A mentor of mine, Larry Vincent, Chief Branding Officer at UTA and author of BRAND REAL and THE FINDINGS REPORT delivered a quote that has become somewhat of a mantra of mine over the years. He said, “Good brand strategies guide mission-critical decisions in capital investment, human resources, research, product development, & operations management”.
So what exactly does all of that mean?
If we dissect the quote, it becomes clear that branding and the strategy behind how you promote your brand and engage your consumers should guide every important decision for your business.
Since there are only so many consumers in the marketplace, brands are constantly jockeying for the most favorable position in the eyes of the consumer. What most don’t know is that there is a science behind brand engagement, and that is the focus of this article.
Brand Identity in the eyes of the consumer, distinguishes your organization, your product, and your service from your rivals. Today’s consumer does their research, they compare you to your rivals in as many ways possible. So to say that your brand is just a name, slogan, or symbol is far from true. Your brand is not who you are to you, it is who you are to your consumers.
Brand Strategy starts by defining your target audience, or more accurately stated, your targeted audience(s). You must understand their implicit and explicit needs, and how your product or service satisfies those needs. Once you have done this, you can better understand what types of messaging to use and how to deliver them to consumers.
Bottom line, building a brand identity and brand strategy that respects and adapts to the behaviors of your consumers is vital to success in today’s marketplace.
The reason that branding matters is that it helps shape consumer perceptions and decision-making behavior. A great brand aligns with a business’s larger marketing strategy and consumers needs. Strong brands cast a vision and communicate the unique value of the brand in a crowded marketplace.
Let’s take some comparative brands; Apple vs Windows, Tesla vs Prius, Jet Blue vs Delta, Chipotle vs Taco Bell. These companies essentially make the same product as their comparative counterpart. So what makes one stand out more than the other?
If I have to explain it to you, then you missed the point entirely. It is not so much the products/services that distinguish one from the other. It is the brand identity and brand strategy that draws in a specific type of consumer to engage with the brand and ultimately become a brand loyalist. This happens as a result of the consumer feeling an intimate connection to the brand because it satisfies some form of want or need on a personal level. It is their experiences with the brand that shape their expectations of the products/services that these companies offer.
So if the experience is good, then the expectation is high. If the experience is poor, watch out, because you often times don’t get a second chance to win a consumer.
Now that we have identified the what and the why, its time to dive into the how. A technique knows as Persuasion Marketing is one of the most impactful means of generating brand loyalty. It applies what we know about human psychology and behavior to market products or services. There are four key elements to the persuasion marketing technique; structured communication, storytelling, copywriting, and neuromarketing.
I will briefly define these to help drive the point home:
Understanding consumer behavior can help shape an organizations brand identity and brand strategy. The marketing tactics utilized should be a direct reflection of the brand, and evoke emotional responses on a subconscious level. By employing persuasion marketing you can then deliver a marketing message that not only resonates with a consumer, but creates a sense of unwavering loyalty, and as a result, you have a customer for life.
In our articles, “The Customer Journey – How Consumers Become Customers”, and “Customer Lifecycle Marketing – Send A Message That Influences Behavior”, we spoke about the importance of direct and personal messaging that influences a behavior or action.
Last week I had a great chat with Caleb Edwards, Founder, and CEO of GreenHouse Agency in Orlando, FL, about these same topics, and he brought up the term, Human To Human Marketing. Now I have not heard that term in a while but it really hit home. In today’s marketing automation world, we forget sometimes that there is a human on the other end and it is vital that we embrace this human-to-human connection. Your consumers belong to a community, and these communities are now your new target markets. So despite the abundance of software tools, it is time for a shift back to the days of personalization at a “human-to-human” level, and that is the focus of this article.
Human to Human Marketing (H2H) is a marketing strategy that focuses on building personal relationships with consumers and customers. This differs from traditional B2B or B2C methodologies in that we are breaking down the sales message and replacing it with a message that enables consumers to actually feel “connected” to the business or brand on a more human-level than before.
The days of big business saturating consumers with messages of dominance and confusion are long gone. Marketers of today need to individualize messaging and build authentic connections to thrive because out of necessity, consumers have learned to be selective due to the information overload that has been thrown at them.
I spent 13 years in enterprise sales before jumping into the marketing world, and the smile-and-dial mantra still haunts me to this day. Activity requirements were based on the number of dials I made, not the number of valued connections I made. Remember, meaningful conversations are much more important than the number of cold calls or emails blasts you do each week.
Cultivating personalized messages take time and determination. The silver lining is that there are tons of marketing technology solutions out there that were built to solve this exact problem. Doing the research can be tedious but it is worth it. LinkedIn, Blogs, and Social Media are great ways to find out important details about your target consumers. And since H2H is all about personalization, and more importantly Human-to-Human connections, what better way to deliver that message than through video. Some great video solutions that I have been experimenting with are Wistia, Vidyard, and Knovio. It is always nice to put a face to a name, and that is just what these solutions do.
