Three Myths About Quality Customer Engagement

As PR, branding, and engagement professionals, we see it as our jobs to “maximize engagement” and help our clients start and maintain conversations and relationships with their customers. So it’s tempting to base success on the quantity of those efforts sometimes. How MANY connections, and is it more than last month? How MUCH content publishing, and is it enough to keep our clients “top of mind?” Marketers are rewarded (or fired) based on the ROI of their efforts and the increased sales they generate through them. So more relationships are always better, right?

Well, according to this excellent article in The Harvard Business Review, not so much. Their research has uncovered a few myths about how customers really interact with their favorite brands, mainly that people really DON’T hold brands in as high esteem as they do friends and family members–in fact, only 23% in the study said they had a relationship with a brand. So don’t attach unrealistic expectations to those other 77%. They aren’t interested in connecting at that level.

Secondly, interaction does not build relationships–shared values do. So no matter how often you’re communicating with a customer who doesn’t share your philosophy, you’ve wasted a lot of time and effort. Find the customers who share your values and make sure they are satisfied with every aspect of what you do. Be authentic. Of the consumers in the HBR study who said they have a brand relationship, 64% cited shared values as the primary reason.

Third, frequency of contact doesn’t really enhance these relationships. Treat EACH interaction as precious. Ask yourself–does this email make my customer glad they know about us? Are we providing value in every post? Are we providing useful, actionable information or joy? If so, then five or ten really well-timed communications can have far more power than 300 canned marketing speeches. The last thing you want to do is overload them with more of what we all claim we’re trying to avoid–NOISE.

Treat your customers they way you would like to be treated, and focus on those customers who share your values. Somehow that seems so simple.


  • tamberrino says:

    Alright Rusty, I’m going to go all Dear Abby on you here.  I read this same article and I though, great!  I’m kind of a laid back marketer, these days, with the mindset (an perhaps not the healthiest mindset) that people know what I do.  If they need me, want me, are looking for my input they’ll find me.  This was all well in good until I saw a business contact (I’d even go so far as to say friend) on the Charlottesville downtown mall today and I found out she contracted with a different vendor than me and it cost her dearly – about double what she would have paid had she used my company instead.  I, to say the least, felt like crap.  
    I broadcasted to my various contact lists my recent job change, I kept present in many of the organizations and groups around town, and still failed to keep my message current to this prospect.  So…  Dear Abby / Rusty, what is the happy medium?  
    Feeling guilty in Cville

  • ErikaGennari1 says:

     @tamberrino Rick, I didn’t know you’d changed companies either. As simplistic as it sounds, I think direct emails would have (and still could) go a long way.

  • rustyspeidel says:

    @tamberrino This article is focused more on marketing communications–company directed, regular marketing messages such as newsletters, offers, Facebook posts, etc. designed to keep a brand top of mind.
    I think managing a sales relationship is a more personal form of communication and is exempt from this, provided you don’t over communicate. Informing prospects of good offers, job changes, new products, or new pricing is totally cool, and an excuse to reach out. Once in awhile. If leads are hot, you know it. Just don’t abuse the trust and time value of the customer.

  • doctorderby says:

    @rusty, thanks for the great article! A perfect reminder to keep online conversations real!
    @tamberrino/Erika, I have to agree with the e-newsletter philosophy. Opt-in subscriptions to expert insights or engaging content are much more effective than anything else, even for laid-back marketers. I’m a pretty laid-back person myself (I focus on creative marketing and writing) and I find that newsletters, when designed correctly, offer the best of both worlds: they showcase you value and expertise as well as your role as a friend and conversationalist.

  • tamberrino says:

    Guys, thanks for the input.  I agree that a newsletter is a great solution.  Someone explain to this neophyte how to create/increase the audience for that since I have not desire to be a spammer.

  • rustyspeidel says:

     @tamberrino Can you use the company website to offer subscriptions, or are you an independent contractor >

  • ErikaGennari1 says:

     @tamberrino @doctorderby Well, thank you two for the perfect segue to let you know we’re beginning our own e-newsletter! More info to come out soon. And along those lines, if you feel there are topics you would like a “deeper dive” on or areas we aren’t covering that you’re interested in, please let me know. Hope you’re having a great Memorial Day!~