Last week, I was in Barcelona for the Email Insider Summit (EIS); a great event overall, which provided the opportunity to meet and discuss with professionals from across Europe and the States.

At the EIS, a frequent conversation topic was on the role of customer engagement today, a topic that was both intriguing and thought provoking. It seems that today there is a renaissance in customer engagement at global businesses. The modern enterprise has invested a lot – time, money, human resources, infrastructure and applications – in improving their customer relationship management and in providing a customer experience that strives to be seamless. But today this is just table stakes, and putting the best effort is not enough. Someone else will approach the customer faster, better or more efficiently, reaping the benefits of a well designed and performed CRM strategy.

I appreciate the challenge, and the collective feedback got me thinking about those mythical organizations that nailed customer engagement. It’s not an urban myth, they actually exist. In fact, Barcelona hosts a great example. And given the World Cup excitement going on currently with the EIS the topic kept coming back to an example from football.

Barcelona is a beautiful city. Its architecture is breathtaking, it’s the birthplace of many world-class artists and architects, and the whole place oozes culture, history and art. Almost 60 museums are located in Barcelona; a huge number compared to the size of this small mediterranean city. No wonder that it’s a touristic attraction and one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations! The wonder is that the city’s most visited museum is Barça’s, FC Barcelona, the local football club, with more than 1,5 million visitors per year.

Sure, football is very popular all across Europe, and the FIFA World Cup taking place these days can only confirm how passionate the Europeans can be about it. But world cups happen once every four years, while the success of FC Barcelona is ongoing and has been steady since 2011.

To start with, the FC Barcelona museum offers a really rich experience, employing innovative technologies like Virtual Reality, and Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. The club’s success is not limited to museum visitors though; it’s extended to their digital and economic presence too. According to a recent study published by Forbes, Barça (pronounced: Bartsa) is the most valuable digital presence of any football club on the web – worth $25 million. When it comes to use of technology for improving customer experience, this traditional football club has proven to be a true pioneer. FC Barcelona tops its promotion of campaigns using hashtags, mentions, brand image and engagement, currently being the club with the most followers around the world (more than 200 million!) keeping their competitors backed into a corner (see what I did here?), and not just in football but also in the rest of the world of sport (among the top 10 are top clubs like Manchester United and Bayern Munich, but also NBA teams like the Lakers and the Warriors).

So what makes Barça so successful when it comes to engagement and loyalty? I believe it’s the way it interacts with its fans: rapid, accurate and highly responsive. This football club has gone the extra mile to engage with its customers. It’s estimated that the number of the club’s interactions with its fans has reached 1.45 billion!

Successful customer engagement based on interactions was also the topic of my presentation at the Email Insider Summit. I used the example of Singer, a company that employed newsletters to educate and engage their target audiences, and invested heavily in its marketing operations and good practice, such as segmentation and localization. When applied (more than a century ago), their practice was groundbreaking, but it’s still relevant and inspiring. You can watch the recording of my presentation here.

Customer engagement is an ongoing challenge; and yet, some organizations have discovered a way to do it successfully and generate real value and impressive growth. There may be a gap of more than 100 years between Singer’s story and that of FC Barcelona, but both these organizations based their success on maintaining open communication streams with their target audiences, which resulted to adding value – to the audience first and to the organization secondly. I believe it’s obvious how important customer communications are, and how they can affect engagement, loyalty, and commercial value. That’s what makes an investment in effective email communications and deliverability so crucial for today’s businesses; it’s a pivotal step towards repeat business and growth.

The ball is now in your court.


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