If you've read this blog before, you probably know that social media has changed the face of marketing. Not only has it changed the channels we use, but it has also changed the things we say. The golden days of blasting promises through the air waves are over. Your customers expect something different.
This morning, I originally started writing about developing an online marketing plan. I put it on hold, though, once a post on the Forrester Research blog caused me to rethink my plan. Kerry Bodine's article titled Advertising The Customer Experience was just too important to ignore.
The Customer Experience
In her post, Kerry outlines a few examples of major lifestyle brands and the way they market their products. Rather than outlining the features of the product, these savvy companies are focusing on the benefits. Particularly, the benefits of the customer experience.
The king of this concept is, of course, Apple. The entire experience of their products is designed with the end-user in mind. The rumors, the press conference, the shipping box, the manual, and the product itself are all part of the Apple experience and brand.
So, what is the customer experience exactly? Well, in her post, Kerry describes it as " how customers perceive their interactions with your company." So, think about that for a minute. How do your customers REALLY perceive interactions with your company? Now, don't just take your own word for it, when was the last time you really looked into the answer to that question?
Perception vs. Reality
If you ask the boss a question like, "how do people perceive our company," you will always get an answer, but will you get the right one? Usually, this question results in perceptions that have primarily been contrived through day to day, internal, operations. If the boss sees that things are pretty good on the inside, then he will assume things are pretty good on the outside. The problem is, that those perceptions amount to nothing more than guesses. Reality can be a long way off.
Social Media Allows Us To Really Listen
One of the things that you hear about social media all the time is that it allows us to listen to our customers. Monitoring tools like our own Todaypulse, allow businesses to monitor social networks, and the entire web, for mentions and discussion about their brand or industry. Believe it or not, but there are people talking about what you do. When it comes to the customer experience, there is no easier way to keep tabs on what that experience is like than through social media monitoring.
Social Media is Driven By Lifestyle
In one way or another, all of us offer an experience with our products and services. Leads and potential customers choose us because in some way - the experience that we offer matches their expectations. Social Media is really an extension of this. Online communication, enabled by social networks, is simply another way for customers and leads to experience our brand. Even better, they get to interact with it. When we talk about customer experiences and lifestyle brands, social media really allows us to shape that experience in a way that was never before possible.
A New World
This blog, and the post over at Forrester, refuse to mince words over the oncoming failure of traditional advertising. The promises, the failed call to actions, and the in-your-face tactics are loosing major ground. Things like experiences and consumer sentiment are becoming a bigger and bigger deal. Business use to be business, but somehow it has become all touchy feely, hasn't it?
I can't help but believe that some of this has been brought on by social media. Consumers have realized the importance of direct and open communication with the products and services they use. They value the communication and experience of your product just as much as the product itself. This is a major transition for businesses that are usually focused on improving their products and reducing the bottom line. Isn't it really time that we focused on shaping the entire experience of our brand? Making, over-the-top, promises and pushy call to actions isn't the game anymore. Customers want something different. Something less tactile and more experiential. The question is, are you delivering it?