Last time, we explored audiences who are confused or frustrated by their previous brand experiences. Now that we’ve reached the top end of the audience engagement framework, it’s critical to understand what it takes to entice audiences that are familiar with the brand but aren’t actively engaged. This time, it’s all about connecting with people and keeping them interested in the brand.

Audience Engagement and Retention

Structure-dependent engagement and self-regulated interest are stages most closely tied to the ‘engage’ element of the inbound methodology, so brands should be focused on connection and building relationships by engaging with audiences on their terms and their preferred channels. Let’s explore these two levels in finer detail.

Audiences at structure-dependent engagement are following instructed actions from a brand without engaging organically. Structure-dependent action examples could be, ‘Tag someone who’d be interest in this post for a chance to win’ or ‘Share your email for a free download link’. These are structured and instructional experiences that ask customer to provide something without sacrificing their own brand – i.e. low effort and low risk.

At this stage, businesses should be measuring shares and comments on social-media posts and blog – asking whether audiences are being instructed or is audience engagement occurring organically. Examples include sweepstake campaigns via social media, such as ‘tag a friend or hit follow for a chance to win’.

Businesses should also attach blogs to free downloadable resources, such as PDFs or templates, and then use social media to promote the blog and use the resource to get customer buy-in, like their email address or subscription.

Brands should also be measuring email engagement by splitting email-marketing audiences in groups based on interactions/experiences and then provide messaging that suits each group. For example, have different email content and strategy for first touchpoint, engaged leads, first-time customers, and repeat customers.

Business can also gather information from customers to tailor communications according to customer preferences. For example, getting audiences to choose the topics they’re interested in when they subscribe to blog content.

Self-regulated interest is when audience engagement with a brand is based purely on self interest. This often happens when brands partner with other brands or influencers, or do a giveaway to create awareness, which draws in audiences motivated by the partners or by self-interest (a saving, a promotion, etc). Audience engagement here is often incentivised for the wrong reasons.

To increase audience engagement, businesses should create an integrated experience where branding is front and centre. Brands must effectively connect brand identity and values with their influencers, prizes, and partners. They should also clarify why they’ve partnered with their selected partners and offer audiences the chance to connect further with the brand’s experience, since people may be emotionally connected to a campaign, but aren’t necessarily connected to the brand

At this point, businesses should measure the retention of sign-ups, subscribers, followers, and buyers 30 days after event. Measuring success of integrated products built with partners also helps understand whether partnerships and collaborations make sense for brands.

Audience Engagement Apex

Critical engagement and literate thinking are linked to the ‘delight’ stage of inbound marketing, which means brand should be linking their success with customers’ success. This is about transforming passive audiences into loyal and active advocates.

Critical engagement means audiences are engaged with brand on an emotional level, believing the brand understands and cares about its audience’s goals. At this stage of audience engagement, businesses should focus on its goals and the goals of its customers. Brands prioritise things more meaningful than products or sales, such as goals, improvement, transformation, brand loyalty.

Bridging the gap to brand loyalty means sharing the company’s story and inspiring others to do the same. This helps build further emotional connection with audiences and demonstrate a concern for them as individuals.

The key to audience engagement here is listening, which requires the right tools, patience, and team. Brands should ask audiences who they are through social campaigns and user-generated content that encourage users to share. The more businesses ask people to share, the more they’re keeping audiences at the highest level of engagement because it requires them to look inside themselves, identify their story, and connect with the brand.

Businesses should measure online reviews and testimonials. A good place to start is general sites like Yelp, Facebook, Google, Amazon; and industry-specific sites like TripAdvisor (food/accommodation), WebMD (medical), and OpenAgent (real estate).

Brands can also proactively ask happy customers for reviews. According to Hubspot, the most effective channels for review collection are email, events, and triggering reviews based on product usage. Hubspot also noted that rewarding reviewers helps brands gather more feedback as the chance of a small reward boosted Hubspot’s review numbers by 733%.

It helps brands to display their company values on their website and use those values to dictate how the business works with partners, clients, and customers. Inspiring them to set their own values can help create alignment and ensure loyalty.

And finally, there’s literate thinking, where audience engagement occurs on an emotional level and audiences feel the brand identifies with their personal values, beliefs, and stories. They feel the brand creates a brand experience that inspires and empowers them as individuals.

The highest level of audience engagement is when someone is inspired to learn on their own. Brands do this to audiences by creating messaging that allows people to pull from their own values/beliefs and align with the brand. Businesses should connect with people in a way that entices them to willingly act as brand ambassadors (through word-of-mouth marketing) and give back to the brand (i.e. reciprocate brand loyalty).

Like the previous stage, the trick is to create a strategy that asks the community to share their stories. Examples include, paid ads targeting the right people, influencers sharing their stories, and sweepstakes with partners that stand for similar brand values.

Some key metrics to measure are net promoter score (NPS), customer retention, customer loyalty program performance, and user-generated content.

When looking at NPS, businesses should ask, ‘on a 1-10 scale, how likely are you to recommend us to others? Then categorise the scores accordingly.
– 0-6 are detractors (unhappy with potential to leave the brand or even share damaging experiences with other customers).
– 7-8 are passives (indifferent with potential to become promoter or switch to competitor).
– 9-10 are promoters (enthusiastic, loyal, brand advocates).

The percentage of promoters minus the percentage of detractors is a brand’s NPS. Please note that anything above 0 is good while 50-plus is excellent, and 70-plus is phenomenal.

The formula for customer retention rate is ((# of customers at end of period – # of customers acquired during period) / (# of customers at start of period)) x 100. According to Hubspot, just a 5% increase in customer retention can increase company revenue by 25-95%, since retaining customers is much easier and cheaper than acquiring new ones – plus return customer generally spend more, shop more often, and are more likely to refer others.

While businesses may be tempted to create customer loyalty programs for retention, Hubspot notes that 25% of consumers abandon loyalty programs without redeeming any points and 54% of loyalty memberships are inactive.

The key is to build loyalty based on what the brand values and represents rather than just what it produces. Audience engagement is about connecting with customers so closely that it no longer is about offering benefits; it’s about representing a part of their identity that they are invested in emotionally.

To boost your audience engagement, we have a host of resources such as design assets, PowerPoint templates, and e-books available free to download. Check them out and start engaging audiences across different platforms and channels.

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