Rather than ask what we are good at… ask who are our customers? What do they need? And then…give that to them.
Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon
You don't need to be Jeff Bezos to have a customer-centric approach. Yet many companies pay little attention to their customers before making decisions about their brand and how they approach the design of their websites, applications or platforms. Beyond the confines of internal marketing meetings, why are so many tactical decisions made – that impact brand equity – without first considering customer expectations?
Take for example, a mid-size company that briefed us to refresh their brand identity and website. Yes, the time had come for a brand refresh, but their insistence on using social media to “build brand engagement”, was entirely at odds with their largest client-base - typically 50-60 somethings - that used Twitter and Instagram about as frequently as their children phoned them from a landline.
It was only by identifying the real-world behaviours of their customers - they preferred face-to-face meetings, events and reading industry related news to sharing selfies - that we were able to make sure their brand was positioned and designed with the right tone of voice and promoted in the right context.
Then, there was the launch of a brand new set of off-line services and products by a large company. With resounding commitment to their cause, we were briefed to create a simple on-brand website and then re-briefed to create a sophisticated digital platform, more than doubling the project budget and delivery deadline. All this, before the business had spoken to even a single potential customer?
Of course, it would be unfair to dismiss a company's ambition for interactive features and for attempting to embrace technology. The point here, is that when ambition is built entirely on internal assumptions, without consideration or assessment of what customers might genuinely find useful, you can find yourself on completely unnecessary paths. So, with the risk of over engineering and ultimately damaging their brand – “we know that customers can suffer from feature fatigue, which hurts future sales” Rethinking Marketing, HBR – we advised our client differently.
First, we identified their key customers, then we conducted a series of interviews to build clear use-cases. By mapping out real-world customer preferences, we were able to clarify how their new services and products might be best accessed by and promoted to their customers. Working in this way, had the added benefit of saving the company unnecessary amounts of lost time and needless expense too.
A shift to building brands built on customer insights can be realised in several ways:
Organise your customers in to groups (age, gender, demographic, preferences etc.) and talk to them. Make sure that you are clear about who and why you are servicing them, and what it is they truly value in your products and services (price, customer support, ease-of-use etc).
Observe how your customers interact with your brand across channels, in their own context, (at their home, their office, on their mobile device, desktop etc). The clearer you are about how customers interact with each brand touchpoint, the easier it will be to assess and improve their experience.
Brands are not static and neither are customer perceptions. In order to maintain a healthy brand: run customer satisfaction surveys and continue to improve the customer experience as your brand and business grows.
Foreground undertake customer research and interviews, unlocking real-world insights, to help our clients build brands with lasting appeal. Give it a try, you might find the customers that buy from you are much less likely to look elsewhere.