Like new year’s resolutions, your sales goals should be timely, measurable and achievable. Having a strong digital customer engagement strategy will help you accomplish your goals for 2022 and beyond.
Customer engagement is probably a new year’s resolution for many CMOs. According to Forrester, 56% of marketing leaders say that improving customer experience is a top priority for supporting their company’s business strategy during the next two years.
What customer engagement looks like in 2022
Customer engagement refers to the interaction and relationship between your external customers and your organization. Strategizing this relationship for B2B will continue to evolve in 2022.
2021 was a year of trial and error. Sales teams learned how to adapt to remote selling during a global pandemic while dealing with the subsequent impacts such as financial and staffing issues.
2022 will see organizations building on 2021’s learnings to overcome sales challenges. The pivot to remote working means digital selling is here to stay, and by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will likely occur in digital channels.
This year will bring a focus on human-centric communications within remote customer engagement. Customer preferences have changed; they are craving peer-to-peer connection more than ever within digital and hybrid environments.
According to Deloitte’s “2022 Global Marketing Trends” report, three-quarters of the global executives surveyed say they will invest more in creating hybrid experiences for customers over the next 12 months.
The shift from physical to digital channels means that organizations need to reevaluate their strategies to engage customers in 2022. According to Deloitte, the executives surveyed are using hybrid experiences to increase the personalization of products and services (43%), make offerings more innovative (43%), help people feel more connected (40%), and offer more inclusive experiences (38%).
What to include in your customer engagement strategy
A customer-centric approach to engaging B2B buyers is key to a successful strategy this year. When drafting a winning 2022 customer engagement strategy, these are the factors you should consider.
1. Ensure all communications are hyper-personalized
According to Salesforce, 66% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, yet only 34% of companies treat customers as unique individuals. B2B buyers not only want sellers to sell to them but also educate them with news and information, help resolve their problems, and deliver relevant, tailored recommendations specific to them.
Hyper-personalization will be your competitive differentiator this year. It is a step beyond the personalization techniques you’re already using and will form deeper one-on-one engagements with customers and prospects.
Hyper-personalization uses artificial intelligence (AI), automation and real-time customer data to share relevant, highly contextualized content (product and service messaging) via targeted messages sent at just the right time.
A survey shows that brands risk losing up to 38% of customers if they don’t offer personalized marketing.
So how could this look? Brands can personalize their websites to specific customers by showing different products or services based on what the customer has previously browsed. As another example, emails can contain links specifically targeted to individual recipients instead of sending out generic content, which may not interest everyone in their database.
Why is this important? According to Deloitte, well-executed hyper-personalization can deliver 8x the return on investment on marketing spend and lift sales by 10% or more.
2. Create channel-specific content, especially video
A crucial part of creating a personalized customer journey is providing relevant content along the way. For B2B organizations, 55% of their buyers indicate they want a strong story that resonates with them, and 32% want content that’s tailored to their needs.
Video will continue to be a popular content channel among buyers because it is more engaging than any other channel. According to the State of Video Marketing report of global marketing professionals, when asked how they would prefer to learn about a product or service, 69% of audiences said they would prefer to watch a short video. Of the remaining audiences, 18% said they would rather read a text-based article, website or post; 4% said they would like to view an infographic; 3% would rather download an ebook or manual; 3% would rather attend a webinar or pitch, and 2% would prefer a sales call or demo.
84% of respondents said they had been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a brand’s video. Gartner research supports this, finding that B2B buyers watch online videos to make important purchase decisions and that B2B sellers should be using videos across their marketing channels and sales funnel. Videos could be embedded into sales outreach, such as landing pages, websites, social media, emails and customer onboarding.
3. Develop a branded online customer community
Engaging with customers in a fully remote world is getting harder by the day. Online communities have seen a resurgence, as in-person conferences and peer-to-peer networking opportunities have decreased. Give your customers the human connections they want by creating your own online community for them.
Customer-centric companies with branded online communities are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus on customers. 66% of branded online communities believe that the community has a significant impact on their ability to retain customers.
An online community brings like-minded customers together in a shared space to discuss topics of interest with them. Your sales team can jump into the discussion to answer questions, initiate conversations, and help to resolve issues. You can create specific sections within the community to focus on the various areas of your business.
Your online community should align directly with the products or services your company offers to your customers.
You can create a customer-exclusive online community with a private Facebook or LinkedIn group, on a messaging app like Slack, or build one from scratch on your web platform. Send your customers tailored invitations asking them to join the group as well as ongoing reminders to participate.
4. Move conversational selling with AI to the forefront
Engaging B2B customers now occurs in more casual communication channels such as texts, chatbots, WhatsApp and social media. Buyers who want the efficiency and immediacy of these channels to get instant answers to their questions or concerns love this conversational selling.
The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of conversational marketing and moved it from a quick fix for a temporary problem to a long-term solution. In a survey of B2B professionals, more than half of respondents (58%) adopted a conversational marketing solution in response to COVID-19, with 62% finding it highly valuable.
There have been numerous technological improvements in capabilities for voice AI and chatbots, meaning your customers can have more accessible communications with your team. AI-powered conversational marketing solutions will continue to transform digital selling in 2022. 82% of companies that currently utilize AI-enabled technology believe the solution is a very valuable asset in their current sales and marketing strategy.
Studies have shown that the failure rate for new year’s resolutions is approximately 80%. These failures often arise from having unclear goals or lacking the motivation to complete them.
The key to your 2022 customer engagement strategy’s success is building flexibility and adaptability into your resolution. Ensure all your customer communications are hyper-personalized, add more video to your content, consider developing an online customer community for your business, and try to move conversational selling to the forefront. Look at your customer feedback, measurements, and analytics and evolve your plan as needed. Keep your customers at the center, and they’ll continue to be your customers all year long and for years to come.
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