Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Be Beautiful on the Inside, too

“Dahlink, you look mahvelous” – Billy Crystal, comedian, 1985, SNL

In his classic song, “You Look Marvelous,” Billy Crystal, playing Fernando Lamas on Saturday Night Live, says to himself, “Nando, don’t be a schnook, it’s not how you feel, it’s how you look.”  If you look great, he says, it doesn’t matter what happens inside, you are doing great.

But for data-driven marketing, the opposite is true.   Differences between the outside and the inside can be the deciding factor in whether 2011 holds great gifts or lumps of coal come next holiday season.

The issue is authenticity – how genuine are the interactions between the customer and your company.  And I mean ALL the interactions – from the call center to sales associates or sales people to route drivers to customer communications.   When customer experience research is conducted, it turns out that authenticity – truly caring about customers and understanding their situations, is one of the highest priorities and one of the key drivers of retention.  Because customers build relationships with people, not organizations.  When was the last time you felt genuinely close to the U.S. Government, for example?

You can do all the compelling direct mail and email you want.  You can have an industry-leading web site with personalization and lots of “web bling.”  You can do motivational speeches to your staff.  But if your people do not sincerely care about the mission to provide the best customer experience to your customers, the words will just ring hollow.  One poor in-person experience will trump all the direct mail, email and web sites in the world, every time.

Let’s call all in-person, web site, email and direct mail interactions “the brand,” since the sum of those is actually what your brand means to customers.  So how do you as a marketer help to deliver “the brand” genuinely across channels?  Here are three approaches to help you get a fast start to 2011:

·      Determine what your brand actually is, to your best customers.  Ask customers who love you what they love.  You can do this with web surveys and phone interviews – yes, you can actually pick up the phone and talk to customers directly.  You will be surprised at what you find out.  Ask about Moments of Truth, when associates went out of their way to make a difference – they are the real glue in any customer relationship.

·      Build and execute an internal marketing plan.  The marketing plan you deliver inside your company may actually be as important as the one you send to consumers – since the internal one helps to drive the right customer experience.  Don’t preach to your associates – that’s the best way to turn them off.  Instead of a lot of corporate-speak, let your best associates describe how they look at customers and how they have contributed to resolving customer Moments of Truth successfully.  This approach is always more successful than having corporate talk because the message is delivered authentically – a key if you want those associates to be authentic themselves. 

·      Measure, reinforce and make corrections.  Establish a benchmark of employee engagement with customers, execute your internal marketing campaign and measure the impact, not as a one-time event, but as an on-going measurement program to evaluate the success of your communications in helping to change attitudes and behaviors – exactly as you would do for a customer-focused marketing program. 

If you want to read more about how to make sure your measurement answers critical questions, click here to read my post

Authenticity is not something you create; it must begin on the inside.  Start “from the core,” with what you believe is the best about your organization.  Once you have identified that quality, you can build off it and reinforce it, not only internally but externally as well.  As a marketer, your job is to identify and reinforce the best your company can offer, both inside and out.
Doesn’t that sound like a rewarding way to start off a New Year?

Mark Price is Managing Partner of M Squared Group, a consulting firm focused on understanding and building customer relationships, and the author of the blog “Cultivating Your Customers,” where he writes about practical approaches to improve customer retention and overall customer value.
Bookmark and Share

No comments:

Post a Comment