Customer Engagement Defies Definition!!

Customer Engagement Defies Definition!!
I recently attended a dinner with 10 senior marketing executives (CMOs and a couple of agency heads). The topic of discussion was customer engagement. We didn’t compare notes about how best to engage customers, though. Why? The group couldn’t get past the definition! There were as many definitions of customer engagement as there were dinner guests, and even more eye-opening was that everyone felt all views were all valid in some way.

The lesson: this undiscovered challenge with semantics is likely to exist in your own organization. It’s worth having a discussion internally to see if that’s the case and arrive at an agreed-upon definition. The fact is this: it actually doesn’t matter which definition you use, as long as you are all in crystal clear lock-step, the team activity supports goals appropriately. If “engage the customer” means one thing to a CMO, and another to the head of corp comm, and another to the head of performance marketing, the marketing organization will unwittingly be chasing multiple goals, very inefficiently, and chances are, with this split focus, you won’t reach any of them very well.

Here were some of the key interpretations of customer engagement brought to light at the dinner. Think about which one(s) is(are) most valuable and relevant to you:

Is customer engagement ….

An action or an outcome? Some people used it as a verb describing what marketers should proactively do as one of their core mandates.  Others felt it was the by-product of good marketing, but not something you can actually control.

Early funnel or post-funnel? Most guests equated customer engagement with audience interactions and touchpoints early in the funnel, part of the awareness-building and lead-generation activity. A few interpreted “customer” literally, and believed it referred to the post-sale interactions that refrain loyalty and create evangelists.

Awareness of demand gen? Taking the above a step further, some felt customer engagement was something relegated only to the awareness stage – the luring in of prospects to the funnel. Others saw it as specific to the lead generation arena; that it’s all about building a measureable funnel.

Trust or transaction? A lot of debate ensued about whether the “proof” or metric of customer engagement was the hard-to-measure generation of trust with an individual, or whether the end-game was an actual transaction of some sort – a click, download, or purchase.

Engagement with what? The group saw customer engagement as either engaging with your brand/company (a very broad view), or engaging with a specific marketing tactic like a website or social media campaign (a very targeted view). One pointed out that he felt it was also engagement with one’s product, which caused many heads to nod.

Education or simple connection? Yes, the debate continued! Some of the marketing leaders felt it wasn’t “true” customer engagement if there wasn’t some element of education involved, or at least some “give.” Others felt it was just a connection of any type.

B2B or B2C? This was a relatively quick dialogue. While there were differences in how one went about it or why (much like all the above debate), customer engagement is vital to both types of companies.

Measurable or not? Ah, this is where the rubber hits the road. And this is really at the heart of the debate. Your answer to this depends on how you answered the above questions for yourself or your team. Bottom line: you need to agree if it’s something you’re going to measure or not. If you are, then you better be sure that you agree to the more targeted and tactical answers above.

You can see that if you think you and your team members are talking about the same thing when you say “customer engagement” you can end up with very different actions taken, and therefore many different outcomes. Focus is critical to being effective, as well as to being efficient, so be sure everyone is clear. This includes your sales colleagues and CEO. Just imagine what they think customer engagement is!

In a moment of philosophical reflection, one participant observed that the challenge of coming to consensus on what customer engagement is may be because marketers deals with human hearts and minds. “After all, no one can really define ‘love,’” he said. Or you can define love in a million valid ways, just as the group did the customer engagement. Hmmm… Well, it is customer love we’re all after, anyway, isn’t it?!

One thing everyone agreed to: it’s never been cheaper, nor harder, to engage. And that’s why it’s so critical to do it right.

Once you agree what “it” is.

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