Engagement value vs. single goal conversion

Engagement value is still a fuzzy concept for a lot of Sitecore customers.  I think the idea of placing a value indicator on something as abstract as 'engagement' is tough when you pair that with the precision of a number as the value indicator.  It's almost like we'd be better off measuring engagement on something softer, like a color wheel - but, we're using numbers. 

I talk to a lot of Sitecore customers that tend to approach their marketing focusing on a very specific, linear funnel -- You do this to get to XX, then that to get to YY, then you finally trigger the goal to get to ZZ.  That's reinforced by the industry positioning of marketing automation providers and consultants.  There's simply a lot of emphasis on pushing the visitor through the funnel.

And, that's fine in some settings.  There are plenty of case studies where everyone gets directed to a single goal.  Think about the infomercials where the only path is to purchase.  That mentality is prevalent across a lot of industries, and I think it's often a sign of some lazy marketing. 

So, what happens when you try to use a single goal conversion tactic in a situation where the visitor needs to gain trust/confidence/desire in a manner that's more relaxed -- across multiple page views, sessions, channels?  The answer is, they don't respond well to the very obvious 'push' of the single channel goal.  It's a kin to the 'what can I do to put you in this car today' sales tactics that just don't work anymore.  Let's unpack some examples.

  • Political sites that push for donations in advance of making sure the visitor understands and agrees with the candidates platform & positions.
  • Software offerings that use 1 page microsites drive me nuts.  They create a very slick one-page info form with a call to action to request a consultation.  The problem with that approach is the visitor is typically in the awareness stage and still has a lot of research to do before they're willing to have a sales rep talk to them.  By not allowing the visitor to gain knowledge and build confidence before making the consultation ask, these software companies are losing a lot of conversations. 
Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.

It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.
— Seth Godin

Take a page out of the old Seth Godin book, permission marketing.  I know, I'm really dating myself with that reference.  Back in '99 Seth Godin coined the term permission marketing, and that term is still relevant today, even as we talk about context marketing.  'The ability to gather contextual intelligence about what your audience is doing, wherever they are, before you reach out to them.' + 'The discipline to limit your asks of the visitor until you've earned the right.' = an optimal customer experience.  And, often times, the measurement of that is engagement value.  

So, what does engagement value (EV) look like in the context of a typical buyer journey?  Often times, the EV is what breaks us out of a single prism view of a single goal.  

Consider the 'awareness' stage of the buyer journey - Our visitor learns of us in the context of their search / their path to solve a problem or tackle a challenge.  They may not yet know what they don't know.  Our goal may be to get them knowledgeable enough to ask smart questions.  Getting the visitor empowered with some general industry knowledge earns us the right to advance to the research phase.  We may build engagement value by influencing our visitor to consume industry overviews, general FAQs, etc.  We may collect basic profile information and deliver high-level order-of-magnitude information on what it's like to buy the product or service.  Engagement Value in this stage grows as the visitor consumes the content & gains the knowledge.  We may advance them to the next stage, not by them triggering a specific goal/page event, but by generating enough engagement value.  And that may take multiple visits over several days/weeks.

Consider the 'research' stage of the buyer journey -  Our visitor is now empowered with some high level information about our offering.  They know enough to be dangerous and are asking more pointed questions.  Our goal may be to get the visitor to the point where they can review and act on a specific proposal.  To do that we may need to answer specific questions about their specific application of the product or service, or take the visitor through a configurator.  Just like the last stage, we may use an Engagement Value threshold to determine when to advance the visitor to the 'decision' stage of the buyer journey.  Only then, have we earned the right to ask for the business from the customer.  

By focusing on helping over selling, and affording our visitors the opportunity to advance through the buyer journey on their own schedule, we'll build a better relationship with our customers and we'll see better results.