Understanding your customer – How your brand sets their expectations

The world of branding is going through fundamental and permanent change, in fact we call it the New Era of Branding, and to compete we need to change the way we think about and manage our brands.

This New Era is best summed up by a quote from C.G Jung, who said:
“You are defined by what you do, not what you say you are going to do.”

In other words, your brand is consumed through the direct customer interactions you deliver, rather than indirect sales messages or advertising campaigns.

Therefore it is business critical that we all understand our customers and meet their needs rather than rely on our perception of what we think they want. In all sectors this is more about the experience we give them because, not unreasonably, they expect us to be able to make the product or deliver the service we put in front of them.

Yet so many brands will fall down at the delivery of the basics whilst trying to wow customers with big innovations and marketing campaigns that make promises that they know they can’t deliver.

Understanding you customer is essential

This  irrevocable change in the way customers interact with our brands, how they react to the promises we make and how they judge us on their terms means that we must seek to understand three core issues:

  1. How customers see your brand in their world
  2. How they make the choices between the multitude of other brands available to them
  3. How what we do makes them feel about our brands

Without deep customer insight and understanding we are basing our strategies entirely on guess work. We would not make a decision about capital investment without knowing what the return on capital would be, so why do it when it comes to our customers?

The promises that we, as a business, make to our customers need to be kept in place throughout their entire experience with our brand so that we remain consistent and honest with them.

Most businesses should have plenty of helpful marketing information and data on hand to tell them what their customers have done in the past, but we also need to be two steps ahead of them and know what they will need in the future. We need to develop a much broader persona of our customers – how they feel about the experiences we give them, their digital profile and activity, what they are saying about us in the world of social media and ultimately, what happens when they transact with us.

Whatever we do we must fight against internally focused thinking and look outside the business to the people who, after all, have the money we are seeking for our insights.

5 practical things you can do to deliver your brand promises using customer insight.

I thought it might be helpful to share a few practical observations that I have learnt in the past with helping our clients provide customer experiences that deliver their brands. These will help you develop your understanding of your customers and, most importantly how you might use them to ensure your brand keeps its promises. 

  1. Everyone has a customer experience, the choice is whether you manage it or not

Having a deep understanding of your customers’ emotional and rational needs will enable you to plan your customer experience right down to the very moment when your brand interacts with them. You will be able to see where the brand must deliver the basics brilliantly and then where it can really amplify itself – driving digital and social media commentary and noise – thus allowing you to focus the right resources and effort where it’s needed most.

 Begin to identify your customers’ turn-off points; where have you asked them to put too much effort into the process? Also, where are you not creating that critical emotional bond with your brand?

How you make your customers feel is a real point of competitive advantage in the New Era. Without understanding them, you don’t get off 1st base.

  1. Your customers see one company, we see a number of departments

Most businesses are built around specific departments or roles delivering specific tasks for the business, no problem there. But in the New Era if these are siloed then they can work against the ability to deliver a truly irresistible customer experience.

Over the years we have found that the answer lies in bringing cross functional teams together to build new customer experiences based on their own knowledge as well as the insights from the customer, all guided by the brand. Give it a go, you will be amazed by the outcomes.

  1. Creating new collaborations is great for the business, brand and your people

It’s time to break down the historic boarders between marketing and operations, sales and logistics, HR and finance, because everyone in your business is now responsible for building on the brand or destroying it.

Creating teams that have skills, capabilities and knowledge from across the business and customer experience means that you can build solutions that work seamlessly for the benefit of your customers. This process can not only demonstrate the influence each member of the team has on their colleagues throughout the process, but also the immense value of their contribution to the business.

  1. Keeping it real speeds up delivery

Things work best when everyone involved can see the influence that the process has on the job that they do. It falls down when it becomes a set piece of “show and tell” training.

How many “brand immersion” sessions have we all run where there is no direct relationship between the brand and the day job?

Engage and challenge the team to develop ways of delivering the brand through the customer –how they experience the brand in their day jobs, and you’ll find the results to be quite remarkable. It can take “fluffy” marketing concepts and turn them into deliverable operational activity.

  1. Don’t think out of the box, just out of the business

The power of putting yourself and all your people into the shoes and minds of your customers can be a real eye opener for everyone.

One technique that we see working is to simply describe a customer type and then walk through the journey with a number of people from across the business. Ask a few simple questions:

  • What do we do here?
  • How does our brand want customers to feel?
  • How do we actually make them feel?
  • What needs to change tomorrow?

Looking from the outside in may sound obvious, but it never ceases to amaze me how few do it properly and frequently.

The value of your internal brand builders to the customer experience

Most of this stuff is common sense but strangely, it’s not applied rigorously by brands. Where we do see it applied, the results are very positive both in terms of brand perceptions but more importantly financially.

If you take just two points away from this article, I would ask you to remember Jung’s thought-provoking quote: “You are defined by what you do, not what you say you are going to do”. And, that everyone in your business either builds your brand or destroys it. Your business is to make them all builders.

© 2016, Andrew Stothert. All rights reserved.

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