It’s a noisy world out there if you are a marketer trying to generate results. The proliferation of media channels and technology make it challenging to communicate with your audience. The number of new entrants into a given product space changes daily, sometimes commoditizing your products or services almost overnight. And if you’re like most of the clients we work with, you’re being challenged to do more with fewer resources and responsible for driving revenue.
Yes, marketers are under more pressure than ever to deliver on-demand, 24-7, totally connected and meaningful customer experiences.
Yet many marketers still rely on splashy campaigns to drive sales, engagement and long-term loyalty.
Customers have evolved beyond relying on advertising campaigns to make decisions. And the pace of change requires astute marketers to change the way they approach their discipline.
We have a steadfast belief system at our agency that drives what we do; a religion of sorts. So I offer you not our “bible,” but the first five commandments by which we shape what we do to make our clients successful.
1. Everything we do is in service of the Customer.
Does your organization operate based on what products or features your company wants to make or what your customers want to buy? Are you fulfilling a customer need or pushing product?
Outdated marketing approaches customer communications with programs that end up pleasing product teams, but doing little to create customer relationships. If you promote product features without leading with customer needs, you will only be as relevant as your latest feature. Then what? This dilutes your brand and kills any hope of creating a long-term relationship with your audience.
Modern marketing serves customers.
Know your customers, understand their decision process, who and what influences them and then communicate with them. Truly engage potential and future customers on their terms and you’ll build loyalty.
2. Execute across the entire customer experience, not individual touch points.
When you silo the organization or think in terms of short-lived campaigns, you risk delivering disjointed customer experiences that dilute the opportunity to drive demand and build loyalty.
The most effective modern marketers understand that touch points are only tactics when taken individually.
To truly connect with customers and drive loyalty, you first need to understand all the ways customers interact with your brand and how they are influenced. This includes interactions with your organization outside of marketing communications. Customer service, for example, can make or break an experience with your brand: A negative experience could turn a customer off for life.
It also includes how you enable your customers to advocate on your behalf. Advocacy is the most effective channel in converting customers. Know who your happy customers are and enable them to influence others.
And your most important brand ambassadors are your employees. Everything from product development to production to sales to delivery starts with your employees. If they aren’t aligned with your values and the DNA of your brand, everything else is going to fall flat.
3. Align all activity to end-to-end customer decision journeys.
Are you still approaching the customer decision process as if it’s a linear journey?
The sales funnel or pipeline analogy is a simplistic — and inaccurate — representation of the way customers make their purchase decisions. And it’s a strategy doomed to failure.
Consider your own experience: You don’t arrive at a decision to purchase based on a neatly arrayed three- or four-point, step-by-step process. Nor do your customers.
The modern consumer expects a highly personalized experience with your brand at every touch point. Customers make the purchase journey across a complex web of information, endorsements and research before finally arriving at the point of sale.
What you must do is map the unique context of your customers’ daily lives — their triggers, their emotional states, their social cues, (among other things) — to ensure you don’t miss opportunities to steer them toward engagement with your brand.
Sometimes the journey to purchase decision is concise; for example, when making low-dollar, low involvement purchases like buying a t-shirt or a soft drink. Other journeys are long and drawn out, for instance when purchasing a new car, computer or financial product.
Regardless if it is a short or long customer decision journey, marketers have to understand the entire ecosystem in which the decision to engage and purchase is made.
4. Don’t bet on a silver bullet.
Marketers can spend too much time and money trying to find that silver bullet; that creative campaign concept that will save their brand.
It’s a misplaced hope on which to pin your strategy. For a start, silver bullets are one in a million. And the reality is that even if you’re lucky enough to find one, a silver bullet lasts all of one shot. That is, creative campaigns have finite life expectancies. Once they’ve run their course, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to reload with another silver bullet.
If marketers think in terms of programs and brand platforms instead of campaigns, they’d see real, long-term results and create lasting relationships with highly engaged, loyal customers.
Instead of one lucky shot, spend the majority of your marketing budget on activities that define and identify customers, on creating content that persuades customers to engage with your brand, and on platforms that deliver that content to the right people, at the right time, when and how they want it.
Invest in ongoing programs and platforms that align with your brand’s DNA and permeate the entire customer experience.
5. What a brand does should align to what it says.
In today’s world, where consumers have the ability to expose and amplify a bad experience in real time, what brands do is more important than what they say.
The Internet has forced a level of accountability on organizations many are still unprepared to handle.
Winston Churchill put it like this: “I no longer listen to what people say, I just watch what they do.” The same can be said for today’s consumers: They’re always watching what you do. So make sure your actions match your promises.
Ensure your sales team or channel is armed with what it needs to deliver the correct messages, but also that from top to toe, those messages personify your brand. Savvy auto brands do this well. Interact with a BMW salesman on the floor of a showroom and you’ll see that she represents the brand in the way she dresses and how she talks.
Walk into an Apple store and . . . you get it.
On our mission to evangelize the benefits of modern marketing, we’ve seen that most marketers fall short of following the commandments above.
It takes real bravado to change the game for your organization. It may sound simple to say that all you have to do is map your brand’s marketing plan against a customer decision journey instead of a sales funnel; that’s a noble thought. But it’s a challenge to affect the status quo, especially when it comes to marketing organizations.
Today’s winners will be the ones that take this challenge to heart and invest in making corrections. And remember, it starts with the commitment to be customer-centric in everything you do.