Boss Lady

Customer engagement strategies proven to drive results


As businesses, we’re encouraged to engage our customers. We have hundreds of platforms — from email managers to CRM software to social media — and analytical programs to measure our success, yet achieving customer engagement seems more complex than ever. We are often missing the answer to the crucial question of how to use these strategies to the best results.

Effective customer engagement attracts new customers to connect with you, builds your relationship with existing customers, and encourages people to tell others about you. It’s not about closing the sale but about achieving the crucial first or second steps.

Below are five proven strategies for customer engagement, but it’s not what was done that made these campaigns work, so much as how they were done. Those tips, gleaned from successful campaigns can help you achieve your goals.


Millionaire solopreneur Jeff Walker started his first business giving away stock advice via email newsletter. This was before the World Wide Web and its plethora of news, and people loved it — so much so, they gladly bought a subscription to his more detailed newsletter. Now, Walker has codified his process as the Product Launch Formula, which he says has helped launch 500 million dollars in products and businesses. How does he get new students? By offering a free four-part class on his method.

We all love free things, and most of us are also willing to give a little in return – a few moments of our time and an email address. Freebies, therefore, let you get your foot in the door without shoving your way in. They don’t have to cost you a lot, either. A downloadable tips sheet on something your target buyers are interested in will get you more mileage than a case of beer cozies bearing your logo.

Free trials are even better. If the trial runs out and you’ve done a reasonable job of meeting expectations (or better yet, wowed them), users will most likely pay to continue using it or for an upgraded version.

Tips to maximize engagement

  1. Offer something valuable to your target audience.
  2. Offer something high-quality. Like a movie trailer that includes some of the best lines, your freebie should impress your prospect. Just don’t give away all the good stuff. Think about how disappointing it is to see a film and realize two hours later, the two-minute trailer was better.
  3. Offer something people will tell their friends about. And make it easy to share. That terrific project management checklist you’ve shared with your previous and current clients will get more mileage if it’s in a downloadable format they can pass on to friends in the field – just add contact information or a link and a call to action.


No, not of you – put that phone down! – but of your customers enjoying your product. Selfie campaigns aren’t just for concerts or events. Done right, they engage your target audience in a relationship with your product – and share that relationship with their online friends.

This type of campaign isn’t about generating sales. In fact, a SurveyMonkey study showed only about 11% of people purchase a product because a company used a selfie campaign. (Another 15% “weren’t sure.” They may lack selfie-awareness.) Nonetheless, nearly 54% of those same survey takers thought selfie campaigns were effective to some degree. lists 14 of the most successful selfie campaigns of 2014. If you’re thinking about doing a selfie campaign, these are worth studying, particularly for approach. You’ll find that the best campaigns were about more than posting a photo.

Tips to maximize engagement

  1. Use actual selfies. Taking a photo of your business and calling it a selfie is just lame. You need actual people – whether your celeb spokesperson or a customer – taking photos of themselves. However, Photoshopped selfies, such as of your mascot, can work, if they are creative and done in good fun.
  2. Give it meaning. The SurveyMonkey study showed 80% of people take selfies for fun or to share a special moment. Another 6% take selfies to show off an outfit. (3.85% do it to be sexy, but if you go that route, keep it clean.) That’s why Pizza Hut’s campaign where people took selfies posing with a cardboard cutout of country singer Blake Shelton worked so well, while the Wheat Thins “selfie” contest where you took a photo in front of a large Wheat Thins box flopped.
  3. Creatively involve your product. Your product needs to be engaged in the action: people having fun at your location, using your product, or proudly showing the results of your product.


One of the best parts of the Superbowl is the ads, and in 2006, Doritos leveraged that for customer engagement by holding a contest for the best consumer-created Doritos ad to be shown during the Superbowl. The campaign was a huge success, with even losing entries going viral, that they continued the contest until last year. Now, they invite people to make ads and show them online anytime.

Contests generate publicity, increase your following on social media, and can benefit you in ways other than marketing. Marc by Marc Jacobs runs contests to find its models, for example.

Tips to maximize engagement

  1. Have a purpose. Contests can do more than generate publicity. Doritos gets free (and fun) commercials. Marc Jacobs discovers new modeling talent.
  2. Encourage people to share about the contest. Many successful contests include extra benefits for those who post about the contest on their own social media. This ensures that the word gets spread to others who may not see your ads and posts.
  3. Make use of non-winning entries. While not everyone can win, you can still post the also-rans on your social media. Include a compliment or fun remark and tag the participant. Those who entered get a kick out of seeing their entry and will probably repost, adding just a little more to your reach.

Brand personality

Social media is about personality, but how much personality can a roast beef sandwich have? Check out Arby’s, which has leveraged its Meatcraft™ mission into a quirky personality that has earned it over 174,000 engaged followers on Twitter, crossover support from other businesses whose customers enjoy fast food, and reposts on other social media venues.

Sure, the Arby’s posts are more about art made from its boxes than about the sandwich, but if you are only using your social media to push sales, you are doing it wrong. Social media is about developing relationships, sharing information and entertaining in a way that attracts people to your brand. It’s about personality. And if you can get an interest group to say your company is “one of us,” it’s a win.

Tips to maximize engagement

  1. Let your brand personality reflect that of your target consumer. If people are turning to your business for help in serious matters, a frivolous online personality may turn them off. Your brand personality should reflect the values and needs of the kind of people you want to attract.
  2. Post consistent to your brand personality. If you’ve developed a fun-loving, non-political online brand, suddenly posting on one side or the other of a political event will alienate your audience.
  3. Engage others in your brand personality. Social media engagement is two-way, and when you comment on a post, the more you can do it as your brand, the more likely people will identify with your brand.

In-product messaging

H&M knows women love having a shopping buddy to help them pick a great outfit, and they’ve harnessed in-app messaging to do just that. The fashion company has tied its shopping app to its POS system to make recommendations for the upsell. For example, if you buy a new skirt at one of its stores, the app will send you a push notification suggesting a great top or matching jacket, with a link to its in-app catalogue to feed your inner impulse buyer.

There are plenty of strategies to engage customers, but reaching them is half the problem. While social media can go viral and emails are easy, in-product messages offer a greater conversion rate. Further, repeat customers are easier to acquire than new ones. While you should not overload this venue, it’s a good place for alerting current customers of special offers or new products. You’re also more likely to get feedback through in-product messaging.

Tips to maximize engagement

  1. Get personal. The more focused on the specific consumer’s needs you can be, the more likely you will get the response you want.
  2. Have a purpose. Don’t use push notifications for everyday news. Make them special, and your customers will pay attention.
  3. Start implementing this now. Remember when emails were the best way to reach a customer? Now, open rates vary between 13% and 26%, depending on the industry. In-product messaging is effective in part because it’s a new avenue and has not been saturated by businesses.

Customer engagement is not rocket science, but it does take thought and planning. Any engagement strategy has the potential to bring great results, but you increase your chances of success if you keep your target customer in mind, have clear goals for the campaign, and use the venue in the way that works best.

About Nabeena Mali'

Nabeena Mali:Head of Marketing @AppInstitute I love riding fixed gear bikes and do marketing, in that order. I drive digital growth at AppInstitute, the DIY app builder platform for small and medium-sized businesses. Passionate about user-onboarding, B2B marketing and growth hacking strategies.

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