Creating a compelling narrative that people care about is the foundation for Human To Human Marketing. It is important that your narrative tells a story that solves a problem. Solution-based selling is my favorite selling style, and although this takes the most time to implement, it has by far the highest conversion rates than any other selling style.
For sales reps to make a truly human connection, they must silence all the noise and take on the role of consultant. As marketers, it is important that we equip our sales teams with collateral that speaks the same language. E-books, webinars, blogs, and testimonials are great, but if their language is not speaking “human” than they will be heard as nothing more than noise by consumers.
Did you know that less than 1% of leads that come from an online form or content download actually turn into revenue-generating customers? That sounds crazy, yet we still see forms and downloads on almost every website we come across.
So what are the alternatives? I mentioned a few video-hosting solutions, but let’s not forget about the grass-roots marketing tactics that gave birth to gorilla marketing. Get out there, attend events, speak with consumers, give them a message to believe in, and give back more than you take. Consumers are not fools, they can read between the lines and you must give back the power to them because without consumers, there is no commerce.
Information overload, whether it be from TV, Radio, or Social Media, has created a sea of confusion that speaks an archaic language to consumers. As humans, we crave simplicity, and marketers need to tap into the language and learn to speak human again. This is what the market is craving, this is what your consumers are craving, and ultimately, Human To Human Marketing is what needs to be delivered.
In our article, “The Customer Journey – How Consumers Become Customers”, I introduced you to the concept of the customer journey and its importance for effectively converting a consumer into a customer. For today’s “always-on” marketing style, there are many factors to consider when developing impactful marketing campaigns.
Bottom line, for marketing to be truly effective in today’s omnichannel ecosystem, you need to send a message that influences behavior using Customer Lifecycle Marketing, and that is the focus of this article.
Customer Lifecycle Marketing (CLM) is a marketing strategy that focuses on addressing an audience’s implicit and explicit needs as they evolve from prospect to customer to advocate. This requires a deep understanding of the target audiences behaviors, thoughts, and feelings as they interact with the brand across all digital and analog touch-points.
To engage a prospect requires a completely different strategy than to engage a hot lead or a customer because they are at different stages of the customer journey. This means that you need to create a managed communication strategy that prioritizes and integrates the complete range of marketing channels and experiences that prospects, customers, and advocates go through on their journey with your brand.
If your marketing message does not influence a behavior, then what is the point? The most effective way to ensure that your message is understood and influences some type of behavior is to personalize it. You want to recognize your targets as individuals. This sounds difficult because you typically target a large audience pool, however, this is all the more reason that you need to define your target audience, or more accurately stated, your targeted audience(s) before you define your marketing message(s). Since no one person likes to be communicated to in the exact same manner, why do so many organizations market to everyone with the exact same messaging?
It is important that your marketing messages also recognize where the target is in their individual marketing lifecycle, i.e. prospect, customer, or advocate. This allows you to tailor messages much more effectively. The most efficient way to achieve personalization is to use email marketing combined with marketing automation.
By mapping out the different stages of your customers’ journey, and overlaying the customer lifecycle marketing model, you can identify which types of marketing strategies make sense where and when. And as consumers engage with your various touch-points, you can track their data, behaviors, and interests, and re-use this data to tailor a messaging strategy that influences them to make a decision.
With so many marketing channels available today, it is important to understand when in the customer journey it is effective to market, with what type of channel, and which type of message. For this purpose, let’s break up the Lifecycle Marketing Model into 4 stages; Outreach, Action, Conversion, and Re-Engage. Within these stages, there are a few different audiences.
To better explain the activities that are typically found in these stages, here is a simplified table that was created by www.smartinsights.com.
As with any marketing strategy, and really anything that you put forth in your professional and personal life, garbage in – garbage out. So before you jump to send out that mailing, before you blast out that email to 10,000 prospects, take a step back. Remember, customers, appreciate a relationship-oriented approach from brands. You must build relationships with consumers throughout their customer lifecycle and across all touch-points. Your marketing will then show that you’re serious about your prospects and customers needs and can deliver on your promises to them.
By taping into your audiences implicit and explicit needs and behaviors, by analyzing your customers’ journey, and by mapping out your customer lifecycle marketing strategy, you will see a decrease in churn rates, an increase in conversion rates, and a more effective ROI on your marketing efforts.
This holiday season, I thought it would be interesting to discuss a well-covered, yet somewhat misleading narrative that is being pushed by the media outlets, The Retail Apocalypse. Online sales hit a record-breaking $91.7 billion this holiday season, up from $82.5 billion last year. This impressive number may have some physical storefronts panicking, but the total retail sales this holiday season peaked at $598 billion, a $33 billion increase from last year. That means a substantial amount of the total holiday retail sales was made in physical storefronts.
