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When I was a kid, I spent many hours waiting for my favorite shows to come on. When my shows were finally on, I was glued to the television set, soaking in not just the show but also the advertisements that accompanied those programs.

Today I don’t have to wait for anything. As a media consumer, I have so many different options that are all a swipe and two clicks away. I’m overloaded at every angle.

I’m not alone: we now live in a world where people are easy to reach but hard to engage. By 2017, there will be five devices for every Internet user. One recent study suggests that people today have a shorter attention span than a gold fish. Brand-generated content on Facebook and Twitter are seeing less engagement, and customers are generally less loyal than before.

All this points to one painful truth: customers are more difficult to engage than ever before. Despite all the technology available to brands, they’re not connecting with customers in a meaningful way.

Tweet this!Despite all the technology available, brands are not connecting with customers in a meaningful way. (CLICK TO TWEET)

So why are companies failing at customer engagement? From my point of view, there are three reasons why companies are not getting engagement right.

  1. You’re forgetting about relationships.

Genuine engagement happens when people get absorbed in what they’re reading, hearing, watching or participating in. It happens when customers feel invested in what someone else is doing.

Reflecting on my own experience, I know that engagement rarely happens for me these days outside of my relationship with my co-workers, family and closest friends. When I think about why I’m engaged with these people, I realize that it’s rooted in the deep bond that I have with them. Yes, we have fun, but we also struggle, learn and evolve together. There’s a certain magnetism in serious relationships that is worth noting. If someone is a good friend, it’s usually because of a bond that was created through some sort of struggle and because we’ve learned from each other over time.

The same is true for companies today. If brands want to truly engage people, they have to invest in their relationship with customers. Companies have to embrace vulnerability and be more open with their customers. They have to be prepared to learn and evolve with their customers.

Tweet this!If brands want to truly engage people, they have to invest in their relationship with customers. (CLICK TO TWEET)

  1. You’re not providing enough value to customers.

Much has changed for customers over the last 12 years. The age of the empowered customer has arrived. People today know that they matter to brands in a big way.

Indeed, your customers are more than just their spending power, and they know it. Their attention, their data and their opinions have enormous value.

And yet, many companies are not committed to tapping into the insight of their customers yet. More critically, for those companies who actually engage with their customers, they sometimes forget to answer a critical question: what’s in it for our customers?

Customer engagement needs to offer something of value to your customers. In the early days of Vision Critical, we bought into the idea of community because of the value it provides to customers. At its core, communities offer customers exclusivity. Community members are part of a select group that can directly influence what a company does. Communities also allow companies to offer incentives—things like sweepstakes and exclusive events for members.

Tweet this!Customer engagement needs to offer something of value to your customers. (CLICK TO TWEET)

But more crucially, communities allow companies to close the feedback loop, to share what they’ve learned from their customers. As a result, customers feel a sense of accomplishment for their participation. They know they’ve been heard.

The point is that there needs to be value exchange in customer engagement. It can’t be just about your brand.

  1. You’re not engaged in a fun, long-term, two-way conversation.

Because companies have so much customer data, adtech companies are getting better at targeting individuals. Personalizing ads is a common practice today. But what happens once you match up with the right target customer? What do you say and how do you keep that person engaged?

It’s critical to remember that people are multi-dimensional. What motivates customers today might not motivate them the same way tomorrow. Everyone likes variety, and people evolve over time.

Companies need to stop treating customer engagement as a one-time project. Engagement with your customers needs to be an ongoing practice.

Tweet this!Companies need to stop treating customer engagement as a one-time project. (CLICK TO TWEET)

It also needs to be fun for your customers. Yes, customers want better products and services and their insight should inform how you innovate. But customers also want to be entertained. They want to learn something new—about their interests and about themselves. They want to gain social clout. Companies need to understand the motivations of their customers and use engagement to drive those motivations.


In the future, there will be more ways of reaching and engaging with customers. Tools like insight communities, surveys, forums and live chats will only make customer research more sophisticated. That’s a given. But how will customers separate the signal from the noise? How will they know that a request for feedback or input is actually worth their time? That it will help a brand they care about, and that they will get something out of their participation?

These are questions we’re thinking about on a daily basis at Vision Critical. I think the answer lies in closing the loop and making people feel connected, appreciated, and better off. The future of customer engagement hinges on an understanding that people matter and that they have wisdom that is worth listening to, learning from and acting on.

How to keep your customers from cheating on you

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