For the Eloqua Experience preparation webinar sponsored by Televerde, I was asked to speak to the topic of Engagement. This is one of six topics that comprise the agenda for Eloqua Experience.
As a concept, engagement means something a little different to everyone. I often hear clients talk about engagement as: touches, email opens, click-thrus, event visits, content views or even downloads.
As B2B marketers, we have to be careful not to get too caught up in mechanics and focused just on “hard” outcomes we can measure and report. I suggest we think of engagement as:
Sustained and helpful interaction with a target audience to create and mature relationships
across the entire buyer life-cycle, in order to realize mutual personal and business outcomes.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
Webinar Engagement Poll
This webinar format consisted of a question for participants on each Eloqua Experience topic. Panelists commented on the poll results with observations and suggestions. Here is the question for the Engagement topic:
Engagement: What most reduces your effectiveness engaging customers to generate leads?
- Website doesn’t engage viewers
- Right content not available for all buyer roles, stages & touchpoints
- Limited use of all channels
- Not doing effective nurturing
- All of the above
Responses for this topic spread pretty evenly across all five response options.
Why Engagement Is Important
Engagement is the starting activity for lead generation, nurturing, scoring and qualifying objectives of demand managers.
For the modern marketer, everything emanates from changes in the way B2B buyers buy, operating through online, self-directed research, as deep as 60% of the way toward buying decisions by some estimates. (CEB)
This means buyers operate in stealth mode to vendors who lack sufficient engagement methods to find and be found, when and where research activity is conducted.
A primary, and often overlooked research method buyers use is referrals from industry influencers and colleagues. So engagement requires broader consideration than target market segments, ideal customer profiles or specific buyer personas.
I find it useful to think of engagement in two primary categories: listening and sharing.
We listen to markets and buyers to learn: about them, their situation, needs, expectations, desired approaches and timing, among many other factors.
With this understanding we can then determine how best to mine our subject expert resources for insights and useful ideas that we can share with buyers to keep them returning for more. And listening helps tune follow on engagement, nurturing techniques and content focus to make sharing engagements more effective and efficient.
Content Is Strategic Engagement Currency
People buy from people and organizations they know, trust and believe will provide the best solution to problems and results to the business. In short, the best value.
Content supplements sales professionals, especially at initial stages, to establish relationships with online, on-demand buyers. Buyer relevant, useful content is essential for organizations to earn the right to be considered, listened to and ultimately selected as vendor of choice. Too often it is indistinguishable from alternative sources or not relevant to the reader’s situation.
Appropriate engagement methods and channels deliver content so it finds online researchers when and where they are.
Belief in this perspective should shift the role of content from the traditional expense oriented support for marketing tactics, to a primary strategic asset that fuels new customer acquisition and revenue growth initiatives.
Your Engagement Requirements and Challenges
Marketing has shifted to a real-time, give to get activity. Get everyone in your organization to understand the implications of this.
Content is your first offer (aka product) that you can give to get attention, information, permission and relationship.
B2b buying teams typically involve 4 – 14 players or more depending on the complexity of decision projects. Helping team members inform and enroll colleagues is a key objective for you and your buyers.
Buyers demand relevant, useful content, written not for markets or segments, but for specific individuals, with specific problems, particular ways of appreciating value. Buying teams are working their way through a decision process (buyer journey) and want content that addresses those specific considerations at each point in the process. Time is a premium. Convenience is a factor.
Engage: at any given time, you must engage ALL key buyer roles (personas), address primary business issues that your products and services (solutions) meet, with answers to buying stage oriented questions, in language and stories appropriate for primary industry verticals, and in the context of buyers options — your competition. To accomplish this, you must …
Pre-produce: your content so it is available the instant your online buyer engages: your website, emails, social media activity, landing pages, resource center, buyer advocates, third party referral sources.
Coverage: therefore, you must produce the critical mass of content that covers your primary marketing — and I would add sales and sales channel — use case requirements. The graphicic below represents this idea.
Scale: when you do the math, your numbers will vary. But if you believe in content as your critical lead generation resource, your first offer for your customer, and relevance as a core criteria for effective content, you must come to terms with this reality.
Risk: any content gaps in key areas of your use case map mean poor or no engagement, missed opportunity or end of relationship.
What You Must Do
Fortunately, there is no mysterious magic for what you must do. What to do is well known and accepted.
Unfortunately, most organizations really struggle with execution — with the skills, methodologies and discipline to get it done.
And EVERYTHING must be documented, preferably with guiding templates supported by operational checklists:
- Content strategy that aligns with and supports business, go-to-customer, sales and marketing strategies and plans. This includes preparation and planning for:
- Deep, rigorous and validated understanding of buyer segments, profiles, personas, buying process and questions.
- Content use case requirements researched, mapped and prioritized — across product, functions and maybe even business units (that share common market segments, customer problems or buyer personas.)
- Competitor assessments, at the messaging/content as well as offer levels.
- Determine where to focus messaging and content on primary topics (buyer issues) and themes. Identify supporting storyline, phrases and keywords.
- Conduct content inventory and assessment for customer, campaign, social and selling readiness.
- Define specific content plans and priorities.
- Set up people your enablement program
- Manage and support infrastructure, technology and tools
- Implement and operate a professional publishing operations program. We can help you in this area, to accelerate your time to publishing proficiency (shameless plug).
Your Most Important Engagement Initiative
Strategy is not in the job description, training or experience of most marketing practitioners. (The terms strategy and planning are often improperly mixed in marketing articles.)
This is important because unless and until senior executives (CEO, COO, CFO, CIO, CSO) who are responsible for business strategy to achieve revenue growth, profits, customer experience and shareholder value understand and embrace this new reality, the changes required to optimize business outcomes from content marketing, social engagement and automated demand management will not be realized.
The most important engagement initiative for marketing heads — indeed our industry and its leaders — must be to enroll senior executives in the serious implications — opportunities as well as threats — of these new realities.