Tag Archives: Customer Engagement


evangelistDiscussions with a new client often include the evangelizing (or ‘strong advocacy’) of what Content Marketing and custom content can do for their business overall.  As part of an initial presentation, I typically focus on a few that are apparent to their business/industry, but also recall from an earlier blog entry, and the list keeps growing.

In the spirit of helping you evangelize the power of Content, I’m sharing a list of 20 business objectives addressed by Content Marketing.

We’ll start this week with the alphabetic first ten, beginning with A through I.

Advocacy1.  Advocacy.  Truly the ultimate goal for your customers – have them doing the evangelizing for your business!  Even the most efficient media at the lowest CPMs can’t beat the free word of mouth by your faithful customers.  And since we know customers place higher value on the recommendations of others like them (much higher than advertising) – even if they are complete strangers – word of mouth made possible by the added value of helpful, relevant content brings the power of advocacy to ultimate levels.  Real bonding occurs when customers feel your business isn’t just after a sale, but all about truly helping them with solutions.

2.  Awareness.  Normally the domain of mass media and traditional advertising, Content Marketing now easily impacts this very early stage in the customer journey Awarenesscourtesy of the low cost/no cost broad channels made possible by digital media –websites, social media channels, blogging, and so on.  A customer’s earliest interaction with your brand is that much more impactful when not based on interrupting their engagement with the media, but when it is actually the engaging media itself!  I never would have become aware of the power of Blendtec mixers if not for their entertaining and informational video series Will It Blend? — that’s Content Marketing creating awareness.

Brand iron B

3.  Branding.  Content Marketing may possibly be the #1 WMB (weapon of mass branding) in your marketing arsenal.  A “brand” (the noun) is arguably more about what your product or service stands for, rather than simply what your product or service is.  And as the ultimate arbiter of what your brand really means, a customer searches for that which will serve their needs – not just the utilitarian needs of the offering, but the higher order needs of what they are ultimately seeking.  Rubbermaid doesn’t just offer containers, or just ‘organization,’ but ultimately stands for a better home life experience – and         that’s what their content helps brand (the verb).

churn reduction 4.  Churn Reduction.  What reasons cause customers to leave your fold are as varied and possibly more mysterious than what incites them to stay. Chalk either up to a rewarding brand experience.  More than price, more than product benefits, the ‘experience’ is an on-going and additive construct.  Relevant and engaging content gives customers  another reason to stay, as it serves as a differentiator from like products or services that may offer it cheaper or with a new bell or whistle. Even something  as seemingly interchangeable as a household cleaner can command more loyalty when the experience reaches higher-order needs, as this inspiring content  (if you’re a parent,  that is) from SC Johnson shows.

5.  Cross-sell

cross sell

‘After you got ‘em once, see if you can get ‘em again for something additional’ – that’s the basic idea behind cross-sell.  The theory goes that a customer    purchasing a broader swath of your product line is inherently a more profitable or at least more loyal customer. Viewed in the context of Content, it can be about a customer engaging with different content ‘platforms’ that address different customer needs.  A small business owner becomes a better customer to HP if she initially is a buyer of HP ink cartridges and then begins to purchase various HP peripherals; she also becomes a better customer if she frequently engages with HP through their entrepreneur forum 367 Addison Avenue and then begins to explore content in HP’s inventor community The Next Bench.  A customer experiencing a broader swath of your Content, too, is a more profitable and loyal customer.

6.  Customer acquicustomer capturesition

Every time I read the phrase ‘customer acquisition,’ I envision the hackneyed sales funnel with its wide mouth atop, sloping down to a narrow aperture at the bottom, where many prospects enter and fewer customers emerge.  Whether you  subscribe to this clean, sequential view of customer acquisition or a messier, divergent path (compare both examples), customer acquisition begins with prospect awareness and ends with customer transaction (the continued journey toward customer retention is detailed next).  Migrating prospects through these stages (or, through the funnel) is the sales challenge, with Content playing a major role in moving a prospect from awareness to consideration, consideration to interaction, interaction to transaction (or a mash-up of these steps).  In fact, a strategic argument could be made that your efforts to engage via Content should increase as your suspects to prospects to customers ratios decrease.

