Constant Contact, used by more than 500,000 small businesses, has expanded well beyond its roots as a cloud-based email marketing platform into technologies that aid its customer base with social media activities.
In mid-June, for example, the service provider disclosed plans to pay $65 million for SinglePlatform, a service that helps ensure local businesses show up better in mobile and Internet searches. It shouldn't be a surprise, then, to hear Constant Contact CEO Gail Goodman has just published a book about how SMBs can use social media tools to help grow beyond their old standby for new business, referrals, through "engagement marketing." I interviewed Goodman about this philosophy several weeks ago.
What is engagement marketing? Gail Goodman: Engagement marketing is a very simple idea. When you connect with the people you already know, your customers and clients, you stay connected to them and you engage them. You send them content that inspires participation, whether that is on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or via email. When you get them to engage with you, that creates social visibility. It puts you in front of the best qualified prospect pools that you can ever imagine, the social networks of your current customers. … If you can get that customer engaging with you and talking about you, actually, talking with you, you will get visibility into their network. That is visibility with implied endorsement.
Why is this different from the historical concept of marketing? I think it's different because it focuses on participation from your customers and clients, rather than talking at or to your customers and clients. So, when you think about marketing, you typically think about call to action. In most cases, that call to action is 'buy from me', 'call to get a quote'. In engagement marketing, the call to action is participation: 'tell us what you think', 'like this post and share your thoughts.' It's about getting a conversation going, but it's also about getting the kind of likes, comments and shares that drive social visibility. The objective is different. In the end, the objective is the same, you want to get in front of new people and get new business.
Most small businesses use referrals to drive new business. How does this philosophy put that idea on steroids? What this really does is take that word-of-mouth referral that use to happen over the back fence, at your kid's soccer game, and makes it publicly visible. It allows other people to eavesdrop in on the conversation.
Who should be involved in this strategy of engagement? Really everybody. Engagement starts with the first moment you make contact with somebody. That's when they're walking into your reception area or when they're coming into your store or your restaurant or boutique. It's about knowing that your job is to engage them and ultimately that your job is to entice them to join you. Everybody who has a customer touchpoint needs to understand why someone should bother to like you on Facebook or get early announcements about new products or special sales only available to Facebook fans. What's the engagement? What's the enticement?
Resources are a perpetual challenge for small businesses. Where should they start? I cannot deny that this is one more thing that you have to be doing, but maybe it is one more thing you can do instead of some other things. Particularly if you are spending time on marketing that is not effective, maybe you can replace that with this.
What we suggest is that people really focus on spending a short amount of time doing social engagement but doing it on a regular basis. Ten minutes, three times a week, should get you started well. … There is a little learning curve, but once you are down that learning curve using Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or even an email newsletter shouldn't be taking you too much time. The good news is that content should be small. The days of the three-page-long newsletter or page-long blog post have been replaced with one idea, two paragraphs, 140 characters, a picture with a comment underneath it.
How can small businesses measure whether their engagement strategy is working? It definitely starts with the basic engagement metrics: likes, comments and the almighty share, which is the most valuable thing a small business can get. One of the things that we are saying in the book and that we emphasize over and over again to small business is that this is a small numbers game in a world with lots of leverage. If the average Facebook participant has over 200 friends, if you got two shares, you just got in front of 400 people. Small is big in social.
Many people think of marketing in terms of lead generation. How do you measure that? You start with engagement and then move to the call to action, that is either a lead capture form or an actual purchase. I do think there are ways to measure that, particularly when you use tools that give you the ability to build a form into Facebook to measure response. You have to start with building a following and focusing on engagement before you start asking for the order. I do think people move to asking for the order too quickly.
Why is a multichannel approach critical for engagement marketing? You need email plus at least one social platform at least. Why email plus a social platform? Because they reinforce each other beautifully. Let's say that social platform is Facebook. You aren't guaranteeing on Facebook that your audience is going to see your message.
Facebook estimates that 16 percent of Facebook business page posts are delivered to their followers. 16 percent? We get 97 percent of our email in our inbox. I'll take 97 percent over 16 percent any time.
The click-through on email remains strong, so we often recommend email channels to get Facebook engagement. Of course you should post it on Facebook, but you should also tell people on your email list that you want them to share their thoughts or comments on your Facebook page and pull them there. You can substitute Twitter or LinkedIn here, as well. I think multichannel is important because the world keeps shifting and what may be perfect today may not be perfect tomorrow. You don't want to end up in a situation where you start losing touch with prospects and clients.