"Customer engagement" appears to be the latest trend in online marketing. If you can just figure out how to hold a conversation with your customer, get them to spread the word to their friends, and keep them coming back for more, your revenues will skyrocket.
But, ask a dozen different people to define "customer engagement" and you’ll get a dozen different answers.
Denise Shiffman will tell you that simply launching a blog or joining a social network doesn’t mean you’re engaging your customers. In The Age of Engage (aff), she explores what it takes to connect and collaborate with those that do business with you.
I had a chance to conduct an interview with Denise and so I asked her about some of the topics she explores in her book.
Andy Beal: I’ve seen a lot of effort by marketers to define "Customer Engagement," how would you define it?
Denise Shiffman: Customer engagement is any point in which your brand or company touches a customer. It can be either company or customer initiated or via third-party channels. Customer engagement is not an online or new media concept. We have however evolved the connotation of engagement to mean much more than contact, but the positive and ongoing interactions that attract and hold our customers’ attention.
AB: You say the "Four Ps" model is dead and instead offer an alternative "Six Vs." What are the Six Vs and why are they important to marketers?
DS: The “Four Ps” model for marketing was defined in the 1960s. It is an outdated paradigm that has us think of product, channel, and promotions as separate strategies. And many companies organize around these principles creating silos of information, creation, and implementation. Even the idea of price has changed substantially where price for the same physical product can change based on convenience, time to deliver, customer loyalty points, or other variables.
After a great deal of research I defined the new paradigm for marketing as the “Six Vs” which stands for Venture, Value, Voice, Verification, Vicinity, and Vehicle. This paradigm rethinks product definition and integration as a process of collaboration via product team ventures (rather than silo divisions). It also highlights the criticality of a company’s position, image, and unique value offered to the market place, and the process for building trust. In addition, the “Six Vs” pulls into the fold the importance of understanding your customers whole experience with your brand (not just the experience you offer them), monitoring and managing where your customers go online, and changing traditional ivory-tower behaviors to become a part of and influence the conversation. Finally, the “Six Vs” paradigm recognizes that new media is a set of marketing vehicles enabling you to get closer to, understand better, and interact in real-time with your customers. Blogs, podcasts, wikis, and widgets are enablers, but you must have the right strategy to succeed.
AB: You explain why a company’s "voice" is so important to customer engagement. Can you elaborate on the three forms you mention: inform, connect, and engage?
DS: Voice is a company’s style, passion, and vision. In a marketplace where so many companies and consumers are talking, it is more important than ever before that companies clearly define their voice and stay consistent in how they communicate. A company’s voice is built over time through its communications and actions.
Companies today have many choices in how they communicate what they stand for. We inform our audiences through technical data, whitepapers, demos, ebooks, blogs, and other communications devices. We connect through analogies, ads, and other media that get our customers to say “ah ha,” “how did they do that?” or “wow, that was entertaining.” There is relevance or context. Most importantly, we engage customers through interactions, and when we get them to pass along the message, talk about it, or respond to us online or off.
AB: How has a marketer’s role changed in this new "Age of Engage?" What advice can you offer a company’s marketing department?
DS: Today, we need to be very good collaborators. We must open our minds to outside thinking and new ways to create the wheel. We have to get comfortable being more open, authentic, and transparent so that others want to engage us either through an interactive ad, wiki, blog, or in person. We also have to get better at determining what information is truly confidential and core to our differentiation in the marketplace and what can be shared openly. Customers expect information from us to be free and unencumbered. That could be information that comes from other customers in a branded social network or industry trends and product directions defined by the company. Smart companies have figured out that valuable data given away draws customers back over and over. And the best marketers are encouraging prospects and customers to air their grievances publicly, monitoring and managing this process rather than ignoring or stifling it.
AB: Thanks Denise for taking the time to help us better understand The Age of Engage.
To our readers: Do you have any questions for Denise? Leave them in the comments and I’m sure she’d be delighted to answer them.