Today’s marketing professional has an impressive tool kit at the ready. In addition to the staples of the past half-century or so, technology has created a whole new set that seductively promises to change the arithmetic and shrink things to manageable size. Where the world used to be an accessible oyster for those with the budget, today’s venture can play in the global arena with even the scarcest of resources.
Okay — truth be told, many of us are still wrestling with pieces of the new tool-set. (Please submit all workable Social Media marketing strategies.)
But while in pursuit of promising new connections in an undeniably dynamic marketplace, it may be timely to revisit the tool that has always shaped, and will again change the discussion.
Spot The Common Thread
Spend a few minutes visiting with a lawyer or a doctor who built a successful practice twenty-five or thirty years ago. Turn the discussion to how the practice was developed and the response will be something close to “I did good work; the word spread; and the practice grew.”
Find a retailer whose product isn’t the cheapest, but for whom customers exhibit intense loyalty. (Yes, they exist.)
Or talk to a client of one of Carl Sewell’s auto dealerships in Dallas, Texas where the idea is to transcend selling a car today in favor of creating a customer for life. (If you haven’t read it, the book is a “must read.”)
The thread that runs through these and a relative handful of other examples is the importance of the client/customer experience.
While companies invest heavily in innovation, go-to-market strategies, creative marketing communication and reward mechanisms, are we spending more than an afterthought on the experience clients (or targets) have when engaged by even the intangible aspects of a company. Certainly, benchmarks exist for creative budgets, production costs and even customer “loyalty” initiative. But when it comes to what prospective customers actually experience, otherwise sophisticated strategies focus on comfy waiting room chairs, a cup of cappuccino or a “we appreciate your business” flyer stuffed in with an invoice or statement.
I should confess that I’m pretty big on comfortable waiting areas and a good cup of cappuccino. That said, if we believe a handful of tactics are the things that engage the market, and build enduring relationships, we have not learned the age-old and most basic lesson of successful marketing endeavors.
If the objective is to move one round of widget production, empty shelves of current inventory, sell one car, or sign one consulting contract, you likely quit reading a couple of hundred words ago.
But for every enterprise interested in creating customers for life — or, maybe even more valuable, loyal advocates for your brand — effective marketing comes down to what customers/clients/prospects experience when they encounter your company, product or service. This is really the essence of brand: is what your clients and targets experience consistent with what your message promises? Does the experience transcend or fall short of expectations?
There is little doubt that creative genius is able to engage for a season. But those who seed the stuff that turns to word-of-mouth muscle believe in creating, and invest in delivering an ongoing experience.
Market shifts and media innovations will inevitably distract many. Those focused on engaging the market in the experiences from which enduring relationships are born are the companies that will be left standing.