Consumers have power in this customer-led economy. In the last decade, after the 2008 financial crisis and with the rise of digital communications, we’ve seen a massive shift in how businesses try to position themselves to potential customers. Is your business prepared to embrace that shift?
Rising Expectations in the Face of Increasing Options
In a world led and dominated by technology, it’s not easy to reconcile company-driven objectives with customer expectations. Marketing, always a core business function, is only rising in importance in this customer-led economy.
Take the marketing technology industry as an example. Over the past few years, thousands of MarTech companies have emerged. Their solutions act as a primary disruptor, commoditizing features, and functionalities that used to be reserved for the biggest players in a given industry.
That acts as both an equalizer and a challenge: the playing field is leveling off, and the average lifespan of companies continues to fall. At the same time, customer expectations are continually rising to new heights.
That’s the challenge we face today. A business world is driven by customers, requiring new approaches from marketers and leaders across industries. The need for a strategic shift is becoming increasingly obvious. If you don’t adapt, you risk being dead in the water.
Customer Experience in an Environment of Choice
With more and more brands becoming commodities in the eyes of their audience, building loyalty is only becoming more important. The times of thinking about your customers as one-time transactions to build your revenue are over. In today’s economy, the fight is not just for that immediate transaction but everything that happens afterward.
We can see part of that development in the SaaS industry, which exemplifies the move from single transactions to subscriptions that generate recurring revenue. Getting that revenue, of course, requires building mutually beneficial long-term relationships.
In that effort, differentiating your customer experience is invaluable. If you’re different (and better) than comparable alternatives, you’ve won the game. Be mindful of the five components of new customer expectations as you build towards that goal:
Speed of delivery and communication in channels your audience already uses is key. Leverage communication channels like social media and live chat for your website.
Technology may drive rising expectations, but that doesn’t mean your audience loves talking to robots. Human interactions, improved but not replaced by technology, will always be the key relationship-building force.
Your customers need the right content, at the right time – for them. Regardless of their stage in the customer life cycle, they expect relevance according to their specific needs.
Do your brand values overlap with those of your customers? Your audience needs to believe that you stand for something beyond profit (CSR, anyone?) and that you’ll be a responsible steward of their data.
The best brands are not their own storytellers. Instead, they rely on happy customers to spread the word via word of mouth, reviews, and referrals. You can’t control this communication flow – you can just build a great experience others want to share.
Embrace these five components of truth to drive your marketing around, and you begin to win the game. Indeed, cheap mass media pushes don’t get you there. A truly customer-driven strategy, putting experience and engagement at the forefront of your efforts, might.
3 Steps to Driving Customer Engagement
When a customer is king and holds the key to your online reputation, how can you loop in your own efforts? Differentiation is key – and much of that differentiation occurs through a conscious effort to embrace customer engagement strategies. In fact, three steps can help you get there.
Start by unlocking the potential audiences you want (and need) to target in your marketing and sales efforts. Here, you can focus on two areas:
- Your company network
- Hidden business contacts and relationships
Each of these deserves further exploration. Your company network is a great start to build sales prospects from a database of contacts already familiar with your company in some aspects. It allows you to make a personal connection more easily than talking to a stranger ever could.
Hidden business contacts and relationships of current and prospective customers are more valuable to you than you might think. They range from existing brand loyalists to potential prospects who have engaged with but never purchased from you.
Define and find each of these audiences with Ebsta Team to begin the engagement process.
With the right audience in place, sales activity begins. However, it’s absolutely vital to avoid mass communications with little personalization. The above factors of modern customer experience should guide you in the opposite direction.
Personalized workflows are your first step in achieving that goal. Thus, each message you send and call you to make should be in some way connected to a prospect’s personal interests, needs, and pain points. Ebsta’s Inbox product enables personal outreach at scale.
Through personalization and targeted messaging, you can effectively nurture long-term relationships that lead to long customer-brand engagement cycles. A variety of sales enablement features, from data management to automated personalization tools, can help you accomplish that goal.
Finally, modern customer engagement has to be a continuous iteration. Set-and-forget approaches have seized to be effective. The need to constantly adapt applies not just to your larger business operation in a customer-led economy, but each of the tasks you set in place to drive engagement.
That’s where the optimization enters the equation. Continually analyze the performance of your workflows. Don’t be afraid to engage in A/B testing, which helps you improve both messaging and personalization over time. Team activity reporting allows you to take a more comprehensive look at your sales performance to find and improve potential weak spots.
How Can You Scale Your Customer Engagement Efforts?
Through the above four steps, you can build a customer engagement strategy designed to draw your target audience to you. It creates an intangible competitive advantage that is only becoming more important with the empowerment of the modern consumer through technology and choice.
At the same time, it can seem difficult to scale. What works for a handful of prospects might not be nearly as effective once you build it out to quadruple digits. Scaling your customer engagement, especially as your company grows and you seek to retain your most lucrative audiences, becomes absolutely essential.
The key is to start with a strategy for a customer-led economy. Build your 4-step engagement process, then apply the same general principles on the entire customer lifecycle. In this stage, and for any attempt to scale your efforts, technology becomes invaluable.
Leveraging Technology to Scale Your Efforts
High-quality data, collected first-hand and analyzed on an ongoing basis, allows you to target the right people and leverage initial interest into a fruitful relationship. Through the right technology, you can link organizational functions of sales, customer success, and marketing to the awareness, engagement, consideration, decision, and advocacy stages of the lifecycle.
You will need consistency. Indeed, a customer at the decision stage will have built a level of expectations for your content that you need to uphold. Handover points from sales to customer success and from customer success to marketing have to be seamless, occurring behind the scenes.
That can only be possible with technology bridging the gaps and filling the seam. In fact, that means fueling a proactive approach that drives deep engagement through high-quality communication at every stage. You set the basis for delivering outstanding customer experience, and increase your customer lifetime value over time.
Overcoming the Challenges to Thrive in a Customer-Led Economy
It’s time to go beyond conventions. You cannot achieve exceptional customer experience through separated marketing and sales efforts, or a focus on quantity over quality. In today’s customer-led economy, a more nimble activity-based, integrated, consumer-focused effort has to take its place.
That means a new definition of customer relationship management. Certainly, we think of it as a system simply designed to track some data about our leads. As its name suggests, the full potential goes far beyond. A true focus on the customer, coupled on an organizational emphasis to build a long-term relationship, requires an ecosystem of strategy, objectives, and technology that can keep your company successful even in the increasing uncertainty of today’s economy.
If we bring the need for businesses to differentiate themselves through CX together with the wariness of buyers, we can identify that there is a need to re-establish trust and embrace a new era of customer engagement. We are now in a customer-led economy and need to adapt our businesses accordingly.
Quite simply, the businesses best equipped to succeed and thrive in the future are those that engage more deeply and provide outstanding customer experiences to really distinguish themselves from their competitors.