Saturday, June 28, 2014

From Advertising to Engagement

This article first appeared on June 28th, 2014 in Social Media Today: From Advertising to Engagement

How many of you have looked at the advertisements on the right hand side of the pages here on Social Media Today? Why is it that even here on a website dedicated to social, advertisers think that the way to achieve their objectives is some generic ad copy with a photo of someone smiling? Who clicks on these things anyway?

I'm not saying that advertising is going to go away anytime soon. But the savvy marketers have all realized one of the most important implications of digital transformation and the connected enterprise -- that they have to create meaningful engagement platforms that build relationships with customers and potential customers. And money spent on advertising must deliver people to those engagement platforms.

For the past several columns in this connected enterprise series I have been talking about the use of social in changing the way a company's own employees work together, changing how companies work with different kinds of partners, and even how digital transformation is impacting a particular industry (IME). In turning to what may seem like the most common way to use social -- engaging with customers -- I want to bring focus to what makes the best engagement strategies work and why they are critical for every company to master.

But let's start with advertising - the old way for a company to achieve its core objective: sales. For 100 years we have been perfecting mass marketing techniques. Buy the attention of a market and some number of people within that market will buy your product. Get the focus on the market, the dollars paid to reach each person, and the conversion rate just right and you make money. A lot of what happens in that process is mysterious (and the more mysterious the better for those Mad Men advertising agencies). But there is a basic formula to the possible ways in which you can get someone to pay attention to you in the interstitial world of broadcast media:

1) Interrupt: first break into whatever else your customer is doing, preferably in a way that makes them wait for you to be done telling them what you want them to hear before they are capable of going back to what they want to be doing

2) Entertain: then give them a little bit of entertainment value to tickle their brain cells into paying attention long enough for your message to sink in (although don't be surprised if you have to repeat an average of 6 times)

3) Inform: fill them up with your message goodness - buy now!

Whether the advertising is for a good product or a bad one and from a reputable company or a shady one, the formula is always about the same. And it worked for years - for a whole bunch of reasons that are no longer valid. Remember those bad old days where you couldn't research a product online? Where there wasn't even an online? Advertising was a content element in the media stream, a way that we actually learned what was going on in the world (at least the world of commercial products and services).

Companies now need to do a whole lot more to create the experience that we want as buyers of their products. Increasingly consumers have no patience for having their attention bought -- and this started happening BEFORE the Internet. The proliferation of cable channels starting in the 1980s combined with the advent of the remote control was an early way that consumers could avoid advertising by channel surfing. One client I worked with (a family style restaurant chain) did a study of the decline in television advertising effectiveness and traced the beginning of the end back to the launch of CNN.

But the Internet and social technologies have accelerated this decline in advertising effectiveness while simultaneously giving marketers an alternative -- a chance to transform their approach from advertising to engagement. Each of those steps in the old advertising formula have been replaced with an engagement step...

From Interrupting to Connecting -- the new marketing style starts with the curation of communities

From Entertaining to Collaborating -- your customers have things they want to do and when you connect to them instead of interrupting them you have a chance to work with them on what they what to do

From Informing to Supporting -- finally, the goal of the engagement must ultimately be the creation of value for your customers -- supporting them not just giving them the message you want to give them.

In the next three posts I will explore these three key transitions in depth and how marketers, salespeople, and service organizations must all work together to create valued engagement with markets.

No comments: