You don't talk to your customers enough. Truth be told, none of us do. There's so much to be learned from your audience, but at the end of the day, I think it's safe to say that we've all let countless opportunities go by where we could have better leveraged their feedback.

Instead of taking the opportunity to create meaningful engagement, it's easy to focus on self-promotion. Most marketers realize too late that had they focused on creating conversations instead, they could have gained tremendous insights into growing their brands and solidifying their relationships with customers.

If the average American is spending upwards of 9 hours a day consuming digital content, why aren't more marketers trying harder to engage them and get more from that time?

Here are 8 conversations you need to start having with your customers to get a better share of that time - and make your interactions count.

1. Where to find them and how to reach them

There's no one better to tell you about your customer, than your customer. As a marketer and business owner, you want to know where your best customers spend their time. That includes who they're following, the types of events they attend, how they digest content, etc. Have a conversation and start this dialogue with your audience. With that information, you can effectively reach more people just like the ones who are actively engaging you.

2. How was onboarding handled?

Finding out how you can improve the onboarding experience is one of the most important conversations you can have with your customers. It's a first touch point with your product or service, and every single customer you have goes through that process. It may be the most critical step to delighting your customers.

Understanding how customers view your first impression can help you improve retention and conversion, and get better reviews and testimonials from your customers.

"As soon as possible, add value by asking a question that will help the customer clarify his or her thoughts and ideas," writes Geoffrey James, contributing editor for "Don't mine for information; focus on truly understanding the customer's position."

A great way to do that is to use two powerful words: "Tell me." Most people will be happy to share their experience - especially when they know you're listening.

3. Understand their native language

You might very well "get" the problems and pain points of your customers, but it's still important to have regular conversations with them. You'll learn about their thoughts, fears, and desires, for sure, but you'll also learn something even more important.

How they speak.

If you don't know how your audience talks - and many have their own language and industry jargon - then you'll struggle with engagement and conversion. Don't just study what your customers say: pay close attention to how they say it.

"By talking to your customers, you can learn the words they use to describe the success they are having with your product," says Oli Gardner, co-founder of Unbounce. "A brilliant exercise that you can do to leverage this is to ask a few of your customers to write your homepage headline for you. It's fascinating to see your value proposition actually written in the voice of the customer."

4. Ask customers the "Why"

Real insight and growth comes from blending the "What," the "Why," and your own intuition. You can't understand those things if you don't have that direct conversation with your customers. Why did they buy your product? Why did they sign up? Why didn't they refer a friend?

Brand ambassadors love to tell you why they love you, and your audience will be happy to tell you where they felt you came up short, if they know you're willing to listen. "Why" is one of the most powerful questions you can ask when talking to your customers, and it should be a key part of your growth strategy with social media.

5. Wants and needs

Plain and simple, you have to talk to your customers to discover the difference between what the customer wants, and what you think they want. Once you understand this, you can begin to drill down to their specific needs.

Your customers will love you even more when you make improvements based on their comments and the dialogue you have with them. If you're that rare exception - a company that is taking the time to listen to them - you're going to generate loyalty, turning regular customers into raving brand ambassadors.

6. Why they've gone

You can still engage customers who don't actively engage you through social media - in fact, it's highly encouraged. Tremendous insight can be gained by talking to people who are unhappy and have stopped following your brand.

Most customers never mention that they're dissatisfied: they just leave. Letting them walk away robs you of insight that you can use to improve your business and greatly reduce customer churn.

"I use social media as an idea generator, trend mapper, and strategic compass for all of our online business ventures," says Paul Barron, founder of "Using the vast amount of social data, we can predict consumer action as it pertains to the restaurant industry around the world."

7. Get them involved

If you're going to release anything new, then get your customers involved. Hold roundtable discussions, video hangouts, or hashtag conversations that let them weigh in on features they want to see.

This includes alpha and beta testing with customers. Unless you can read minds, the best way to ensure you build something your customers will truly love is to get them involved and talk to them about what they want. Your customers will feel valued and far more loyal when they can play an active role in the development of a solution they've been waiting for.

8. Content sharing

When your content gets shared, especially by influencers, it's important to thank those people. Don't let it stop there, though. Let that be a point of opening dialogue. It's an opportunity to ask them why they shared your content, what the value was to them, and what other things they'd like to see. This can help you refine the type of content you're curating, as well as what kinds of topics you can create for your audience.

Which social channel do you find to be the best for social engagement and conversations? Share in the comments below:

Published on: Oct 15, 2016