So if you follow the media, you might think that given the dreary narrative for physical retailers, the rise of online retailers would lead to shrinking sales for physical stores during the 2017 holiday season. Well, think again. Online sales are growing, and some physical storefronts have suffered, but holiday sales in physical stores actually increased in 2017. This means that now, more than ever, it is imperative that storefront retailers connect with consumers on as many physical, emotional, and behavioral levels as possible, and that is the focus of this article.
The retail apocalypse refers to the closing of a large number of retail stores and shopping malls across the country. This began in 2016, and although the root cause is often blamed on online retailers like Amazon taking a larger percentage of the market share, it is actually due to many well-known departments stores, chains, and brands being overloaded with debt as a result of leveraged buyouts by private equity firms. Sound like a familiar concept? We are seeing this same model in several sectors in the economy.
According to Forbes, the media coverage is exaggerated, and the retail sector is simply evolving. The research and advisory services firm The IHL Group, states that retail sales are up by more than $100 billion this year, and 4,000 more chain stores have opened than closed in the U.S. The most successful retailers that are prospering during the retail apocalypse are the low-cost, “fast-fashion” brands such as Zara and H&M, and experience-based physical retailers. These are the brands that have seen beyond the hysteria and are forming connections with consumers, targeting them successfully, and converting them into long-term, loyal customers.
The retail apocalypse mostly impacts the middle-class, where consumers are experiencing a decrease in income while costs increase for things like housing, healthcare, and education. The way Americans shop is also undergoing a fundamental reboot. As more people shop online, the stores that are successfully drawing in customers are those that emphasize experience-based brand connections. This is slowly diminishing the line between e-commerce and physical retail. Virtual stores are also increasing their physical presence. Take a look at Amazon opening bookstores and their acquisition of Whole Foods. Here you have one of the largest e-commerce retailers expanding their physical footprint in cities across the country. Apple has flipped the electronics experience on its head, with their stores showcasing not only cutting-edge products but cutting-edge interior designs, as well as providing services and advice for customers. This has lead to one of the most powerful community-brand connections in the marketplace and is one of the biggest parts of Apple’s differentiation from the competition. Most Apple customers are loyal customers, purchasing multiple Apple products, and continue to do so year after year.
These successful retailers have created a hybrid-model where consumers can engage in multiple ways with their favorite brands and products, with the freedom to buy the way they want, either online or in-store. Consumers want to sit on that new couch, try out that new iPhone, and feel a connection to the brand. But they want the freedom to buy at their convenience without being bombarded with ads on their various devices. Although these are price-sensitive consumers, when they feel connected to the brand, they don’t mind paying a premium, as long as it is on their terms.
With the e-commerce vs. physical-commerce battle continuing, when it comes to marketing, it all starts with defining the brand connection and understanding how the consumer shift between e-commerce and physical-commerce is forcing a change in the way shopping is done. So relevant marketing content is king, experience-based retail environments help to connect consumers with brands, and providing consumers with the flexibility to educate themselves and purchase on their own terms are the keys to surviving the retail apocalypse.
As discussed in “Consumerism – The Death of the Salesman”, understanding your consumers is a key component of any branding, marketing, or business development strategy. Though this is a common practice that most businesses recognize, understanding the customer journey is what ultimately leads to higher business conversions, and that is the focus of this article.
The customer journey is a deep understanding of a consumer’s behaviors, thoughts, and feelings as they interact with a brand across all digital and analog touch-points. We will discuss the stages that make up the customer journey, however, you must first realize that the customer journey does not begin at the point of sale, it begins the very first time a consumer is made aware of the brand.
A customer journey can be mapped out just like a timeline. Each point of interaction that a consumer has with a brand must be identifiable and have an action plan associated. Let’s face it, if you cannot determine the steps that a consumer takes to become a customer, how is the consumer ever supposed to make it through the sales funnel.
Touch-points are not some mythical creature, these are simply the various tangible and non-tangible events that a consumer experiences over time while interacting with your brand. A consumer may hear a radio ad, see a billboard, search on Google, or be referred by a friend. Any of these can and should lead the consumer into the first stage of the customer journey. So why does this matter? This is the first time a consumer is made aware of your brand, and if your brand message and call to action are not clearly defined and easily actionable, how can you expect the consumer to move onto the next stage of their journey.
To identify the customer journey touch-points, you need to physically map out all of the different methods of marketing that you have in place, as well as the steps a consumer goes through before, during, and after the sale. You should be able to compartmentalize each touch-point and see a next step for the consumer. If there is no next step, then there is no action, and if there is no action, there is no sale.
There are five stages of the customer journey; awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, and advocacy.
