Blog | Hugh Kennedy 12.18.17

How Better Marketing Experience Drives Better Customer Experience

Sirius Decisions makes no bones about it, and neither should you: better customer experience is the #1 marketing strategy priority for CMOs in 2018. More specifically, our subscription-based economy means that you need to market to every customer you have to ensure that they don’t go somewhere else. And these days, there’s always a somewhere else.

A consulting company I used to work with many years ago had an awesomely simple concept they called “the sales within service.” I didn’t quite engage with it as a clueless 26-year-old in my first marketing job, but it has never felt truer than it does now. If you treat people well, remember the details of their relationships, and have the marketing infrastructure that prevents them from bouncing around a phone tree or receiving first-time buyer offers that clearly don’t apply, they will return an outsize amount of loyalty.

Yet for every company doing it well today, it seems like there is another company that isn’t. I still do a double-take whenever I buy an Apple product and read that “only AppleCare products give you one-stop service and support from Apple experts” and “24/7 priority access to Apple experts via chat or phone.” Uh, shouldn’t every buyer get sterling service in thanks for purchasing the product, without having to pay to skip the standby line?

On the positive side, who’s killing it? Nordstrom has long been revered for its return policy and customer service, but they also get the connection between marketing experience and customer experience. Shopping for my nephews recently I got witty little running commentaries each time I added things to my bag online, just as I might with a live salesperson:

 

Is this the voice of a chat bot or algorithm? Of course. Does it market the brand to me in a way that justifies the price? You bet.

Which brings me to a few Marketing within Sales pointers:

1. Build a consistently great marketing experience to engage loyalty. With so many agencies working on even one midsized brand, the CMO is on the hook to build complementary energy versus marketing chaos. Spending 30 seconds watching a vendor’s website carousel cycle around presents either a tightly integrated and thought-through customer experience or a crazy digital clothesline of disconnected ideas that build no central point.

2. Market the same brand values in every customer experience. So often the front end of the corporate brand sees not what the back end of the product brand is doing. This is a sign that the company hasn’t done its customer journey homework and updated the experience to support it. A brand that feels visionary and engaging in one moment and crass and half-baked in the next is not marketing itself well.

3. Take every opportunity to show that your brand gets your customers. This is not about marketing more new stuff. It’s about using brand as an actively evolving expression of what your company stands for and what it represents to customers at the deepest level.

A brand that does all of this well is the Australian skincare company Aesop, which is growing a cult-like following around the world. Their stores are an intense pleasure for the senses, accentuated with the hot licorice root tea you are offered as you browse and the scents they spray on your bag as you depart. The Ledger, their monthly bulletin, is not about their products but about the high points of culture at large. One month, in fact, they just sent me a copy of the new Paris Review in the mail with a note.

A few frames from The Ledger, Aesop’s monthly customer journal, which has nothing to do with exfoliation.

What can you do to add more marketing power to your customer experience? Here are a few pointers:

1. Activate and co-create with your ‘crazies,’ the subset of employees, customers, and prospects who believe in changing the status quo and exert an outsized impact. Look at Peloton, for example, which has a wildly devoted customer base and a $1.25 billion market valuation. The iPhone’s Net Promoter Score is 63. Peloton’s is 91. Do you know any friends with a tiny iPhone tattooed on their body? At least ten Peloton riders have become permanent walking billboards for the company.

2. Look for opportunities to unleash the power of transparency. After Everlane advertised this holiday season that they weren’t having any price cuts because their prices already sit 30-50% lower than traditional retailers, I decided I would make them a go-to source for gifts. Savvy marketing. Why? Because inviting scrutiny, opening yourself up to competitors and customers, and acknowledging mistakes may sound like a recipe for disaster, but they are in fact a formula for success in 2018. Compare your level of cynicism watching a $2,000 coat plummet to $250 over the course of a season in a traditional retail setting and a well-made cashmere sweater that starts at $100, stays at $100, and allows you to discover not just the city of production, but a tour of the factory in Dongguan where it was made.

3. Market a mission that’s larger than just your company. Sure, you have one. You may not have defined it yet, but your ‘why’ is there. You just have to show customers through your marketing that it’s alive and well. Look at Shinola, which sums up its mission in a way that stirs the heart and loosens the purse strings (mine, at least: and their Runwell watch does just that):

“Why open a watch factory in Detroit? The question isn't why you'd build a watch factory in Detroit, it's why you'd want to see American jobs go anywhere else. Through five Detroit winters, we've been working to bring manufacturing jobs back to Detroit and back to this country. We build our goods to last, but of all the things we make, American jobs might just be the thing we're most proud of.”

Think about every marketing experience your customers enjoy (or endure) today and ask yourself:

  • Which ones will attract new converts?
  • Which ones will increase retention?
  • Which ones come out of left field and smack customers in the head? Which allow the customer to be a living, dimensional part of the conversation?

Oh, and one final note. Give yourself permission to fail. Just don’t give up. No marketing (or customer) experience is ever perfect the first time out. Here’s to a successful 2018.

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