The advent of Customer Engagement Marketing

Digital marketing, with its granular tracking and ability to follow a customer from first contact, means you can observe his or her behaviour while they consider their first purchase and beyond. When digital marketing is joined up correctly, you should be able to establish precisely how much value you generate for every pound that you spend. And this accountability, during the recession, meant a degree of comfort that marketing actually was working. In other words, we gave credence to – and then priority to – marketing which has built into it a chain of custody.

The traditional view of brand marketing was centred around the way the business wanted to engage customers. To some extent, in the early days of internet-based marketing, this notion of brands built around customers’ needs was lost, at least temporarily. It became ‘build it and they will come’ – a conceit founded on the novelty of the medium: indeed, when I set up my first digital agency there were around 250 servers on the World Wide Web. Attendance and engagement could be reliably assumed.

The idea of a brand built around what the customer wants has of course changed as a result of the mediation of the internet. The customer is still at the centre of the business’s universe, but this position has evolved. Marketing, once predicated on understanding demographics, motivation and behaviour, can now be said to pivot about which channel the consumer is (or may be) consuming at that precise given point in the customer lifecycle when they are considering a step in their dialogue with the brand.

In simple terms, where once we considered marketing to be about mapping the progression from one medium to the next (TV followed press and PR, followed by Direct Marketing) this new age means we map the customer as she travels from mobile to Facebook, email to website and via SMS to shop.

In turn, this must be mapped against the decision-making cycle: first contact to second, peer review then press review, comparison sites, reminder banner, examination of features, emailed offer then shopping basket. We end up with a two-track series of events, joined at critical touchpoints which define the medium in which we pass on a specific, perfectly-timed message.

This form of marketing planning is necessarily going to be slightly different from segment to segment (a young mum’s media consumption is going to be radically different to that of a Baby Boomer), and from product to product. But the framework is sound, and applies as much to a high-value B2B proposition as to an FMCG brand – in fact we’ve used it for products as diverse as McCain oven chips, ASICS sportswear, Travelodge and the FT. What it delivers is a rational, measurable chain of custody from first contact to value. From this continuous sequence comes your brief for the messaging at each touchpoint, a detailed resource requirements list, indeed a foundation for micro and macro KPIs.

This new post-recession type of marketing is called Customer Engagement Marketing. It takes the power of the brand, dethroned by a combination of recession and digital renaissance, and refocuses it on the customer. In essence, it recognises that the customer is now the centre of everything, and that our job as businesses is not just to design our products around them but to design our marketing around them too.