6 Ways To Get Your Customers To Genuinely Participate In Your Marketing

social media participation

Why is it so hard to catch someone’s attention, even for a split-second? It’s because us marketers are the very culprits of bombarding people with thousands of messages on a daily basis! Sadly, it seems that at least 90% of marketing efforts fail to really capture genuine interest — and even when we do capture their attention, we’re lucky if its for more than a few seconds.

Marketing and advertising aren’t going away anytime soon, but there is a big shift happening. It’s an approach that’s certainly not new, but that was buried for quite some time when brands became too selfish and competitive to stop and simply think about their customers over themselves.

I like to call it Customer-First Marketing, but call it what you want. Either way, it’s a shift away from “ME! ME! ME!” marketing and advertising tactics and towards “YOU! YOU! YOU!” And by way of adopting this new mindset, you will be able to better capture your audience’s attention, getting them to actually participate in any of your marketing campaigns!

The Quick Basics of Customer-First Marketing

At the core of it, human beings really only care about what’s in it for themselves. So as marketers, this poses the challenge of not talking about our own selves and company, but about our audience and what’s in it for them. While it’s certainly much easier as a marketer to write any piece of copy that’s centered on you, your brand, your company and your benefits, no one really cares. It’s far more successful to flip that notion on its head and put absolutely everything you do on the side of the customer.

Think back to the last few email subject lines you read. How many did you deleted instantly? Why? Chances are the headlines weren’t focused on benefiting you, so you didn’t care to read on. The same goes for tweets, blog posts, ads on Google, and even headlines on booth exhibits. We’re all guilty of doing it, and I’m no exception. But by realizing this important shift in the marketing mindset, I’ve found several core ways to much more naturally garner my audience’s attention — even when dealing with multiple audiences at once.

6 Ways to Get Your Audience To Participate 

1. Use their words, not yours

The first thing I do before I begin any client project is to understand how a given audience speaks — their words, emotions, reactions, interactions, you name it.

Where to find this:

  • Google Analytics:

This is always a good starting point. See which organic keywords people have come to your site through and note those down.

google analytics


  • Social Media

This is literally the best place to go for real time data on your audience and is where I’m most excited to dive in. On Twitter, check out your news feed and see how people are interacting, what they’re saying, what they say about competitors, etc. You can even do some keyword, branded and competitive searches to see what people are saying about very specific topics (see the great example below). The same goes for LinkedIn groups (really rich data here!), Facebook groups, Google+ groups, and so on.



  • Forums & communities

If there is a place you know your community hangs out on regularly, peruse those groups and see what people are saying there. How are they talking about their problems? How do they describe solutions? How do they treat each other? Analyzing all of these matters.

  • Blogs and blog comments

These are a great place to go to see how your audience goes in depth about the topics they care about. And on top of that, the comments section can be a great place to see people’s reactions, conversations, etc. Most of the information you’ll need, at least to start, will be in the above 3 areas but this can’t help to look into as well if you have some time.

I could go on and on with channels and places to look, but I think you get the gist. Essentially, find out where your audience hangs out online, observe what they say, note anything and everything down, and then take a broad look at all of the data — qualitative and quantitative — that you’ve gathered to start making sense of it.

2. Provide a place for them to interact!

Whether it is a forum, a unique social network, a game, competition, leaderboard, etc. give them a place to participate. Make them feel like a part of something great, something meaningful, and then show them off by highlighting great user activity!

Let’s say you want to run a competition for who can submit a picture of them doing the craziest thing with your product/service (safely, of course). Provide a page where you can publish those pictures as they come in, and even bake in a leaderboard, commenting section, etc. to get people involved. At the core of it, make this something truly valuable to your audience first and foremost — not one that simply and obviously is just gathering data for you.

3. Mention specific community members in your marketing


Think about your local newspaper — what’s it about? It features people and happenings in your community, and that’s why newspapers have been around so long — because people want to read about other people they may know or can relate to, and even hope to see themselves featured. The same principle can be applied to online marketing. Mention awesome customers on Twitter (see the great job one of my clients, CogniTea did, above), mention successful customer stories on your blog, put testimonials on your website, collaborate on a webinar with someone influential in your community, and so on. Whatever you do, involve your customers! (This will also encourage them to tweet, email, and otherwise share the content, which their audience will also be interested in.)

4. Provide a welcoming mat

Nothing is worse than a grumpy, hostile brand. (Nevermind the fact that you should not hire un-friendly people who will be the frontline of customer communications!). Make sure that every customer touch point is friendly, welcoming, non-judgmental and down-to-earth. By talking to them in their own words, accepting their input, showing compassion, and taking the time to respond to even the little things shows a lot about you and will encourage others to comment, share, and respond to you too!

5. The Ask

Back in grade school, likely only a few students actually shouted out answers to a teacher or professor’s question. Many times, teachers have to call on specific students to get spoken answers. The same notion goes for marketing. If there are specific people in your audience you want input from, directly mention them on Twitter, email them, etc. to simply ask them for their input, human-to-human (my friend Trish Fontanilla of Startup Institute and previously VSnap does an incredible job at this). There is no sense in waiting around surrounded by crickets for someone to speak up when all it takes is a genuine ask!

6. Give them something of value in return

While I hope whatever new programs you’re brewing up will provide enough value to customers that motivate them to organically participate, sometimes it does take a little extra something to get the ball rolling. For those of you that have a stubborn, quiet or busy audience, a little coaxing can go a long way. Perhaps it’s an Amazon gift card in return for them participating in your webinar, or a free month of your service for being a featured case study customer. Or even a freshly baked box of delivered cookies can do the trick! Make it thoughtful, make it equivalent to what you’re asking from them, and make sure it will be something that means something to that audience.


It may not be so hard after all to get your audience’s attention, you just have to walk their walk and talk their talk. Especially with the new year starting soon, take some time to refresh your approach to marketing and flip it on its head to start every initiative with the customer in mind first — never second, or worse, last…

What other ways have you engaged your audience in a genuine, effective way? I’d love to hear — put your trials (and errors) in the comments below and perhaps I’ll even include them in a revised version of this post (see what I did there?!).



[Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on MarketingOnTheRocks.com.]