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Big Picture (Sep/Oct 2010)

Bruce Bolger

It’s now safe to say that the field of Enterprise Engagement has arrived. It’s not every day that a new business is born. More and more companies have executives with “engagement” in their titles and with job responsibilities that span marketing, sales and human resources. It’s only a matter of time before organizations realize that engagement is a holistic issue that touches every one of their constituencies. Engagement is emerging as a universally required management skill when, ironically, there is surprisingly little formal training on the subject.

The Simple Fact

The factors driving the emergence of this field have nothing to do with a new-found benevolence on the part of corporations. It’s a result of the simple fact that organizations can now measure better than ever the impact of engagement on the bottom line in terms of customer loyalty, greater productivity, quality, innovation and better long-term financial results. Engagement is no longer a “warm-and-fuzzy.” Not only is there considerable macro data provided by respected organizations such as Gallup, the Corporate Leadership Council, Hay Group and others, organizations can now see the impact of poor engagement in their own internal surveys, customer relationship management data, website statistics, feedback mechanisms and social-networking dialog.

Perhaps the biggest driver of this emerging field is the fact that more and more organizations are conducting engagement surveys of customers, channel partners and employees. These surveys and studies are identifying all sorts of issues, challenges and opportunities that organizations now have to face. This is characterized by a call I received recently from the HR Manager of a major corporation who told me, “We’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on engagement surveys and turning up lots of issues – the challenge now is finding solutions. The vendor who does our engagement survey has one area of expertise, but it turns out that the challenges we face vary based on the audience and situation.”

Who, she asked me, could she contact to provide a holistic approach?

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A Wide Variety

The truth is, the field of Enterprise Engagement comprises a wide variety of key audiences and tactics that would challenge the in-house capabilities of any consultancy or agency. When you’re looking at engagement from an enterprise-wide point of view, you discover that you have to address consumers, salespeople, dealers, distributors, sales and nonsales employees, vendors and even your community. Engagement issues cut across the organization – for example: how vendors perform can have a big impact on customer loyalty or sales motivation. Similarly, nonsales employees can easily be demoralized by sales organizations that make unrealistic demands or promises.

Then there’s the issue of determining which tactics are required to address a particular problem. Is the particular challenge related to a leadership or coaching issue? Is it communication, rewards and recognition, training? And most importantly, what’s the right mix of solutions that will achieve a positive, measurable result?

Welcome to the business of Enterprise Engagement. Where there’s a need, there’s a profit motive to find a solution. We already see incentive, training and consulting companies emerging or morphing into full-service providers, presenting their specific solutions as part of an overall engagement strategy.

So where will organizations find the budget dollars to address key engagement issues? The most likely source is traditional mass-market advertising and marketing, since one-to-one engagement strategies address all of the issues that drive customer behavior – and because they’re more measurable. There’s already a “great sucking sound” of dollars flowing out of traditional advertising and into engagement.

So who can benefit from this new field/business/profession/discipline? Certainly the organizations that get it will profit, as will the executives and managers who understand how to engage, who will generate better results than their counterparts. Other big winners will be the traditional consultancies, agencies and incentive companies who understand that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for engagement and come up with flexible ways to administer solutions.

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September/October 2010

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