Are you Driving Engagement…or Engagement Metrics?

So let’s say there’s some guy out there. Any guy.

He’s looking to date. He identifies his target, extends an invitation and he’s successful. Zzzzzzzing!

He scores that date, and maybe it’s a first date. He offers to take the girl (or guy — I mean, it’s 2016, right? But anyway…) to dinner. He’s buying.

The date happens.

After the date, he sends a lovely text saying thanks for the date, had a great time and would like to see you again.

She doesn’t reply.

Days go by.

Weeks go by.

So he texts her saying he’s still interested in seeing her again and asks her out once more.

No answer.

He texts again, only this time to offer to buy her dinner at a nice restaurant for a second time.

She replies — a few hours or a day later — and agrees….as long as he’s paying.


Tell me — how would you size up this situation? Do you think this is a really happening relationship? If this guy was your friend, would you have any sage advice for him and his pursuit of this woman?

Or would you high-five him for his awesome continuity program??!?

Because that’s what we do as marketers and business owners.

We create what we call ‘engagement programs’ — or something with similar official-sounding terminology — to drive the precise behaviors that we want. And we seem to be quite proud of ourselves.

My concern is, that in the business world, we become so enamored of driving metrics and associating them with success, that we choose to not look past the trees to the forest for insightful understanding of what’s happening to our business.

I will admit that there are some times when loyalty or repeat purchase programs do make sense, but it’s much less often than what we might think. And I see versions of engagement programs that to me smell more like denial of bigger troubles bubbling underneath the surface than tactical brilliance.

In marketing…

Marketing programs would be the first of two key problem areas. Let’s look at the world of apps, a realm that’s currently quite relevant to my career path at the moment.

There’s what, a bajillion apps out there? Something like that. And you have how many on your phone that you use on the regular: 15? 20? Odds not in your favor if you’re launching one, especially since there’s lots of fish in the sea, as it were.

Check out some of your friends when they install and use an app for the first time. People are usually pretty clear about how they feel. You either hear something like “wow this is COOL” or “I don’t get it / this is dumb”, which is soon followed by :::: uninstall ::::::

It’s that simple and that fast these days.

So, when your app is failing to perform and you’re not getting the traction metrics you were hoping for, consider what might be the real problem. No, it’s likely not that users forgot to come back. No, it’s likely not that they just haven’t yet gotten into the habit of using your app (although that can be the case with some).

The problem is likely to be the product itself. I tend to first recommend going on the tough love journey of revisiting your product-market fit, or at least understanding if you’re challenging yourself enough by providing the advanced level of experience your users expect. After all, a lack of obsession with serving your customer base is one key area where digital founders often fail hard. Fish that lake as close to dry as possible before throwing more money against each moment of fleeting engagement. For, just like my dating scenario, you could very well just be paying (incentivizing, we like to say!) consumers to like you. In perpetuity.

And, yeah, your metrics might look good if you’re driving a decent conversion rate on your outbound campaigns. Nevertheless, I encourage you to take a step back and continue to intently study the marketplace to understand if you are driving real engagement….or simply propping up your engagement metrics. Because the answer to that business question will point to success that is longer or only shorter term.

Consider employee engagement, too.

As a side note, I often raise an eyebrow when I hear about employee ‘engagement’ or ‘retention’ programs. Like…some companies go as far as to gamify what should otherwise be organic interaction such that you get points for answering an email or reading the company newsletter. Call me crazy, but I find such initiatives to be a little bit concerning more than energizing.

To keep it simple and also direct, if I’m leading a team and the members are not engaged, my mind goes directly to one of two likely sources of the problem:

· I have hired employees who just aren’t all that into what they do

· My team is either not inspired by company leadership, mission or ways of working

· (or some combination of the two)

What I pretty much never catch myself thinking — unless as a last resort — is that I need to develop more spirited activities to make employees happier. I’m reading a blog post right now (I won’t link to be respectful) that comes up high in google search that recommends themed office days and a happiness card game to drive employee engagement. Such initiatives I think exist more to stroke the egos of leaders looking to tick the engagement box more than anything. I look instead to these Five Core Pillars of Job Satisfaction that I have identified for more substantial fodder in the form of management behaviors that breed a culture of happiness and productivity.

My point is, in short, if your employees are not engaged and you feel they are otherwise of exceptional quality, take it upon yourself to be awesome to work for.

I have recently written how the best founders and C-level execs need to drill down to the bulls eye to diagnose problems and find opportunities. For many business situations the key issues lie deep at the core DNA of the product and company. And it’s the leaders with the greatest courage that end up being the ones to take that hard look inward for the sake of changing performance trajectories in both meaningful and sustainable ways.

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