How to get buy-in from diverse customer groups
Brands live and die by customers relationships. Instead of making a quick buck, brands should focus on building connections as it will boost customer loyalty and lifetime value. Customers choose brands they like the look of but only stay with the brands they trust. What that trust means depends on the brand and its offering.
Can your customers depend on receiving the best value for money, the highest quality or most user-friendly customer experience? Can they expect your brand to always do the right thing for the environment?
One thing is sure: building long-term customer relationships is time-consuming. And like all relationships, they can be fragile.
It's no wonder that marketing teams up and down the country commit their annual budgets to nurture and to grow these connections. They dedicate hundreds of hours to cultivating these customer-brand relationships. It's no mean feat, especially when you consider the challenges of simultaneously dealing with multiple, entirely different stakeholder groups. Because let's face it, most brands can't cluster their customers into one big homogenous group.
The customer group divide
The situation at PayByPhone is no different. It requires a complex strategy to deal with diverse stakeholder groups who all have different needs and expectations from our brand.
We recently announced a new global structure that allows us to focus on three key customer groups. Our Client group includes cities, local authorities and parking operators that need intelligent parking solutions for visitors to their city centres and locations. Corporate covers fleets and businesses with an on-the-go workforce. Consumers are the drivers who need to park their cars and don't want to waste precious minutes paying to park.
We're lucky to have the breadth and depth in our team to cover all aspects of marketing and operations, but it's a necessity, not a luxury. Our key Corporate solution launched last year and has grown by 250% since; we have more than 150 Clients and upwards of 12 million registered UK Consumers.
It's a very complex job, especially as the three stakeholder groups' needs are so different and distinctive. At the same time, individuals can be part of two or more groups. A sales manager on the road visiting clients during the week might take her family shopping on the weekend. The parking operator managing parking at the local national park will be a parking customer when he walks the dog on the grounds on a Sunday.
Brands need to be guided by their brand identity and values when building relations with multiple, disparate customer groups. By approaching those relationships from a higher level, brands can communicate while staying true to what they stand for in a way that appeals and is appropriate to each group.
For example, how we as a business treat our planet matters to us, and it is a cornerstone of all our stakeholder activity, regardless of the customer groups with which we engage. The activities certainly won't be the same, and of course, we can't use the messaging verbatim across all customer groups. However, the core of who we are and what we are about is the same.
Building brand equity
One of the main challenges that brands have is the transactional nature of their customer interactions. Nowhere is that more evident than in the parking industry, where the benefits are not immediately apparent. Parking in a convenient location removes the need to walk far, but paying for parking also eliminates the risk of a parking fine.
Customers can be fickle and might seek out cheaper alternatives or go after the next, big shiny object. However, to retain their attention, brands need to move the needle from being in the risky transactional space to the more favourable and comfortable position where the brand becomes a brand of choice. It is the rarefied air where brand value and trust lead to brand loyalty.
Brands can only achieve this level of customer relationship with long-term, positive communication that drives engagement, backed up with superior customer service.
Achieving this is a feat. But even when brands manage to reach this pinnacle, there's no resting on your laurels. Brands must work every day to stay there and to improve because while getting there is one thing, staying there is quite another.
Staying ahead of competitors
Customers will always have an alternative. In our industry, they can choose to park further away, not take the car, risk a fine, or worse, not even care about getting fined – to the frustration of the corporate fleet manager, for example. And sometimes, they will have a choice of mobile payment providers.
The competition will be breathing down your neck every step of the way, waiting to lure your customers from you. Having positive customer relationships built on trust will ultimately set your brand apart from the competition.
Brands mustn't rely on building a better mousetrap to keep competitors at bay. Of course, that's important, but the brand's ethics, emotional intelligence and 'going the extra mile' will tip the scale in its favour.
By focusing on nurturing customer relationships across segments, a brand can improve its marketing and maximise its campaign budget. It's the only way to build a brand that customers groups want to buy into – and not just buy from.