Engagement Defined (for Marketing)

Before we move into the Tactical stuff, I would like you to think about something, and if you could, give it more than a passing thought.  Here goes:

If you stopped all Advertising to customers today, what would happen to customer activity in the next 90 days?

In some businesses, Sales / Visits from customers would slow down a lot.  These are typically offline, low-Engagement businesses, the kinds of businesses that require a ton of advertising to drive Sales.  People don’t really care much about the products one way or the other – they’re not Engaged with the business.  Many packaged goods products are in this camp, for example.  They need Advertising.

In other businesses, and in particular many web businesses, Sales / Visits from customers would slow only a little.  This is because the customers are Engaged with the product, the site, the community, and so forth.  They come back anyway – regardless of whether you Advertise to them or not.

This is Engagement, folks, from a Marketing perspective.  The emotional bond, the Desirability, the Delight.

This is why Interactivity is different, and why Interactive Marketing should be treated differently.  The customer has always-on, 24 hour a day access to the business, and they are Delighted by that access, stimulated by that access, enjoy that Interactivity.  Many customers will come back even if you don’t Advertise to them.

That is, if you have Engaged them.  Engagement is more powerful than Advertising, in many ways Engagement replaces Advertising, Engagement IS Advertising.

Is that so hard to understand in a Web 2.0 world?

Personally, when measuring web site activity, I don’t think it’s really appropriate to create a box of Actions called “Engagement” and declare “if a visitor does this, they are Engaged”.  What I care about is they came back at all.  People have all kinds of reasons to visit an Engaging web site / business; they are in different modes and do different kinds of things.  As far as I’m concerned, they can take whatever action they wanted to take, as long as they came back.  To me, that’s Engagement.

And the idea of them deciding not to come back, well, that’s dis-Engagement.  As a Marketer in an Interactive business, that’s what you have to pay the most attention to.   Follow the dis-Engagement cycle, and for highest ROMI, use the right messages at the right times.

Because when folks are Engaged, well, they come back all by themselves, and I don’t need to do any Advertising to them.  That’s not to say I shouldn’t do any Marketing with them.  For those Engaged folks, what I am doing on the site as far as Products, Usability, Features, Service, unique / special Messaging, etc. – that’s what keeps people Engaged, that’s what I should focus Marketing skills on.  Spend some time in Customer Service, for example, and figure out what Marketing can do to help.

I only need to put the Advertising hat on when they start to dis-Engage, and then it’s all about knowing why.  Which segments are dis-Engaging?  Do they have a Service problem in common?  A Product problem in common?  A Content problem in common? 

What’s the Root Cause?

As an Interactive Marketer, I now have to try to fix that problem – even if it’s not in my silo.  Why?  Because it’s causing people not to come back, and that’s a Marketing problem, because it impacts Sales / Visits, and I’m responsible for generating Sales / Visits.

Now, I realize many web analytics folks want to specifically define Engagement for their sites and that is fine.  Define it any way you want, whatever way makes the most sense for the site.

But then, pay most attention not to the achievement of Engagement, but to dis-Engagement – when the previously Engaged, using whatever definition you like, no longer qualify as Engaged.  That’s the secret sauce of Interactive Marketing, that’s what makes Interactivity different from all other types of customer relationships.

Tip: dis-Engagement is a process.  It’s a movie, not a snapshot.  The question is not “What percent were Engaged last month?”  The question is “Of those Engaged in month X, what percent are still Engaged?”  Reason this difference is important: Newly Engaged customers / visitors will mask dis-Engagement by current customers / visitors in a % Engaged snapshot view

You can answer the question I first asked above about shutting off Advertising to customers.  Without creating a lot of disruption.

Test it like this.  I’m sure you will be surprised by what you find.

And then you can start spending more of your time and budget on fixing dis-Engagement rather than trying to create Engagement that in many cases is already there

Unless, of course, your site / product / service delivers a lousy customer experience, fails the Desirability test.  Then you’re going to need all the Advertising you can get your hands on.  Just keep pounding ’em with e-mail, that should fix the problem, right?

Does that approach really make any sense to you?

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