon GO is officially the biggest mobile game in the United States, with 21 million active daily users.1 According to Wikipedia it is a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game developed by Niantic and published by The Pokémon Company. It was released in July 2016 for iOS and Android devices. The game allows players to capture, train, and battle virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on device screens as though in the real world. It makes use of the GPS and camera of compatible devices. Although it is free-to-play, the game supports in-app purchases of additional gameplay items. An optional companion Bluetooth wearable device, the Pokémon GO Plus, is planned for future release, and it will alert users when Pokémon are nearby.2

The manufacturer of un-smashable, un-drownable wearable action cameras seems to believe strongly in the old saying that a picture is worth a 1,000 words, as it actively encourages and shares user-generated content. Go Pro has essentially mastered the content marketing game: The California-based camera manufacturer keeps its 2.3 million-strong audience entertained and informed primarily through its YouTube channel while hyper-engaging on Instagram and keeping busy on Facebook. GoPro enables the company’s fans to evangelize on its behalf. All GoPro needs to do is provide the camera.

When it comes to purchasing makeup products today, the first company that typically comes to mind – and even conversation – is Sephora.  Approach most women and men who have carefully applied a swipe of indigo eyeliner or a dusting of rose-gold eyeshadow where they bought the product from, and you’ll almost always hear, “Sephora!”  In a world that is so obssessed with image and beauty, Sephora continues to build their customer relationship based on a simple ideology – understanding customer wants and needs, and connecting that customer with the right product.  

ModCloth comes from humble beginnings in a dorm room. The company, founded in 2008, has grown in leaps in bounds since its inception. Including a 600% growth rate over the last two years and an annual revenue of over 150 million in 2014. One of the mainstays of ModCloth’s expert marketing strategy is their customer engagement. The company leverages their brand advocates and creates inclusive social media communities where fans can review products, post pictures of themselves wearing Modcloth apparel, take part in the design and purchase of inventory, and discuss all things ModCloth.

Customer engagement is an extremely vital part of any business plan. In today’s fast paced constantly changing environment it can be hard for some companies to keep up. Customers are constantly in search of what is new and trendy, and as a result, retaining loyal customers is more challenging than ever. Let’s take a look at iPhone vs. Android. A few years ago there were two groups; dedicated Apple users, and dedicated Blackberry users. Most consumers had chosen their side and would stand by their device loyally. You would rarely expect to see an Apple user make the switch to Blackberry. In more recent years however, many Apple users have made the leap and abandoned their iPhones for an Android, which are (arguably) introducing more innovations to the smartphone world. At the end of the day, the consumer wants what they perceive to be best, and currently the competition to stay at the top of the game is fierce. Communicating and engaging with your customers has never been more important than it is in our modern day, and using social media to connect is essential.

What is BaubleBar? Fashion jewelry  – a must have in any woman’s wardrobe. You can wear it as the final touch to a wedding ensemble or to add some visual interest to jeans and a comfy t-shirt; the point of it is to make a statement and take your outfit from great to spectacular! BaubleBar has been helping women since 2011 with their on-trend fashion jewelry needs and at affordable prices to boot. A strong and unique customer engagement strategy is pivotal for a strictly online store to thrive since they can’t deliver a tailored in store experience for their customers. The co-founders Amy Jain and Daniella Yacobovsky realized this early on. They knew that to create the customer base that they needed they would have to be highly data driven as well as provide a pleasurable and exclusive shopping experience.

Oh, how I wish I could truly say that “I am an astronaut and own my own space shuttle.” Just thinking of this makes me want to reach for the stars to unlock my full potential, discover new levels of success and achieve goals only dreamed about. Although I am not an astronaut and don’t own a space shuttle, this is exactly how Blast Marketing wants their front line workers and valued clients to think and so far, their success is reaching beyond the stars.

Even though Ford has been around for over a century, it is still creating great content to engage present and possible future customers. It has been engaging with customers using a multi platform content strategy and creating authentic social interactions.  There is a big difference between marketing and posting advertisements on social media, compared to engaging with the customers and using social media as a line of communication. After a closer look at Ford’s online social presence, it is clear they have it all figured out!

Today’s marketing landscape is ever changing, and with it, the way we engage with our customers.  It is no longer about selling a service or a product; now it is all about the customer experience.  Companies like T by Daniel, a Brampton based tea house, strive to provide a genuinely exceptional experience for each and every person they meet.  Lovers of tea, fashion and especially people, Daniela and Renata Lewis had a vision to start something that could speak to all generations and could bring people together 1. It began when Daniel Lewis overcame a tragedy and used his new found passion for life to follow his dream with his loving wife by his side.  “From the moment a person walks into our store, our immediate goal is to wow them” says Renata Lewis, co-founder.  Their friendly staff focus on getting to know their customers, whether in person or online.

As we get closer to crowing another Stanley Cup Champion, take a look at some of the teams that have competed for the cup since 2006. Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, Anaheim, San Jose and Carolina. I would categorize those teams as non-traditional markets vs a traditional market such as Pittsburgh, Chicago or Toronto. So how does the NHL and markets such as Tampa Bay continue to be so successful on and off the ice and engage their fan base who would generally be watching baseball or sunning themselves on a sandy beach during the playoffs?   Today’s fans are intelligent, mobile and closer to their favorite team and players, and this “closeness” or “engagement” is how the NHL has grown its fan base and continues to grow the game in non-traditional hockey markets.

I asked my son to go for #FroYo with me today, “I’d kinda rather hang out with my friends Mom” was the first response. So, I pull up the @menchies_ca twitter feed and pass him my phone. “Ooooh! I do want to go to Menchie’s though!” was his response after one glance at the header photo and a quick scroll down the Twitter feed. The scroll revealed a current promotional event “The Italian Festival” featuring three flavours: Nutella, Sweet Almond Amaretto and Iced Cappucino.  The moment we read about this festival of flavours, we were on a mouth watering mission to the nearest Menchie’s location! The first station you come to inside a Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt shop offers little cups to try every flavour. If you wish, you can make a fully informed decision about what taste you want to spend your money and calories on. If you’re like my son, you try every flavour at least twice (shhhhh!) and self serve up a heaping portion of your favourites into the pay-by-weight bowl. At the last station, you can top off your concoction with any kind of candy or fruit you can imagine. My son ended up with a hodgepodge of crunchy, chewy, sour and salty toppings, tasted it and declared it “The bomb!”

JetBlue doesn’t rely on free snacks alone to please customers. The airline company mines social media for opportunities to give individual customers exactly what will make them happy the minute they enter the airport.  By scanning the musings, emoticons or “deep thoughts” tagged with the @JetBlue Twitter handle employees ensure target customers receive -among other things – upgrades to first class or the coffee order they didn’t get a chance to pick up on way to the airport.

Starbucks is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Founded in 1971 in Seattle, WA (USA), the brand has built a strong reputation worldwide since its debut. With nearly 23,500 stores around the globe, the American coffee corporation has expanded its brand with specialty coffees, an increasing market since the late 1980s. Whether you are more of a frappuccino, espresso or latté kind of consumer, the brand carefully listens to its customers and constantly develops new products to make us want another cup of that black elixir. There is a product for everyone at Starbucks, and the company makes sure we are aware of it… With millions of dollars invested in publicity, its best brand ambassadors are still its loyal fan base. Everyone knows the in-store customer experience is pleasant with nice decor, good smell, attractive food displays… now let’s take a look at how the coffee company is extending the experience online by engaging with its customers.