Are you getting Engaged?
Are you interested in a long term relationship? Have you made a commitment to give first and receive later? Are you showing some love?
Before you click away because I am getting a little personal please allow me to clarify. I am referring to your relationship with your customers or donors. Engagement is the new way of doing business and it is important that we know what this means in order to do it well. It used to be the case that we would beat the heck out of a person with sales tactic after sales tactic until they relinquished their money. And soliciting donations was not very different. Charities shared sad story after sad story to get people to donate. These approaches worked for a long time. But both the hard sell and the sadfest are now over. These days people want to be drawn into a business or cause. They want to be engaged with positivity and impact.
But how do we move from where we were to where we need to be to bring in new customers and maintain their loyalty? I think we need to relax a little bit. Be ourselves. Show our authenticity and caring about ourselves, our consumers and the world. People want to do business or donate to organizations they trust. And they cannot trust us if they don’t even know us. And they certainly cannot trust us if they think we are going to constantly ask them for something. We need to tell them more about ourselves. What do we believe in? What do we have to offer? How are we changing lives? As businesses and charities, we need to share more. We can do that virtually through a great website. We can do that through our marketing. We can also do that by equipping our staff, donors and partners with great stories to share within their networks.
And, like in any good partnership here’s what else we have to do – get to know them.
The world is not as simple as it used to be in selling terms. It is much harder to stereotype consumers by age, role, class or even socio economic status these days. For example, we used to think that only the very rich would donate but people of all salary levels are now donating monthly and helping charities significantly with consistent cash flow. The increased availability of credit means that anyone can pretty much purchase anything at anytime in their life cycle. They don’t have to wait and save up. We must be careful about making assumptions about people. For when we do, we will miss the mark entirely in our marketing efforts.
But how can we get to know our consumers? This is a big question right now and a lot of businesses are struggling with it. But really it can be very simple. Talk to them. Ask them what they want. Create ways of having conversation that enable you to get to know them a bit better. Staff on your front line can ask friendly questions. The leadership of your business can create a blog that invites others to contribute to discussions about the company and whatever industry it is serving. People love mingling with the CEO! And, having conversations with potential customers is a smart way for leaders to find out what the gaps are in their sector in addition to what people think of their company.
Social media is also a key area for getting to know our consumers but too many of us are still using a ‘push’ mentality with regards to getting our information out there. Social media is about pull. It’s about drawing people in to have conversations and sharing commonalities. It’s about being part of a community of people who are interested in similar things and want to share. Think about social media as your ongoing night out in a lovely restaurant with friends. You would not think of dropping your business card on the table every 5 minutes in the midst of great conversation would you? We don’t want to be ‘that guy’. Instead, we pay attention to the flow. We contribute when we have something to say. We listen when others are speaking. And when we want to engage others in a subject we think will interest them, we tell a good story.
Engagement is a wonderful thing. But, just like any other long term relationship, effort and a meeting of minds and hearts is required. Most of us would not get engaged to another person after just one date. We want to spend some time getting to know each other and making sure we really click before we commit. It’s an exciting time for business and charities. And’ it’s a time of nervous anticipation as we try to figure out how to ‘pop the question’ without pushing too hard. Sometimes we will get it wrong and that’s okay. We can try again tomorrow. And keep trying. Until they say ‘YES’!