Back to the future with the Engagement Economy

Columnist Chandar Pattabhiram explains the new Engagement Economy — a world where everyone and everything is connected, fundamentally shifting the relationships between buyers and sellers.


Last week, Marketo’s Chief Executive Officer (and my boss), Steve Lucas, introduced a bold new concept: the Engagement Economy. This is a world where everyone and everything is connected, fundamentally shifting the relationships between buyers and sellers. It is a product of the ongoing digital transformation that businesses feel so acutely, but it has wide-ranging repercussions that affect everyone — customers, prospects, employees, partners and so on. It is a digital future that we are already living in, and companies that do not adapt risk being left behind.

The question, of course, is how do brands adapt? The answer lies in finding a way to offer consumers the authentic, personalized experiences that they crave, a task that largely falls to you, the marketer.

But in order for marketers to lead their companies to success within the Engagement Economy, they need to go back to the future. Here’s how.

Start in the now

The reality of the Engagement Economy is that today’s buyers, be they businesses or consumers, are more informed, more savvy and more selective about the brands they choose than ever before. That’s because consumers now crave brands that share their values and demonstrate that they understand “me” at a personal level.

For marketers to understand them, we need to be attuned to the how, when and why our customers want to be engaged. Winning the heart and mind of your customer today requires consistently delivering authentic and personalized experiences. This includes listening to them across every channel to understand their preferences and desires, then creating experiences based on this understanding.

In this new world, customers don’t buy products, they buy experiences. A prime example of a business that missed the mark on providing the right experience is Blockbuster Video. Blockbuster’s 10,000 physical locations across the US were wiped out within 24 months after Netflix came on the scene. That’s because Blockbuster couldn’t quickly adapt to understand that consumers preferred the experience of receiving movies in the mail.

It wasn’t a case of a better business model; it was simply about giving the consumer what they wanted, and it is an essential use case for companies to keep in mind as they’re trying to transform.

Reach into the past

As marketers are seeking the right experiences to provide consumers, they must recalibrate around the core of what they have done historically: storytelling.

Back when marketing referred to print ads and product positioning, the most important thing a marketer could do was to tell a story that would capture the heart and mind of the consumer. It mattered less about the product itself — whether it was toothpaste or accounting services — but more about how the product was portrayed. The Coke-Pepsi taste test became irrelevant when Coca-Cola was simply the first soft drink that popped into the consumer’s mind.

My position at Marketo aside, today’s marketer is inextricably linked to technology that helps them to do their job better (the “science”), but they cannot divorce themselves from the “art” of storytelling. Doing so would be a disservice to their brand and put them at a disadvantage with their customers, be they individuals or businesses. Marketing is all about winning the battle for the mind of the customer, and the best marketers use emotion as a weapon of mass influence to win the battle through powerful storytelling.

Look to the future

The reality of today’s Engagement Economy is that there are seemingly limitless digital channels to reach out to your customers, and the only way to approach these channels is by relying on the right technology. Today’s companies who are not digital natives are racing to implement a digital infrastructure, while those who are natives are still scrambling to make sure this infrastructure can adequately handle the demands.

The “science” of marketing in the Engagement Economy means that as a marketer, you can leverage technology, like an engagement platform, to:

  • listen to, learn from and engage with customers across channels.

  • automatically adapt to what you’re hearing, or anticipate the best response to your customer in the moment they’re engaged with you.

  • translate these all of these actions into more meaningful customer interactions and, ultimately, experiences.

  • do all of this at scale to engage with billions of people and devices every day.

The Engagement Economy is here

It’s overwhelming, and you’re no doubt already feeling the pressure to digitally transform your organization to adapt to this concept of the Engagement Economy. The pressure is no doubt not only from the market (your customers and competition) but also internally from leadership, like your CEO.

The reality is that regardless of industry or age of your company, success is not out of reach, but you must act now. It’s “Back to the Future” we go, and the only direction is onward!



[Article on MarTech Today.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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