Written from the platform of a consultant speaking to ‘old world corporations’ still dabbling with the repercussions and reverberating waves of change that the internet has wrought, The Age of Engage by Denise Shiffman exhorts the reader who may be stuck in old paradigms to, essentially, wake up and embrace what she calls ‘The Live Web’, another term for the internet. The application of ‘the live web’ to all industries and any kind of business is a call to engage more purposefully with their customers and build deeper, more meaningful relationships with them. It’s a once in a millenium opportunity for business to minimize risk, bring more value and a stronger voice for all aspects of engagement with your customer.
Stop Listening To Your Customer and Start Interacting With Them
“The Live Web offers small companies an advantage previously only found in large companies, the ability to communicate with strangers, customers, and partners no matter where they may be located…(it) drives us to reinvent our organizational behavior, our product development process and design, our partnerships, and of course, our marketing.”
The Age of Engage, pages 10-11
The traditional “Four P’s” of marketing, while important, need to evolve and be more inclusive of new evolutionary articulations of the marketplace. Shiffman elbows in a new strategy, which is the foundation for the book, called “The 6 V’s”. They are:
Venture – the deep integration of product, services and channel distribution
Value – Creating inherent “marketingness”
Voice – The perception created by vision and story
Verification – Developing credibility through proof, truth and transparency
Vicinity – Harnessing communities of the Live Web
Vehicle – Incorporating Web 2.0 (and beyond) strategies
When a business employs the blueprint of these six tenants, they will be able to build more sustaining trust “by reshaping audience interactions”, create more impactful persuasive value, extend the influence of your efforts in social media and deploy new, more effective marketing tactics.
Throw Out Your Marketing Plan and Let Your Marketing Become A Change Agent
“It is the marketer’s job to change perspective, change markets, and change perceptions…every feature, function, or service is up for grabs and open to new ideas or change, so the rules never stay the same. You have to keep raising the bar.”
The Age of Engage, page 189
While it’s become cliché when talking about the effects of the internet on business changing all the rules (I’ve worked in the music business for the last 25 years, trust me, I ‘get it’), it’s a meme that bears a deep understanding. Finding ways to continually engage your prospects and existing customers in an authentic and interactive manner will give a competitive advantage to your business when the strategic leader defies conventional wisdom and incorporates meaningful interactions with its customers.
When a business can effectively understand the needs and wants of their customers, it can predict them with a greater frequency of success. Allowing “The Live Web” to create an environment inside one’s business makes “the world small and enables us to work, think, and act together in real-time.” The process of marketing must be done with a living document (and not a static ‘marketing plan’) that continually evolves in the course of daily business and one which creates a social, honest, open and truly interactive environment in which the customer is an active participant.
In An Interactive, Social Marketplace, Voice Has Legs
“Voice is a communications platform – a chosen value system, passion, and personality…voice is defined through the narrative you create, and that narrative encompasses your company style, tone, view of the marketplace, vision of the future, and passion.”
The Age of Reason, page 87
Shiffman declares that there are three forms voice: inform, connect, and engage. The marketing of a company can utilize any of these – or all three. Companies of all sizes tend to get caught up in production cycles, development of new products, distribution and financial controls and organizational struggles. While discussions of ‘vision’ are commonplace for most businesses, time dedicated to viewing a businesses’ efforts having ‘a voice’ lends itself to a more reflective, authentic and engaging connection to its audience. The connective tissue that a compelling message of purpose and how it has the capability to change lives forces the leaders of a business to continually ask the question: “What business are we really in?”
How a business informs their audience is an important frame that brings an understanding of the product, the company and its customers. How a business chooses to enlighten its customers and market makes a statement that its market perceives with importance – don’t take it lightly. To connect in ‘The Age of Engage’ is to have an “approachable platform and message” that utilizes the power of story that takes the customer on a journey which the audience has an important part inside of. When a business effectively engages, the audience that interprets the voice of the company senses an openness and authentic transparency which compels its people to interact, share and encourage the business to do work that they will support, thus (to paraphrase Tom Peters) making the efforts of marketing superfluous.
Though the “The Live Web” has clearly created a disintermediating affect in almost all industries and much of the material covered in The Age of Engage is well accepted by smart, sharp strategic communicators, the book pushes asides theory and provides a practical plan of action that will help medium-to-larger sized companies make sure they are doing the right actions and, if they aren’t, engage in a plan of catch-up that will lead them to more meaningful and profitable relationships with the people that use their products and services.
Postlude: While her book was published in 2008, the web addresses Shiffman had associated with the book (ageofengage.com and marketingreinvented.com) are long defunct with no re-direct–just a dead end. This is not a way to ‘engage’. It’s an odd, sloppy slip-up connected to such a work whose ‘life’ extends on inside ‘the living web’.