Jasmine is a mixed-breed dog adopted from the Las Vegas dog pound. She’s a great dog. That’s her in the photo — patiently enduring being posed with a catalog of high-end dog beds while wearing a pair of silly eye glasses. Most of the time, she did what she was asked, (which was to look directly at the camera) but every now and again she couldn’t resist looking over at her trainer to see if it was time to go home yet.
Jasmine was giving her attention to the humans around her — but she wasn’t engaged with what was happening. She was simply enduring it.
Customers are like that, too. Most of the tools that marketers use today have built-in metrics that show what slides in a presentation viewers spent the most time with, or which links in an email campaign got the most clicks, or which page on a website kept visitors engaged the longest. So it’s easy enough to see where there are problems. But how do you fix them? What can we do as marketers to create content so compelling that people stop fidgeting, grant us their full attention, and take action?
Nobel Prize winning economist Herbert Simon wrote: “What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
When he wrote that, circa 1971, there was no Google, no Internet. No one had a cell phone, let alone unlimited texting and tweeting. So none of us really felt that we had to protect our time, attention and mind from a constant barrage of information we might or might not want. Things are different now, and consumers definitely do feel inundated with marketing messages — and the same technology that helps us deliver those messages help consumers filter them out.
PR superstar Susan Young published an article recently on Ragan’s PR Daily that offered these tips. (The whole article is well worth reading, and contains far more information than we’ve excerpted here.)
- Accept the word “I”. Consider using phrases like these in your marketing materials — people instinctively respond to other people. “I’m responsible for this outcome. I need your help. Here is what I think your needs are — am I correct?” Many marketers avoid personal pronouns, for fear of sounding arrogant — but Young points out that the word “I” also implies empowerment, active listing, and accountability.
- Chose your words carefully. If you want to engage with someone, you have to communicate with them. It may be a tweet, a thank-you note, an email, a blog post, or a video — but whatever communication channel you use, it will involve words. Words have power, and they’re being heard or read by people you’ve never met and will never meet. They may have grown up speaking a different language, or they may come from a different culture. Jargon, slang, humor that can be misunderstood, and “insider references” hurt engagement, and drive wedges between people.
- Speak up or shut up: the power of silence. Not every statement, conversation, or accusation warrants a response. Silence is an extremely powerful communication tool. This is especially true in social media and online forums where others might have an agenda that doesn’t allow them to engage in rational discussion. You can’t please everyone — and trying isn’t a good marketing strategy.
- Ask good questions. If you need good information, ask good questions. Get others thinking, feeling, reacting, and involved. Be curious, and, of course, be sure to listen to the response. Surveys, polls, and open-ended questions are excellent tools to get people engaged with you and your brand.
- Understand the emotions of communication in marketing. Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, writes about “The Golden Circle” and how most companies and people try to sell their ideas based on what their product or service is. Then they talk about how it will work. But the most successful are those who can connect with the public on an intimate level. These folks begin at the center of the circle, where the “why” resides. The “why” is what we believe and why we believe it. The “what” and “how” come later.
In a distributed marketing environment, it’s important to have the tools, strategies, and programs in place to manage true multi-channel, multi-level customer engagement. Empowering local sales and marketing people, customer service, and regional or national sales and marketing teams can be a complex process, and it takes the right technology platforms, vendors, and rules-based access to data to be successful. What tools and techniques do you have in place to manage and monitor customer engagement?