7.  Customer retentioncustomer retention

And, the other side of the coin – now that you’ve got them, how do you keep them?  Post-initial transaction efforts at re-purchase, bonding, loyalty, and advocacy can all be pegged to delivering communications that are entertaining, informational, educational, and inspirational – without being too marketer-centric (e.g. Buy me!  Buy more!  Buy more often!) and instead more customer-centric (e.g. By the way, By addressing my needs, right by my side).  Harvard Business  Review reports 91% of small business owners do nothing to retain existing clients, when even the most conservative estimates suggest the costs for new customer acquisition is five to nine times higher than the cost for retaining existing ones!  Traditional advertising may have a role at the beginning of acquisition, but does relatively little in customer retention – that’s where Content truly excels!

8.  In-bound marketing

lead generation

The concept of in-bound marketing (versus out-bound or ‘push’ marketing) is eponymous with Content Marketing.  Web 1.0 was doomed where marketers felt  ‘If we build it, they will come,” and when they (customers) didn’t stay, the legacy solution was to push messages at them.  In-bound marketing is centered on  Content, about self-creating something interesting to say to customers about their interests.  It’s the manifestation of Web 2.0, where every business has the   opportunity to become ‘media.’  Think of it as a discussion at a cocktail party:  if you have something interesting to say that is about delivering on the needs of a certain someone, that certain someone will flock to you.  If you interrupt others’ discussions and blather on about ‘me, me, me,’ you’ll be ignored (rightfully so).  Be the interesting one at the party who creates a true dialog with others.  Be ‘in-bound’ Content Marketing.

9.  Increase Customer LTV

Lifetime Value (LTV) is all about looking at the long-term health of a LTVrelationship with your customer, and not about short-term, quick hit, move on to the next victim type of sale.  Content helps build that elusive trust that is earned by a marketer, one that results in bonding, loyalty, and advocacy.  Clearly tied to churn reduction and customer retention, LTV is actually a mind set of doing business, one based on the value of that specific person or account to one’s business.  But from another angle, LTV can also be about the value of a brand or company to customer over a lifetime.  As the customer’s needs change, how can the brand  continue to be valuable to her?  How does the brand stack up against other competitors for her time, money, commitment?  Here, Content becomes a real differentiator, a competitive advantage to ensure the relationship is a long-lasting,  and mutually beneficial one.

10.  Increase share of wallet

share-of-walletThe idea behind Share of Wallet typically results from both a breadth and depth of customer transactions within a given competitive set or industry.  That is,       increasing the share of a customer’s wallet can be through broadening what they purchase from you (capitalized on by cross-sell) or by the deepening of purchases they make with your company from a vertical perspective (capitalized on by volume purchases of the same offering and/or by trading up within the vertical…upselling).  Here, Content Marketing impacts this objective by providing both information and inspiration – reassurance on past transactions and realization on future ones.  LinkedIn does a great job in the subtle up-sell to their premium offering cleverly called LinkedIn Premium.  For those professionals active in the job market, or those just curious, their content is user-centric and focuses on vaulting the networking hurdles and building business relationships in   the digital world.  Through Content Marketing, they address the higher order need for competence and control in one’s professional life, and thereby increase share-of-wallet through vertical upsell.

Next time, I’ll share the second ten:

11        Integration

12        Internal communications

13        Lead generation/formulation

14        Loyalty

15        Reputation Management

16        SEO

17        Social media communications

18        Stakeholder/shareholder communications

19        Thought Leadership

20        Up-sell

Are there more that you’ve identified?  Let me know — I’ll share them (and credit you) in the next post!

A real-life word-of-mouth and customer engagement experience to make you smile

Being a parent of grade-school age children means being a witness (and bankroller) of fairly predictable consumer transactions:  the big girl/big boy bicycle (no training wheels), the whole-class-is-invited birthday party at ‘BouncyLand’ (inflatable indoor “moonwalk” city where pizza + soda pop + cake + bouncy = mop and bucket needed in room 3), and even the off-hand “you may be looking at orthodontia” comment at a routine dental check-up.  Each a major milestone with the price tag to match.

Our eldest daughter did require braces, so we visited the shop that every pre-teen in the town seemed to frequent.  Let’s call him Dr. Style DDS.

