It’s November, ‘tis the season for budgeting! Before you nail down your 2023 marketing and advertising spend, how much have you focused on customer engagement? 

Your customer’s journey starts well before they see your advertisement or visit your site, just as it continues well after they book or buy. So let’s not lock in our budget quite yet. First, we need to broaden our view to find and capitalize on those opportunities to engage with the customer well before they come into your business and well after they’ve left. 

Then, with a renewed focus on customer engagement, we can plan our 2023 marketing budgets in a way that will convert more new customers and nurture customer loyalty and advocacy for the long term. Where to start? Well …

Start Where Your Customers Are Starting

If I’m looking for a quaint B&B for a holiday visit in Tucson, for example, I’ll likely start months in advance with a search for a local hotel. While in Tucson, I’d look for “coffee near me” on my phone maps app and run a web search for “brewery with a restaurant,” where I take a moment to peruse the customer reviews for menu recommendations. As a B&B, coffee shop, or brewery, you’ll want to make sure your business is showing up in my searches — and on my timeline — to make my buying decisions easy. Here are five tips to help: 

TIP #1. Earmark budget to empower your team to meet your customers where they’re looking for businesses like yours online. 

  • Ensure your Google Business listing is up-to-date with your store hours, seasonal menus or products, events, and photos.

  • Monitor customer reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp!, and other review channels and respond promptly and professionally to both positive and (very importantly) negative reviews.

  • Post regularly to social media with timely, seasonally relevant content.

This is easy and relatively low-cost, but you’ll want to dedicate your time to this or delegate it to a team member to make sure you’re tackling it with a regular cadence.


Be Available & Listen

Your customer will often have questions about your business that they can’t readily find in this early research and they’ll need a way to connect with you for answers, even if you’re not open at the time. 

For example, I’ll need to know if the brewery can accommodate a group of 15 adults and seven kids, if minors are even allowed in the brewery, and if I can make a reservation or otherwise help the team at the brewery plan ahead. If I’m coordinating lunch plans and you’re not answering the phone until 11 a.m., you’re making it difficult for me to bring my business to you. 

TIP #2. Allocate the budget to develop content that answers the customer’s clarifying questions

  • Think about dedicated landing pages to address specific situations (such as large groups). Consider phrasing your page titles and headlines as questions that customers would enter into a web search to rank highly on search results.

  • Post information about common situations like group dining, reservations, specials or sales, and upcoming events on your listings across the web, including Google, Facebook, Yelp!, and your CVB or Chamber partner’s site.

  • Make an extra effort to be able to answer questions in the off-hours with a detailed message on your voicemail. 

    • Make sure you have a search option on your website to help customers find answers. 

    • Add an AI chatbot on your website to provide real answers in a conversational tone based on the customer’s questions and to escalate the question for you to address if needed.

Make Your Website Work For You

If your website sits relatively idle with most of your online efforts sunk into social media posts, you’re likely missing out on a big opportunity. With a strong focus on content related to the customer’s experience, your website has the potential to help drive a ton of new business your way. 

This means planning an editorial calendar and crafting content focused on the customer’s needs. For example, a landing page on the brewery’s website about large groups might highlight the size of groups they can accommodate, guidelines about minors in the restaurant, and information about what kind of notice the brewery team needs in order to prepare. 

This kind of content will also help you rank higher in search. If I searched, for example, “brewery, lunch for large group,” and if a brewery’s website content included verbiage about accommodating large groups, there’s a good chance your site will show at the top of my search results. If you compound this with a dozen other blog posts or pages that address questions customers are asking in their web searches, you’re well on your way to driving a ton of new business in your direction.

TIP #3. Upgrade (if needed) to a website solution and content strategy that will help you rank high on long-tail keyword searches.

  • Update your website to one that includes a focus on content and customer engagement.

  • Invest in SEO services to identify which keywords your customers are using to search for your business and other businesses like yours. 

  • Dedicate time and budget to craft and post meaningful content on your website and social channels that address your customer’s core concerns.  

Pay attention to your customer reviews.

Customers are going to tell their friends and family — and total strangers via customer review sites — about their experiences with your business and your team. And these insights will absolutely influence the buying decisions of the prospective customers who are listening. 

TIP #4. Dedicate time and budget to monitor and reply to customer feedback on the web.

  • Remember that prospective customers are reading these reviews for insights about your product and the quality of your service. 

  • Respond graciously to positive reviews and address negative reviews quickly and politely. 

Budget for changes to your strategy

It’s likely that your strategies are going to shift over the course of the year. Be nimble in your efforts and use data insights to help you pivot gracefully and help guide your budgeting moving forward. Especially if you’re just getting started in one of these areas, you’ll want to have the latitude to make changes to your strategies throughout the year.

TIP #5. Bank reserve budget to have at the ready in the event that you need to pivot your strategy or heavy up in one area or another. 

How do you feel now? I imagine many of us are already doing some of these things in our day-to-day, but it’s likely that at least some of these very important customer engagement tactics have never filtered into our annual planning. 

Now that you’ve allocated budget and committed some of your own time to tackle these things regularly and with strategic intent, it should be easier to execute them on an ongoing basis. And when you circle back in reflection at the end of 2023, I think you’ll be happy to see that by increasing customer engagement in the early research and post-purchase phases of the customer’s journey, you’ve helped to create a richer, more personal, and longer-lasting customer relationship. Your bottom line will thank you.