Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Engagement 2.0


I hope you've had a great start to your week!  I've been working on our new logo (coming soon!) and getting the 678Partners.com site up and running...  It's a lot of fun!

In the middle of all of this, I've been reading many blog posts and listening to a lot of great webinars all courtesy of some really smart people.  All because when I cut my marketing teeth at American Express, it was around the time Palm Pilots started to become tools of choice and not everyone carried a cell phone.  Not quite the days of Fred and Barney, chiseling stone and using an abacus but given technology's leaps and bounds since then...  it may well have been the days of chiseling stone and abacus.  Truly, where I am in the curve is the quintessential "the more you learn, the more you realize you have to learn."  Steep.  Very Steep.  This mental cardio is daunting but I'm up for the challenge.

Nevertheless, my time at AmEx was an excellent education in brand management, brand stewardship, doing as I say and promise, product marketing, striving for superior product / service delivery, listening to the customer, translating feedback into actionable items, predicting desire for something and providing value right as customers started to articulate that particular need, speaking in tones meaningful to and respectful of customers among a bunch of other things.  Most of these learnings were when I was doing a lot of direct marketing but thankfully I paid enough attention to realize that they were transferrable.  In short, I learned quite a bit and I'm thankful.

Last week, I wrote three posts (here, here and here) on the importance of relationships and how those relationships are formed, maintained and strengthened -- all of which conjured up my time spent learning while at American Express and inspired by a great quote by Pam Alexander, CEO of Alexander Ogilvy.  I want to focus on this part of the quote today: 

"... Relationship management is nothing new, but with the advent of the internet as a communications infrastructure, it's more important than ever... "

My reason for bringing it to life again is borne of a great Brian Solis webinar (shout out to Radian6) I listened to on Friday and an article by him I read yesterday -- both about engagement and how we engage with customers and prospects (and internally) as social media continues to expand and evolve.  Friends, what the guy said in the webinar and wrote in the article is exactly right, at least from this newbie's point of view.  Here are some of my take aways from both:

  • The social space is more than the dialogue that's occurring.  Because of virtual communities, Facebook, tweets, etc., there is what Brian Solis calls the Human Network which is the sum total of conversations and relationships that are more than just a single network.  The whole is more than the sum of its parts.
  • Engagement isn't a conversation.  It's about providing value in meaningful ways to the customer which delivers the desired response either through an incremental purchase, referral, endorsement or what have you.  This implies that there is an organic two way exchange between the business and the customer -- or what he calls strategic participation and I wordily called delivered value and earned trust.
  • Effective social media is science and art which and is a function of time and investment.  We can't expect that just because we are out there means that we'll have an instant audience.  That's just phoning it in.  That Mitch Joel interview we chatted about also reinforces this concept.   
  • If we engage in a host of social media channels, we control the brand message and delivery amidst a dynamic and ever changing environment.  Content that speaks for us is part of engagement.  It is our brand doppelganger and people look to it as reinforcement for brand personality is and for what it stands.  We have to be sure that it speaks so that customers understand and consistent with how we've presented ourselves before.
  • We need to understand what's going on with trends and how the competition is engaging, for good or bad (e.g., Nestle).  We need to live and breathe the research.  Brian says, "Everything starts with an acute awareness of where existing and potential customers are discovering and sharing information today with a genuine appreciation for what moves them."  He also says that after we have the insights, "... we can then engage with influencers, peers and consumers based on a transparent foundation of contributing value..."
  • The onus is on social media marketers to be sociologists, psychologists, customer champions, etc., and to translate wants, needs and desired experiences in ways that will motivate senior executives to act instead of shrugging, yawning and saying "internet shminternet" with a wave of the hand.
Folks, I don't have a "but" to put anywhere.  I will say that while listening to the webinar and reading the article, it occurred to me that there is some beauty in being a marketing dinosaur like me.  In other words, as the quote says, relationship management is nothing new.  It isn't.  I would say that successful marketers even in the days prior to the Internet utilized these concepts in channels that had nothing to do with the internet.  Yes, new technologies refine engagement and take us places we've never been before let alone imagined but engagement in and of itself wasn't born yesterday.  

Good engagement is by definition promiscuous and by definition channel agnostic.  It has no loyalty to any one channel because engagement at its core is about engaging with the customers how and when they want the conversation to take place.  Their rules, their turf.  We get permission to visit with them once we've demonstrated that we hear and absorb what they're saying and that we'd like to have more conversations with them about how we can do better by them.  

I would say that Brian Solis is talking about Engagement 2.0.  You could replace "social media" in the list above with engagement and the statements would still be true.  In my next post, I'll flesh out these thoughts further but please do leave a comment or send me a note in the meantime.

Until then...

Parissa Behnia

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