One of the recurring themes over the past three years is the yin and yang of attempts to engage customers and buyers through digital and content marketing. The statistics on surveys from Forrester, McKinsey, IBM, Sirius Decisions, and others have all been surprisingly constant. Reflecting the fact of sixty-five to seventy percent of content goes unread or is found irrelevant. Yet, in other surveys, consistently, more than eighty-five percent of marketers proclaim implementing digital and content marketing, as well as, marketing automation.
It does not take too much thinking or observation to see something is amiss here. Organizations, including B2B, are spending enormous funds to engage customers, yet, the return and results are less than sparkling.
Customer Engagement: The Primary Driver Of Growth
What has become evident during the past two years is the recognition, on the part of CEO’s in both B2C and B2B, that customer engagement is becoming more important to the overall growth and health of their organizations. In fact, according to annual surveys conducted by IBM and others, as many as 65% believe customer engagement will be the primary driver of growth going forward. This is expected to grow to 80% plus in the next few years.
This growing recognition has shifted the priorities on the plate of CMOs towards breaking through the current ice jam when it comes to customer engagement. It has taken a few years for this fact to settle in the minds of CMOs: traditional campaign marketing, however, digitized and automated, is simply not working. Such campaign focus, augmented by an increase in content, is lacking in the design of experiences and engagements, which resonate with buyers and customers.
Shift In Focus To Goal-Directed Customer Engagement
Organizations today will need to shift their focus towards customer strategy frameworks around the concept of customer engagement. To do so, insights into what influences and drives customer engagement, on the part of customers (and buyers), will be foundational. In my previous article, I defined needed insights as:
Insights are illuminating revelations of underlying goals, motivations, mental filters, and emotions, which drive goal-directed behaviors and activities (to engage)
Here, I add to engage in the definition. To be successful at what drives people to engage, as buyers and customers today, we must understand their underlying goals and goal-directed behaviors. Despite the rapid growth of digital technologies, understanding human goals and goal-directed behaviors remain essential to understanding engagement.
Goal-Directed CE™ Model
Fortunately, for CMOs, there is a deliberate and repeatable model, as well as, process for focusing on customer engagement. Both in the design world and in the social sciences, goal-directed processes and theories have proven to be effective at mapping to the uncovered goals and goal-based behaviors of people and organizations.
A Goal-Directed Customer Engagement model consists of four key phases designed to map to fulfilling goals and engaging customers. They are:
- Qualitative Customer and Buyer Research: during this phase, use of goal-oriented qualitative research techniques are used to uncover insights into underlying goals, motivations, and goal-directed behaviors of customers and buyers. An emphasis on goal-driven engagement behaviors is crucial.
- Modeling of Goal-Directed Personas and Behaviors: in this phase, the modeling of customer and buyer archetypes, personas, is also accompanied by patterns of goal-directed behaviors, contextual goal-based scenarios, and mental framing insights.
- Customer Engagement Framework: informed by insights and goal-directed modeling, a customer engagement framework is constructed. In this phase, a goal-directed customer engagement journey is the focus with an emphasis on identifying interacting and engagement requirements.
- Design Marketing Engagement: this last phase is intended to specify the goal-oriented marketing engagement content and systems to support an end-to-end customer engagement journey. The emphasis is on mapping to the specific goal-directed behaviors of customers and buyers.
A Disciplined Process For Customer Engagement
Customers and buyers today, as shown by various surveys during the past few years, are showing less allegiance to brands. In my qualitative interviews directly with hundreds of buyers and customers, I have noted a dramatic shift in goal-directed behaviors towards brands and content. The overwhelming deluge of campaign-oriented content is causing buyers today to be more selective and less trusting of random content showing up in their email boxes.
What exists today for many organizations is the lack of a disciplined process and model for customer engagement in an ever-burgeoning digital age. Instead, resorting to complicated piecemeal approaches disconnected to an overall customer engagement strategy. The Goal-Directed Customer Engagement process outlined above is designed to help bridge the gap in meeting desires on the part of customers to fulfill goals – and to engage.
As we look ahead to the future, we are seeing various forms of maturation in both customer buying behaviors and marketing. To remain sustainable and connected to customers, businesses will need to engage with customers in ways that enrich the human experience. Meaning, marketing will have to become more human-centered, as well as, engaging.
For CMOs, this will be the ultimate test in terms of contributing to overall growth. To create and deliver on customer engagement strategies, which embody the human connection, sought by customers and buyers.