A graduate student recently contacted me to ask some questions for his dissertation on engagement marketing. I enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on the origin of the term here at Silverpop, as well as its evolution in the world of marketing. I thought you might find some of the excerpts from our dialogue worthwhile as well.
For us at Silverpop, "engagement marketing" is a term that was born about 15 months ago as we tried to define the essence of what we are truly passionate about. It’s not really synonymous with anything that exists today. It has a lot in common with relationship marketing because it’s hard to engage with customers and prospects if you don’t already have a relationship of some sort. However, relationship marketing implies "existing customers" more than I believe engagement marketing does.
The need for a new term in the world of marketing stems mostly from the dramatic shift that is taking place as both consumer and business buyers gain increasing knowledge and power in the buying cycle. Fifty years ago, marketers could run a series of ads and an audience would literally make purchases as a result.
While this tight loop still exists in some forms today, it has been largely replaced by a more involved, two-way, learning-centric buying process. For example, when was the last time you or anyone you know visited a restaurant without first checking it out, reading about it online and/or asking some friends—let alone buying a house or a car? In the new world, the old way of marketing has merit, but it can only hope to initiate the buying cycle—it cannot influence it to complete.
In the new world, marketers have a much larger and more involved role to play than just introducing themselves. They can truly influence customers in the journey toward a buying decision. This new world is what we call engagement marketing, and it is slowly changing how we as marketers will do everything.