The waiting room was very modern and…slick.  A whole wall was an enclosed glass case showing the ‘rewards’ a young patient can ‘earn’ through compliance with their orthodontial duties.  Another area offered free single-serve flavored coffees from pods to moms and dads (or hot cocoa for kids – possibly sugar-free?).  None of the requisite magazines and books, but waiting room ‘stations’ where affixed Nintendo DSs could be enjoyed by waiting young patients (a little taste for free to whet the appetite for ‘earning’ a ‘reward’ from the aforementioned glass case?).

An orthodontics assistant showed us all to a consultation room where we waited for a bit.  Dr. Style came in, introduced himself to my wife and me, sat down and began examining our daughter’s bite, jaw, etc.  He had an uncanny knack for being able to do so with his head turned back to the adults, engaging us in conversation.  Okay, maybe not ‘engaging’ or ‘conversation’ really – for a medical professional, he seemed to be doing an awful lot of ‘selling’ – hands busily working on our daughter’s mouth while his eyes and intention on working on her parents.  In fact, I don’t recall he ever spoke to my daughter.

Clearly, he was competent, with a successful, popular practice.  Really quite slick.

We decided to also look at another orthodontic option in a neighboring town.  Offices also modern, but with an open floor plan/feel, including an open, circular reception area (populated by no fewer than three receptionists at any time, each offering eye-contact, a smile and a hello as they covered their telephone headsets briefly with their hands.  Yes, we were actually ‘received’ by reception.

Instead of being shuttled back to a room to wait, the orthodontist — let’s call him Dr. Substance DDS — came out to meet us in reception.  More accurately, to meet our daughter first (by first name and a smile), and then introducing himself to mom and dad.  Dr. Substance led her (and  us) to a consultation room and engaged our daughter in conversation (about her family, her friends, her school, her hobbies, and yes, her smile).  He too engaged my wife and me, but more through his actions and interactions with our daughter.  He led her and us to one of the ortho “stations” and introduced her to one of the friendly young technicians.  We were given a brief but complete tour of the entire space, and bumped into Dr. Substance’s partner, the slightly younger and possibly even more friendly “Dr. Care.”

After the consultation visit, we asked our daughter who reported she felt much more comfortable at Drs. Substance and Care’s.  We were already ‘sold.’

In the four years we’ve been paying visits (and yes, bills) to Drs. Substance and Care, we’ve regularly experienced the following:

+        Every time she steps through the door, no matter how busy they are, the receptionists all cover their headsets and offer her a genuine smile and stage whisper a big ‘Hello,  (my daughter’s first name)!’

+        Every visit includes an engaging technician and Dr. Care or Substance

+        Adherence to good dental health is met with verbal praise, not commercial incentive

+        At least twice, we’ve run into one of the two partners off site and out of context (e.g. the grocery store).  Each time the doctor greeted her by first name, a big smile, and a friendly exchange.  Note:  these doctors see literally hundreds of mouths every week.  Here, there was no appointment ledger in hand – just great recognition and memory

Most recently, my wife and I met with Dr. Substance to determine course of action for Phase II of our daughter’s ortho ‘plan.’  As happy parents of a happy patient, we candidly opened up to him about how he, his partner, and their staff do so many things the right way.  We also relayed that whenever given the opportunity, we frequently talk up and recommend their practice to families from our area considering orthodontics (we know for a fact that we’ve referred half a dozen families toward Dr. Substance & Care’s practice, and all seem equally as thrilled as we are).  He really was touched and thanked us sincerely.

Next we had a brief sit-down with the ‘business plan nurse’ (for lack of a better memory or title) – again, professional and pleasant.

As we checked out at reception ready to depart, Dr. Substance came striding forward, with a smile, handshake, and an envelope, thanking us for being advocates of their practice.  Inside was a $50 gift certificate to a new, nearby restaurant.  He said they didn’t have a formalized process to elicit referral, but they did like to acknowledge families who helped them spread the word.

I (much too) occasionally blog about customer engagement and corresponding marcomm practices – yet this real life and personal experience serves as a great example:

+        Slick marketing is fine, but nothing takes the place of a true customer experience

+        More often than not, customers want to be listened to, not ‘sold’

+        Engagement is something that should permeate an entire business – leadership on down, and in every facet

+        On-going customer engagement elicits word-of-mouth, referrals, advocacy, and ultimately additional sales – even if formalized efforts haven’t been put in place

And for those of you in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago, please consider our orthodontists and their delicious, healthy restaurant neighbor … both for your families’ palates!

