Small business owners, here’s your new game-changer: Brand experience.
Before I tell you how to get ahead of the pack and compete with much larger companies through brand experience, let me backtrack a bit and tell you why it’s so important.
In 2018, it’s no longer good enough to have an amazing product that solves a problem.
That just gets you onto the list of possible options.
With so much competition out there, what differentiates your brand these days is your customer experience.
We’re talking about the extra focus on giving value over and above your main service.
Giving your customers more than what they need or what they expect.
In our time-poor world it’s often about creating convenience: making it easy to deal with you, and actually adding value rather than being just a paid service.
More than simply satisfying them, you should be exceeding their expectations at every step – it’s the little things that count!
What happens when your customers are ecstatic about your service? They tell people.
You’ll have a strong referral business which means you don’t need to do as much marketing.
The ones who’re winning at customer experience actually start delivering their experience long before the customer buys.
It starts at the customer’s very first awareness of the brand, right the way through the marketing and sales cycles, and after the customer leaves. The experience they give is always aligned to their brand values and their brand promise.
For service based businesses, this is what makes a ‘brand experience‘ – an experience designed to create positive connections with that brand, to generate loyalty.
How do you create an amazing brand experience?
1. Define your brand promise
Your brand promise articulates the value you deliver to your customers, staff and community. And most importantly, why they should care.
Your marketing and PR should clearly articulate your brand promise.
It sets an expectation of what I will experience when I engage with your company.
Make sure it is something you can deliver. Authenticity is essential, people see through false claims and puffery immediately.
For example, AAMI insurance has a brand promise that is based on traditional personal service – you will always talk to a real person when you call them. This is their message “24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No push-button menus. No voice recordings. Just a real person. Every time.”
While their marketing campaigns always communicate this brand promise, it’s their customer satisfaction results that speak the proof that they deliver on their promise with a 90% satisfaction rating.
Tip: Make sure your brand promise is simple and specific. If you can’t explain it quickly and easily, nobody else will get it either.
2. Exceed expectations
Design your business so that you exceed expectations at every opportunity.
And this is not just about your customers. If you delight your prospects, you’ll find easy sales, if you surprise your staff you’ll be rewarded with high motivation and performance.
Most service based companies now monitor customer satisfaction, but it’s no longer enough to just satisfy your customers.
If you want to turn your customers into loyal advocates who promote your business, you’ll need to push the boundary.
The businesses that are killing it at customer experience are those that step outside the box to provide value that their customers don’t actually need or expect, but do want.
For example, the company I engaged to design and build my website once sent me a book as a gift. It was a huge surprise, completely outside of our business arrangement. It wasn’t just any book, but one that related to their brand promise and aligned to my needs at that exact point in time.
They had obviously thought about it and selected a book that gave me huge personal VALUE. It exceeded my expectations of them and importantly built a stronger bond of loyalty to their brand.
I was already very happy with their service and now they have made me a raving fan. Would I recommend them to others? Absolutely! At every chance I get.
Who is this amazing company? Business Jump Co – they help mums create scalable online businesses so they can achieve a lifestyle of freedom and profit.
Tip: think about what you could do for your customers that they wouldn’t expect. It doesn’t need to have a monetary value, but show them how much you value them and they will be yours forever!
3. Design efficient and automated processes
Review your business from the eyes of your customer and map out your customer journey.
Remove unnecessary steps in processes, automate as much as possible and allow them to self manage.
Be transparent and helpful, think about what information your customers would like to access and WHEN. Then provide it.
An easy way to work out what to focus on first is to identify what you get the most calls or emails about.
Are your customers finding it hard to understand your invoice? Is your online portal difficult to use? Do they even know you have an online portal? Do they need to call to follow up on a delivery?
How can you make it easier for your customers to work with you?
Can you apply technology to improve processes?
I love buying my Nespresso capsules using their app. What I like about their customer experience is that I can easily bring up my last order, adjust anything in it easily and resubmit.
