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Whether Glenn Beck is your biggest hero or villain, one thing is true about his Restoring Honor Rally on Saturday – no one knows exactly how many people showed up.

Obviously a lot of people did, but how many is ‘a lot’?

The same problem comes up for many businesses in their social media or in any of their advertising and marketing efforts. They talk to, speak to, advertise to, and communicate to ‘a lot’ of people.

How many people is that?

In today’s business, most of the counting is done through Customer Retention Management software (CRM) and there are lots of companies that are involved in making the tracking of the number of contacts more specific. Their work tends to produce much clearer pictures of Who is being talked to by your advertising and communication strategy, and in many cases it can even tell you a lot about the person’s interest level in your offer.

What it doesn’t do is communicate WITH your customer.

There’s a new buzz-word in the industry called ‘Engagement.

Managers love this word. They ask their teams if they are ‘Engaged’ in the project. They want to know how many viewers and listeners are ‘Engaged’ in the message.

Here’s the problem: they never propose!

They never go out in public, get down on one knee in front of all the people that are important to their customer and ask the customer for their business! They never put the customer first and shower them with attention, and certainly never expect to be judged by the size of the rock they put on their customer’s finger.

The same is true of how they ‘engage’ their employees.

And here is why it fails – they do not build a successful relationship with either their employees or their customers before finding out whether or not they are ‘engaged.’ Just like a total random stranger walking up to you on the sidewalk asking to marry you, you wouldn’t do business with a total random stranger who messaged you out of the blue either.

In terms of employees, many, many companies talk about how they listen to their employees very few actually do it. Few companies spend any real time finding out what the real impediments to getting a job done are.

Take the TV show ‘Undercover Boss’ for example. Last season CEOs and Presidents of major corporations went ‘undercover’ in order to find out what is really happening in their companies. Beyond the personal stories that emerged of real life struggles, a number of other stories emerged too; stories about process improvements stymied and production issues that blocked the company from being as successful as it should be.

The reason? The company talked AT its’ employees, not WITH them, the same way companies talk AT their customers, not WITH them.

The next time you want to consider a marketing, advertising or social media campaign keep this question in mind the whole time: Am I speaking WITH my customers or am I talking AT them?

C./

Chris Cayer

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