You want proof? Stick a fork in a toaster.

Recently I was invited to provide a post for the Content Marketing Institute’s blog.  CMI is the brainchild of Joe Pulizzi, a colleague and friend and self-proclaimed ‘poster child’ for Content Marketing.  Joe and I collaborated on “Engagement:  Understanding It, Achieving It, Measuring It,” a whitepaper/e-book published earlier this year.  His vision with CMI is to help marketers (particularly B-to-B marketers) with the how-to’s of content marketing.

Charged with providing additional insight on the measurement of content marketing, I pondered my post, and kept coming back to what, deep down, we all ask ourselves about any marketing communication:

Does it really work?

Now, back in my days as an undergraduate, my question was about advertising specifically:  Does advertising really work?  Can we prove it?

And I recalled the adages of some historical figures who reportedly said:

‘I know half my advertising budget is wasted; I just wish I knew which half;” and

“There are three kinds of lies:   lies, damned lies and statistics;” and even the

“X% of companies that continued to advertise through the Great Depression are still vibrant corporations today.  The X% that cut back, you’ve likely never, nor will you, hear of.”

(Okay, so I have recall of a few pithy statements meant to back up the idea that advertising is important but tricky to measure, to prove that it works.)

But isn’t that the same methodology that supposedly supports advertising’s effectiveness – that is, recall?  That you’ve “been reached” or you have “awareness?”  That you then just know?

I feel many of us marketing-types out there believe advertising works because, well, we believe it does.  We just know.

Now, see how that flies in the CFO’s office!

My post, here, talks about proving the efficacy of your content marketing efforts by facilitating an Experimental Design, to actually test that it works.  To show the corner office (or your own conscience) that “when you plug X in, Y happens.”

Experimental Design using a plugged-in toaster and a fork
Pre-test                                              Post-test

Photo credit:  hallopino.com

But I think as much as demonstrating the how-to’s of measuring Content Marketing using Experimental Design, it is key to remember that any marcomm effort is a strategy to help accomplish a (marketing) goal.  So, the independent variable here is the marcomm effort, and the dependent variable is the marketing effort.  It helps me, at least, to de-mystify the “science” behind it all.

Viewed this way, it also helps avoid ‘over-reaching’ with your hypothesis.  Rather than saying “we need to prove the ROI of Content Marketing” or “we need to measure the return on equity of Engagement,” your experiment should strive for a more direct correlation or cause:  “prove that increasing the frequency of marketing content will lead to a greater proportion of qualified leads amongst all leads.”

DO measure your marcomm efforts.

DO set aside monies and time to do so.

DO so consistently and regularly.

Think of it as Experimental Design itself, with a hypothesis:

If I take the time and effort to measure my Engagement efforts, I will produce insights, and ultimately, results.”

And that works.

Old MacDonald’s Method for Creating Engaging Content

Okay, previously, the discussion was around the differences between “Big C” (Content Marketing) Content and little c content – how focusing on customers’ higher-order needs helps to ensure that communication is relevant, engaging, and will be acted upon by customers.

Like many mysteries in life, there’s both an art and a science to creating engaging Content.

First, the science:  all Content must serve objectives.

Great, you say; I need to create reach or consideration, or increase sales or referrals – just show me how Content can help me reach my objectives.

But here’s the  twist in the science:  content (small c) may help in achieving your objectives, but Content (Big C) is created when you focus on serving your customers’ objectives.

Customers’ Objectives?

Yes.  Your Customers’ objectives – while they map back to your overall brand marketing or business objectives, it’s important to place these objectives in terms of customers and their points of view.  No customer goes out to ‘increase reach’ or ‘increase sales’ – but they do need to become aware or gain a sense of reassurance.  C.A.R.E. ™ — Customer Acquisition and Retention through Engagement, a proprietary strategic framework from Nutlug, maps the stages a customer goes through in her journey with a brand, and as a basis of viewpoint, pairs marketing objectives with corresponding customer goals.