All my personal and payment info is remembered so I don’t have to type it all in again. Then I get SMS notifications to alert me that my order is out for delivery. I don’t have to go check up on my order, the notifications come straight to me.
Tip: Survey some of your customers for insights into their experience working with you. Common themes will emerge and no doubt a few surprises!
4. Focus on your communication
Communication is always at the top of a ‘problem’ list when you interview customers about their experience.
When do your customers want and need communications? Are you overdoing it, spamming them with multiple emails a day, or are you not communicating enough?
It can be tricky but you need to find the right balance for your business.
As well as the frequency of communication, your review should include the language of your communications. Is it all consistent in style and tone of voice?
Is the face to face experience the same as the online experience or over the phone?
Tip: Train your contractors and staff on your brand, ensure they understand your brand personality and what your brand promise is, and how to deliver it.
5. Personalise everything!
This isn’t rocket science, we all like to feel important and special.
If your email is addressed “Dear Customer…” or “Hi” they are way less likely to read it than if it’s addressed “Hi Michelle…”.
You could increase your open rates by up to 50% simply by adding their name to the subject line.
If you’re using an email marketing platform, you should be able to personalise the emails in any campaign by adding a wildcard query to pull the info from your database.
I use *Active Campaign which allows me to add personalised info to the subject line and the emails – you can get creative here, there is much more you can personalise than just their name – think about what other info you hold in your database!
Using your data smartly is how you can create an experience that is way better than the rest. For example, I love it when I am asked to complete a form and it’s already populated with the information that company has about me.
It shows that they know who I am, and they’re not wasting my time asking me to provide my details again.
How annoying is it when you’re asked to provide info that you know they already have?
Tip: What other details could you personalise? Think about how you could make your interactions more personal.
6. Under promise, over deliver
This is the number one way you can exceed expectations. And it’s very simple.
A lot of businesses get carried away with their marketing messages and create a false impression of the reality of working with them. Which works fine to get the sale, but things go seriously downhill after that when they don’t deliver.
Imagine if customers are telling others about their disappointment? Nothing could kill your brand reputation and your business faster!
Let’s all take a reality pill and say it how it really is.
Promise what you KNOW you can deliver, not what you hope to deliver!
Recently I had some photos done by the talented Nicole Gordon.
She sent me two photos within 24 hours and promised to have the rest done within 3 weeks. I thought that was fairly reasonable and was happy.
But she delivered the photos within 10 days. I was pleasantly surprised, I felt valued and important to her business.
So what did I do? I went straight to her Facebook page and gave her a 5 star review.
I will turn to her first when I want to get any photos done and anytime I am asked for recommendations I will mention her. Am I getting paid to do so? No. Because I had such a good experience I am willing to do that on my own goodwill.
The value she gave me through over delivering on her promise is rewarded with the huge value I can give her from my honest reviews and recommendations. She has not only won 1 customer, but also anyone who listens to my recommendation.
Tip: promise what you know you can deliver, then aim higher.
7. Listen, analyse and improve
Even if you’re just at the start of your business journey, get into the rhythm of asking for and using feedback to improve.
You need continual feedback to really understand your customers and know if you are on track.
My top tips for getting feedback:
- Keep it simple and frequent. Put a poll up on your FB page or website. Or in your customer newsletter (depending on who you are wanting to respond).
- Find a place to keep track of feedback and actions for implementing changes. An online project board tool like Asana or Trello is great for this because you can simply add a new card for each new idea, then prioritise them and progress them as you have capacity.
- Use the same survey/ poll at regular intervals. If you can compare current results to past results you can assess your improvement.
8. Tie it all together with your marketing plan
Your customer experience and overall brand experience are intrinsically linked to your marketing strategy and form part of your marketing plan. Your marketing plan ties it all together to create a seamless experience from end to end.
Want some help to figure out what your marketing strategy and brand experience should be?
Check out more info about my 1:1 business coaching. You can book a free 30 minute consultation with me to chat about your business needs.