Are you coming on too strong with your customers?by
Gartner recently reported that nine out of ten companies believe that by 2016, the experience they provide to customers will be their main competitive differentiator. The company describes customer experience as: “… the sum of discrete moments that work together to strengthen or weaken a consumer’s preference, loyalty and advocacy for a brand.”
In an age when customer churn can be sky high providing a positive experience and keeping customers loyal has a very tangible impact on business performance.
This raises an important and often uncomfortable question for brands: are they providing their customers with the right experience? That is to say, an experience that ensures their brand preference, loyalty and advocacy continues to grow. Or are they coming on too strong?
The anatomy of advocacy
Customer experience occurs across a number of channels at a number of points in time; from the first time a potential customer encounters the brand, through content consumption, to the point of consideration and sale, product use, experiences of support and any further interactions. Dissecting the anatomy of brand experience may seem complex at first but, in many ways, interacting with customers is similar to any other conversation: brands should consider what they are saying, how they say it, the context they say it in and how often they communicate. This intensity can, and should, vary throughout the customer lifecycle.
First and foremost, content must always be relevant. This means not only understanding user interests and communication preferences but also how your product or service relates to them at any point in time.
The customer experience should also be personalised; prospects should feel as though content is relevant and relates directly to them. Brands need to understand their customers. What do they like? What do they do in their spare time? When do they do it? These insights are vital for creating personalised marketing communications and can also help brands understand how to help more customers move from preference to purchase.
Timely communications are also key. Many brands are moving away from ‘interruptive marketing’, which demands that prospects and customers make time for communications, and are, instead, looking at methods that reach audiences at a time and through a medium which is convenient to them. Again, this frequently comes back to having solid customer understanding: knowing when they are amenable to being communicated with, whether at work or at home.
Audible, the audio book company, for example, recently ran a real-time banner advertising campaign online taking advantage of unexpected bad weather to encourage people to download audio books. Whilst many brands may not be able to mobilise this quickly, it demonstrated how a little creativity at an opportune moment can bring together a highly successful campaign and drive sales.
It is also important to understand what content reaches customers at different stages of the lifecycle with the brand. Know when content should focus on ‘closing’ a customer and making a sale – brands must always consider what they want customers or prospects to do next; in this case, a clear call to action, potentially with a discount voucher or subscription offer could help a customer make a purchase decision. In other cases, content should simply offer consumers something else to read, download or watch. But, whatever the purpose, content should always be compelling.
Finally, customer marketing must be contextually driven. A great deal has been said about Oreo’s timely marketing at the Superbowl in 2013, which was not only very quick, but also demonstrated the brand’s clear understanding of where its customers’ eyeballs were focussed at that moment. The Superbowl suffered a 34-minute power outage and the Oreo team very quickly tweeted a social advert with a single Oreo and the message: ‘You can still dunk in the dark’. Whilst a challenge to be on top of every opportunity, providing communications which are sensitive to where customers and prospects may be and what they are doing at any point in time will usually be more successful than bland, generic messages delivered out of context.
Experience intensity can and should vary. However, it is vital that the customer is always at the heart of any campaign: listen to them and engage rather than constantly pushing your brand’s agenda – just like any good conversation. Consequently, brands need to open a two-way dialogue – and not just broadcast their message; sometimes, successful marketing is simply about staying in the minds of your customers rather than converting them to a sale.
If in doubt, marketers should revisit the conversation analogy: nobody wants to be stuck in a room with a bore who talks about him or herself incessantly and fails to listen. No customer experience manager should be ‘that guy’.
Laurence DeBruyne is marketing director at Sitecore.