10.09.13 | Posted by Greg Dorban in Content Marketing

Engagement is something everyone strives for in marketing, especially in modern day content marketing – but my wife taught me that this level of attention isn’t always enough.

We all hear common phrases like ‘engaging format’ and ‘this really engages the audience’. But, even if it does engage and is a suitable format, should this be regarded as a success?  


Can you please…

To highlight my case let me take you to an (all too regular) conversation between husband and wife. The husband was asked to put something away next time he used it. A very simple and straight-forward request. This request could have easily been replaced with get something from the shop, or remember this date. And just to be clear, the husband was paying attention – engaged – listening attentively. He acknowledged saying ‘yes’, nodding and adding a mental check to remember and do as agreed.

Picture a couple of days later when questioned and he failed to remember. He is not a particularly forgetful person, nor selfish, nor purposely chose not to. He even remembered the original conversation and had every intention of doing so but (most importantly) totally forgot until prompted. The whirlwind of life and work took over. All of the time between the original request and prompt, he did not take any of the appropriate actions. So, why (oh why) is this so common?

Consider other environments as this is by no means exclusive to marriage or relationships. Children, colleagues, and even customers. It could be sending a file or bringing something with you when you next go somewhere. If we are honest, this is something we have all experienced, both receiving and giving.  


So how does this relate to marketing?

Two problems are depicted that as marketers we gloss over by saying engage. One, the person was engaged, paying attention, listening but did not respond with the appropriate action. Two, they had lost all visibility of this until prompted (and it was too late).

To avoid uncertainty, I am not saying engagement is bad. Quite contrary. It is vital in communications and required throughout the buyer journey. But, more want to draw on its value, limitations and role within customer interactions.  


Attraction, engagement, consumption

The first step to a customer will always be attraction – getting their passive attention. Then comes engagement – active holding of interest. After this follows consumption, an action commonly ignored and overlooked by marketing. This should not be the case as consumption introduces the idea of digestion where the audience takes something away. Surely consumption is a more desirable action than engagement or interest. The take away is commonly more than just expertise, knowledge and help, but something even more emotional and less tangible like a thought, an insight, inspiration or a seed of an idea.

By their very nature these responses have longevity. They proactively influence and shape future actions by being deeply associated with the original need that made them consume. Changing or developing ideas in the mind of your audience positions you centrally to steps required to move towards a solution.

Good content can be seen to engage. Great content is consumed. I am not saying do not engage your audience but view it as a prerequisite for consumption, like a building block. In order to have any chance of consumption you must have engaged the audience first.  

Problem one: the person was engaged, paying attention, listening but did not respond with the appropriate action.

Let’s go back to the story, just like the husband listening and engaged in conversation with his wife, he did not take the action she wanted, even when agreed to. So how can you expect a customer to act as you wish if you have their engagement?

Looking in practical terms, you sent an email and a contact clicked on the call to action to download ‘Guide XYZ’, and then visited the landing page and did not download. Sure, they interacted which could be seen as engagement – but did it really engage them? Take this a step further, if they did download but never read it, then yes they were engaged to interact and download – but did this advance them any closer to purchase? Probably not. And this is my take away point.


Buyer cycle advancement

Surely we should aim at every opportunity to move someone towards a sale. Setting the goal as engagement is commonly not enough, we need active consumption that accelerates their customer journey and positions you within it.

So here comes the challenge, what makes something consumable? Let’s begin with the first steps – attraction and engagement (which itself can be challenging). To a certain extent, a snappy headline that resonates with the audience and a visually appealing creative go a long way to achieving this. So, assuming this is effective - what makes someone willing to invest further time and energy to consume? The answer is really quite simple, offer something of value to the reader in an appropriate format.

I hear you all groan and say 'I know this, we already do this', but do you? When developing content do you question if it will engage your audience, or be consumed by your audience? Put simply, do you question if it will get their attention, or if they will invest that little bit more time to digest it as it gives them value? This should be your benchmark.  

Problem two: Lost all visibility of this until prompted (and it was too late)

In theory the second problem is more straightforward to solve by increasing visibility and presence. In a direct manner this could be through nurturing, indirectly with a broader inbound strategy. The goal is to remain front of mind. If you have valuable community content, this will seem a lot easier to implement.

Some marketers may even argue that being front of mind when prompted is good enough. The problem with this is, when prompted. In the modern day B2B environment where buyers advance further through the buyer cycle before initiating sales conversations, waiting till prompted can be a risky game. You should actively nurture customers towards sales addressing their needs along the way, in turn you will be seen as intrinsic to the success.  

Now, I could proclaim that if the content was more than just engaging – with value and fully consumed, that the customer will actively contact you when they are ready to take the next step because your expertise and knowledge is vital...

Wishful thinking: maybe.

Realistic conversion model: not for many companies.

A benchmark for all content to aspire towards: definitely.