How to Build Lasting Customer Relationships

This article was originally published on iMedia Connection.

If you were to think of your connection with customers like a marriage or committed relationship, you wouldn’t dream of focusing solely on clicks. In a committed relationship, you take the time to get to know your partner on a personal level. Chances are, you go through many steps to determine whether you want to continue dating, become exclusive, or make a long-term commitment. It takes more than just chemistry to get to that bonding stage.

The steps taken to develop a healthy, long-term relationship are strikingly similar to the process people navigate in their consumer journeys. Yet, many marketers are stuck at the chemistry stage by focusing solely on clicks—the equivalent of trying to get a date with a passerby on a crowded street.

Optimize for true engagement
While driving clicks has a valued place in an overall marketing campaign, it is not—and should not be—the ultimate end game. Keywords, landing-page testing, and specific search criteria are amazing tools to help identify audiences, but they do little to truly connect with a consumer. That’s because optimizing for clicks doesn’t always mean you’re optimizing for true engagement, let alone repeat engagement. In addition, unless the buyer’s decision time is extremely short, there’s little guarantee that clicks will correlate with long-term business results. And because clicks don’t cultivate more than a surface-level understanding of the consumer, it’s difficult to gain meaningful insights about the audience and their interests.

Make it a data-driven conversation
For deeper engagement, content needs to build strong relationships with consumers. Consumers show what they care about in their interactions with content—developing a comprehensive view of their history and interests (relative to your brand) is critical for delivering a unique, personal experience for them. In part, this means being a good listener. Think of content as one part of a dialog, rather than something only watched or read. For brands, it can be the basis for a data-driven conversation that not only helps consumers learn more about your category or what your brand stands for, but also helps you discover what makes them tick through their behavior and interests. This will ultimately help you serve them better.

It’s not just what you’re delivering, it’s where and when
How do you improve content to keep consumers engaged at every stage of their buying journey (social media, mobile, display advertising, emails, etc.)? No matter the stage, a good starting point is to pull back the focus on your brand and put your customers in the spotlight. Speak directly to what’s relevant to them. Making it personal is one of the keys success for brand marketers. However, since there is a large amount of content developed by brands on a daily basis, brands need to find the most appropriate time and place to deliver worthwhile offerings. If you adequately analyze their tastes and preferences, and adjust your content accordingly, your brand’s standing will improve because you’re increasing your share of relevance.

Focus on current customer interests, but introduce them to more
Unfortunately, trust alone will not keep them engaged throughout the buying process. Your brand needs to remain exciting to customers. With content, repetition breeds boredom. Make sure your content is feeding their interests, but also taking a fresh approach. Successful content marketers leverage hot topics from other sources to keep customers engaged. Incorporating ideas from trending news topics or entertainment themes is one good way to be culturally relevant and timely.

Align content marketing with business goals
If you are struggling with improving content, you might find the goals of your content marketing efforts simply aren’t clear enough. It’s important to make sure your content marketing goals align not just with surface level click and page view metrics, but with actual measures of business and brand results be they driving intent, repeat engagement, or purchase. At every stage of the digital journey, consumer interest must be identified, recorded, and leveraged in the next interaction.

Rather than put all the emphasis on cheap and anonymous clicks, make engagement long lasting. Like developing any long-term relationship, it takes time and attention to build connections and rapport. Relationship-based content marketing can help bring consumers closer to your brand and ultimately drive better business outcomes.


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