07 May 2020
In every category, there’s a baseline level of competence that customers expect. But long-term brand success depends on the consumer preferring not just your product, but the experience of doing business with you. If the food is perfect, but the atmosphere is unattractive, diners won’t come back. If your service is efficient but your technicians are sloppy, nobody wants them back in their home. If your product is a great value but the cashier is rude, shoppers will take their business somewhere else. Exceeding those expectations is what fosters long-term customer loyalty. And that’s harder than ever in a socially distanced world. It’s not like front-line employees aren’t already going above and beyond the call. But even a slight added value in the customer experience can make a difference. You may have noticed this in action already. Some restaurants not traditionally in the carryout business have been forced to earn their chops in a hurry and it’s clear who gets it. It’s impossible to replicate a fine dining experience in a drive-thru window, no matter how well prepared and packaged the food is. But by making the experience of picking up the order more pleasant, or adding a small surprise to the unpacking at home, brands are giving their customers another reason to come back. And, ideally, even a positive story to share. In-home service providers naturally are taking extra precautions to protect their providers and the families they serve. Some of these changes are obvious, but not all. By making the extra time and effort apparent—sharing a checklist or sending a pre-call email, for example—brands can gain the lasting trust of homeowners that builds repeat business and referrals. One of the greatest business casualties of COVID-19 social distancing may be the one asset that’s hardest to replace. Even for businesses who continue to operate during stay-at-home orders, the customer experience has been changed dramatically. This is a tremendous opportunity for brands to invest in experience, while brands that miss the opportunity could be nudged toward commoditization. Or worse.
29 April 2020
If you’re from the do-more-with-less school of marketing, what a time to be alive for you. But for brands who need to stay engaged with their audiences despite social distancing and restrictions on the size of gatherings, the last few weeks have been a time to get creative. Absent the ability to pull together photo or video shoots, many marketers have been forced to rely on existing assets or (horrors!) stock images and video. But some organizations have turned to their people and members of their own audiences for new content that’s both fresh and relevant. And when the content and execution matches brand identity, the shared experiences can be not just impressive, but inspiring. An example of that is the Parks @ Home campaign from our friends (and clients) at Great Parks of Hamilton County. The parks remain open, but with picnic areas, playground equipment and especially restrooms off-limits, it can be challenging for families with young children to enjoy a visit, even on a beautiful spring day. With the help of the Great Parks pros, they’ve created online experiences, educational content, learning activities and enriching games to engage kids and their parents. http://stgregory.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/20_0442_GREATPARKS_FAMILIES_15_HD.mp4 Most notably, it presents an opportunity for members of their audience to connect with each other through the program, with shared activities and exercises that foster conversation and build lasting engagement. Great Parks has some distinct advantages and they’ve created a way to leverage those assets to keep their audiences engaged during social distancing. Brands who do likewise will see it pay off once we get back to something closer to normal. What’s your brand’s advantage?
04 December 2019
Any plan for identifying, targeting and attracting customers to your brand almost always involves some sort of analysis of the customer journey. It’s the path from the Zero Moment of Truth, through something like a Sales Funnel, and leading ultimately to the Last Three Feet. Then we’re done, right? Everybody high-five and start filling out the awards submissions. The reality is that last moment of truth is not where the marketer’s job ends—it’s just where it starts over. With some notable exceptions—burial plots come immediately to mind—most of the brands and clients we serve are hoping for something more than a one-off transaction. So, what can we do to keep those customers coming back for more? First, be certain that the earliest customer experience is not only more than they expect, but clearly what they expect. Advertising messages that confuse your audience or imply a different kind of experience will leave guests confused, disappointed or worse. That means that a clear definition of who the product or service is for has to be baked into your strategy. This requires an analysis that goes beyond demographics or psychographics and gets to what customer need that initial purchase meets. It’s fair to say that the MegaMart and the art gallery have very different customer profiles, but patrons of the arts still, on occasion, need batteries or shoelaces. Second, anticipate that there still will be customers who walk away confused, disappointed or worse. Whether it’s because of an operations issue or a disconnect in your messaging doesn’t matter—it’s still marketing’s problem to address. There once was a saying that a satisfied customer tells two people, but a dissatisfied one tells 12. That’s still mostly true, but through social media that unhappy customer could reach 12 dozen or 12,000 in a matter of hours. Have a plan for responding to these situations that in a way that reinforces your accurate brand story and reinforces your commitment to meeting and exceeding expectations. Third—and this where the journey starts over at the beginning—your marketing plan needs to remind all those happy (or at least satisfied) customers about the best parts of their experience invite them back. Many mass-market retailers and food service establishments solicit comments at the cash register or create rewarded surveys. For high-value purchases or those that are less frequent, consider a personal contact to ask about the experience—good or bad—and even to ask for referrals. With so many options for any service or product in the market, brands need to make sure that every step the customer takes with you is on the right path. The first transaction is just the beginning of the relationship. And the beginning of a new journey.
14 August 2019
The best marketing strategy in the world can only have temporary results if it doesn’t account for the entire customer experience. Sure, our first job is to get people in the door, on the lot or to the website, but that’s just the beginning of the journey. I was lucky to learn this at my first and only job before I started my professional career. I was working at a high-end butcher shop in downtown Cincinnati where the clientele had expectations for their rack of lamb just as high as my current clients do for their multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns. How does a teenager become a butcher at such a place and what did I learn from my time working there? For the first question, ask my dad. For the second, I think it’s safe to say that I learned as much working as a butcher as I did in college. Scary, right? The most important lesson I learned there is that the experience is just as important as the product. This is easy to overlook while organizations focus on product and process, but it can be the most important part of your business plan. Marketing’s job isn’t over when the customer comes through the door. In some ways it’s just beginning. Think about it. One of the first lessons at the butcher shop was wrapping orders. At the time I didn’t understand why my father made such a big deal about it. Finally, he explained that the package that goes out the door is a big part of the experience. The way it feels in our guest’s hands, the way it looks that afternoon in the refrigerator. The appearance, the aroma, the reveal when he first unwraps his roast or chops to start cooking. All those moments are an opportunity to reinforce his decision to choose us. The challenge is to own as many of those moments as possible. Why is that customer in the market in the first place? It’s a butcher shop, so the simple answer is for food. But probably not because they’re hungry. Usually, our customers were preparing a meal to be shared with others, and likely somebody they wanted to impress. That changes the equation. It means they need more than just quality product. They want and expect our expertise beyond which cut is particularly good that day. We’d make suggestions for preparation and serving, selecting side dishes and other ideas for making their meal a success. We understood that we were playing a role in that special meal and it could very well be one of the most important occasions in our customer’s week … or career or relationship. And the customer experience isn’t complete until the dishes are cleared from the table.