Elevating Customer Experience a Must When Marketing Luxury Brands

It’s no secret that luxury brand buyers’ needs are quite different from those of traditional buyers. With more resources and generally less time available than the average consumer, competition for their money and attention is fierce. So how do you amp up your brand and make it stand out to the luxury customer?

Cutting through all the noise in marketing and advertising nowadays means ditching the old school practice of simply promoting the characteristics and features of your product. Today’s luxury buyer is not sold on solely the benefits of what you are selling but on the overall brand experience; an experience that must be conveyed at every possible touchpoint whether digitally, on a customer service call or in person. Capture the attention of luxury buyers by focusing on these three aspects of your brand experience.

Know Your Audience

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is a practice ignored by brands all too often. Not all luxury buyers are driven by the same motives or respond the same way to marketing tactics, and failure to tailor your efforts to your specific audience’s needs could be costly.

kuhlman cellars

Example: Kuhlman Cellars

Those who book tastings at this Texas winery are not the average wine guzzlers, but rather aficionados with an appreciation for learning the ins and outs of wine making and tasting. They knew that their visitors would be more impressed with the high level of knowledge their staff possessed about their products and the industry than showy, grandiose surroundings. Rather than compensating with over-the-top interiors as many high-end wineries do, they chose to keep their tasting rooms simple and keep the focus on creating a personalized learning experience tailored to their visitors’ interests.

Tell a Story

Today’s luxury buyers also favor substance over style, meaning they are more likely to connect with a brand that has the marketing savvy to tell a story and align with their personal values rather with a brand that relies on its product’s flashiness. Your customers are educated, so treat them that way by ramping up your content and avoiding gimmicks and commodity marketing language.

5th and west

Example: Fifth & West

Future downtown Austin luxury high rise Fifth & West is one of the area’s most exciting residential ownership opportunities, and their marketing tactics needed to express this landmark development to potential residents on every level. While stunning renderings of the building certainly spoke for themselves, any accompanying copy needed to speak to the carefulness and thoughtfulness put into every aspect of the project. Vivid yet concise language and even quotes from interior architect Michael Hsu in marketing pieces effectively conveyed the heightened luxury living residents would experience. In fact, more than 60 percent of residences had been sold within three months of groundbreaking.

Convenience is Key

Now that you have hooked your customer with your brand experience and story, give them the ability to interact with your brand in a way that is most convenient for their demanding lifestyle. Providing ample options to suit their unique needs during every stage of the buying cycle allows them to shop and make decisions in a manner of their choosing. Accomplish this by pushing the creative envelope and utilizing technology in a way that both accommodates your buyers’ unique needs and provides that Wow Factor.

lexus of austin

Example: Lexus

Lexus of Austin’s launch party for two new vehicle models needed to set the standard for how grand and technology-centered the event would be. The invitation’s attention-grabbing, animated graphics captured invitees’ interest and created an interactive experience while allowing readers to gather information about the event and RSVP with ease. Convenience? Interactivity? Wow Factor? Check, check, check.

Fine-tuning your marketing efforts to focus on the needs and preferences of luxury buyers is a surefire way to create deeper connections with your audience and build loyalty. Doing so is the difference between your brand being uninspiring and being unforgettable.

Maria OrozovaMaria Orozova is the President and Creative Director of The MOD Studio, a boutique marketing and design agency based in Austin and the creative powerhouse behind many local and national brands. www.theMODstudio.com

Where Does Social Media Fit into the Customer Journey?

Businesses know that they must have a presence on social media, but they don’t know how to use it. The wonderful thing about social media is that there are multiple platforms and countless ways to use them. It can also be overwhelming for some business owners who begin social media marketing without a plan.

To understand how to use social media marketing, you first have to understand how your customers think. We’ve posted a lot about this idea customer journey a lot in the past, but it is critical to your customers. The bottom line is that there are seven behaviors that all of your customers exhibit as they interact with your company: know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, and refer. It is your job to guide them through those behaviors.

You can use social media to assist in guiding several of these behaviors, particularly know, like, trust, repeat and refer. If you go into your social media marketing campaign with the mindset of achieving these behaviors with customers and potential customers, social media suddenly becomes much clearer.

But each of these behaviors requires specific tactics to achieve. Here’s how to use social media to guide your customers through their journey.

Know

Social media is incredibly helpful in first introducing your customers to your business or product. Being active on social media, especially Google+, and engaging with your local community can help your SEO ranks. Often, social media channels will show up high on any local search. Frequently use keywords for which you want to show up in searches, and you can improve your search engine rankings in those keywords.

In addition, social media advertising has become more robust and effective over the years. You can target potential customers based on interest, who they follow or like, even location getting your brand/product or service in front of more of your ideal clients.

Like

Because social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook give businesses unlimited opportunities to interact with their fans, you have a chance to get them to like you and your business beyond your product. Be active and present in local social events, even cheer on local sports teams during big games. Enjoy the moment with your community, and your community will respond.

