We all know the drill. To be competitive these days, brands need to engage with customers regularly. Technology and social platforms have made it easy to do so, and there seems to be no shortage of opportunities for engagement.
The problem is that too many brands are getting it wrong.
To tackle the goal of engagement, many entrepreneurs end up pursing digital strategies that engage by leading conversations, creating tones and setting customer expectations. Instead, digital engagement strategies these days should be doing the opposite, providing the opportunity for customers to lead the way.
Robert Hegeman, digital creative director at Siegel+Gale, an international branding agency that caters branding and marketing consulting services to global companies with a “simplicity” approach, emphasizes that engagement goes beyond simply responding to and talking with consumers.
Today, brands need to be hyper-focused on delivering experiences rather than delivering messages.
To demonstrate this, Hegeman points to Airbnb and HomeAway, two companies that provide a platform that matches travelers with private rental accommodations. HomeAway was 3 years old when Airbnb launched in 2008.
To fend off the new entrant, HomeAway developed and spent millions of dollars on a digital branding strategy that described why it was different from Airbnb. Airbnb, on the other hand, focused its efforts on creating unique and compelling experiences for its consumers, comparing itself to no one.
Today, HomeAway has a market cap of roughly $3 billion, while Airbnb’s valuation has soared to $20 billion.
The takeaway lesson, according to Hegeman, is that telling people what you do and do not do is no longer the most effective use of your consumers’ attention. Brands need to perform and prove their worth through actions and delivering extraordinary experiences.
This strategy requires excruciating focus and a good deal of resources to get it right. If you want to get off on the right foot, however, consider these simple things you can do to improve your digital strategy right now.
1. Focus on mobile first.
This shouldn’t be a secret these days, but many entrepreneurs are still focused on creating robust websites that fail to deliver a good experience via mobile. With the majority of digital eyeballs coming through mobile devices, you will hurt your brand if you are not delivering a mobile-friendly experience.
It is also worthy to point out that Google released its new search algorithm on April 22, which ranks mobile-friendly websites higher in searches. To test the mobile-readiness of your site, check out Google’s mobile-friendly test.
2. Stop annoying your customers.
We are inundated with content, and our attention spans have become increasingly shorter and more fickle. If you want to attract and keep customers, keep your engagement simple and make certain that it adds value. Better yet, monitor what your customers are doing and talking about and be there to engage with them when they are ready.
3. Make engagement painfully easy and obvious.
Whether you are providing information, promoting a product or asking for a sign up, your visitor should immediately see and understand what is expected of them. Hopefully, if you have done your research, your page will know what they expect and provide the experience they were hoping to receive.
Also, any call to action should be incredibly easy to find and complete. Again, whether you are asking for a sign up or selling a product, the experience should be effortless. For starters, consider using social media plug-ins that allows visitors to login via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or other social media account rather than creating an entirely new account.
4. Stick to a website experience.
Many entrepreneurs feel that adding a mobile app to their digital strategy is important, but the truth is that responsive design websites have blurred the line between what can be done through a mobile browser and an app. More important, we have become overwhelmed with apps and do not need yet another one polluting our homescreen.
Additionally, brands should look to leverage existing technologies and platforms, such as Instagram and Twitter, where your customers are already engaging regularly. WIth that said, make it incredibly effortless to find you on social media by adding badges and links that are easy to find on your site.
Of course, an effective digital strategy requires time and effort, and entrepreneurs should clearly define their goals prior to launching one. Going at it alone is difficult, especially if you are inexperienced or unsure about what to do.
“Companies without a marketing budget or looking for something simple just to be in the game could consider website builder or do-it-yourself tools such as SquareSpace, Weebly or Wix. These are good starting points,” says Sagar Babber, founder and CEO of Snyxius, a web and mobile app development company.
“In the end, however, as companies grow and become more serious about digital marketing and more focused on brand building, lead generation and customer engagement,” he says, "partnering with designers and developers with the specific expertise to look beyond simple websites and create long-term and over-arching strategies focused on creating extraordinary experiences will prove to be worth the investment.“