The awareness stage is the first point of engagement when the consumer becomes aware of your brand through marketing and word-of-mouth.
When a consumer makes the connection that they have a need, and you have a product or service that may meet that need, they move onto stage two, the consideration stage, and the research begins. At this stage, a consumer is interested and wants to see if you actually have what they need, and the key is to provide educational content to the consumer that shows how your product or service satisfies that need. Be ready though, consumers will assess and compare you with your competition so be sure to have your material in-line with your brand identity, message, value proposition, and differentiation.
Stage three, the purchase stage, is the pivotal moment when the consumer transitions into a customer and makes a purchase. Remember, the reason they are making the purchase is that their perceived value of your product or service satisfies their need more so than the competition. So don’t let them down, an unhappy customer will be much more vocal to their friends and family than a happy customer.
Once you have a customer, you have to keep them, so we move onto the retention stage. Depending on your product or service, this is when you want to reach out to your new customer. Ensure that they are happy with their purchase, offer assistance to help them get started, and try your best to instill a level of brand loyalty. For repeat purchases or renewals, remember that this journey is cyclical and the customer may go back to stage two at the point of renewal, so you must know your product-sales lifecycle.
The last stage is advocacy. This is when your customer spreads the word about their experience with your brand, your product, and your organization. As stated earlier, an unhappy customer will be much more vocal than a happy customer. So having an advocacy strategy in place is critical to deal with criticism and showcase praise.
Identifying your customers’ journey, and understanding your customers’ behaviors, thoughts, and feelings across all digital and analog touch-points is ultimately what leads to higher business conversions. Ensuring that each stage is actionable allows you to analyze the data uncovered, and stakeholders can then make value-driven decisions in branding, marketing, and business development investments. Without data, you are only assuming, and we all know what happens when you (ASS*U*ME).
There is no doubt that Consumerism plays a major role in today’s marketplace. Though Consumerism has several definitions, the focus of this article is on the concept that consumers are now more “informed” decision makers; and how Consumerism impacts your brand, your marketing efforts, and ultimately your sales model.
In the eyes of the consumer, your brand distinguishes your organization, your product, and your service from your rivals. So the old adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover” should have been done away with years ago, because that is exactly what consumers do. Today’s consumer does their research, they compare you to your rivals in as many ways possible. So to say that your brand is just a name, slogan, or symbol is far from true. Your brand is not who you are to you, it is who you are to your consumers.
What this means is that you must first understand the needs and wants of your consumers before you can truly define your brand. And if your consumer profile varies, you need to have a process in place to optimize your brand and alter how it is perceived in the marketplace. That is why building a brand strategy that respects and adapts to the behaviors of your consumers is vital to success in today’s marketplace. This can only be achieved by integrating your brand strategies throughout every touchpoint along the customer journey.
Marketing 101; build your brand, differentiate with value propositions, and know your customer. Sound familiar? So what has changed? As a constantly connected society, the marketplace ecosystem has evolved. The social dynamics of today’s buyer impacts consumer loyalty, and since there is an infinite number of companies battling for the consumers’ business, today’s buyer-decisions are made on more than just price.
Let’s keep it simple, there are 4 main types of consumer buying decisions; routine purchases, low-decision purchases, high-decision purchases, and impulse purchases. Understanding how consumers make these purchasing decisions and studying buyer behavior should directly impact your marketing strategy. This is known as an Adaptive Marketing. Rather than utilizing a Standardization or Universal Needs marketing strategy, an Adaptive marketing strategy appeals to the wants, needs, and behaviors of consumers. The downside of this strategy is that it can be costly due to executing multiple marketing campaigns in a given market, time-consuming to develop each unique marketing campaign, and slower to execute because you have to track success and be ready to make changes as needed based on the data you receive. The upside is that your conversion rates and customer acquisitions will increase because you are speaking to the consumer in a manner that they want to be spoken to, and your marketing message will resonate with them on a personal level.
When it comes to sales, a product or service only has true value if that value is perceived as helpful or necessary to a consumer. So when a salesperson simply educates a consumer on the features and benefits of a product or service, they are taking the position that they know more than the consumer. A salesperson must first take the time to learn from a consumer before they attempt to educate them. When a salesperson understands what is important to a consumer, they can tailor their sales pitch to directly address the consumer’s wants and needs, and ultimately guide the consumer through the customer journey and into the purchase funnel.
With Consumerism changing the way consumers interact with brands, changing the way organizations market their products and services, it is only logical to infer that the sales model must adapt to these market changes and a more conversational data-driven approach is essential to succeed in today’s marketplace. In some ways, you can say that Consumerism is leading to the death of the salesman because consumers may be 75% sure of their buying-decision before ever engaging with a salesperson. So it is the sales persons obligation to recognize this behavioral change and adapt their sales strategy or face the consequences.