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Posts Tagged ‘experience’

The customer is still king. And even more. Complicated, inflexible, more informed than ever and genuine expert, he asks for more ongoing accuracy, kind of non stop learning. Ubiquity and always on stimulations has now, no limits. Traditional process for decision-making, from information to buying act never stops. Running for “always more”, faked in beliefs for “better”, endlessly with “never enough”.
We can closely say that there’s no goal anymore, no search for consumption but a path to trips, experiences and collection. Filling desires could be infinite through collection welfare, replacing uses, erasing the object, service and message.

The consumption flow

Consumption goes with life and maturity. From observer, fed by parents but more and more stimulated, and so earlier too. Big machine prepares our brains and our emotions. Desires are not natural anymore, but tricky and made of artificial and disguised lies to get stay aware. Marketing magic machine is here, to raise the envy, desire and stimuli, through real campaigns, enforcing our race for consumption. Build an artificial demand with unreasonable growth through a running consumption, blinded and fooling us. In the middle, the customer under the influence, actor of a movie he can’t handle, exploited by a dark architect: the brand.

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From life cycle to live cycle…

We already heard about customer life cycle, drawing the raising level of customer, considering the value, for a brand. From profiled, to suspect to prospect and so long to old customer or real ambassador. A kind of clue track, between experiences, meetings and seduction phases. That life cycle describes the way a customer is valued for a brand, in economic terms, and so is precious to stick some resources and investments, balancing the global goals. This drives to a handsome ROI, at each phase of growth. But beyond economics, there’s another description on how customer grows with the brand: intensity. Intensity of desire, describing the physics of attention, awareness and needs, confronting the stimulation mecanism.

Modern profiling and data crunching identify potential customers even before they know themselves reveal their desire and match with the brand. Through affinity behaviors and algorithm buildind a « match » with a success rate. And that desire is often transformed in buying action. But, isn’t it the role of Marketing to build a story and trigger a need we don’t really have? The collector customer himself isn’t he fascinated by his own collection and then, by his desires, beyond all?

 

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Every step needs a particular attention and specific means to optimize success to get through the next step. And each step contains everything from the former one and grows the desire in a tricky way, stimulating with relevant messages and methods. First in conception, the brand hopes for reaction to get stimulation and tease until please or disappoint. At that point, we can see limits as:

  • no match between message and tools with desire step : the brand in rush goes too fast or disorganized, that creates a disappointment for the customer. No synchronisation in time, wastes effort
  • is previous step understood? Any check to be sure that stimuli and emotion has been revealed?
  • promotionnal urgency and sales can mix many emotions at the same time and burn the steps before they are assimilated, and then shake the needs ranking and rational process
  • each customer is different: in his buying process and desire growth. The results on ROI go with it, and are various too. Get a fair appreciation from it makes efficient the next step and completes the fine-tuning
  • don’t forget that we live in an “experiential” time, not obviously transactional. Patience is a wise weapon to get through to pass the hurdles. There’s so steps without reaction, not that it’s not working but there’s a mechanic inside in progress. Desire’s culture steps lead a relevant nursing…which trigger smart reactions and thenvalue the results. But the path is far more important than the result in itself, according to be reproduced and industrialized.


What about after collection?

…is so a delicate step: while collection is over, we can feel sometimes a kind of “blues” and sharp decrease of desire. Any collector is excited until he gets the last piece of his collection but then a whole “emptiness” perception is there throwing away desire. Excites, Thrills, Joy, Bliss…and nothing. The brand must go on, stimulating more and more any collector for his next collections. If not, brand will deceive and will get off collector’s mind. All the efforts for obsession’s pressure will be lost. That means a lot of money, programs and relation that will vanish in a snap. That’s why all the desire’s steps must be unveiled as an ongoing process. Anytime “sales” aren’t they a concrete way to sustain addiction and demand, even for needs we don’t have? Unfortunately, they’re only based on “price” with strong decrease of economic value for companies. And yes, there’s still many tricks to stimulate envy but price, if we just take the effort to listen, customize and invent them. A kind of sales innovation more scarce but terribly exciting. But also more differentiated and related, so less opened to copycat. Where you play on senses and emotions, you get attention and trustiness. And where there’s trust is where you succeed to set a balanced relation.

