Branding has changed over the past twenty years.
A Brand used to exert far more control over their image than they do now. Their image was dictated by their marketing team and it was presented via one-way communication channels such as Print, Radio and Television. There was no means for the consumer to talk back and no sharing “en-mass” of experiences. The worst a Brand had to fear was negative word-of-mouth referrals amongst their consumer’s family and friends. This of course was minimal and easy to drown out.
This type of “one-way” marketing communications made it easy for brands to position themselves with nothing more than a large budget and a savvy marketing team.
That has all changed. With the advent of the internet, the world became a great deal smaller. This is a truth that has been compounded even further by “Social Media”.
“Social Media has made every customer a “mystery shopper”. It has enabled every last consumer to weigh in on a Brand’s performance.”
Social Media has enabled anyone and everyone to share their thoughts on anything at anytime. Is this a good thing? Perhaps not in all cases, yet it is the truth we live with. Everyone’s hearts are now on their sleeves and now just about anyone across the world can view it.
This is a cold hard fact for Brands.
The Brand Image is no longer dictated solely by slick marketing, it is dictated by customer’s sharing their experiences with the world. Take for example this recent post to social media giant, Reddit:
A customer, or quite possibly no more than the NEIGHBOUR of a customer, witnessed a diligent UPS employee and shared it on Reddit. The post was instantly shared with millions of consumers all around the world.
Congratulations to UPS! Thanks to this employee and the consumer who noticed it, they got excellent brand recognition and advertising without spending a dime.
Now as a point of comparison, have a look at this short video posted to YouTube. The video shows a FedEx employee casually tossing a package (containing a computer) over a fence. This is a video that went viral only months ago:
Ask yourself, which of these two elite carriers are consumers more likely going to use? Based solely off of these two consumer-shared posts I know who my choice would be.
Of course this isn’t to lambaste FedEx or endorse UPS, but to demonstrate the principles behind the new era of Branding. Simply put Brands must now exercise a new level of responsibility and engagement with customers. Any Brand seeking success in the 21st century must now focus less on shiny advertising and image and more on “Customer Experiences”.
Customer Experience (Definition): Is literally any part of the entire experience a consumer (or consumers) has during the process of making a purchase. This includes preemptive researching, sourcing, pricing, purchasing, taking possession of, installing and using, as well as any and all customer service related activities following. This may include warranty, returns, questions or comments.
Twenty or more years ago a customers experience with a brand was shared with only their immediate social circles. Feedback, bad or good, was restricted. These days customer experiences can (and are) immediately shared with hundreds, thousands or even millions of other consumers. For this reason Brands have begun to put more effort into their daily transactions with customers.
There are billions of customer transactions and experiences occurring daily around the world. They take the form of phone calls, emails, discussions with sales associates, deliveries, installations, warranty requests etc. Every instance of participation between you and a consumer, every interaction that your business has with a customer, is a “Customer Experience” and EVERY SINGLE ONE of these interactions could make or break your brand.
We as businesses have no control over which consumers will share what with others. That one negative experience we provide to a consumer could quickly be seen by anyone and everyone. Likewise that incredible effort on the part of your staff, could reach thousands on your behalf. This “unknown” is why EVERY interaction is crucial.
Social Media has made every customer a “mystery shopper“. It has enabled every last consumer to weigh in on a Brand’s performance.
The key point being made here is that EVERY business big or small, needs to invest in improving their day-to-day interactions with consumers.
Improving Brand to Customer Interactions.
As outlined above, there are countless interactions between customers and Brands every day. Whether making an actual purchase or simply looking for product information, it is imperative that every customer experience be as smooth, efficient and positive as possible.
“Always keep this one direction in mind: “How can I make this better for the customer?”
The sheer number of interactions and instances of “Customer Experiences” can be overwhelming. In this excellent post by Dr. Brian Monger. He outlines a far more thorough list of the various interactions that may take place between you and your consumers. To read through it, one can feel quickly discouraged! But take hope. This list provides the impetus for you to BUILD YOUR BRAND!
Instead of getting discouraged, go through the list and pick two or three interactions that you KNOW you have with customers and look at ways to improve them. For example, does your business frequently have to deliver to customers? How can that be improved? Can you offer it for free? Can it be sped up? Is your delivery guy providing them with a smile and a handshake?
The improvements don’t need to always be complicated and it is often the little things that matter most to customers.
Always keep this one direction in mind: “How can I make this better for the customer?”
Improving customer experiences is a crucial step for the new era of Brand Image because customers are continually sharing their experiences via social media. Since this is the case, it only makes sense for Brands to also be involved on social media channels.
In past posts we have outlined some of the many social media sites available, what they do and how they work. The two primary reasons for a Brand to “get social” are as follows:
1. Engaging Customers: The purpose of social media is quite literally in its name: “SOCIAL media”. Many Brands have yet to truly see that success on Twitter, Facebook or any of the many sites out there, boils down to the ability to connect with customers. Using “one-way advertising” tactics and simply shouting your message without listening or replying to the customer base is a faux pas and it is one of the things killing Brands on social media.
Instead, make your time on social media, all about talking WITH your target market. Share insider info on tips, deals and sales, reply to their comments and start conversations. This builds your brands integrity and gives them reason to participate with you online.
2. Being Available To Listen: If a customer has an issue with your business and decides to share it via social media. How will you know?
There are a couple of different ways. The first is just BEING on social media. There is a good chance that if a customer has an issue with a recent experience and is going to share it online, they will seek out the Brand responsible (Tweet at them, visit their Facebook page etc). It gives them a chance to address it with you, which ideally results in dealing with the situation and improving their opinion of you.
“If a customer has an issue with your business and decides to share it via social media. How will you know?”
On the flip side, positive experiences may also be shared and should be highlighted and shared with your social media followers.
A Brand can also watch for “mentions”. Platforms like Twitter allow for an extremely easy search of various words and terms. Simply plug-in your brand name, or specific terms that are associated with your business and hit “search” to see what people are saying. There are programs available to allow you to do this with just about any site and they can be customized to fit your business.
We chose not to get into the details regarding many of the topics at hand above. The sole purpose behind this post was to educate small businesses on the growing importance of customer experiences. What they are, how they work and why they matter. We value feedback, did something in this post standout? Do you have an opinion, question or criticism? Share it with us and let’s get social!
Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. Educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how we’re doing or if you have any questions.