Shift from monologue to dialogue

Friday, March 1, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 9

For more than a decade, companies have slowly shifted their focus to fit an era of deep consumer engagement. They have begun to embrace social media management, and they are better integrating print and TV campaigns with their online and social media presence. Unfortunately, it’s not enough.

More must be done to engage consumers who have become increasingly resistant to traditional “push” marketing – making 2013 the year of consumer engagement. So what’s driving this new marketing paradigm?

Consumers have become increasingly resistant to feeling manipulated. They will quickly sniff you out if they believe you are using them only for your own benefit. Consumers trust other consumers (even if they don’t know them) more than they do brands. As such, empowered, price-driven, critical consumers are turning to social media and online review sites for feedback about brands which they are considering.

In fact, today’s consumers are typically highly educated about your brand before ever speaking to you. These online channels serve as your front-line sales team. Are they making the right impression and motivating consumers to further connect with your brand?

When consumers make brand contact, they seek true one-to-one engagement versus simply a barrage of one-way marketing messages. Consumers want brands to talk with them versus at them. They seek a variety of messaging through a variety of channels that paint a consistent picture of the brand experience you offer.

You can no longer count on traditional advertising alone to interrupt consumers and capture attention. There is simply too much advertising noise, and consumers can very easily turn it off for self-preservation (e.g., DVRs allow for skipping of TV commercials and billboards don’t guarantee visibility due to passengers preoccupied on smartphones). It’s not an easy task to engage more deeply with consumers when they have the power to so easily disengage.

American Express chief marketing officer John Hayes said: “We went from a monologue to a dialogue. Mass media will continue to play a role. But its role has changed.”

So what’s the answer? Start by embracing the fact that everyone on your team is responsible for marketing. Consumers see every point of contact with your company as part of the brand experience. To truly connect with customers, your email, phone, social media, website and in-store dialogue with customers must all leave them feeling as though they’ve been a part of something special.

That’s why a much broader cross-section of your staff must be coached in the art of consumer engagement, with many also needing specific training in the art of digital and social media marketing. Marketing is no longer handled in isolation by a single department. In this new era of consumer engagement, every employee with customer contact is an extension of your marketing team.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and Founder/CEO of RedRover Sales & Marketing, You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (