Moving Beyond the Social Customer into the Era of Customer Engagement


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We recently connected with Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected minds in marketing, technology and CRM (albeit for a short catch-up). His seminal book CRM at the Speed of Light not only helped define the thinking of marketers and business leaders around the globe for years to come, it was among the first to bring to light the need for integrating social in all aspects of our thinking. As we enter 2012 and look toward major developments that will shape our industry, we reviewed Paul’s musings and share what we thought was right on the money – why we agree with Paul that we are moving beyond the social customer and entering the era of social engagement.


Staring at the Social Customer Is Over

Paul was among the early advocates of the social customer, defined by him in one of his recent posts on ZDNet as “a technology savvy, peer trusting, highly demanding, relatively affluent customer who leverages the web for conversations that can impact business.” Why is the social customer so important and disruptive for businesses across the globe? As Paul points out, the social customer, “stood out and forced businesses to start to respond to the new forms and channels of communication that the customers were engaging in.” 10 years later we are looking at a drastically different business landscape – where the social customer has propelled a new, socially-conscious thinking within the enterprise, one that has pushed our industry to move from traditional methods and supporting infrastructure to setups that incorporates social approaches across the organization (think CRM now being replaced by Social CRM).


Social Channel Strategy Now Part of Multichannel Strategy

In that same ZDNet blogpost, Paul shares that, more than anything, what defines the Era of Customer Engagement is that the “so-called social channel strategy is now a normal part of multichannel strategy for the company.” There are a number of reasons why social is now a standard practices for businesses, which are actively integrating social into DNA. For example, social customers are now forming as a growing group that can be reached and engaged with in a scalable way. Couple that with that fact that CEOs see as their most important imperative for the next five years (based on the results from IBM’s Institute for Business Value 2010 CEO study) being close to the customer.


Being Closer to the Customer = Empowering Self Selection

Paul would be the first to tell you that customer engagement means that “customers are part of the company’s collaborative value chain,” where they choose how they want to interact with your business, products or services. Customer engagement should not be confused with intimacy or loyalty, he continues. It is defined by the ongoing involvement between your business and your customer, driven by the customer’s specific reasons. Customer engagement can be purely transactional or aspirational. Engagement comes in different shapes and forms, and as along as businesses have a good understanding of what’s driving it, they should know how to empower this continuous process of self-selection. There is a level of customer engagement, however, that can be really powerful…and that is called Customer Advocacy.


Customer Advocacy in the Era of Customer Engagement

Customer Advocacy is key to the success of any customer strategy – as long as you are focused on the right metrics. Paul is not a big believer in the Net Promoter Score (NPS) because he thinks that what companies really need to measure is Customer Referral Value (CRV) (for more information Paul points to Dr. V Kumar’s work and his article On Word of Mouth published in HBR). CRV gets at the core of what true influence is all about – the ability and desire of a customer to spread the word about your company to other people like him/her.


To follow Paul’s thinking on this shift toward the Era of Customer Engagement, sign up for his updates on his own blog or on ZDNet. You can also read his CRM 2012 Forecast – The Era of Customer Engagement Part 2 and follow him on Twitter.


Let us know what you think – are you ready for the Era of Customer Engagement? Do you consider yourself a social marketing leader or a novice? Catch some more free resources, e-books, webinars and chapter downloads on our Pinterest page.


Mike Lewis


Mike Lewis
Mike is an entrepreneur and marketing executive with a 14-year track record of success as a senior manager at early-stage technology companies. He is currently the vice president of marketing and sales for Awareness Inc., an enterprise social media management platform


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