Study: Everyone Talks `Engagement,' Nobody Knows What It Means

kolskyEngagement. We all talk about it. But does anyone even know what it means? Apparently not, according to Esteban Koslky, a consultant and customer strategist who last year surveyed 45 CMOs and got just about that many definitions for what engagement means.

“The only thing they agreed on was that it had to do with customers,” says Kolsky, who runs a consultancy called ThinkJar. “The rest was all up in the air, and different definitions applied throughout.”

Kolsky just published a clever blog post ("I'm Getting Engaged!") about his findings. He also has published an exhaustive report about the survey, “Engagement for a Changing World,” which you can download here.

There are some shocking (and possibly distressing) statistics, such as:

88% of customers say they don’t want to engage with brands.

75% of CMOs interviewed said they don’t know how to engage with customers.

But wait, maybe this is perfect. Customers don’t want to engage, and the people who do marketing don’t know how to do it anyway, so why not drop the whole thing and move along?

Well, no. The thing is, engagement is a real thing, and when you achieve it, it’s incredibly powerful and valuable.

The problem is you can’t really measure it, Kolsky says. But some brands are definitely better than others. Zappos, Dove beauty products and T-Mobile are a few that Kolsky admires.

Getting Engaged

So how do they do it? How do some brands make customers feel engaged?

Kolsky has a few theories. For one thing, engagement requires time. It can’t happen after a single interaction. “Just as a person would not engage into a long- term relationship with another person after just one meeting or interaction, a brand cannot expect their customers to engage with them after one interaction or product purchase,” Kolsky writes.

The biggest barrier to engagement is the lack of trust. Building trust involves unselfishness, which means “delivering what is in the best interest of the other person in the relationship.”

It also means delivering on the promise of your brand. You have to do what you say you’re going to do. And you have to do that not just one time, but over and over again.

“The big takeaway is that engagement only happens over time, and it’s a function of trust and knowledge,” Kolsky says.

If you want to learn more, Kolsky is hosting a webinar on April 16 where he’ll unpack the findings from the report. You can sign up here.

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