The pursuit of long term customer engagement

Discussions on customer experience and customer engagement are everywhere. Technology vendors as well as service providers and consultants are all jumping on the bandwagon with the promise of targeted and contextual experience for customers.

Consider these targeting scenarios:

  • Following up on website visits with an email with an offer on the products that were browsed
  • Sending mobile coupons on the same products when a customer is close to a retail store
  • Showing in-store displays about the same products
  • Adapting website content (of products and offers) based on what the customer is browsing
  • Tracking the customer behavior and modifying the promotions or content shown

These (with some variations) is what everyone is talking about. And we are mixing in terms such as big data, social media and analytics.

There is no doubt that these are important tactics for driving commerce. When a customer is in, you want to do everything in your power to make them buy, and buy more. And we want to use social and other media to drive customers to a transaction.

long term customer engagement 4370249919_c06a70a15a_oBut presenting personalized and targeted content, offers and promotions is only one step – although a crucial one – in the long term courtship with customers. In other words a customer engagement strategy is supported by a targeted experience, not the other way around.

So what is meant by creating a long term customer engagement?

The answer is simple – its about addressing peoples motivations and dreams to realize the purpose behind your product. And its something that is increasingly being lost in this mad digital scramble. Here are some ways to create long term customer engagement:


  • Creating a community of customers engaged with you on the domain that your products play in, or even better, something that your product has created and not treating as a sales platform. A community or a platform that addresses the needs of customers  is an effective way to generate long term customer engagement. Think about the Harley-Davidson Owners group (read the real social network)
  • Engaging customers in a long term campaign around your product but still focused on the customer passion. For example, a sports apparel company sponsors a marathon or a tournament, or an organic foods company runs a contest to measure your “organic index” over a period of 60 days. The campaigns can be continued in various ways to keep up the engagement.
  • Creating a cause related campaign that your product can support or be linked to. By giving back to the cause – or letting your customers or brand fans give back – you create long term engagement with the values of your brand.
  • Making your brand local – after all people live in physical communities. By helping to make physical connections in this fast paced world, your brand takes a special place in the customers’ minds.

As is obvious, the targeting and personalization that is causing all the buzz in the “decade of the CMO” is just a better tool in your armor to support the true goal – long term customer engagement.

As you embark on this journey, or revisit your current brand / business strategy, the following principles will help:

  • Think of meeting customer needs – passions, dreams, utility – with the product supporting it, not at the center of it
  • Don’t be afraid of creating a conflict – differentiation and alienation is critical to survive in today’s world. Brand loyalists will honor it, others will not mind at all.
  • Help customers make connections with related needs which can lead to creation of successful business partnerships as well. (Read The Principle of Completion here)
  • Drive discussion and participation because a thriving community with both physical and emotional connections will drive brand awareness and commerce.

Creating long term customer engagement is a conscious strategic task, and goes far beyond use of digital technologies to target and promote. Tools help, but don’t get too enamored by them. For example, everyone who is successfully tapping into social media today, is using social media not as a billboard, but as a means to satisfy people’s passions and interests. That’s the difference.


Photo credit: opensourceway / Foter / CC BY-SA


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