Is virtual engagement part of your organization’s success strategy for 2021 and beyond? If not, it’s time to rethink that.
Organizations can’t separate satisfaction, retention, and loyalty from engagement anymore.
Engagement creates stronger bonds between you and your customers or members – it creates what we call Higher Love. Higher Love is an emotional connection forged between your customers or members and your organization. It happens through positive experiences. It’s aspirational, reciprocal, and can be grown over time.
But first, let’s get on the same page about engagement. Engagement is any activity that connects your members or customers to your organization or brand. You can create engagement through many channels and touchpoints. And there are tools and technologies available to maximize impact and create efficiencies of scale.
To engage everyone – all your customers, members, employees, users, partners – one winning strategy is to create a distinct, unique community experience to help them connect, create, and innovate together, while delivering personalized, highly relevant communications through automated email campaigns.
Online communities offer a connected space where your customers or members can engage with your organization and with each other. When they can connect in this way, you reduce friction, add value, and build loyalty. When you send them timely, targeted, relevant emails in a way that speaks to them through automated email campaigns, you’re showing them you understand their needs and want them to be successful.
Read on to understand how these two powerful engagement tools can help you create Higher Love among your customers and members.
How Can I Harness Engagement to Create Higher Love?
There are many ways to drive engagement, but there are three keys elements in the most effective engagement strategies.
Your engagement should be:
We’ll dive into all these elements and how you can achieve them.
To be scalable, engagement has to be more than one-on-one calls with each customer or member. That’s still an important part of your overall engagement strategy if you have the horsepower to get it done, but this can be very hard to scale.
The solution? A many-to-many or one-to-many way to engage with your customers or members and have them engage with each other. Automated email campaigns allow you to connect multiple messages and audiences with targeting and cadences you define, while an online community is the perfect partnership of human interaction and advanced technology.
Communities are your customer-centric space where they can find everything they need to be successful. Peer-to-peer support, discussion around best practices and industry trends, resources and file sharing, Q&A, dedicated community events, and so on. This many-to-many approach takes the burden off your staff to always have the right answers and best practices to share.
Michael Torok, Director of Knowledge & Community Management at Delphix, shares his perspective on branded online communities:
“Communities are a given – and if you don’t have one, there’s probably a problem. You’re not listening. Because that’s what communities are for. At least at the corporate level, for me, it’s listening at scale. We can send out NPS surveys and transactional NPS and real NPS. But I think community shows the customer’s voice a lot more.”
An engagement strategy should combine multiple programs to make it truly robust. Online community engagement and personalized email communications are two critical pillars (and the most impactful because they are the easiest to scale with a small staff). Plus, your online community can be the hub for your other engagement activities.
But don’t take that as limiting the other engagement activities you should do. Multiply results by combining one-on-one strategies with community engagement, such as quarterly check-ins with customer success managers, annual events, or networking sessions/roundtables via Zoom with other community members.
Hear how Patricia White, one of the 2021 Engagement Experts, describes the power of her organization’s one-on-one engagement tactic:
“The concierge program has received high praise from our members. All too often, an email can get passed over, and a broadcast ignored because they seem impersonal. We call every new domestic member and welcome them to the American Society for Nondestructive Testing as part of the concierge program. The program informs our new members how to review their information, tells them of special programs based upon their career path, and introduces them to possible volunteer opportunities. When I talk to our new members on the phone, it allows them the opportunity to ask questions that they may have otherwise left unanswered. Getting to know who our most recent members are and having them say how nice it is to hear from someone leads to more engaged members.”
Of course, start with what you have the capacity for.
Build on an online community engagement foundation and then expand using built-in tools to scale engagement. For example, automation rules are a Higher Logic Community platform feature that give you the ability to send personalized nudges at scale based on user activity.
Your customers or members aren’t all at the same level.
For example, you probably have some new or recent purchasers or subscribers. Then you’ve probably got some people who are growing and getting more familiar with you, a step up from the newcomers. Then you have your supporters, who like you and generally support you. Then you’ve got that top level – probably one of the smallest categories – your raving fans who love you.
The loyalty staircase below illustrates the ideal journey. As your customers or members realize value through increased engagement, this creates Higher Love. So the key is to create an experience for each segment that will take them to the next stage. Learn how to do that in the next section.
3 Simple Steps to Creating Engagement that Leads to Higher Love
Every segment of your member or customer base needs an experience that will take them to the next level. Of course, the journey won’t be the same for everyone. Some will skip steps, some will get stuck, but with the right nudges you can accelerate their engagement from “new” to “love.”
We’ve developed our engagement philosophy from 13+ years in the industry, and these best practices are reflected in our Engagement Platform. Our online community and email campaign software are built with all these steps in mind to help you make those nudges – in a way that scales. See how we help our customers engage their customers or members with the three steps below.
