8 Pieces of Customer Engagement Advice from SMBs
At our annual customer conference, FORGE, we sat down with various startups to learn about their customer engagement strategies. While each company had a unique business model and approach, clear themes emerged around the need for real-time customer and campaign insights, as well as creating a culture for ongoing testing, learning, and optimization. We’ve rounded up the top pieces of advice for other companies looking to grow their business through better customer activation, retention, and monetization.
1) Know your customers’ needs—and how they’re changing.
To deliver a customer-centric experience, you have to keep a pulse on your customers and their changing needs. Whether you’re monitoring overarching trends or asking questions directly, customer understanding is the key to keeping customers engaged.
“The data matters,” says Naza Shelley, founder and CEO of CarpeDM. “Having insight into who’s using our platform and interested in our service is key. It’s really hard to build without access to that information because you don't know what's impactful or not.”
2) If you don’t know what customers need, ask.
“For us as a smaller startup, it’s really important for us to get answers quickly and start a dialogue with our users,” says Jason Rosoff, director of lifecycle marketing for Pray.com. “Whenever we have a question and aren’t sure if we should be going further in one direction, we can just ask.”
Rosoff says Pray.com marketers see a 20-30% completion rate on such surveys, which give them a pulse of customer feeling in just one to three days. “Whether it’s about pricing, enjoying the app, or trying to launch a new product, you can learn a lot about what your customers think,” Rosoff says. “Start the dialogue with your customers while they’re in the experience.”
3) Personalization remains a priority
For today’s customers, personalization is all about relevancy. It’s about more than simply using the correct first name: It’s the ability to meet customers with messaging that is personalized to the step they’re at in the engagement journey.
“Personalization is certainly a must for us,” says Nash Goudie, digital marketing and communications manager for Everwash, which offers car wash plans. “At the beginning of the life cycle, we’re looking at things like how often they’re washing their cars or using the app. We want to know where they signed up, like through one of our channel partners. We’re looking at all these different things from the jump so that we can base our journey and branch them out.”
Mobile has accelerated the demand for personalization, says Max Pulcini, director of direct-to-consumer marketing and communications for Everwash. “When people feel like you’re talking to them, it makes everything more engaging, makes results more successful, and leads to more conversions on the backend,” Pulcini says.
4) Real-time insights deliver real results.
We often hear the phrase “ruthless prioritization” when startups describe their planning process. Supporting that process is access to real-time insights on campaign performance, as well as the ability to share out those results to demonstrate the value of decisions.
“When we onboarded, we added every conversion action possible,” says Colette Lohr, CRM manager for Underdog Fantasy. “That’s allowed us to look at campaigns, do a 10% holdout audience, and immediately see if it’s performing. For example, we have an in-app message running today, and five minutes after it launched, I could see that it was driving a lift and knew we wanted to keep it running.”
5) Always be learning.
The best way to continuously attract your customers' time and attention is also the best way to stay at the top of your game as a marketer—that is, by investing time to learn how to deliver innovative, creative ideas.
“Rule number one is always be curious and always be willing to learn,” says Theresa Garcia, marketing and growth analyst for UDisc. Resources from Braze are a great place to start, Garcia says: “There’s so much within Braze and marketing as a whole that when you start looking at the bigger picture you’ll see so many avenues you can go down.”
6) Celebrate your wins—and show how they map to the broader picture.
“I started to share monthly internal newsletters through Braze that go to half of our company,” explains Natalie Burris, marketing and editorial specialist for TV Time. “I highlight how my monthly goals align with our company objectives, and point out successful campaigns that I’d launched that month.”
Burris also ties in a glossary of Braze terms (like “What is a Canvas?”) to the campaign names so that colleagues who don’t work in marketing understand how campaigns are performing and why.
7) Join a marketing community.
Braze Bonfire welcomes members from all over the world, who share their successes and ask questions when they’re stumped.
“The Bonfire community is what allowed me to pick up Braze so fast,” says Sean Collins, director of lifecycle marketing for Bilt Rewards. “Places like Email Geeks and Bonfire are where people actually want to help and just talk—that’s what makes them unique.”
8) Map out a realistic user journey.
It’s good to brainstorm a long list of conversion opportunities. But at some point, you need to turn that list of big ideas into a true path to conversion.
“Having a user journey that was very clear to us supercharged my sense of priorities,” says Allison Bryant, senior marketing manager for CRM/lifecycle at Ten Percent Happier. “The first year after we did this process and revamped our program, we saw 30% more revenue from lifecycle programs.”
Whether you’re pre-launch or mid-pivot, focused on defending your base or in hyper-growth mode, investing in your customer relationships is always a good idea. Want to dig deeper? Check out the full FORGE session with Max Pulcini, Director of Direct-to-Consumer Marketing and Communications for Everwash, to hear how they’re building their business for the modern customer.