Engagement is the big marketing buzzword for 2013, says Geoffrey Moore, the king of chasm crossing. How will CMOs do it?

Eric Lundquist, VP & Editorial Analyst for InformationWeek Business Technology Network

January 11, 2013

5 Min Read

Geoffrey Moore, that chasm hopping, escape velocity author has proclaimed that the big marketing buzzword for 2013 is (drumroll please): engagement.

As he blogged recently, "In this context I propose the next big thing will be -- indeed, arguably, already is -- engagement. The explosion of digital infrastructure has torn down the barriers to access -- reach has been dramatically extended -- but as a result, people have disengaged, if for no other reason than self-preservation. That has dramatic and immediate consequences for consumer retailing and brand marketing, and long-term implications for education, healthcare, citizen participation and workforce involvement."

I respect Moore as a forward thinker and I think he is right that in this era of multiple ways of engaging via digital social networks, older email, instant messages, voice over IP and even -- imagine this -- face to face conversation, developing a way to engage with customers and potential customers is a very big deal in 2013. The issue for chief marketing officers, as I see it, is how to create customer engagement in an era when it is simple for a customer to disengage.

Think of the example of a customer at a large physical retailer (Walmart and Target come to mind) walking around the store looking at products and using their smartphone to check for a lower price at Amazon. This digital grazing has sparked a battle for the consumer dollar that shows no signs of receding. There is a message here also for B2B marketers. The rise of BYOD policies and business software offered as a subscription service (think Box, Salesforce.com) has given rise to business grazing where employees, not employers, chose the devices and services they use to conduct business. And they can disengage from their choices simply by deleting an account and switching to a new subscription service. The days of the CEO going out for golf and steak with the vendor CEO and coming back to work saying, "We will only use vendor X in our company," are gone.

So, how does a CMO build customer loyalty -- engagement -- in an era of digital grazing? Moore offers a couple of suggestions. But first, I thought it would make sense to ask a CMO friend how he views the rise of engagement as the business priority.

"Engagement is participation, successful engagement draws people to take an action. It is more than clicks or likes, engagement shows a user cares enough to share," said Allen Bonde. Bonde is the CMO at The Pulse Network and has also been a consultant with McKinsey and The Yankee Group. "In engagement, context and content become very important, you need to wire up your campaigns to track not only views and traffic but also shares, which may be the ultimate metric," says Bonde. The rise of mobile devices means that more of that content and context will take the form of video consumption, contends Bonde. "Rich media and video can cut through the clutter," he says.

The increased importance of video was also echoed by Moore. In his LinkedIn blog, Moore contends, "We're seeing a marked shift toward 'video snippets' displacing static display ads as the fundamental unit of consumer communication, with pinpoint-accurate engagement metrics coming from companies like Visible Measures."

Moore sees the change towards engagement as also fundamentally altering the role of corporate technology. "There has been a massive shift in enterprise spending priorities from 'old IT' Systems of Record to 'new IT' Systems of Engagement, both for B2B collaboration and B2C experiences."

So, are we in the engagement era? I'd agree with a few caveats. Engaged customers have always been a goal of business marketing. Customers that feel they are part of a company's success are a company's best advocates. While the emergence of social networks has made that engagement easier on some levels, the networks also present obstacles for business marketers. Consider:

-- Engagement has left the building. The most important conversations about your company and your competitors now take place outside the corporate walls. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ all present platforms for customer engagement. Marketing departments are just now installing the listening and conversation tools to measure and take part in that engagement.

-- Engagement and content are intertwined. Engagement is a conversation. The more you can create content that addresses that particular customer, the more successful you will be in continuing the conversation. In my experience, most corporate content is disjointed without a thematic flow from white papers, through blogs, through product information, through corporate press releases and statements.

-- Video is a stronger medium for engagement than words. Tough to say for someone who has spent most of his time in this industry creating word-driven content. But video has all the elements of strong engagement, including visual look and feel, personal expression, and connections that just can't be made through most corporate content.

Moore contends that investments in engagement systems will show big returns for chief marketing officers. He makes an engaging argument.

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About the Author(s)

Eric  Lundquist

VP & Editorial Analyst for InformationWeek Business Technology Network

Eric Lundquist,
VP and Editorial Analyst, InformationWeek
[email protected]

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