Engagement is a top priority for businesses yet they aren’t using engagement techniques

Social media and event marketing are the two most effective ways to engage customers. They create passionate brand advocates. Customers who identify themselves by the owners of a particular brand. They give marketers a chance to listen to customers instead of just pushing information.

A new Forbes Insights study shows that businesses understand the value of engagement:

Overwhelmingly, the priority group to engage is customers  with 91% of businesses wishing to engage customers (with employees ranking second at 61%). Yet few businesses have a specific strategy or create marketing budgets consistent with engagement tactics.

What this suggests is that marketers are confused about what tools create engagement and that they often return to the old “faithful” of advertising.

More and more, I find myself reminding clients that while advertising is easy, it still remains expensive and that the more effective techniques are events and social media, the combination of which can be very powerful. The above charts show that both areas have room for growth. What I find ironic is that so many businesses indicate that economics is the main inhibitor to customer engagement.

There seems to be a disconnect here. Event marketing can be less expensive than traditional advertising (especially in larger markets) and social media tools remain free. I think the real problem is that these two tactics require (wo)man power and companies are reluctant to take chances on labor intensive practices in this economy. And the second most cited inhibitor was competition, which is baffling to me as well. Either your creating relationships with your customers or you aren’t. If you aren’t then your competition likely is creating relationships, which brings us back to engagement techniques.

My definition of engagement means a conversation exists: listening and interacting.  Yet the graph below shows that a full 27% of those polled in this Forbes Insight study believe that Direct Mail is an engaging marketing technique.

No it isn’t. You might get a RESPONSE from direct mail, but it isn’t an engagement technique.

Let’s be clear on that. Print ads are not an engagement technique.

If your marketing priority is engaging customers, no matter whether you are a B2B, B2C, national, regional or local business the only two marketing techniques that actually create interaction are social media and event marketing. Sponsorship is more effective (because of the event marketing benefits) than advertising. You should really be reviewing your budget and where you spend your marketing dollars.

Yes, relationships take work. Yes, relationships take attention. But the only way to create a relationship is to start a conversation. Almost no conversation starts with a static print or radio ad.

Instead of using print and radio as the primary message delivery systems, and social media and events as the support techniques,  businesses (large and small) need to start thinking about social media and events as the conversation starter and advertising as the support tool.

If your really looking to make the most of this time, then social media and events should be your go-to techniques. Period.

(all charts used in this blog are from Forbes Insights research)