Well, having said and considered the attraction games between brands and customers, which role do we have to play where more and more consumers pay attention to decay or a more sense of growth? How will Brands will react to that slow motion, where everything is to reinvent?

Less is better (no « more », anymore…) ?

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Small is beautiful…and useful, efficient now. Look at all those blue chips, coming from new economy, with light structures, skilled minds and clever intentions. We use to see big monoliths as never ending winners, champions in any industry. That used to…before the web. Web and linked technologies tumbled down lots of industries, because of disruptive ways of marketing, production, delivering. How can we consider software, technology or social networks could value so, in the middle of such big companies that build and need so much capital intensive? Past jobs disappeared on the effect of technological shifts or processes that completely changed the organizations, including big structures.

That makes this new subject about “size” of companies to be compared and valued, as new challenges in world commerce points out. But not only “size”, but also the ability of reaction facing the speed up of competition and focusing on abilities to compete on “time-to-market”, with great resources and know-how. In fact, the size might be the effect of several causes in growing up companies:

  • Raising the business and activity
  • Raising the R&D tasks
  • Complexity of processes, needs for controlling or middle management
  • In direct effect for human intensive resources needs

And we said “size” might be increased by the complexity of organizations, not directly focused on results and too much on means. To get an impression of what’s going on and the different leverages that could be used, it seems necessary to compare strengths and weaknesses of the two ways to do business. Having in mind that there is no “good” or “bad” but relevant with your activity, your business plan and the kind of business you’re in. You could be a startup in a whole big group and act as well. The simple fact to measure and value the differences between small and big structures make sense to the way you organize path to delivering.

And it seems startup models spread through all industries now, according to the fast moves from software and IT power. Having a different method to go faster and rethink the way doing “business” or simply create and deliver products or services. The “lean startup” or light structure company steps aside of traditional approach of:

  • Business plan
  • Financial goals
  • Design and building
  • Launch

Recovering some kind of instinct creativity with:

  • Hypothesis
  • Experience
  • Trials/samples/prototyping

Faster than ever in the creativity cycle and the way it can improve really on the go, the starting defaults and mistakes. No need to start with perfect products, but having in mind “testing and launching fast” instead of trying to do the best at first sight. The idea behind is to be more flexible and test any possibility, with several trials, formulas and prototypes to cover all situations before really launching. The different kinds of issues allow lots of consumer reactions, corrections and empower the experience cycle. Doing, building and destroying in short decision cycles make the whole creation experience more interesting and collaborative too. And these practices are particularly owned in startups spirit, where ideas run and go, as fast as the wind…Building, creating other combinations means agility and flexibility that big companies can envy, but don’t handle correctly.

This new method, named “pivoting”, in the lean startup concept, brings a new approach for innovation and collaboration between customers and teams, including fast innovation and reaction to dead end, studying more easily B plans. Big companies and schools, with the whole scrambled education system turn their eyesight to these behaviors as business cases and practices to hold, nurture and leverage. This makes another round for risk taking too, that is a huge danger in strong and long process for big companies, who then hesitate to innovate and launch new concepts. But we all know differences in appreciation of “risk” and failure: some fear and some learn, just this difference means a lot in an entrepreneurship environment and mindset. A culture where failure is considered only as a “bad side” is doomed to sleepers and followers. But meanwhile, if you risk often and fast, you’re in the know for an incredible venture of learning more efficiently than others. Because, instead of fearing yourself and your skills, you enforce them by example, mistakes and make it a “friend”. Not a loser, but a learning machine to enhance your creativity and trust potential.

The lean startup model knows to cope with it, so that it could be a strong model for biggest companies, out of order with creativity, flexibility and relevance.

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Don’t run to imagine your next product or service, maybe it already exists. And maybe the next big picture is about “experience”, more than delivering…While brands always search to surprise customers, dealing with trend and fashion, there’s probably much more important elsewhere…Not really elsewhere but in another register…sensation, feelings…experience. And if you start to think about being more “sensorial” in your approach?

