3 Key Rules of Customer Engagement

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Consequently, marketers are being asked to move beyond traditional campaigns, which involve just print, television, or email, to create emotional appeals to their customers, and engage them in exciting ways.

Warner singled out Cabela’s, a specialty retailer of outdoor goods that has successfully mined data to power in-store kiosks that enable buyers to access the items they’ve browsed online when they’re in the retailer’s brick-and-mortar locations. The company also provides camping and cooking courses to extend value to customers into the ecosystem beyond their traditional offerings—a good idea, Greenberg says.

“Companies, when they’re doing things right, are doing things from the standpoint of their ecosystems,” Greenberg says. These companies will ask: “What goes into the life of a customer that ultimately makes them want to buy your product or your services?”

An interesting example of this kind of creative thinking comes from Columbia, the outdoor sportswear company, which created a mobile app with the sole purpose of helping people figure out how to tie appropriate knots for various uses. Columbia isn’t trying to sell rope or fishing line; it realizes that the demographic that would be using such an app repeatedly to figure out how to get by during a camping or fishing trip is also in the market for outdoor sportswear, and will begin to associate its name with positive problem solving. In the future, it’s likely they’ll react positively to the company.

“By helping somebody with some of the other things in the ecosystem, [companies] make it all the more valuable for [customers] to keep interacting with them,” Greenberg says.

Experts point out that video is another great avenue for engagement, whether it’s in raising brand awareness or assisting someone with figuring out how to solve a commonly encountered problem or use a product that is hard to understand.

Greenberg singles out glass manufacturer Corning’s “Day Made of Glass” video for its ability to show how new designs in digitally connected glass can be used in the near future for everyday activities. No words are spoken in the video, but it depicts a day in the life of a family, from the time all of the family members wake up in the morning, until they go to sleep. “In the course of that, they’re using all these different kinds of glass in the near future to do these cool things, and the only time you ever see anything about the glass is you see the name of the glass, as they use it, when it flashes on the screen,” Greenberg points out. More than 25 million people have seen the video on YouTube. Its strength is in showing the viewer a series of scenarios while telling a familiar story that isn’t quite possible yet but nonetheless easy to imagine. “All the things that you relate to directly, that are your behaviors, are being shown, and at the same time they’re painting a picture, telling you a story.... You feel as if this company understands who you are,” Greenberg says. And that is one of the keys to engagement.


Analysts agree that engagement has proven to be a key to acquiring and retaining customers. Greenberg says that doing it wrong is a significant concern for any company, “because you lose a ton of money, and you lose customers for a long time, minimally several years. They may or may not come back to you.”

As an example, Greenberg points to the Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor. In 2011, the $17 billion company had 203 million subscribers, but was quickly losing customers to competitors that were providing low cost of acquisition programs. The company needed to refocus its engagement efforts, which required some careful consideration.

Through a process it calls uplift modeling, Telenor outlined a target group and a control group. Using customer data, the company was able to predict likely behaviors and divide buyers into four segments: those who would surely stay with the company, those who would definitely leave, those who might be persuaded to stay, and those who might leave but were hard to read. The company looked at data surrounding the volume of outreach, the plan size, the products it had, customers’ propensity to churn, and their propensity to respond positively to an offer.

By eliminating the two groups whose minds couldn’t be changed (totally engaged and totally disengaged), and focusing on engaging the “persuadables”—those who were somewhat engaged—“they ended up with a 5 percent churn reduction on the traditional model, and then [gained] an additional 2 percent roughly by the uplift.” Additionally, Telenor’s cost for the retention programs dropped by 40 percent, Greenberg says. “They ultimately saved millions and millions of dollars.”

If there is one key takeaway from the Telenor example, it’s this: Each customer engagement contributes to prospects’ and customers’ overall impression of a company, and thus influences their likelihood of making a purchase and becoming loyal customers. So, engage wisely.

Associate Editor Oren Smilansky can be reached at osmilansky@infotoday.com.

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