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Build Consumer Engagement with Relationships, Not Pitches

Consumer Engagement Starts with the Customer

Marketers see missed opportunities everywhere. Today’s example is from the California Academy of Sciences, a wondrous destination for families and science-lovers alike. It’s an institution with a long history of creating fantastic exhibits. What is not fantastic is how short-sighted the Academy is in building relationships with its visitors (aka consumer engagement).

This morning I received an email with the subject line, “Liz, your Academy family needs you!” It was a membership promo touting a “special gift” of two free months of Academy membership. My last visit was in July 2018. Since then I’ve received six messages, five of which were membership promos plus a COVID-19 survey. Do I feel like I’m part of the family? No. I felt like a source of income for them.

Cal Academy Membership Promo

How Customer-Centric Companies Create Consumer Engagement

As a marketing professional, I share my email address and text number when a business asks for it–I’m always interested to see how they manage that part of the customer experience. Will they thank me and encourage me to return soon or rebook an appointment? Send me emails about new products or events? Some will text coupons or “insider” news. The Academy failed on all levels of engagement, as they only reached out to me for my money, but didn’t bother to engage me.

After my visit, the Academy of Sciences could have:

  • Thanked me for visiting and followed up with a survey
  • Sent announcements about new exhibits
  • Invited me to follow them on social media
  • Sent a video of a cute kid being amazed
  • Asked me to send them a video of my cute kid being amazed
  • Encouraged me to support science and nature museums and institutions near me
  • Invited me to become a “NightLife Visitor” (I don’t know what this is, but maybe I would enjoy it. Or, maybe I could purchase it as a gift for my California friends.)

Cal Academy NightLife Visitor

The Academy could have told a story and enticed me to return over the past two years. If it was done well I would have truly felt a part of their “family.” And while I may not have chosen to join, I likely would have chosen to donate a few dollars to show my support during the Pandemic. Instead, I shared the egregious email with the Dogwood team as a discussion tool.

Engage with your customers. 

Most importantly tell customers the story of your business, organization, your group.  And, find out who your customers are, and show they you care by offering them services and options that are right for them specifically. If you want them to be a part of your company’s family you have to take the time and make the effort for them to to want to be part of it.

[June 2021: And, the 14-month promo was downright stingy. We forgive the Academy of Sciences for being overly optimistic that things would open up in two months, but a much better promo would have been an 18- or 24-month promo for the price of 12. If you are reaching out to customer segments that are a true reach, such as out-of-state visitors, make an effort to sweeten the pot. Sure, they might be giving away a year’s membership, but if there’s little chance a customer will purchase a membership without an offer, you may just find your sweet deal was…sweet!

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