Fresh Ideas to Engage Customers

For thousands of years, cultures have regarded the march from winter to spring as a time for celebration, welcoming its first days with plays, fertility rituals, wine festivals, and by honoring the Earth.

As March Madness winds down, here at the Alliance, we’re kicking off several new initiatives: a new name, new Program Councils to help drive programming, a new format for the Innovation Summit, and a new strategy to enhance content and community development online.  

Our goal is to:

  • Deliver content that’s value-driven, engaging and interactive
  • Create more opportunities to connect and share ideas
  • Build a greater sense of community among our members

To develop our action plan, we benchmarked high performance building-related companies for the latest content production and online community-building best practices; we conducted a social media audit of 50 companies; and we sought guidance from content production and social media professionals who produce and deliver cutting-edge content every day.

Going forward, you’ll see the insights we gleaned manifested in an earnest and ongoing community building effort. That means an improved mix of content along with robust use of online tools to collaborate, share, and deliver it. On the way, I’ll share what we’ve learned, starting with these insights you can also apply to help build and engage your customer base:

Today, storytelling is the way businesses have conversations.
Good storytelling is one of the most engaging and immersive ways of creating an emotional connection with customers. We’ve been wired since childhood to understand and assimilate information and complex ideas through the use of stories. You want to develop truly human emotional bonds with the real-life people that comprise your customer communities? Tell them a story. You want to build credibility and long-term relationships with customers? Tell them a story. You want to tell me about plug-n-play ductwork? Please, tell me a story.

The fact is, stories must be worthy—of customers’ attention, of reading or sharing. “Click bait” no longer cuts it. Good storytelling is not just an effort to paper the world with your message, but to do so in a compelling, mean­ingful, relevant and memorable way that, most importantly, leads to action.

We can do science.
Our members continually express their difficulty communicating the value of high performance to their audiences. Benefits are often hidden behind walls and ceilings, or else the topics are technical or otherwise complicated. We’re in an industry that can be tough to engage audiences around, but it doesn’t mean we can’t. In fact, the content that most surprised—and downright delighted me—came from our sponsors, manufacturers dealing products, such as Kevlar, cellulose ethanol, and structural fastening systems. Yet, tell them that science and technology stories can’t sizzle.

You’ll probably counter that these industry giants likely have marketing budgets 20 times the size of yours. Perhaps. However, we also saw similarly sized companies whose stories flopped, suggesting that creating delightful content is less about a huge marketing budget and more about making smart use of your assets (time, for one) as well as putting in some elbow grease—and a little out-of-the-box thinking.

Case in point: DuPont

Click to view video

I won’t lie. Once I stopped feeling jealous over this brilliant example of storytelling, I was a little in love with DuPont for days. The story effectively reworks a complicated concept (creating cellulose ethanol biofuel, a sustainable energy alternative, from crop waste) and delivers instead a delightful story that is easily understood, relatable, and drives back to DuPont’s key message: DuPont has found a way to transform something we haven’t used into something useful.

You don’t have to choose video as your format. We know. It can be time intensive. The point: if you want to tell a story about a complicated topic, product, or process, think about the message. What does it say about your company, its culture or mission or values? Couple that with a human face we can relate to. That’s great content.

We’ll share a best-in-class example of storytelling or community-building in each newsletter. If you have an example you’d like to share, please send a link to