engagement marketing

As a marketer, you no longer control the flow of information that buyers seek about your products and services. Instead, today’s self-empowered buyers find the information they want online. After all, there’s more than enough information at their fingertips on just about any topic. It’s no wonder that by the time buyers are ready to talk to a sales rep, they’ve already completed 60-90% of the buying process.

This shift in buyer behavior puts the onus on you, the marketer, to influence buying decisions, and not just for the initial purchase, but for subsequent purchases and over the entire customer lifetime.

That’s where nurturing comes into play. Lead nurturing has always been an important activity in the process of converting prospects to customers. But to succeed with nurturing–and to engage today’s buyer–marketers need to change how they think about and handle nurturing.

In today’s world, you as a marketer must engage prospects and customers across many different channels, with more content, at exactly the right moment. But to do so, you are likely managing dozens of programs and content assets at any given time. And it’s tough to figure out what a lead has or hasn’t seen, and the next best content or message that person should see.

Defining Engagement Marketing

Effective lead nurturing today depends on making sure your message gets absorbed as buyers are considering their options. And that means you need to develop a direct relationship with each individual. You can do that through engagement marketing. Where batch-and-blast campaigns feel like shouting, engagement marketing feels more like a natural conversation. That’s because engagement marketing attempts to genuinely connect prospects and customers with a company by “engaging” them in a dialogue, with the goal of eliciting a positive emotional connection. The more frequently and consistently you can connect with a prospective buyer on an emotional level, the stronger and more deeply that person becomes engaged with your brand.

What’s Holding Marketers Back?

So why aren’t more marketers tapping into the power of engagement marketing? Well, the truth is that it’s been too challenging.

Marketers have been using many, disconnected systems in order to connect with their audience. Even when they turn to technology like marketing automation solutions, marketers have found the solutions often too complex, forcing processes to be set up in a flowchart-like manner. It’s labor intensive to set up a marketing program this way. Plus the technology is too linear to reflect the true nature of interactions with prospects and customers.

What starts off as simple can quickly become extremely complex, because each new statement creates an entirely new branch in the stream. Eventually your workflow looks like a bowl of spaghetti and you’re unable to make heads or tails of it.

Because most marketers find it too complicated and frustrating to set up and manage these solutions, they fall back to simple drip campaigns that aren’t sufficient to create the level of engagement and relevancy that’s needed today. These campaigns don’t provide a way to “listen” to how prospects and customers are interacting with and reacting to the messages and content being sent. And if marketers can’t listen in this way–across channels–they can’t respond with the next relevant message or content asset.

What to Seek in a Solution for Engagement Marketing

While it is theoretically possible to create an engagement program using traditional marketing automation, it’s fairly difficult to do so, as we illustrated. Instead, you should look for a solution that combines the elements we described above. This solution should make it easy to create engaging dialogues with prospects and customers.

The following list outlines what to seek in the ideal engagement solution:

Powers relevant two-way engagements (or conversations)
To truly engage prospects and customers, you need to listen and respond to individual behaviors in real time. And the ideal solution allows you to do just that.

Enables dialogue across multiple channels
Look for a solution that makes it possible to communicate with prospects and customers both online and offline, and includes interactive social elements that help amplify your messages.

Automatically manages communication frequency
It’s too challenging and time-consuming to manually manage how frequently you should communicate with prospective buyers to avoid either actual or mental unsubscribes. Your solution should handle this for you. In fact, the solution should empower you to set a limit to the number of communications anyone can receive in a given time period. This is especially valuable when different areas of the organization are sending messages. With such a feature, you can make sure you’re not deluging your prospects and customers with communications, and eliciting a negative response in return.

Intelligently delivers relevant, timely content
The ideal solution should determine which content to send and when, based on the recipient’s actions to date, such as visiting your booth at a show, downloading content, or reaching out to sales rep.

Scales to support multiple dialogues
It’s one thing to listen and respond to a single prospect. But it’s not so easy to maintain dialogue with hundreds, thousands or millions of prospective buyers. The ideal system makes it easy to set up marketing programs and includes built-in intelligence that automatically keeps marketers connected with prospective buyers.

Helps build relationships over the entire customer lifecycle
Marketing now influences purchases from the awareness stage through to the time a prospect becomes a customer. The right solution can help engage prospects and customers over time by reinventing lead nurturing and powering sophisticated customer marketing through engagement. In other words, it does so by making it possible to send relevant content to buyers through multiple different channels instead of just via email.

Helps you measure true engagement
To ensure your engagement programs are working, you need to measure the results. Many marketers judge performance by open rates, click-through rates, click-to-open ratio, and unsubscribes, to name a few. But the ideal solution should comparatively measure how engaging each piece of your content is to provide a single measure of the overall impact of your content on engagement. It should also allow you to look at performance over time, such as for an entire program, as well as for each content asset.

Is easy to use
We all know how frustrating it can be to rely on the IT department to help us get programs off the ground. Look for a solution that allows any marketer to create powerful engagement programs. It should not be complicated to set up or manage. After all, you want to focus on what matters most–creating compelling content that will more deeply engage prospects and customers.

Simplifies content management
The ideal solution allows you to add new content simply by dragging and dropping it into the workstream. Moving it to the top of the stream tells the system that the content is high priority, so the system sends it first. But the system should be intelligent enough not to send the content to those who have already received it. It should also be smart enough to know if someone has downloaded that content through another channel. Moreover, when you add messages promoting things like events and special offers into a stream, the system should automatically activate the content at the right time and pull it out of the stream when the event is over.

Want to learn more about choosing the ideal engagement marketing solution? Download our ebook How to Choose the Right Solution to Nurture Leads and Customers.