Audience retention: keeping your community happy and engaged

March 30, 2015 by Mary Liz Entwistle

If you have ever been to Disney World, you have probably been touched in some way by their exceptional customer service. Each employee, or Cast Member, from park managers to ride operators, is charged with making sure every guest, has a positive experience in the park. Their philosophy is that every Cast Member should want to create a magical experience for every guest, every time.  This customer-focused commitment to service draws hundreds of millions of guests to Disney Parks year after year.

This type of highly personalized customer service should serve as a model not only for tourist attractions, but for businesses in general. Every person you interact with, even if there are no spinning teacups or princesses involved, should feel just as welcomed by your business as they would by Disney Cast Members. You can adapt this model to fit the needs of your business and your customers - no pixie dust required.

Know your audience -- Who is visiting your website? What kinds of personalities engage with your social media posts? Who is buying your products?  The more you know about who is in your community and how they tend to engage with your business, the better you can personalize their experience to make them feel more valued. Some of this knowledge will come from your in-person interactions. Make it a point to remember the names and concerns of anyone your business interacts with. Go out of your way to be friendly and helpful on the phone. Disney employees are trained to be “Assertively Friendly.”  They are experts on the parks, characters and attractions, and use this knowledge to actively find ways to enhance guest experiences by approaching families who appear lost and providing directions or noting a guest’s favorite character and providing appropriate attraction suggestions. You are an expert on your business, and can direct your audience to the most helpful content or products. Of course, you won’t have the opportunity to meet and get to know every person who interacts with your business - especially if it is a large company. However, you can use website, email and social media patterns to “know” them and predict their behaviors. You can create profiles to model different personas in your audience - new visitors, repeat customers, men, women, millennials, etc. - and track their behaviors to better serve your community in the future.

Create a custom experience -- Once you know your audience, you need to build your digital network to create personalized content to meet the needs and interests of different people. This means more than using someone’s first name in an email campaign. This means creating an email campaign that adjusts the message based on individual interests, which you know either through personal interactions or what they visit most often on your website. Your community doesn’t want to be bogged down with information that doesn’t pertain to them - most people’s inboxes are already full enough as it is. A Disney Cast Member might take notice of a guest wearing a Frozen shirt and inform them of when and where they might run into their favorite characters in the parks. You might create targeted emails for upcoming events based on your contacts’ attendance history. You could also personalize content on your website based on your contacs’ interests so that when they visit your page they can quickly find what they are looking for, creating a smooth experience. When you communicate personalized events and resources, your community can clearly see the value in your business.

Stay connected -- Communicate with your audience on a weekly basis. If that is unrealistic, at least touch base once  a month. Let them know about upcoming events and give them opportunities to be involved. Perhaps more important than how often you connect with your audience is how. Poll your audience to see how they want to receive information, or use analytics to see which types of messages get the most attention. You can strategically set up personalized communication plans for each profile, or member category. For example, your younger audience is likely more concentrated on Twitter and Instagram, so you could use these platforms to create targeted messages for this part of your community.

Disney World does not simply own the title “The Happiest Place on Earth.” It earns that name with every single satisfied guest.  Your business can have the Happiest Audience on Earth if they stay engaged with personalized communication.  Take a look at the way you are doing business.  Are you offering a Disney quality experience for your community?  If you’re unsure perhaps you should take a “business trip” to Magic Kingdom. 

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