THE BLOG
10/01/2014 11:50 am ET Updated Dec 01, 2014

Customer Engagement: Developing a Healthy Alliance Between Brand and Consumer

Today, every brand competes over how well they can engage their customers, whether their customer is a business or a consumer. Data drives successful marketing campaigns, and successful campaigns deliver engaged customers. Whether B2B or B2C, data provides the platform to build relationships, enhance the brand, reward customers, and deliver bottom-line growth.

The most successful brands recognize that exceptional customer engagement doesn't just happen by accident. Building awareness of your brand, ensuring what you are offering has relevance, positioning your brand and your products as the best solutions - these objectives can be accomplished by understanding your customer's needs and preferences. Having these insights allows you to present your brand in a way that conveys relevance and sets it apart from the competition.

But whether it's B-to-C or B-to-B, collecting metrics today means going beyond tracking the transaction. In order to leverage metrics strategically to create loyal and engaged customers, businesses need to look at creating consolidated, personal views of their customers across channels. They need metrics that can come together to help paint a picture of the end-to-end customer relationship and show how to better target messaging to drive engagement. Marketers need to break down the silos and connect the data sources -- in other words, embrace a fully integrated approach to marketing. Only then can they get a complete view of the customer and leverage this data to build strong relationships.

The question is, once a new customer is brought in, how do you ensure a continued and lifelong engagement? The key is to create and maintain a relationship that is genuinely personal and individualized. One of the best ways to ensure that is to use data to determine what a customer's preferences are, and what kinds of offers are likely to attract them.

In 2014 and beyond, successful customer engagement is all about experiences that deliver in relevant ways, in real-time, and in a responsible manner -- and it's these kinds of dynamic experiences that make 1:1 interactions effective. The data-driven marketplace puts customers in the driver's seat at the center of the information and sales process. By the time a customer makes their intentions known to a marketer, they are further along the sales funnel than ever before -- past the exploration, information, and in some cases even price negotiation stages. The challenge for businesses, more than ever, is to win customer trust and get them interacting with their brands.

As customers trust that marketers understand and are ready to meet their needs, they will be more willing to serve as brand advocates. They'll also be more willing to take an active hand in suggesting innovations or giving feedback on marketing campaigns. In short, because they will trust the marketer, they'll have a vested interest in making offerings and marketing as relevant as possible. As a result, customers, while not having control of the marketing or innovation process, will have a hand in it. What better description of engagement is there?

This post is part of series produced by The Huffington Post for Advertising Week 2014, in conjunction with the Advertising Week conference (New York, Sept. 29-Oct. 3, 2014). To see all the posts in this series, read here. To learn more about Advertising Week 2014, read here.