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Engagement is just another word

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At the end of last year, we were invited by the CMO of a very huge retailer to tout our wares. Our dog-and-pony very quickly turned into a conversation with a lot of probing and debate. At one point the CMO held up my business card and said, “I get about 50,000 of these a year. I throw them in a drawer. What should make me dig through that stack to find yours and give you a call?”

After a few seconds of thought, I replied, “When you want to take your customer relationships from transaction to engagement.” This hit a chord and we left high on the promise that he wouldn’t even throw the card in the drawer.

I’ve since thought a lot about that answer. Marketers throw the word engagement around like Frisbees at the dog beach. It’s a word with lofty goals, implying a rich relationship that deepens and grows over time. By its very nature, engagement suggests a commitment. From the marketer’s perspective, commitment is good; it strengthens customer loyalty, stimulates ongoing conversation and feedback, and results in higher lifetime value. From the customer point of view, commitment deepens the brand promise. The customer develops affinity for the brand because they have a role in how it evolves and grows.

Many brands don’t understand how to truly engage with its stakeholders. They take a one size fits all approach to engaging customers. Few recognize that commitment is not easy. Hiring a team of mommy bloggers is not engagement. Building a branded community isn’t necessarily it, either. Nor is surveying customers, launching a Facebook page or producing a viral video campaign.  These things are simply tactics; they do not unto themselves matter unless they are done cohesively.

Engagement results when you find the nexus of stakeholder needs and interests and your brand’s legitimate role in fulfilling those needs. It requires the recognition that people fulfill their needs in a variety of ways and that your brand is just a part of how they approach a specific part of their life. A brilliant engagement strategy helps individuals aggregate how they approach a special interest or need. The brand thus shows its commitment by truly engaging in ways that are important to its stakeholders.

Next time I get the question about “why should I call you?” I’ll answer a little differently. This time I’d say,” When you want to help your customers pursue, organize and enhance a lifestyle that includes your brand.” We’re way past engagement now; we’re moving towards consanguinity. Ant that’s a tough tie to break.

Kathy Baughman
Kathy Baughman
Kathy Baughman is president and co-founder of ComBlu, a firm specializing in content strategy, community building and thought leadership programs. Kathy’s forte is content and community strategy, and influencer marketing programs. Her passions include bringing a fresh point of view to everything she does and helping organizations take their programs to the next level. Kathy is a frequent speaker at industry conferences. She has authored several ebooks including “Content Supply Chain” and “The Alchemy of Content”. She also co-authors the firm’s research report, “The State of Online Branded Communities”. Kathy can be reached at kbaughman@comblu.com.
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