This post outlines a simple yet powerful strategy for organizing media to help initiate, design and support an experience marketing program.
What is the definition of experience marketing? Remember a time when you had a great experience with a company above and beyond what you expected? They may have been practicing experience marketing. Also known as experiential marketing, customer experience marketing, or simply CX (customer experience), it is designing and orchestrating memorable customer experiences as the basis of a company's marketing.
Experience Marketing Strategy concerns every touch a customer has with a company; not only in the purchasing and use of the service or product but also every other engagement with the company along the relationship lifecycle. The point is to go beyond just providing a satisfying product or service and make every contact an opportunity to add to a joyful journey for the customer. This both enriches the experience for everybody involved and does the marketing work of anchoring powerful positive feelings to the brand.
Media usually forms many of the touches along that road, but the focus here is not on optimizing those (also important) journey touch points but defining a media-based model to best structure an effective and sustainable experience marketing program.
As such, media plays a key role in
- Distilling a vision of creating great customer experiences into a guiding manifesto
- Rallying the players in the company around creating that journey of unfolding experiences for customers
- Organizing the company's resources and models to facilitate the optimum environment for the desired customer experience journey
- Teaching the marketplace the company's vision of excellent service experience
- Sharing actual customers' excellent experiences with the marketplace
- Getting feedback from customers to continually improve the program
Some experience marketing supporting media is external in that it is purely for customers.
Other media pieces are internal in that they are solely for the players in the company.
Many of them are both. There are four points where the circles overlap in that they are both external and internal.
So, let's take a walk through this media point garden, and soak in the fragrance of these:
Timeless Principles as Core Values
Principles like empathy, innovation, and leadership are archetypes that form the pillars of the attitude required for great experience marketing. Maybe the company already operates from a management-by-principles paradigm, in which case the experience marketing program can be another branch of that tree. Regardless, core values aligned with these timeless principles can emerge from discussion exploring previous peak service experiences. Some NLP for business based questions for either the service team or an experience design pilot team to elicit these values can be:
- When was a time when you enjoyed serving a customer or customers at a high level?
- What is it like to step back into that time and relive it like it's happening again, seeing what you were seeing, hearing what you were hearing, and feeling the same feelings?
- What would you call those positive feelings?
- What did you most value about that experience?
- What is important to you about helping bring a customer's vision to life?
- What is important about (previously stated value)?
The principle-based values discovered can be sorted into a hierarchy by asking questions like "If we had two possible new divisions we could start but only had the resources for one . . . Division one would give you the experience of (value 1) and division two would give you the experience of (value 2). Which would you choose?"
The resulting hierarchy of timeless principle-based values, shared inside and outside the company via media both digital and traditional, can become the decision-making "boss" of the program, aligning with the values of customers and facilitating intrinsic motivation in the team.
A customer-centered mission statement should center the team on not only the highest and best benefits offered to the customer but also the quality of interactions with the company. A mission statement is a process oriented rather than outcome oriented. It sets a direction without end, whereas goals are the mile markers along the journey of actualizing the mission. As Peak Performance author Charles Garfield wrote, “The mission statement provides the WHY that inspires the HOW.”
Most importantly, the mission should be created collaboratively with the team so everybody feels they own a piece of it. Then it can become deeply felt rather than "just writing".
Beliefs are also known as mental models. "We all have mental models: the lens through which we see the world that drives our responses to everything we experience. Being aware of your mental models is key to being objective," said writer Elizabeth Thornton.
An effective experience marketing program thrives within the frame of consciously chosen beliefs (mental models) like "serving customers is its own reward." The challenge is to identify empowering operating beliefs to guide the program and loosen the hold of old mental models that don't support the vision. As Fifth Discipline author Peter M. Senge wrote, "...the discipline of managing mental models—surfacing, testing, and improving our internal pictures of how the world works—promises to be a major breakthrough for building learning organizations."
What are the unspoken rules about how the company views customers now? Do they support designing a great experience program for customers? If not, what new beliefs need to replace outdated ones that don't support customer experience? Putting these in writing is powerful. The keyboard is mightier than the machete - unless your plane crashes in the jungle, of course. But then you wouldn't be reading this except maybe to pass the time until the jaguar leaves and you can come down from the tree.
The Service Promise
These statements of purpose, attitude, and direction become consolidated into a form meaningful to customers as The Service Promise.
A Service Promise that is properly built - with the participation of the people who implement it and feedback from customers about what is really important to them - expresses a vision of distinctive service experience. This is a serious process that takes time so, similarly to the values hierarchy and mission, the key people in the company who will implement should collaborate on developing it to become engaged stakeholders.
It also serves an expectation management function by focusing your prospects' and customers' attention on what you can do well . . . as opposed to those things that fall outside of your window of distinctive, branded service experience.
The Customer Journey Map
The Customer Journey Map (or, even better, "Customer Adventure Map") is a visual thinking tool, usually an infographic, showing the sequence of customer-company touch points.
A schema for Customer Journey/Adventure Map Infographics is, well, all over the map.
Components can include
- boxes showing each interaction
- connecting lines showing the paths and relationships between each interaction
- "forks in the road", shown as Y-shapes in the paths, to show decision points
- sorting the interactions by channel: in-person, phone, email, website, etc
- visual representations of the sales funnel and customer lifecycle
- symbols to represent the emotional state of the customer
- representations of the state of the employee working with the customer
- expressions of customer intent and success in satisfying that intent
- contrasts of "typical", "worst case" and "ideal" for things like the customer state and decision paths
A Customer Journey Map can transform into a Customer Adventure Map when it is used to innovate in the direction of creating fantastic customer experiences. It should be an ever-evolving tool for experience design.
The Customer Story
The Customer Story is a compelling story of the customer journey told in words and incorporating an evolution of great feelings. The Customer Story can evolve from the Customer Adventure Map as analysis, and experimentation makes the ideal experience from the customer's point of view more clear.
The Customer Story can then form a central part of the company's marketing message to prospects.
The Service Promise Survey
The Service Promise Survey gets feedback from customers on how well the Service Promise is being delivered over the course of the Customer Adventure. Asking for feedback on how you are doing at your Service Promise adds weight to it and crystallizes the team's commitment to bringing it fully to life.
The survey should be simple, short, easy, and fun enough to not distract from the experience you want to create. A few short 1 to 5 types questions plus some open-ended questions that allow customers to share both the enjoyment of their experiences (with the ability to give permission to share these as testimonials) and offer ideas for enhancing the experience yet further.
Service Promise Survey Data
Service Promise Survey Data should be fed back to the service team as an ongoing stream:
- to reinforce the teams motivation to focus on experience
- to help correct course where necessary so customer experience matches intent as closely as possible
These customer-sourced experience scores, stories, and ideas can be incorporated into an internal, widely-shared scorecard alongside and balancing hard numbers like gross sales.
Customer Experience Testimonials
The natural outcome of all the above is a steady stream of glowing testimonials from engaged, appreciative customers.
These testimonials can be collected via many channels, including open ended questions on the service promise surveys (with clear permission, of course) and displayed prominently and publicly.
Since people trust third party endorsements more than what a company says about itself, share these far and wide.
Experience Marketing can seem complex but at its core it is simple- it is being fully congruent - at every level of the company and its message - with your customers by making their experience as important as the bottom line. And that attitude is great for the bottom line.
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“If we can keep our competitors focused on us while we stay focused on the customer, ultimately we'll turn out all right.”
― Jeff Bezos
― Jeff Bezos