Customer experience: setting the mood with unforgettable content

Have you had an unforgettable customer experience — one that stands out in your memory for all the right reasons? I still remember a call I made to Virgin Airways for two reasons: the hold music was Stevie Wonder’s Superstitious (what’s not to like?) and it was also great quality, unlike most hold music which sounds like it’s being played through a toilet.
In business, it’s not just what you say that matters — the quality and tone of your content can have a massive impact on the way your customer feels about you. Compare a datasheet that’s presented as a dense list of numbers, against one that’s well laid out and easy to understand. The first can leave you feeling none the wiser, while the other can be an absolute pleasure to read.
So how can you give your content this treatment and ensure it gets customers talking?

1: Critically assess the tone
Even if you have brand guidelines, there are things you can do to make your content engaging, lively and an all-round joy to read. Read it to yourself and see if you get bored; if you do, chances are your customer will too.

2: Make sure it’s clean
It might sound obvious, but weeding out spelling errors and grammar mistakes is essential — nothing looks worse than a rogue apostrophe or a typo in the title. It’s essential to do a spell-check, but you could also use a proofreader or engage an agency to create sparkling, word-perfect content.

3: Think about the user experience
The user experience (UX) is something we tend to talk about in the context of web design but it’s equally relevant for content. What information does your audience want to see up front, and where will their eye be drawn to first? Do the two things match? Does your video include lots of text? If they’re watching it on a smartphone, it’ll be too small to read. Putting yourself in the reader’s shoes can really make good content great.

Over to you
What do you do to give your customers an experience to remember? What’s the best treatment you’ve received? Share your thoughts with us in the comments box below, or via Twitter or LinkedIn.

Looking forward: 2016 Marketing Predictions

Those of you who are well-versed in your ancient history may know that the month of January is commonly thought to be named for Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions with two faces — one looking forward and the other looking back. As we move from the old year and into the new, most of us in marketing land are doing the same – with 2016 marketing predictions, reviews and forecasts aplenty.

Not to be outdone, the HN soothsayers have been hard at work again and here’s what we think will make waves in 2016:

1.        User-generated content will rise. Increasingly, customers are sharing their experiences online. And, as long as those experiences are mostly good, they can be a great way to boost your public image without it looking like you’re just singing your own praises. Though currently the province of B2C, savvy B2B companies will encourage their customers to generate content that they can turn into ‘credentials’ – which can either stand alone or feed into other types of customer-reference content.

2.        Traditional content as important as ever, but optimised for mobile. Just because your customers are generating content on your behalf, you won’t be able to give your creative team the year off. With purchases increasingly being researched and completed on tablets and phones, your content will not only need to be slicker than ever, it will have to be compatible with the proliferation of devices out there — optimisation is no longer optional.

3.        A new take on location-based marketing. 2015 was the year that beacon technology made its presence felt, especially for retailers. 2016, we reckon, is where innovative B2B applications for this technology will come to the fore. From showing customers just how global you are to grabbing their attention at a tradeshow before your customers do, we’re excited to see beacons in B2B.

4.        Video marketing. It’s been a good year for video, but we predict 2016 will be even better. Expect the market to mature this year with companies exploiting different types of video, for different purposes, and a huge improvement in quality, as they become more confident with the medium. This is not the year to be camera shy!

What’s your money on this year? We’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment, find us on Twitter or drop us a line at LinkedIn.

Road map to increased customer loyalty

Customer loyalty – everybody wants it, but it can be tricky to find as customers become increasingly fickle. In this infographic, we’re sharing five things you can do to keep your customers coming back for more, time and time again, based on a report from Oracle exploring the relationship between buyers and brands.

Take-5-customer-loyalty-road-map-FINAL-1

How do you inspire loyalty in your customers? Add your tips and tricks to the list by leaving us a comment, or getting involved on Twitter and LinkedIn – just follow the links below.

Shades of grey — gleaning customer insight from multiple sources

In our previous two posts we discussed learning-based (quantitative) and validation-based (qualitative) models for acquiring customer insight. But we shouldn’t forget that insight can also be derived from existing sources of customer intelligence within the organisation. However, gaining full value from those sources generally brings its own set of challenges for the marketing team.

Firstly, a different type of research is required to identify the sources and understand what they do and don’t reveal. Sources of customer intelligence aren’t always black or white; or easy to find, understand and retrieve. Some customer intelligence will be documented in the systems used by marketing, sales, finance, logistics and other teams, albeit in many different forms — but much will exist only in people’s heads.

