November 26, 2013

Unpacking Engagement Engagement has become a term that means everything and nothing. Too often it’s used offensively, defensively or indiscriminately to thrust or parry arguments about strategy, technology, media or creative. Engagement is the desired human interaction that results from marketing activity. It’s a feeling, a thought or possibly an action that a person takes in anticipation of or in response to messaging or functionality. Engagement planning starts with the desired response in mind and then maps customer attitudes and behaviors to find relevant and appropriate inflection points to begin the conversation. Engagement planning doesn’t start with tactics or channels. It starts with an understanding of what real people are likely to feel, think or do in response to an artificial stimulus. In order to enter the conversation and frame up an initial message, marketers need to consider these five factors. Creature Cycles. We are creatures of habit. We do things in predictable ways. Standard behavior patterns include where we go, how we get there, what we expect, what we do and in what sequence we approach tasks. Most of us prioritize tasks and people in repeatable ways. Understanding internal drivers and external influences affecting target audiences allow us to find openings for marketing. The goal is to find ways to intersect the lives and life patterns of customers and prospects that synch up with what they do, want, need or expect. The first step in planning engagement is to figure out how to be relevant and useful. Standing. Openness to people and ideas is a function of familiarity and standing. If I know and respect you I’m much more open to you than if you are a complete stranger. Brands are sorted into discrete folders in our brains. You have to know how you are sorted and what standing you have to enter into the conversation. An athletic wear brand can probably speak credibly about exercise and wellness, less so about politics or cultural issues. Brands have less standing than friends, co-workers or family members. The level of credibility, awareness, interest and trust in a brand, basically how brands are sorted, determines the aperture you have for reaching target customers. Engagement planning has to begin with an assessment of your standing which might lead to the decision to borrow standing from those with better connections or connotations. (This is the origin of influencer and member-get-member marketing.) High awareness brands have more standing than invisibles or newbies. Standing defines the angle of attack. A complete stranger approaching customers using personal information or outsized claims prompts immediate revulsion and rejection. Getting good juicy gossip from a trusted friend is the opposite end of the spectrum. Plotting your standing will separate intrusive from invited messages. Posture. There are many ways to approach customers. Usually the approach is a function of the state of the relationship. In some cases a message delivered by a credible third party has more impact than a direct approach. In the case of brand loyalists, whispering insider or advanced information in their ears builds demand, satisfaction and loyalty faster. And for those actively shopping, eye-to-eye, direct offers can drive faster conversion. Posture affects the psychology of your positioning and shapes the tone, manner, language and attitude of creative. Timing. Timing is everything. Texting a busy Mom at 7 am while she’s trying to get her kids up, dressed, fed and out the door is a non-starter. Brands need to understand the mindset and the mechanics of customers’ lives. As mobile becomes the ubiquitous on-the-go channel of choice, timing, utility and relevance become critical success factors. Marketers must get much more intimate with the routes and routines of target audiences. UXD. Any desired action must be fast, easy to do, intuitive and simple to understand. Account for distractions, fat fingers and multi-tasking. Messages must drive to simple desired actions. Labels on buttons and CTAs must be clear and telegraphic. Buttons have to be big and colored. Copy has to be scan-able and snack-able. Increase the font size. Don’t skimp on white space. Pressure test every sequence. Invest heavily in connecting all the data pipes on the back end. If you get everything else right but blow the user experience design, you lose the ballgame. Engagement is about genuine human connection. Channels, media, content and technology are facilitators. The ultimate measurement is a thought, a feeling or an action. Related articles Customer engagement in social networks isn't enough
What Women Want Women buy everything. They are the ultimate predictors of commercial success for most brands. The recent SheSpeaks/LippeTaylor Holiday Shopping Index offers us some insights into consumers’ confidence levels and holiday shopping plans. Among the 3000 American women surveyed the economic outlook is mixed. Forty percent feel confident or somewhat confident in their families’ financial situation and forty-three percent don’t, up nineteen points from last year. This reflects the haves versus the have-nots we are hearing about daily. Ninety one percent of those responding will spend the same or less than last year. About half (48%) will spend less on holiday gifts while another forty-three percent will spend the same as last year. So its no surprise that retail is running below forecast regardless of a shorter holiday season. Most consumers will shop both online and offline. Six out of ten will use a shopping app. The most popular apps will be those offering coupons, retail store apps and comparative shopping tools. Finding value, getting the most for the money and racking up loyalty points or scoring deals is clearly on women’s minds. Facebook, Amazon Wish Lists and Pinterest will be useful shopping resources. One in five shoppers will seek out flash sale sites. Women are generally concerned about the quality of gifts received. Tchotchkes and knick-knacks are the absolute worst. Extended family members generally give the worst gifts, which explains why 25% of those surveyed admit to re-gifting. If you are shopping for women clothing, personal technology, beauty products and gift cards are at the top of their wish lists. Though making the right brand, size or quality decision can be tricky. If in doubt, give a gift card because nothing says, “I love you” better than cash or cash equivalents. While not surprising, these results suggest that the economy is still much shakier than we’ve been thinking. The impetus for brands and marketers is to focus on customer experience to establish value and incent sales

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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