If content is created to address customer goals (Objectives), then it’s well on the way to becoming “Big C” Content .

But there’s more.  Just because content is geared to address Customer objectives doesn’t mean it’s necessarily engaging.  Customers have to enjoy it, learn something from it, be motivated by it, shown how to do something by it.

Short of market researching absolutely every blog post, every upload, every bit of “small c” content you create to gauge its likelihood to engage your customers, there is a simple checklist passed down from folksong lore to serve as a litmus test of sorts, to make sure your content is on the right track.

It’s called Old MacDonald’s Method for Engaging Content.

And here’s how the little ditty goes:

First and foremost, your Content needs to be ENTERTAINING.  This might seem logical, but in the scope of the world wide web, there’s a glut of customer options containing a flood of content that isn’t.  There’s really no sure fire formula for creating something that’s entertaining (or viral, for that matter), but it’s safe to start with placing oneself in the customer’s shoes and determining what’s entertaining to him or her.  Knowing your audience and creating robust customer personas is a good first step.

Next, check to see if your Content is INFORMATIONAL.  Allow your customers to experience the breadth of your knowledge on the subjects and topics that likely have drawn them to you in the first place.  This is really the key to in-bound marketing – creating Content that informs your customers in the higher order need areas they require.  Thought leadership is built around informational Content.

The other E in the “methodology” is EDUCATIONAL.  Yes, this is indeed different from Informational – it takes information to the next step by explaining and showing your customer how-to with your Content.   Some of the very best B-to-B Content is focused on being educational.  There is always an underlying fear of offering too much education to customers that they won’t need to purchase your products or services; do your best to ignore this irrational ghost.  If a wireless router manufacturer provides a three minute video on how to set up a wireless router, I’ve been educated…but will still need the product (and likely the services to have someone do it right for me!).

The other I stands for INSPIRATIONAL.  Often the overlooked element to Big C Content, persuasive storytelling goes well beyond ‘selling’ – along with offering entertaining content that informs and educates, Content also gives the pep talk, the slap on the back, the kick in the rear that urges the customer to do something.  Case studies play well in this sandbox – showing how another small business owner leveraged social networking to increase referrals, for example, can lead to inspire others to follow.  Inspiration’s muse is often emotional, but founded in rational Content, particularly when it helps achieve the aforementioned higher-order needs.

It doesn’t stand for okay (as in ‘Okay, I can see where you’re going with this E-I-E-I-O thing, Keith) – but it refers back to the Customer OBJECTIVES discussed earlier.  Efforts can be entertaining, informational, educational, and inspirational… and still not be Big C Content.  Adhering to customer objectives (and yes, they do tie in with your brand’s objectives as well) is the key note in our tune.  Otherwise, it’s just E-I-E-I….

So don’t forget the O.  It’s the basis of Big C.

That’s what MacDonald says, anyway.

Domino’s Pizza Proverbs: Content Marketing extending the experience

Using a brand’s own packaging as a forum for content is nothing new, of course.  Ingredient-based food brands have been placing recipes for salads, sloppy joes, Slurpees, and salmon on labels, boxes and inserts for ages.  This type of content typically addresses the next-closest level consumer need; in this case, nourishment — and how best to achieve it while utilizing the starring brand.

But what about when the consumer need is of a higher order, say the need for self-expression — can packaging provide the appropriate venue there?

Starbucks thought so, in 2007.  Looking to extend the thought-provoking topics traditionally discussed in the local coffeeshop to the to-go cup of cappuccino (extra foam), they introduced “The Way I See It,” a series of statements and quotes from famous and not-so-famous folks and their views of the world, printed in green and black ink right on the cup.

Words of wisdom from Roger Ebert

Sometimes controversial, polarizing, or even just odd, the content did serve as an experience-extender of the higher order need of expression… something perhaps missing from our drive-through world and reminiscent of the sometimes controversial, polarizing, or even just odd discussions held in coffeehouses in days of yore.

Today, we have this from Domino’s :  Pizza Proverbs.  A combination promotion, user-generated content, and social media play, it invites consumers to slice up a traditional proverb (e.g. “A stitch in time saves nine”) to make it Domino’s and pizza-centric (e.g. “A pizza in time feeds nine”).  As of this writing, there are 568 pizza proverbs appearing on pizzaproverbs.com – at least those that Domino’s feel make the ‘cut.’  (Note:  author submitted two pizza proverbs that should have risen to the top, yet were rejected by website curators.  Ah, such is the life of a user generating content).

