Leading marketers are creating a brand experience to meet their customers where they are … and that’s in the driver’s seat.
You hear it and may even say it, “make an emotional connection.” But have you evolved, truly evolved, what you and your team are doing to make good on that claim? Let’s consider the brand facts:
- Brand Differentiation – Marketers know that product features and price are important, but not the linchpin to the emotional connection we seek.
- Brand Ownership – Marketers know that a strong relationship translates directly to the bottom line as customers buy your product, recommend your brand and defend your shared values in a crisis.
- Brand Choice – Marketers know that the customer’s sphere of influence has grown exponentially. Thank you Mr. Internet. According to McKinsey, “consumer-driven marketing is increasingly important as customers seize control of the process and actively ‘pull’ information helpful to them.” Additionally, only “a third of the touch points involve company-driven marketing.”
Are you still marketing?
Progressive marketing teams are facilitating a brand experience. Are you ready to …
- Take informed, yet uncharted steps, to connect with your customer?
- Invite new people to join your movement?
- Accept that the customer owns your brand?
- Exhibit your brand promise in all that you do?
Spoiler alert: Those who continue to “do marketing” in the “marketing department” silo will perish. Those who recognize “we” must change because “they” have changed will go the spoils.
Now that you know the ending, let’s go back to the beginning because it’s worth the read.
What will it take to evolve from “doing marketing” to “facilitating a brand experience”?
Here are the four key elements marketers must now embrace:
1. Take informed, yet uncharted steps, to connect with your customer.
- Understand Audiences – Revisit your customer profiles. Be sure you have a clear understanding of your shared values and purchasing motivations. If your employees are not in the mix, add them.
- Outline Buy Cycle – Of critical importance is the process your customer goes through when making a purchasing decision. Outline the conversations they need to have and the resources they are likely to tap. Where do you fit in? Based on your goals, prioritize audiences and stages.
- Inventory Touch Points – As your customer executes the purchasing process, outline the touch points at each stage of the buy cycle. Where does your brand touch (whether by your hand or another) each audience?
- Evaluate Experience – For prioritized buy cycle stages, what is the customer experience with your brand and why? Now is the time to sweat the small stuff. For example:
- If a customer visits your office, what does the entrance experience say to them?
- If you send a customer an email, how are you exhibiting the values you share in your signature, title and tone?
- If you support a charity, does your choice reflect your shared values?
- If a customer wrote a difficult review, how did you handle it?
2. Invite new people to join your movement.
- Foster Cross-Departmental Relationships – To more effectively deliver a consistent brand experience at newly identified brand touch points, reach across the aisle. For example, a less-than-stellar customer review has staying power. How we empower customer service to address the review and deliver our brand experience are opportunities we must consider for our brand.
- Celebrate Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) – Craft a thought leadership strategy that includes the identification and recognition of SMEs within your organization. Enable them to craft content, comment in targeted third-party channels (e.g., blog, LinkedIn Group, article) and speak on behalf of your organization.
3. Accept that the customer owns your brand.
- Facilitate an Authentic Dialogue – Provide your customers with opportunities to engage with “their” brand. One way to accomplish this is through your social community strategy. Is it fueled by the values you share with your customer or just a “second website?” For example, what would it look like if your Facebook community aligned with your charitable strategy? No product promotions. This does not mean you are not consciously driving prospects and customers to your website, rather the point of entry is built on a meaningful conversation and trust from day one.
- Facilitate an Insider Circle – Provide your customers with the “soon-to-be-published-story” link ensuring they are the “first to know” as well as incentives to try new products before they are on the market. Having their support when you launch is a win-win.
- Put Their Input In Context – Reimagine your customer satisfaction survey to help participants better understand how their opinions compared with others and is informing the priorities you will set as a company.
4. Exhibit your brand promise in all that you do.
- Live Your Brand – This means that you must communicate your brand promise across the enterprise. No role is too big or too small not to know and embrace that which binds you together. Decisions about where to advertise, decisions about policies, decisions about charities – these and more must be informed by the lens we call brand.
Evolving from a marketer to an experience builder means you will be forming new relationships, thinking in ways you never have and energizing your team. You checked “marketing” on the college box because you love connecting with people. You took this job because you love the products and services your company delivers. Consider this your excuse to meet more people and expand your influence. You are in a position to be the voice of and authority on the customer as you bring everyone together. It’s time to move from just an expense on the P&L statement to a valued and visible investment within your organization. If you would like additional insight into how to jumpstart your brand experience, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Beverly@rmagency.com.
For R+M, we stepped back from the industry of marketing, evaluated what our clients truly needed and re-emerged as a Brand Experience Agency. We made this step years ago and haven’t looked back. Born in design and marketing, that expertise remains a strong focus for us today. But, we had to acknowledge that the way people interact with brands has changed. Customers do not make decisions solely based on brand communications and our clients’ customers own the brand. For those primary reasons, we think and act more holistically meeting our clients’ customers where they are. We apply our skills across the enterprise – encouraging education, processes and tools to deliver a consistent brand experience no matter the touch point.