Great Expectations: Why Customer Experience Should be Brand-Driven, Not Technology-Driven
The experience a prospect or client has throughout their decision making journey should be consistent, relevant and on-brand.
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, a recent Forrester study found that nine out of ten companies 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 “one-point increases in CX scores can translate into $10M-100M in annual revenue.” 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.
The Technology Trap
So, what’s a marketer to do? The Forrester report suggests that to succeed, companies must be able to “adapt to a dynamic state of constant flux.” In other words, we must create order amongst the chaos. This means being nimble enough to evolve our marketing and sales strategies to (quickly) meet changing customer preferences without falling into the trap of change just for the sake of change.
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 empower them to make critical decisions or engender meaningful connections.
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 navigate the technological landscape, guiding you through key decisions related to customer experience development and providing a roadmap for consistency, relevancy and distinction.
The result: a brand-driven customer experience that excites prospects and clients and helps them understand why you are different – and better – than the competition.
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 empower IT executives, and their companies, to stay ahead of the curve.
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.
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 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.
The Age-Old Debate A number of interesting reports came out this year that examine the B2B buyer journey. In one way or another, each weighs in on the seemingly unavoidable tug-of-war between marketing and sales. Who owns the customer journey? Who is more influential in the customer experience?
Earlier this year, Harvard Business Review published an interesting report charting what millennials across the world want from work. Their hypothesis was that, to date, much of the research done on millennials has been skewed towards a more Western population. Their findings point to some key differences across cultures that hold important implications for employers…
In today’s content-driven B2B marketing landscape, a compelling, user-centric content strategy can be a brand’s most powerful tool for connecting with prospects and clients. To be truly effective, a content strategy must be based on a clear understanding of and alignment to specific customer needs and consumption preferences throughout their decision…