Eight consumers with the sauciest snippets of sage advice will receive their proverb printed on an empty, grease-free Domino’s box (suitable for framing, I’m guessing), with the chance (not promise) to appear for real on certain quantities of Domino’s delivery boxes…seems Domino’s isn’t yet 100% sold that any could become the phrase that pays.

I, for one, hope Domino’s does allow on-box, mass distribution of the winning proverbs – they’d clearly be a hit (and maybe collector’s item) in the regions where the winners call home, or could play to other vertical promotions focusing on featured offerings.

Moreover, it will offer an opening lob into the bull-sessions frequently enjoyed by those gathered around a ‘za.  Just as Starbucks wished for the thought-provoking, coffeehouse vibe in its “The Way I See It,’ Domino’s similarly hopes for the irreverent, after-hours munchies mob with “Pizza Proverbs.”  Both using their own iconic packaging to deliver an expanded experience.

Questionwho’s the next major marketer to leverage its own packaging as a venue for content marketing (user- or brand-generated)?

I’ll post all answers (within reason), even if in questionable ‘taste!’

Customer Engagement means asking “are your customers really engaged?”

Customer Engagement:  a calling, a passion, a way of life.

But just what do we mean when we say “engaging advertising” or “engaging content” or even “engaging experience”?  Can we agree on what it means to be engaging to our customers?

My colleague, Joe Pulizzi from Junta42 and I were stymied by this and decided to do something about it.

The result:  an engaging whitepaper on Engagement, with ideas, theories, and practical applications to help you better understand Engagement, apply metrics to measure it, and view some terrific examples to help you achieve it.

Customer Engagement whitepaper

Engagement: Understanding It, Measuring It, Achieving It

Download your free copy here, no registration required!

All that we ask is that you share it with your friends and colleagues.


Engagement is a strategy, not a metric

with this ring

Interesting take on engagement by Gene Liebel at Adweek (So You’re Engaged — Now What?)

I’m positive many marketers indeed look to ‘engagement’ as the new metric:

MarketingGuy 1988:  “We need reach!”
MarketingGuy 2008:  “We need engagement!”

Yes, marketers need to engage their customers/prospects, but engagement isn’t a metric, or even a goal — engagement is a route to the goal.

Whether the objective is awareness, consideration, interaction, transaction, bonding, advocacy, or any other label on a stage in the Customer Journey, engagement is the chief means to achieving that goal. And that, by definition, is a strategy.

What then is engagement? My definition is the customer-centric need being fulfilled not necessarily by the purchasing of your brand, but rather by your actions as a brand: information, education, entertainment, inspiration = problem solving. Think about being “engaged,” such as by a professional speaker. S/he likely delivers on all of the above.

Yes, time-spent, page views, clicks are all metrics that can help define ‘engagement,’ but they are by far not the only ones. ‘Engaged’ prospects/customers also visit more frequently, are more apt to cross-purchase/up-purchase, and ultimately become the strongest advocates for your brand. They sign up for e-newsletters and RSS feeds, they download whitepapers and attend webinars, they refer friends and forward pages, and they talk you up in social media settings.

Engagement means different things depending on the objective of the marketing stage.  ‘Engagement’ in the reach phases is still very wide-net-casting, with the greater in-depth engagement occurring in later stages of the Customer Journey.   Hence, metrics used to measure the objectives achieved via Engagement differ as well.

Oftentimes, the bulk of engagement resources (e.g. Content Marketing) demand back-load weighting/allocation, as customers likely deserve greater attention than suspects, and advocates more so than customers.

Different stages of customers?  Mixed allocations of resources based on customer groupings?  Migration of customers from one stage to another?  Different metrics in place to measure different stage objectives?  Smells an awful lot like CRM.

As it should.  Engagement is a close relative of CRM. And like CRM, the end goals of engagement are sales and maximizing LTV. Engagement isn’t the end goal, or even a metric…it’s a strategy.

MarketingGuy 2009:  “We need sales and LTV:  let’s focus on engagement.”