Last week, we ruminated on how search engine marketing plays into engagement. Now let's find out what's next. What are we going to talk about when we can't find anything else to say about engagement? After spending some time ruminating on this one, I've come up with a definitive answer: nothing.
That's right. Nothing comes after engagement. Get it right, and you win--sort of. It's one of the three big elements you need to master to be a marketing ACE:
Allegiance: I'll credit Online Spin columnist Mark Naples for bringing up the term during a lengthy exchange on the subject. This goes back to brand loyalty and retention, which have been beaten to death at conferences in years past. You need to keep consumers coming back for more. This means you need to deliver, execute, and fulfill. You need to build relationships. This is one-third of the puzzle.
Gib Olander from Localeze.com, a new company in the local search space, added his own twist. "First, you engage--get their attention, or plant the seed, if you will. The next step would be to cultivate that relationship." Olander cites the sales adage, "Make a friend, make a sale," and he'll find no arguments here. Whether you prefer cultivating relationships, building allegiance, or retaining customers, we're all speaking the same language.
Conversion: All the attention in the world means nothing if you don't make a sale. Just about every teenage girl in the western world has a crush on Orlando Bloom (I'll admit this--he's a very pretty man), but hardly a one would sit through the 2005 movie "Kingdom of Heaven," which bombed at the box office. Attention without conversion sums up the late 1990s. Google and Overture translated attention into conversion and became multi-billion-dollar properties. Convert once and you've acquired a customer; convert again and you've begun to develop allegiance.
Engagement: Now we're back to what brought us down this path. Attraction is built into this; it's the first part of the engagement funnel. Many pundits in the industry advocate devising a standard, uniform metric for engagement, but that could be a mistake. As an example, consider trying to come up with an engagement metric that spans both search engine marketing and rich media advertising. For search engine marketing, factors to consider include the clickthrough rate of the ad, time spent on the landing page, time spent on the entirety of the site, repeat visits to the site, actions taken (e.g., newsletter signups, accessing the store locator, interacting with a product demo), and ultimately, sales conversions. Even these metrics are nebulous, as they vary from one advertiser to the next. A company leasing charter jets will have different relevant metrics than a consumer electronics retailer.
For a rich media ad, the engagement score would encompass a different set of measurements. It could include time spent with the ad, the number of interactions with the ad, whether the sound was turned on or off, clickthrough rates and a host of other direct response and branding metrics.
In light of all of this, you're going to see a number of companies and industry niches coming up with their own definitions of engagement, and most will inevitably be right. As for a metric that accounts for allegiance, conversion, and engagement--an ACE Index, perhaps--the added variables make it even harder to arrive at a single answer.
As challenging as this is, let's not long for the olden days of reach and frequency. The reason everyone loves bickering about this is because it's all measurable online. It's not just that we're the proverbial kids in a candy store; we're the kids who were raised on the free lollipops from the doctor's office who just got the keys to Willy Wonka's factory.
For another take of what comes after engagement, Kerrie Wolfson of Belo Interactive-Dallasnews.com couldn't resist quipping "marriage." Perhaps... but as someone who knows firsthand that marriage need not always follow engagement, I'll stick with my original definition of what comes next: nothing.