In a famous outpost called “the experience economy” in Harvard Business Review, some guys (Pines/Gilmore) compared business as a “stage” and work scene, a theatre. Business like a movie? The only difference is that everybody is an actor, sometimes consumer, sometimes not, but anyway, trying to get some sense with brands. Sense means “a reason to buy” or a “willingness to be caught”. Beyond innovation, brands must reinvent the way they do business, throwing away the natives and early concepts of “mix marketing”, as mainstream tools, where consumers are not trapped anymore. In fact, it’s really easy to “create, brand, promote and deliver” a product and service, with teams, money and resources…(tip: it should, I must admit sometimes you run nut with several offers and customer services but…). But revealing a sheer experience, the one who everybody is gonna be fool of and spreading the buzz all over the world, say that we talk of more scarcity, isn’it?

That’s what now brands spend their times, caring about anything is around service and product to wrap the whole offer in an unforgettable shot. And yes, probably social web gear up the movement as it facilitates the “opinion” circulation all over online tribunes…And we see that all these opinions take part of the “whole experience” of a brand delivering. See how good or bad advises are posted each day, just only on foursquare for example, on places you have to visit or…avoid.

Zappos’ delivering happiness concept seems to be central and in DNA of this company. They don’t just “deliver”, they make you “feel”, that something happens…I know it can be a cloud vision, but it adds a kind of huge “goodwill” and friendness to the brand. And probably rise the loyalty and the virality of the shopper…(and finally can we still and only say “shopper” to these “skills” or company object?). Because the difficulty stands on “defining the role that the brand plays and how it takes place in a global value chain and needs awareness”: we see that it can be resumed only to deliver a service or a good. It’s about delivering “memorable and engaging experiences”, and I would say “sustainable” to customers. And saying these simple few words is a matter of complete transformation in companies. If company wishes to do so, everybody is responsible to achieve such a thing: from calls, accouting, to supply, sales and IT. It becomes the main “strategic intent” of companies, through they are going to play their marketing leverages, serving the value purpose. Customers in fact are not outside anymore…they are the blood and the guts of every employee, whose can feel in each of their actions, the “why” and the reason-to-work as a daily behavior.

Experiencing such situations is governed by the sheer pleasure: surprise, care, use and pride. In fact, it’s not a job, it’s a cause! Any company should drive his business according to the only fact, they serve a “cause” (yes even if there’s a reward and we don’t talk about not for profit). So the “design of experience” is central and finds a footprint in everything in relation with the product or the service: packaging, baselines, design, guide, helpdesk, accessories, delivering, after sales, loyalty care, surveys…In fact, any product or service comes with an experience and it’s the role of marketing to improve it and develop the “sensory experience”, to rise value, yes for company but also to hold a valuable experience for customer. The one they won’t forget and spread the new everywhere. The one that really builds a strong loyalty, envy and customization.

Considering this, any company or brand should now build a whole “customer experience strategy” to enhance loyalty and shift to value. And this means involve every function or person inside the company. Company that would build no products, no service but “experience” and customers…If we stare at memorable brands (Apple, Dell, Zappos, Amazon,…), we can surely say that they built a strong community around them, who spread the word and takes place as a whole experience marketplace. We probably assist to a change in CRM concepts as Brian Solis said, like sCRM, enhancing the experience effect into the global offer. CRM to “CEM” (Customer Experience Management), that can create a new angle to see customers, serve them and make them central and ambassador of the brand. Being “central” means that customers are in the same office than you, they take coffee or break with you, go to lunch, and work on the same topics.

You see now? Design for customers by customers, one experiencing what he wants to buy. What social web did, covering posts, opinions and facts written by customers themselves, targeting brands, is now a real shift for companies. Preparing, designing and customer mindsetting is part of the next “profiling” to shape a better “experience”, to deliver and raise customer loyalty. This experience value could be “the willingness to pay, for ‘feelings’, using a product or a service”: which difference would you be ready to pay to feel a memorable experience? If we can mesure and give a value to “experience”, then companies can build a P&L and focus resources to transform their whole relation strategy. I think it will really and definitely make a difference, a kind of skip out of the box, an step forward innovation for leading mindset and customers fan. Let’s imagine about the next pushing button of Facebook’s badges…”I experienced”.

 

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