At one time, it was OK to approach your marketplace in a “mass-media” sort of way, using a one-size-fits-all message about features and benefits of your product. But that’s when companies were more in control of the marketing and communication process.
Back then, before the arrival of responsive web sites, Google and smartphones, (and it’s not all that long ago), great branding and customer experience were all about consistency of message, look, and style.
It’s All About Fluidity…
No more. Great customer experience today is all about fluidity. These days, each of us now has the ability to research when and where we’d like, to express ourselves individually, and to engage with our chosen brands on a personal level, in our own unique manner.
Add to that all the influencers out there: competitors, employees, dealers, distributors, vendors, etc. All of them can now very easily influence the sales process. You’re no longer in control.
That means it’s no longer simply about consistency in images and logo standards. Rather, it’s about driving for a consistency of response among a wide variety of audiences.
Companies that don’t embrace that philosophy and practice are destined for the rubbish heap.
In addition to the market fragmentation and all of the new technology available, people simply don’t have the time to put much effort into understanding what it is you’re trying to get them to do unless you clearly speak to them in a manner that engages them. Customers are pulled in hundreds — sometimes thousands — of different ways every day. It’s almost impossible to shout louder than all the other messages they’re exposed to. Rather, you have to do a better job of speaking their language…what the need to hear…and in the way, time and place they need to hear it.
It’s not so much in what you’re saying, but in how you say it, and ultimately how they feel about you. After all, you’re going to communicate much differently with audiences as varied as employees, vendors, current customers, potential customers, and customers in different types of markets. Yet in the end, they should all feel the same way about you after the contact.
You’d never give each of them the exact same message the exact same way in a personal conversation, so why do so many companies insist on doing so in their marketing and communications? Frankly, because it’s easier, and they don’t always see the payoff in the short-term.
But how customers feel makes even more difference than what you proclaim about your service, quality, price, features or benefits. Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin companies, credits that with his success:
“The idea that business is strictly a numbers affair has always struck me as preposterous. For one thing, I’ve never been particularly good at numbers, but I think I’ve done a reasonable job with feelings. And I’m convinced that it is feelings — and feelings alone — that account for the success of the Virgin brand in all of its myriad forms.”
Building A Fluid Brand
In order to really connect on feelings, you have to be fluid enough to engage customers individually while maintaining the integrity of your brand. Here are a few guidelines for getting started:
1. Understand Your Audiences — Make a list of each and every audience you can think of. Not just paying customers, but prospects, vertical markets, associations, dealers, distributors, vendors, government entities, employees, etc. They’re all important to speak to in a customized way.
2. Define the Voice — Each of those audiences may need a different tone in your communications with them. For example, you’ll talk to engineers, CEOs, salespeople, purchasing agents, millennials, etc., in vastly different ways. It’s important to define the manner in which you’ll speak.
3. Develop Key Messages — Each of your audiences will have different triggers that are important to them. Identify them and develop a few bullet points of key messages that you want to convey and that they’re interested in hearing.
4. Consider All Touchpoint — Once you’ve established all of the above, then go through the experience each of them have with you and chart every possible touchpoint they may have. Think of things not only like tradeshows or sales calls, but things like site visits, calls to your office, on-hold messaging, bills they receive, what your delivery people might say, etc. Then list what you want them to think, feel, and do at each touchpoint.
5. Build the Plan — Then (and ONLY then), go ahead and build a communications plan and tactics that will deliver those experiences to each of them at each touchpoint. Consider how you can customize to each audience with things like microsites, print-on-demand materials, etc. Let them guide their own process for engaging with you, but give them all the tools they need to ensure you deliver the experience you planned above.
A truly fluid brand takes some extra work on your part, but the payoff can be a quantum leap forward in your audiences taking notice of you and your message. And it’ll keep them coming back for more for a long time to come, as well.