1. Build your destination
The first step toward a personalized journey that creates Higher Love is to build a digital destination for your customers or members. Get everyone into one place. When they gather in your online community, you have the structure you need to start leading them up that engagement ladder.
Your online community becomes their best resource. They can connect with peers to problem-solve, learn, and share resources – not only with other customers or members but also with your employees.
You unlock the knowledge of the group, getting firsthand insights from the community about their needs and feedback – data that can be applied across your organization.
Be sure to choose an online community platform that’s built for engagement, and build a strategy that invites and rewards customers or members to come, participate, and return to the community regularly.
Why? Well, the more they’re doing in the community, the greater the value they’ll receive. And the greater the value your organization will get in return – we call this Return on Engagement.
For example, let’s say you hosted an Ask the Expert session in your online community. This tactic can help you achieve multiple community engagement goals: Getting unengaged users to log in for the first time (and even post), sharing knowledge about an industry topic that users can reference in the community moving forward, and even increasing the number of posts for that month. With smart, customer-centric community content strategies, you can make your community a destination that customers or members want to come and return to.
2. Keep them coming back
Behind a great engagement strategy is a great content strategy. And this means more than just the content items themselves – it involves segmenting and personalizing who gets what.
When it comes to engaging users in your online community, this is a fluid process. They might come for one reason, but then stay for another. Your online community is all about peers, expertise sharing, learning – and identifying how you can make your content more appealing to your users. So your online community content should focus on the users’ interests and try to get them to participate again in another area. This is also where community personalization comes in handy (see the next section).
For example, you can see top searched terms in a Higher Logic Community. Take that data and apply it to your content strategy. If users were looking for information about something like GDPR, set up an Ask the Expert session with a GDPR expert for the community. Encourage more participation by using smart community content strategies.
When you connect with your customers or members via email, it’s about sending more relevant and personalized content that keeps them engaged and gets them more interested in your communications. This happens via hyper-targeting and segmentation, which is possible when your email campaign platform is fueled by data from your online community platform and member or customer database.
3. Take them on a personalized journey
Step three is to encourage your customers or members to get more and more involved – both in the community and with your organization as a whole. When they enter the community for the first time, use segmenting to show them exactly the right content for their product, level, etc. For example, you might want a new user to see a “getting started” menu, while a long-time member might benefit from seeing a suggested article based on their previous activity.
Higher Logic uses a special segmentation tool called security groups to take information from your customer or member database and translate it into the community member’s view. For example, if they purchased a paper shredder, they’d only see the paper shredder community (unless you wanted them to see more). If they’re a top-tier member, they’ll have access to your top-tier member resources in the community.
Use automation rules, nudges triggered by user activity, to invite each segment to take another action or get more involved. If you want to go even bigger, or if you don’t have an online community, use automated email campaigns to send a series of emails leading your subscribers to connect more, read more content, get more involved or step onto the next rung of the engagement ladder.
See how this might look in practice at each stage:
Use Higher Logic’s security groups to display only the relevant product/membership level communities and information to your user. Set up an automation rule that encourages new users to complete their community profile with a picture and bio. In addition, you could enroll them in an automated drip welcome campaign where you showcase benefits and resources and ways to get more involved in your organization as a whole.
Find your users who have logged in but never posted with an automation rule and invite them to make their first post or invite them to contribute a question for your Ask the Expert event. Share tips, examples, and resources that will help customers or members make the most of your community, products, and services.
Identify your top posters in the community with automation rules and invite them to speak on a community webinar. Reward them with a special badge on their profile. Interweave top-poster session content into any event registration email campaigns you run.
Spotlight your raving fan with a community member spotlight. Invite them to be part of your community ambassadors program or a community council to continue involving them and inviting feedback.
Inspire Higher Love with Many-to-Many, Hybrid, and Personalized Engagement
So what’s the takeaway? Online communities, coupled with personalized and automated email campaigns, increase engagement through the power of many-to-many, hybrid, and personalized engagement strategies. When you support this work with outbound engagement programs like direct mailing rewards to surprise and delight your customers or one-on-one calls with a member hitting their two-year anniversary, you’re even closer to taking them from average user to super fan.
These tools help you keep users coming back and continuing to engage, nurturing customer or member relationships, adding value, and achieving Higher Love.
Don’t miss the Higher Love Spotify playlist!
Director of Brand & Customer Marketing
Christina is the Director of Brand & Customer Marketing at Higher Logic. She helps organizations grow audiences, deepen customer relationships and drive revenue through strategic, multi-channel marketing and game-changing business development. With over 25 years of experience at world-class US and UK commercial and nonprofit companies within the technology, entertainment, and live events sectors, she’s experienced in leading cross-functional teams, partnerships and projects to create measurable growth. Christina hails from New York City, although she’s called Louisville, DC, and London her home at one point or another.
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