As marketers, our goal is to bring in new customers, grow their lifetime value, and convert them into brand advocates that influence their network to become new customers. In order to do that, we need to have the businesses we’re marketing stand out from their competitors.

Businesses competition has gone through many different phases over time. It started from competing on price, then competing on brand awareness, and then competing on experience (think “my visit to Starbucks today”). As businesses evolve, they’re learning that engagement is the critical next step.

Businesses are starting to shift from an era of mass marketing and advertising, where they talk at people for a single moment in time, to an era of engagement marketing, where they begin to take time to learn more about their customers on a personal, individual level and engage with them over a lifetime.

Engagement marketing builds real individual relationship with your customers continuously over time, seamlessly across all of the channels and devices they use. It means paying attention to your customer and observing what they do, learning what they like, what they don’t like, offering guidance that helps them get where they want to go (in a way that is consistent with your own business goals), interacting with them and keeping yourself top of mind with these customers that already love you.

In a lot of ways, engagement marketing is really about getting back to marketing basics. Building relationships, effective communication, word-of-mouth—these are all things small businesses understand and can use when getting started with engagement marketing.

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