Friction is often the pothole along the road to a purchase. If you don’t offer a smooth, seamless journey, chances are good consumers will take the next closest exit. And with all the options available, they’ll likely end up at a competitor’s front door.
The challenge for any company is to make that journey as frictionless as possible. But customers have very different wants, needs, and resistances, and you can’t create the exact same journey for everyone. It requires personalization.
But personalization by its very nature is impersonal. It lacks context. Machines don’t appreciate the differences between people – and the differences within those people. Someone can be a parent, a businessperson, and a sports fan all in a single day.
Show me you know me, and then show me you care. With the help of technology and data, we not only have the ability to demonstrate this, but we also have an obligation to deliver it.
Personalization Is Its Own Worst Enemy
Poor, imprecise personalization still leaves consumers apprehensive and questioning a brand’s intent. The more pseudo-sophisticated it gets, the worse the effect can be.
Imagine a company using your current tax situation to promote a loan? It would leave you with a sense of being spammed – that and being taken advantage of. Wouldn’t it be better for a brand to position itself as a friend or guide?
I was flying back from Orlando the day before the attack on Pulse nightclub. In the aftermath, I was the fine recipient of an email (automated, of course) asking whether I was okay because I was in the area of a “BOOM ATTACK.”
Surely, nobody really wanted to know how I was. A moment to cement a relationship was lost with the insincerity and the attempt to monopolize on a tragedy. A far more genuine message would have resonated with me – or any other person, for that matter.
Messaging That Matters
If you’re trying to personalize your messaging and make a bigger impact on consumers, the following can help with your efforts:
1. Capitalize on what your brand stands for (and why it stands out).
The world isn’t looking for a carbon copy of Dunkin’ Donuts, Chipotle or Apple. It wants something new, innovative, and entirely original. That’s why one of your best assets is an understanding of your brand.
Take a long hard look at what your brand truly stands for. Ask yourself, “Why did I get into this business in the first place? What makes me different from other brands? How does my brand improve the lives of others?”
But getting back to the basics isn’t just about you. Get to know your customers again. What do they want and need? What do they believe and value? Put yourself in the customers’ shoes, and look at your brand from their perspective.
It’s only after you reacquaint yourself with your brand and your customers that you can figure out your marketing objective. It is to improve awareness? Is it to increase demand? What about customer engagement or bolstering sales?
2. Choose your words wisely. Oftentimes, brands just talk at people.
Listening isn’t part of their DNA. It’s about their brand, their products, and their agenda all of the time — not the best way to engage, let alone encourage a conversation.
Think about how much you put out there. Is it too much? Is it too much about you? With the exception of maybe a grandma or two, few people will listen to anyone talk just about themselves all the livelong day.
Keep the “social” in social channels. Reach out to followers. Interact with them. Join in the conversations. Listen to customer thoughts and concerns. If you fail to listen, they’ll stop paying attention and may start hanging on every word of a competitor.
In fact, nearly 90 percent of businesses use customer service to differentiate themselves from similar brands. And being that social media is part of the customer experience, you can’t ignore what you say on these channels.
3. Show a softer side, and get involved.
Brands need values not just to provide direction for a business. They also help draw people to a brand, and it’s up to you to show these ideals or principles in both words and deeds – “deeds” being the operative word here.
Be known for more than just your products or services. Show consumers you care, and get involved in the community around you. Get the word out on initiatives that match your core values. By spreading awareness for a program or cause, you encourage growth for your brand.
After all, nine out of 10 consumers would switch brands to one associated with a cause. What’s more, 60 percent of Millennials use “sense of purpose” as a factor in their choice of employer, so your involvement could help with recruitment efforts.
4. Map the customer journey.
Appealing to a wide audience is the answer for most brands. They fool themselves into thinking people are more alike than different. Besides having a pulse, that’s rarely the case.
Button down the friction points in the brand experience for individual consumers. Look for ways to personalize your messaging to help overcome these barriers. Target the person, not the group. Deliver the experience he or she wants and needs.
And while the amount of consumer data can be overwhelming, it can help target and re-target your ideal customer along the journey to a purchase. Develop profiles (and profiles within those profiles) to hyper-individualize your messaging to ensure it resonates with the right person and the right time.
5. Engage the already engaged – no, really.
Pushing your message onto random consumers is no longer an option. It just comes off as spam, and you’ll likely lose the prospect forever. Instead, speak to those already engaged with your brand.
People familiar with your brand can serve as a conduit to a more empathetic connection with others. That’s why word-of-mouth marketing has such traction, as 84 percent of consumers trust recommendations from family and friends.
Even more people trust online reviews by other consumers, at an estimated 88 percent. It may sound clichéd, but work toward turning your loyal customers into brand advocates. They’ll let others know what you have to offer.
Humanity will never go away – no matter the advancements or innovations. We’re hardwired to care, and empathy is the key for brands to connect with consumers. Walk in their shoes, get to know them, and never forget the individual. If you’re able to accomplish this, you create better, stronger, and more enduring relationships. It’s really magical.
Tell us about your success stories in the comments.