It’s a topic on the mind of every B2B marketer these days: customer experience, that elusive moving target. Specifically, how to meet customer expectations when, as a brand, you are competing against every (predominantly digital) interaction your customers have ever had.
For many B2B marketers, keeping up with customers, not competitors, has become their greatest challenge. In fact, Forrester, which quantifies and tracks brands’ customer experience in its CX Index, found that 81 percent of companies’ scores were stagnating. It appears that despite customer experience being a primary focus of marketers for years, most are still struggling to deliver customer experiences that exceed customers’ rapidly changing and ever-rising expectations.
The business case for customer experience
With all the buzz, it’s important to remember that customer experience is not just a buzzword. It’s a very real business driver.
Forrester found that “brands that excel in CX increase revenue at twice the rate of brands that don’t.” That’s a pretty compelling reason to focus on improving every step of the customer journey.
The challenge, of course, is that no one brand can compete with everything. And for customers already facing information overload, a great experience is fast becoming a table-stake – what brands need just to stay in the game.
Tap into customer emotion
So, what’s a marketer to do? The Forrester report suggests that to succeed, companies must be able to evoke emotion from clients. It suggests that emotion has “a greater influence on loyalty to a brand than effectiveness or ease in every industry.” Marketers must look past their offerings’ capabilities and determine what emotional benefits they produce, and how their brand’s experience can work to elicit them at every step.
Much easier said than done, which is why so many brands must feel like they are failing.
As brand strategists, we can’t help but notice that, when it comes to customer experience, there is a tendency to focus on the technology – the latest channel, app, platform, etc. That can easily turn into a rat race, with competitors fighting to leapfrog over each other again and again. It can also lead to inconsistencies across the customer journey, creating a disjointed experience for prospects and clients that – while cutting edge from a technological perspective – doesn’t produce positive emotions. It doesn’t make them feel empowered or build relationships between them and your company.
Fortunately, your brand is the one thing that no other competitor has. For many companies, it’s the key missing ingredient in their customer experience strategy. In fact, a strong corporate brand can help you determine which emotions you want to foster, and which touchpoints will be most effective in doing so.
The result: a brand-driven customer experience that creates positive emotional associations between your clients and your brand—a differentiator that no other company can leapfrog.
Creating a new kind of experience
We saw this firsthand with a fast-growing data and analytics company recently. The firm competed against some of the world’s largest and most established IT companies (with some of the biggest marketing budgets). Their focus on what – their products and solutions – wasn’t breaking through in the noisy and crowded marketplace.
We helped them build a brand focused on their unique why – bringing first-of-their-kind solutions to the marketplace that make IT executives feel empowered and allow their companies to maintain—and increase—their market share without worrying excessively about specs and speeds.
The new brand drove their customer experience strategy. Rather then competing with the behemoths from a technological (or budget perspective), they invited clients and high priority prospects to share in the innovation process. Innovation immersion days hosted by the company’s most forward-thinking experts were held across the country, providing IT executives with unique peer to peer sharing, insights into data trends of tomorrow, and a sneak peak of what was to come from the company itself. Clients and prospects jumped at the opportunity to participate in this highly valuable and exclusive experience. It made them feel valued, like they were an instrumental tool in shaping the industry.
Where to start
The process of building a brand-driven customer experience is far too complex to cover comprehensively in a single blog post. However, it always begins with a rock-solid brand foundation, one firmly rooted in an understanding of a company’s truly differentiating emotional attributes – the ones that matter most to its most important internal and external audiences.
Research can help uncover those points of differentiation. A comprehensive internal and external discovery process can also paint a clear picture of any gaps between where a company is today – and where it wants to be in the future. Customer experience, fueled by brand, can then help close those gaps.