As we continue to get used to the “rules of isolation” there is one critical thing we must all keep in mind: the rules of engagement have not changed.
The fun, “engaging” events we marketers so enjoy, such as trade shows, VIP receptions, gala events, and more seem so far away as we continue to see disparaging news headlines across all of our WFH screens. But that doesn’t mean we have to stop engaging in fun ways with our customers. There are a lot of creative ways we can stay engaged with customers to assure we’re not forgotten when our world and budgets open up.
In fact, creating fun, memorable customer engagement moments will go much further in helping your brand survive choppy waters than any heavily discounted promotions right now. Think about it: If you are selling your services for pennies, you are sending a signal you’re about to collapse.
An airline I use frequently just sent me an email with fares for $.01. Not a typo. Seriously, I can fly round trip for $22 or less for the same flight that used to cost me closer to $350. This is not likely to work well as for many it’s a white surrender flag that the airline is on its last wheel and that wheel is leaking air fast.
Find Ways to Get Personal
Ideas for low-cost customer engagement moments via social media that will go a long way in keeping relationships alive are endless. If you’re on Facebook, you likely get a new family dance video, Quarantine Diary post, or bored dog meme every 5 minutes. And you likely engage with more of them than you want to admit!
However, take note. Behind all those goofy posts by people bored to silliness, there may come some great ideas for keeping your customers engaged, thinking of you, and ready to resume buying from you once we are all free to move around the world again.
One of my favorite ideas comes from my dear friend and fellow CMO, David Morris, who leads all things marketing for Proformex, a technology platform changing the way insurance brokers, agencies, and agents gain visibility to their book of business, thus enabling them to better protect and serve their customers.
As part of his customer experience strategy, David wanted to build camaraderie with clients and present the human side of their organization. He decided to build a video series that showcased their founder engaging with employees in ways that helped clients understand the values, purpose, and commitments of the team that helped them build better relationships and revenue streams with their own customers.
The result was “Putting with Pepe,” a simple, low-cost video series featuring Mike Pepe, the company’s founder and president, putting around their hometown of Cleveland with employees and talking about what they love about their jobs, what makes them tic, and why they believe Proformex makes a difference in people’s lives.
“Putting with Pepe” probably has one of the highest ROIs of anything David has done as CMO. Originally filmed on an iPhone, posted on their blog, and shared on social media, it has generated the highest engagement of any content they post publicly. Customers love watching these videos as much as their team loves making them.
“At the end of the day, people want to do business with brands that are authentic, and resonate with them,” says David. “When we started ‘Putting with Pepe,’ we didn’t know what to expect. Now we know its one of the most powerful things we can do to project our values and initiate genuine relationships in a way that is not about sales, but more about making our little piece of the world better for those of us who play in it.”
This raw, simple program pivoted from a “get to know us better” campaign to weekly webinars that provide educational and actionable information for their channel partners and clients. As a result of both programs, their marketing goals have shifted from “selling to helping,” and in the meantime, their client usage and account value has increased as well, even during the uncertain times as we see now.
Showcase Your Customers
Beyond featuring company leaders and employees in social videos, think about inviting your customers to join you online while you interview them about their brand, products, and how they are making life easier for their customers.
Featuring your customers vs. your own products can actually pay off in bigger dividends than you imagine. A regional bank, FirstBank, ran billboard campaigns in its markets that were nothing more than a job title, a name, and phone number. One billboard just said, “Dog Walker. Call Martin at 303 555 1212.” Another was about a wedding singer, and another about a math tutor.
These are all professions that don’t likely pay off enough for the entrepreneur to buy billboards in major cities like Denver. But they were real customers of FirstBank, and when the phone rang, FirstBank would forward those calls to their customer. At the time, these were the most successful ads the bank had ever run. And they said absolutely nothing about the bank!
Or, come up with some fun ways to engage online that also provide meaningful, or at least entertaining, takeaways for followers on your social pages that of course, could become customers someday too. Maybe create a “Top 10 Stay at Home Inventions” or “Past Times” series asking customers to share their own highlights. Or most embarrassing business meeting moments? As this is a time to engage and help customers vs. sell to them, be imaginative beyond the call to action. You want to engage with these people, but remember, it’s not about an immediate sale. It’s about human connection.
Look at this time of “social” and “professional distancing” as an opportunity to do what we often don’t make time to do when racing to meet quotas and fill the sales pipeline up for the next month: Focus on the people – employees and customers – who matter most to your brands.
The efforts you put in place now to nurture trust, foster camaraderie, and build bonds around mutual values and interests will pay off in not just new sales down the road, but in long-term loyalty – something that sales promotions and price discounts likely never will.