The Disengagement Dilemma
I'd like to do a little exercise in group vulnerability really quickly. I want you amongst yourselves and you at home to ask yourself or put in the question box one answer to this question. What are you afraid of? Tell your partner, just one answer. What are you afraid of? Put it in the comments. Alright, so this guy, this guy, newborn humans are born with only two fears. They are born with the fear of loud noises. Did anyone say a fear of loud noises? (laughter) I'm going to say no. And they are born with a fear of falling. That's it. So several takeaways. One, I think we'll all at the break go call our parents and see what happened. How did we get all these other fears? Where did they come from? Right, and it's relevant to the talk we'll have today because so much of what we'll talk about today is about getting beyond the like understanding what people click and getting deeper into their, you know, human aspirations and their wants and dreams and fears and desires and serving those t...
hings in a transformational way. But here's the other takeaway. Sometimes given the work that I do every day, I feel like I want to find like the committee that keeps the list of human fears. I don't know if that exists, but if there is one I'd like to find them, and I'd like to submit that we should add a new inborn human fear to the list. The fear of getting no love on social media. (laughter) Right, the fear of no one will follow me. No one will buy what I'm selling. The CEO's fear. I talk to CEOs of enormous publicly traded companies whose biggest fear is like Twitter following is low. Right, or the fear that no one will buy what we sell. Which looks a little like that, that being the new inborn human fear. Right, this is a fixation. The way that I see this is that we're very fixated in business and industry right now on growing the numbers of customers, growing the numbers of followers, growing audience size. And the way that people go about trying to alleviate this fear usually comes down to like two kind of categories of things, depending on which business or which industry they're in. So in digital they tend to do growth hacking. I'm sure you've heard that phrase, right, that just means doing some paid user acquisition. You're literally paying to get customers to download your app. Paying by virtue of ads or you know, usually ads. And food and apparel and CPG, they do brand advertising. You know so you go out and you spend 100 or 200 million dollars, no big deal, on TV ad campaigns in this desperate attempt to get people to follow you to buy what you sell, that sort of thing. They both though I think boil down to the essence of the same thing, which is buying users, right. Making a product that you want to make, buying users, and then snapping some marketing on top of that product. I would submit that when you get beyond this sort of what we in the valley have started to call vanity metrics. When you get beyond the metrics of how many customers do we have, how many followers do we have, into what it actually takes for a company to succeed, we're sort of all worried about and afraid of the wrong thing. As far as I can tell, any company in any industry at any size in any stage will succeed if it succeeds in engaging two audiences over and over again. Customers and employees. Period, like just to boil it way down. That is truth. And when you look at the data, most companies are not doing a great job at engaging either, customer or employees over and over again in particular. There are a couple of data points that I think are really selling in on this. So some friends of mine run this company called Track Maven, it's content performance analytics company. Track Maven came out with a report recently that said that brand published content is, the shear volume of it, is up 35% year on year. Customer engagement with that content is down 17% year on year. Right, so we're just like all publishing more stuff and fewer and fewer people are listening to it, watching it, paying attention to it. It is the same for paid advertisements. So there is this lab out of MIT that has this fascinating practice of eye tracking to see whether people are paying attention to ads. So the eye tracking data suggests that 60% of people who see like an ad on their laptop screen avoid the ad just by moving their eyes. Like they may let it play, but they're doing everything they can like not to look at it. Have you every done this? All day every day, right? The same for like the app world is not much better. I know a lot of companies are like let's build an app, that'll fix the problem. I will tell you after a career of having marketed apps, that apps are actually even harder to get people to engage with than tangible products are. Right, so there's a company called Localytics that does a bunch of app data analytics. And they say something like seven out of 10 apps that are ever installed are used less than 10 times. And something like four out of 10 apps that are installed are only ever used the time they are installed, the first time. Right, and then there's just like employee engagement data. Gartner says that something like 72% of American employees rank on this disengagement spectrum someplace between like eh kind of bored about work to like toxically hateful about work and their employer. Now that one I think is particularly concerning because if you can't pay people to be engaged, something is like really, really wrong. So I think if there's something that we fear, if there's anything that we fear, we should actually fear disengagement, not growth. Because you can actually buy users. You an buy your way into growth. You cannot buy your way into engagement. You can't buy your way into people caring, to people watching, and to people keeping their eyes on the ad. You have to earn that. You have to build that. That's why they call the big numbers, user numbers, vanity metrics, because they're not real, right. The other truth, the other reason I think disengagement is a thing that we need to be paying the most attention to is that disengagement is actually the number one limiting factor on businesses. If you're fixated on growth, without paying attention to engagement, you're literally paying to advertise to and get customers that will immediately turn out and leave. That is bad business. That is a bad business model, right. It's expensive to advertise and get customers. So if you start doing that before you have the things that will keep them and retain them and engage them and you know have them fall in love with your brand, you can very quickly end up in a situation where you're paying more to acquire a customer than that customer is worth in your business financially. And that is not sustainable. You just can't do that for long, right. I used to give the imagery of it's like pouring champagne down the bathtub drain, but I think that's just sad. I think that image is so sad. I took that slide away. So you know, I think what I hear a lot of is companies thinking, relying on digital as the solution, right. Social will fix it, apps will fix it. And the problem that I have with that is that it just misunderstands the nature of engagement as a, as a thing you should care about and disengagement as a digital problem. So we're going to talk about what engagement, what engagement even means, what it looks like in a business when you're customers are really engaged. And we'll talk about the nature of the disengagement problem, so then you'll see how we can like flip that around and fix that problem.