Secondly, most of this information doesn’t come with an ‘insight’ label attached. Gleaning insight typically involves blending information from multiple sources. The insight may take the form of a flash of inspiration, a penetrating discovery, or an ‘aha’ moment that comes when previously unconnected information is put together. It could lead to a tiny process change at one end of the scale — or a product breakthrough at the other. What it should always do, however, is make a tangible difference to the customer and to the business.

This brings us to the third challenge — that the information found and the insight derived from it will be of little value to the business if it doesn’t reach its destination. To realise its full potential, the information must be communicated throughout the organisation and the insight derived from it made actionable.
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Which is best — learning-based or validation-based customer insight?

This blog explores the differences between learning-driven and validation-driven customer insight — the two fundamental models used in marketing.

Learning based: an open approach to shaping ideas

This requires an open mind and an open approach so that you truly listen to how your customers describe the relative merits of your service, or how a problem affects their business.

Learning-based customer insight is designed to yield fresh ideas or new ways of looking at an old problem. It often works best if you’re developing a new proposition — especially if you want to avoid sounding like the competition. It’s an opportunity to work creatively to shape the proposition and messages that will resonate with your target market.

Validation based: testing customer reaction to stay on track

The research methods for validation-based customer insight favour more structure and formal measurement. It’s about testing concepts, plans or outlines for your brand, value proposition or solution — before you commit budget and resources to further development or launch.

It’s designed to provide external qualification and reassurance that your marketing efforts will achieve the desired results. Customer reactions and stated intentions can indicate likely market traction. And regular benchmarking of key purchase criteria, competitor offerings or solution benefits will help to re-test marketing communications for continued content and channel relevance.

Of course, neither type of insight programme needs to be prescriptive in form or style. Whichever you’re doing, you need a clear business objective to deliver results and steer your marketing activity. And if you’re combining them, you also need to understand how you intend them to work together, to make sure you get full value from the combination.

In the final blog in this series, we’ll explore other sources of customer insight that already exist within organisations.
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‘Discover how to identify key information sources, gain valuable insight, and get closer to your customers.

Approaches to customer insight: an introduction

People love dichotomies. Men are from Mars, women from Venus; left-brain people vs right-brain people; people who divide the world into two and those who don’t…there’s something so compelling about insisting that you’re one or the other, that you can’t tread a middle ground.

Of course, such simplifications are almost always too simple to reflect reality. More often than not, the yin-yang model of the indivisible whole is more accurate. So to be effective, marketing has to be both creative and analytical. It’s no use creating brands, campaigns or communications with the ‘wow’ factor if, from an analytical viewpoint, they don’t achieve what they need to. Likewise, it’s difficult to respond effectively to the analytics of your market or your campaign activities if you fail to engage your audience.

A model for insight in marketing

In the first two blogs in this series we positioned customer insight as the ultimate tool for corporate decision-making and urged marketing teams to take the lead in driving customer insight into the business . Starting simply, there are two fundamental types of customer insight to use in marketing: learning-driven and validation-driven.

Just as with other apparent dichotomies, companies may have developed a preference for one or the other but they’re not exclusive. Depending on the objective for which you’re gathering customer insight, and your likely investment in that area, doing both might actually offer the greatest likelihood of success and the best return on investment. Each on its own also has significant value for marketing and the business.

Coming up next…

Keep an eye out for our next blog in this mini-series, which looks at the key differences between these two types of customer insight.
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Turn marketing upside down with customer insight

In our previous ‘customer insight’ blog we looked at why marketing needs customer insight to do its job effectively. In fact, customer insight is important for the whole business — product development, customer services, logistics and pre-sales — not just marketing.

But if you go by their actions, many businesses appear to think that gaining customer insight isn’t important (enough) and therefore not worth the effort: it’s too difficult, too time-consuming, too expensive.

Instead, marketing teams are urged to dig around, find out what they can without spending money, or re-spin conversations with sales to deliver key ‘customer nuggets’. Research-gathering stops at the company gate or remains at the macro level of market dynamics, with perhaps some competitor intelligence thrown in. There’s no, or very little, direct input to business operations from customers themselves.

Little wonder, then, that marketing is often seen as ‘adverts, brochures and sales presentations’ — and that we all sound the same as our competitors.

A bigger picture and story for marketing

Although it might be an uphill battle, I believe that marketing should be driving the company to focus on the customer. We need to turn marketing upside down so that we can help the business listen rather than talk, and pull customers to the brand rather than simply pushing brands and products to customers. The big picture and story for marketing is in helping to drive customer insight into the business — starting of course with our own role and processes.

Coming up next…

Our next post in the series proposes two fundamental types of customer insight for marketing decisions: learning-driven and validation-driven.
Free download Customer Insight ebook

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‘Discover how to identify key information sources, gain valuable insight, and get closer to your customers.