“Its not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one who is most adaptable to change.”

Charles Darwin

Today’s consumers are a savvy bunch. The rise of internet search engines and the lightning fast ability to sift through mountains of data has put the world in their hands. It is easier for today’s digitally connected purchasers to find what they are looking for with either a quick internet search, following their favorite brands on social media, or taking recommendations from influencers in the blogosphere.

Consumers are easily finding what they want, and more importantly for companies this unprecedented access is allowing them to easily tune out heavy handed advertising and blatant marketing messages. This represents a significant challenge for businesses that need to grow, but are stuck with an old school mindset.

For companies of all size it is time to adapt or die.

Competitiveness now and in the coming years requires companies to develop a new paradigm about how to reach their customers with their marketing campaigns. Gone are the days when a one-way message touting a company’s product or great service resonates and drives business results. Attention spans have grown razor thin, and today’s consumers have become adept at tuning out marketing attempts.Adapt or Die – The Power of Customer Engagement image evolve or die

To remain competitive companies will need to create online resources that offer significant value in the form of relevant content that will appeal to their buying demographics. This is where the power of engagement comes in. Engagement requires companies to publish quality content, invest in social media and grow online communities.

Relevant content comes in many shapes and sizes and can include:

  • Entertainment – Videos, Memes or Podcasts
  • Information – Blog Posts or eBooks
  • Instruction – Case Studies or White Papers
  • Support – How to Guides and How to Videos

How do I create relevant content?

In order to create relevant content organizations need to have a detailed picture of their targeted prospects in order to create the right content for them. A great starting point is to create buyer personas for your product or service. Personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers, based on real data about customer demographics and online behavior, along with speculation about their personal histories, motivations, and concerns.

Simply put, to create relevant content companies need to know:

  • Who are my customers?
  • What problems do my customers need to solve?
  • How do I position my company to solve these problems?
  • Where do my customers hang out online and how do I connect with them?
  • How do I get my message across to them in a way that will be well-received?

Engagement demands that you offer VALUE upfront.

When we talk about engagement, we are talking about offering content that is both relevant to the needs of your clients and positions your company as an expert in solving those needs. Content offerings must be made upfront with little to no obligation and establish credibility, authority and trust.

A great example of this concept is the American Express Open Forum. OPEN Forum is a community of small business owners hosted by American Express. OPEN Forum gives business owners:

  • Tools to connect and collaborate. For instance, the Connectodex feature can help generate new leads by intelligently matching businesses with similar needs and interests.
  • The ability to share and obtain insights from industry experts and business owners. The insights range from blog posts and discussion boards to inform businesses.

Adapt or Die – The Power of Customer Engagement image amex open forumBy focusing on their core customer’s (small business owners) needs and avoiding blatant product pitches, American Express has established themselves as a partner to the small business community and has developed trust with their core customers. “As a result, the Open Forum now generates as many credit card inquiries (without pitching product) as any other marketing initiative from Amex.”

Companies like American Express that have moved away from the noise of the marketplace (disruptive advertising) are reaping the benefits of brand loyalty and an increased interest in their product offerings.

Your Road Ahead

Regardless of a company’s niche in the marketplace, this approach is not for the weak-minded. Developing a community takes time and most of all great patience on the part of company leadership. Investing precious company resources and capital over time with no guarantee of success takes great courage from the executive suite. Courage, however, is something that is in short supply for many companies that operate on a quarter to quarter basis.

Provided you have a good product or service to offer, moving your company to a customer engagement marketing approach will establish trust and social influence, increase brand awareness, develop a loyal customer following and ultimately lead consumers to your products.

For those that move towards move towards this model, stellar returns await, and for those that hesitate or choose to ignore this dynamic shift in the marketplace, the end is near.

Can you afford to sit on the sidelines and wait?