In a blog post earlier this year, I introduced the concept of the Engagement Economy, which is the digitally connected world we live in that demands we, as marketers and brands, communicate with buyers in ways that resonate and are meaningful. In the Engagement Economy, our customers are in charge and they are more informed than ever because of the informational convenience and convergence of search, social, blogs, video, and hundreds more easily accessible digital touchpoints. Buyers are forming opinions, reaching conclusions, and influencing others well before we as marketers have a chance to “make our pitch”.
Beyond the buyer, our existing customers today want to feel wanted and understood. They want to build long-term relationships and align with brands that care about them and connect with them on a personal level across every channel and touchpoint. The point is this: Customers want to be engaged! With that said, it’s worth exploring what that really means for us as marketers. More to the point, how we can shift our marketing strategy and effort to more engagement?
True customer engagement is the whole idea behind the book that I am writing entitled, Engage to Win, which is my call to arms to all marketers to challenge their views about what it means to really “engage with” and not “market to” their buyers. I believe that many of the digital tools we have at our disposal—email, digital ads, social media, web, mobile, and more—make it easier than ever before to automate how we understand, connect with, and communicate to our customers. Improper use, or coordination, of these digital tools is where we often falter as marketers. We prioritize volume metrics over value metrics and we miss a huge opportunity to forge meaningful relationships with our buyers. To illustrate the types of relationships that I’m referring to, let me share two examples.
- TOMS shoes has become successful in large part because of what it stands for. You buy a pair of shoes and they donate a pair of shoes to children in need. Everyone who wears TOMS shoes knows TOMS has built a movement and invited their customers to be a part of it. Thus, it has created an unpaid army of tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of “brand advocates” who spread the word about the company and the passion they have for the brand to their friends and followers across channels including social media.
- Amazon has taken just about all the things people hate about retail—limited selection, slow delivery, a cumbersome checkout process and turned them into competitive advantages. You can order anything you want including clothes, movies, pet food, or automotive supplies and get it in two days or less. They started with books, but with the acquisition of Whole Foods, it’s fairly clear that Amazon wants to become the more engaged version of Walmart before Walmart becomes the more engaged version of Amazon!
These are examples of companies that connect with us as buyers in a profoundly more meaningful way than the repetitive pop-up ads that appear when you visit a website or the relentless emails you get from a retailer for which you have little interest!
In the precursor to my book, I offer nine “commandments” as rules of engagement that every marketer can follow to build customer relationships based on shared values and trust. These new rules start with listening to and learning from your customers before acting on what you find. They include tips that will help us as marketers be the best ambassadors we can be for our brands. The truth is that we have to curate the values associated with our brands. With that, here’s an excerpt:
ONE: Listen. Develop the discipline of continually listening to your customers via every channel you possibly can.
TWO: Learn. Take all that data you collect from customers and potential customers and turn it into insights.
THREE: Act on those insights, by dealing with your customers the way they want you to, when they want you to.
FOUR: Never forget you don’t create the engagement journey, your customers do. (You can curate it though!)
FIVE: Don’t let anyone other than you define what your organization stands for.
SIX: Everyone in the company has the opportunity to influence the engagement process—for good or evil. Choose good.
SEVEN: Never let anyone define your personal brand. Your organization must stand for something. You, as a human being, must as well. (And, of course, what you stand for will reflect on your organization).
EIGHT: No outbound content for your customer, whether it is an email, a video, whatever, should ever leave your company without being vetted by some type of focus group or feedback pool. In today’s age of hyper-reactivity, this is a requirement.
NINE: The world is evolving at an unprecedented, accelerated pace in terms of norms, tastes, preferences, beliefs, biases, and on and on and on. You cannot assume that what you believed to be true yesterday, literally yesterday, is true today. You and your organization need to accept that fact at the very DNA level of your being. It’s an absolute.
To help you put these suggestions into practice and sketch out your own engagement plans, we’ve developed a workbook that takes you through a set of provocative questions that will help you to take a critical look at where you are and where you’re going. I encourage you to take some time to work through it —possibly as a team activity—to help you shape your collective path forward in the Engagement Economy.
With that, I’ll leave you with one thought. It is our responsibility to engage our customers, not market to them. We must engage them early, engage them everywhere, and do so in meaningful ways at all times. But it’s your choice. You can choose to engage, choose to demonstrate that you understand the values of your customers, and choose to let them know you want them as a customer, or take the easy way out, and risk becoming irrelevant. I hope the choice is clear.