Aug 04, 2016

The Experience Matters

By: Josh Dougherty


Your customers interact with you in a myriad of ways every day. They come into your brick and mortar store (if you have one). They read a blog post you wrote. They engage with you on social media. They visit your website. They enjoy whatever you create; whether it be a meal, a product, or even the chance to be the part of a cause.

All of these interactions influence how your customer thinks about you.

Strangely, when most of us start thinking about marketing and growth, we forget about this. You know what happens next? You're trying tactic after tactic, hoping one sticks. Meanwhile, growth lurks in the shadows, just out of reach. You're left wondering why. In my experience there are two primary reasons.

Reason One: You're pursuing revenue to the exclusion of the most important ingredient to a successful venture: Avid fans who can't get enough of what you do.

Reason Two: You haven't accepted that you have little to no control over when, where, and how your customers interact with you and adjusted your approach to match this reality.

The interactions your customers have with you add up to create an experience. In order to achieve long-term growth and success, it's this experience that matters. Nothing else. A consistent and delightful experience across all interactions will create avid fans of your brand.

Ready to develop a more consistent experience? Here are five ways to start today.

1) Center Your Thinking Around Your Customer

Your customer should be the center of your universe. You need to think about what they want, desire, and need. You need to think about what scares them away from interacting with you. In short, you need to get in their head.

Here's why.

You may make an amazing product. That doesn't mean you know why people choose to buy it. You need to understand your customer's motivations. The best way to do this is a formal research project, but you can also just start asking questions. Ask people what they love about you. Ask what annoys them. Ask them what they would like to see changed. Their answers may surprise you.

Be ready to change when you start asking questions. Marketers have made a bad name for themselves by asking for people's opinions, and changing nothing. It turns out that if you do that, you aren't going to get the trusted fans that you want, you'll just get a bunch of burnt out customers.

2) Guard Your Brand Above All Else

Once you stop living out your brand, the unique and special way of doing things, you can't go back. Trust is broken, and your customers will go away, no matter how much you think about the experience. Let me share an illustration to make this come to life.

I love wine. One of my favorite wineries in Washington is Dineen Vineyards. They produce amazing french-style wines: primarily cabernet sauvignon and viognier. Dineen know who they are. They're proud of it. They only produce a small number of wines in small quantities. They have no wine club. Their tasting room is small and quaint. Their owner may even meet you in Western Washington to pick up some wine if you email and ask.

If they suddenly announced that they were tripling the size of their operation, producing 18 new types of wine, and distributing around the US, the experience would be ruined for me. They couldn't market or message their way out of it. They would no longer be my favorite because they would lose both of the things that make them special: the quality of their product and the unique experience I and all their customers have when they interact with them.

This is what I mean when I say that product and brand is everything. Without it, the emperor has no clothes. You may be able to hide it for a while, but sooner or later you will be exposed as a fraud...and you won't be able to win people back, until you fix your brand problem.

3) Map The Whole Experience

A few months ago I was at Confab Central in Minneapolis. One of the sessions there was led by Mike Atherton, a content strategist at Facebook. He shared about a project he had done with a London hotel chain. During the project, he mapped out a guests experience from the moment they decided to look the hotel up on the internet to the moment that they checked out at the end of their they stay.

Only a few of the interactions that Atherton described were marketing oriented. The rest focused on the experience a guest would have down to the micro-interactions of opening the door to the room. Because all these interactions were designed as a complete experience, they left an indelible mark on the guest. They'll probably turn into a repeat customer and avid fan.

Try mapping out your customer experience by writing user scenarios. Scenarios are narrative explanations of each of the magic moment in which someone interacts with you. Once you've written out the scenarios, put them all up on a whiteboard. This will give you a full view of the experience, and help you to identify where gaps exist.

4) Free Yourself to Pull More Than One Lever

It's tempting to only pull marketing lever to see if it will work in isolation. The problem is, this approach is a little like playing roulette. You're hoping that the ball lands in the right place and you can celebrate. Sometimes this works. Usually it doesn't.

One tactic typically doesn't work in isolation because it's necessarily intertwined with others. If you invest in blogging without getting people to your blog, the strategy isn't going to bear fruit. If you invest in acquiring customers without thinking about how to treat them amazing after they've become a customer, you're going to lose them. If you invest in paid search to get more qualified traffic to your site but you do nothing to improve the site experience when someone arrives, the traffic will bounce.

So, what do you do instead?

Our preferred approach is creating a channel strategy based on the experience design philosophy above. A channel strategy coordinates your efforts to reach your target audience across all channels. Once completed, you have a implementation roadmap, even if you implement tactics one at a time to control your investment.

This approach will help you guard against making rash decisions when results are slightly below par on a certain channel. You may still choose to dial back your investment, but only after you've considered the entire system.

5) Don't Be A Creep

We have a lot of data at our fingertips these days. We're able to capture almost anything that an individual does on a website. This is powerful, and the power needs to be used with care. Just because you CAN see everything that someone is doing doesn't mean that you should use this information to market to them.

This is tricky though. in today's world people do want a customized experience. Think about your experience with Amazon. You want Amazon to know what you've previously purchased and suggest other smart things. Or Netflix, the suggested for you tab is awesome. How many things have you discovered that way?

Here's the key, any personalization like needs to provide real value to your customer, not just to you. They'll thank you for making their life easier, or making a connection that they hadn't previously noticed. On the other hand, if you use data to harass them about something they don't really want, you're going to do more harm to your cause then good.

In short, it's incumbent on you the marketer to have a heart and think about how you would like to be personalized to. This is again about the long game. How do you create long-term love and trust, not just drive today's sale? A today-first sales strategy will always dry up. And you'll be left high and dry.

The Bottom Line

For your business to be successful today, you must think about the whole customer experience. Get started today using these five tips.

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