All Things Digital

Customer Engagement

Positioning is dead. Long live Engagement.

Sometimes even the best-crafted products – Google Glass, Amazon Fire Phone and Segway, to cite just three – go bust. Know why?

Because positioning is out. Engagement is in.

An American sitcom, “Bewitched” once had Endora, the protagonist’s mother-in-law, casts a spell on his clients that make them choose his worst advertising campaign ideas. From the look of it, Endora appears to be still practicing her sorcery, not revealing the mantra behind the launch of a successful product.

So many brilliant concepts are being thrown by the wayside that we might soon have a business concept morgue as an online repository of ideas that never made it to the market!

Making the going more complicated, the total convergence of social, mobile, video and virtual reality is redefining the way consumers buy a product, so marketers who do not study this changed topography, may soon have more dud products on their hands, that they (not the consumer) think are sexy.

Therefore, whether you are a manufacturer, retailer or an app developer, engaging your customers by any means possible is going to be the key to the new game, rather than adopting a top-down approach of positioning your product at a set place. In other words, you cannot decide what answers their needs. They (customers) will decide whether you have what it takes to meet their needs.

Customers, these days are empowered decision-makers and they know it too. They know the lever is in their hands. In “I am Sam” even the father with an IQ of a 7-year-old knows that if he wants “two eggs, sunny side up but not runny on a piece of crisp bacon, with a lettuce salad on the side for breakfast,” the waitress cannot “We don’t make that” because “the customer is always right” he bangs the table and yells at the helpless waitress.

Informed customers are no longer passive observers. They are keen participants in a brand’s journey from product development to product experience, and would like to actively engage with their chosen brand, at every evolutionary stage.

In other words, customer engagement is no longer a one-off episode – it’s a continuous dialogue. If you ignore it, there could be serious business implications. Smart companies make room and time to jump into social conversations in a genuine, caring way. They don’t police or eavesdrop. They listen, empathise and enter into open, honest interactions to create positive experiences and outcomes for their targets. They invite customers to voice their grievances and resolve bristling issues, hearing ideas, and providing support and praise where needed.

BMW has a Virtual Innovation Agency (VIA) to listen to customers. Car buffs from around the globe log on to the VIA website to offer ideas and swap notes and their driving experiences with motor enthusiasts, across the globe. Harley Davidson is another such brand, that has a strong fan following.

Microsoft has worked with consumers to co-create ad formats that would help them develop their messages. The company uses “laddering” and other unconventional ethnographic techniques to understand how consumers make their buying decisions and what could be the pain points in their brand interactions.

Times have changed and there is no longer an excuse to not to be customer-focused. Afterall, they are the reason, you are in the business.