Your Company Is In A Relationship…and It’s Complicated.
In a previous article, I had promised to tell you more about what happens when elements inside your business converge with the outside world; ideally, how your customers become ambassadors for your brand.
Like falling in love, it can be, well…complicated. And you can approach it in a couple of ways.
Some business owners have expressed to us that they want help with their marketing, when what they are actually looking for are a few magical “pick-up lines” that will make the company attractive to the customer for quick transaction. But while that rather tawdry mental image still clings, let me warn you, the customers won in a single conversation with those kinds of pick-up lines are often attracted only by money, meaning they won’t be around for very long when the price isn’t right.
Courtship, however, is made up of a string of “dates” and positive moments. Courtship takes longer, but it’s worth it, because it will result in a longer-lasting relationship and loyalty. Relationships like that often result in long-term commitments.
The Three Circles of Interaction
According to behavioral psychologist Desmond Morris, the process that forms a relationship usually determines its strength. In the business world, customer courtship is due to the convergence of Story, Culture and Experience:
- Story is ”What You Say” (Marketing). It is the personality and promises you put in your messages.
- Culture is ”Who You Are.” It is the experience your employees have within your company and their estimation of how well you live up to your core values.
- Experience is ”What You Do.” It is what your customers perceive when they interact with your company.
Consider Apple, Disney, Zappos and Nordstrom as the pinnacle examples as we move through a deeper explanation of this vortex, and you will understand the dynamics of what happens when these circles intersect.
When Story and your customer’s Experience align, Authenticity occurs. When these don’t intersect, you get bad reviews. The customer loses faith in you. You didn’t live up the claims in your story, and they’re going to tell the world.
When your Story and Culture mesh, High Employee Morale takes place. When these don’t align, and your employees realize your company doesn’t walk the big talk, you have cancer in the building. How sincere can they be towards customers if they themselves don’t believe in what the company stands for?
Fandom happens when Culture and Experience mesh. This is where the customer interacts with an enthusiastic employee who gladly demonstrates the ideals of the company through actions and attitude. If Culture and Experience fail to merge, there is still a transaction between customers and employees, but it becomes more forgettable. There is no bond. It’s not that the customer dislikes you, they just have little reason to rave about you.
But the ultimate alignment occurs where Story, Culture and Experience intersect. This is the incubator where Brand Ambassadors are born; your happy customer chooses to become a member of your family, part of your brand.
It’s About Timing and Relevance
The customer who moves quickly from first contact to first purchase is not likely to become a loyal customer, although that is possible if they continue to use your product or services again and again over time. Raving fans can be won through time or degree of relevance. Just like love, it can happen slowly or in a thunderbolt “Where have you been all my life” kind of way. But the more deeply-committed Brand Ambassadors usually don’t come about via “love at first sight.” It is only when your Story resonates with them, your Culture is attractive to them and their Experience with you is remarkable – as in “something worth remarking about to others”.
That is not to say it cannot ever happen quickly! Be in the right place at the right time, swoop in to save Mr. or Mrs. Homeowner at just the perfect moment, and they will rave about you! That relationship is just as likely to be a lasting one, but it is based on those unusual moments of urgency and high-impact. Having a plan of action for those emergency cases (24/7 Service, always having a real person answering the phone, etc.) will make you the Superman to their Lois Lane.
Marketing Is Just A Wingman
Magical pick-up lines may get the customer interested, but true love happens more deeply face-to-face. Marketing can introduce you two, but once the customer shows interest and gives the go-ahead for the next interaction, then it’s up to you, your Call Center and your Service Techs. It is their responsibility to put the voice and face to the company’s words and start acting on promises, nurturing those customers into Brand Ambassadors. Your team members need to understand customers’ personal stories in order to engage them as people, not transactions. If it’s a repeat customer, take a moment to remember what you talked about with this person the last time you spoke. Smile, whether they can see you or not. Anticipate their needs and questions. Make your services more valuable to them so they cannot imagine doing without you. Story, Culture and Experience intersect. Voila! Over time, you are the company they feel best about, so they will always call you first. But was the motivation for that call infatuation or true love? Was the deciding factor price or passion? Was it a cheap transaction or a more meaningful INTER-action? Your Marketing is just a wingman, there to sell the good points about who you are. Advertising will accelerate what was going to happen anyway. But if you’re trying to be someone you aren’t, and the customer catches on to that, you’re just going to get a drink thrown in your face, so to speak.
Closing words on this topic come from Wizard of Ads founder, Roy H. Williams. He gives this advice:
Old school advertising was ‘assault, subdue and conquer” through AdSpeak. ‘We are the best. We won’t be undersold. We have been voted the number one…’ It was the language of a competitor, a warrior. The new language of advertising requires a wooer, not a warrior. Intimacy is patient and considerate, never pressing more on the customer than the customer desires. It’s the language of seduction. In your ads, will you remain a fighter? Or will you become a lover?”
And let me add, yes…it’s complicated. But it’s worth it.
Got more questions? Feel free to ask!