Trust

The longer a person is engaged and likes a business on social media, the more likely they are to trust that business. Share customer testimonials and ask your customers why they like and use your product, prospective customers can see what value your product provides.

In addition, if you use social media as a customer service tool, (I’ll explain how later) potential clients can see and know that they will be taken care of after they buy.

Repeat

At Duct Tape Marketing, we know that if you hold a customer’s hand for 90 days, you’ve kept them for life. Maybe the customer doesn’t need as much hand-holding. You can interact with them using social media to increase brand loyalty. If they post something related to the use of your product, respond and reach out. They’ll feel important to your business and want to continue to work with you.

Refer

Finally, you can use social media to not only get your customers to refer your business, but share those referrals with other potential clients. Ask your customers to tweet with a photo using your product, or post a picture of the completed service on Facebook. If you share and retweet those referrals and endorsements, you can reach an even larger audience than the individual networks of your customers.

Social media platforms are powerful tools to help you market your business. Knowing which behaviors your customers exhibit, and how to tap into those behaviors on social media are critical to having a successful social media plan.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

Want Life-Long Customers? Design the Customer Experience Through Their Eyes

Today’s Guest Post is by Duct Tape Marketing Consultant, Debra Mendes – Enjoy! 

The relationship you create and develop with your customer is key to developing a successful business. The experience the customer has with your business is a driving factor in developing this relationship. The experience or relationship is not just about how they feel about your product or service; it is the entire journey beginning from the first moment they meet or discover you.

To build a long lasting relationship with your customer, begin with a comprehensive and consistent framework. The Duct Tape Marketing Hourglass™ allows you to design the customer experience by identifying and understanding each interaction with the customer and progression in the relationship with you. The Hourglass will allow you to map the journey the customer takes as they get to Know, Like, and Trust your business, into the conversion phase of the Hourglass as they Try and Buy your product or service, and ongoing as a life-long customer who Repeats and Refers.

Defining your customer interactions may seem like a lot of work. It is. But it’s valuable. Customer loyalty and referrals deliver financial dividends and are the result of a positive customer experience – one that is worth sharing with others.

The key to building successful interactions is to predict your customers’ needs and proactively resolve them. Often what we do is think from our point of view of how do we connect, what do we give them. Instead consider questions from their point of view such as:

  • What information do they need?
  • When do they need it?
  • How do they want consume it?
  • What will they want to do next?

Questions to understand what your customer needs and wants will help you create and reinvent a positive experience. Taking the approach from the customer perspective first instead of mapping out the points of contact and how you want to interact with them will give you the fresh look at what it is the customer expects.

Step 1 – Getting Started

In order to design and deliver these customer interactions, you first need to have developed your marketing strategy. Understanding your purpose, difference, core message, and ideal customer makes defining your customer interactions easier for you and more valuable for your customers. Each of your interactions should be designed from the perspective of an individual customer persona.

Step 2 – Understand the Customer Perspective

Begin by creating a customer experience map. In the first column list the following five (5) questions. (Note: you can do this on a piece of paper, a spreadsheet, or a white board.)

1. What is the customer goal(s)?
2. What questions does the customer have?
3. What is the customer expectation? (What expectations to they have in perspective of answering their questions?)
4. What is the customer feeling?
5. What action/outcome do we think best helps customer? (What action do we want them to take?)
6. How can we create the journey to achieve customer goal?

Notice we did not start with points of contact, the idea is to know why they would connect, and then design how to connect with a purpose.

Step 3 – Map the Customer Journey

Create a row above for each stage of the Duct Tape Marketing Hourglass™ begin with Know, Like, and Trust then continuing into Try and Buy and ending with Repeat and Refer. This framework will allow you to answer the questions about the customer experience and envision how they will progress from one step of the Marketing Hourglass to the next. Repeat the process for each of your interactions.

Step 4 – Prioritize and Implement

With your new experience map in hand, you can now prioritize and begin to develop or improve the systems that will provide the most value to you and your customer.

Designing the customer experience with a view to creating life-long customers doesn’t have to be complicated. Using the Marketing Hourglass as the framework and putting yourself in the mindset of your customer will allow you develop customer relationships that have lifelong benefit for you and your customer.

debra mendesDebra Mendes is the Co-founder of Valens Point, dedicated to helping small businesses in the high-tech industry achieve their growth goals in a systematic and practical way.  Debra is a Master Duct Tape Marketing Consultant. She currently lives in the beautiful and rich historic area of the Shenandoah Valley near our nations’ capital   In her spare time, she gardens, and hangs out on the back yard decks with friends and neighbors.  For more articles like this, visit the Valens Point Blog, or connect via LinkedIn or Twitter.

 

Your Stuff Is Probably Good Enough

Small business owners and entrepreneurs create new stuff everyday. And the feeling that a business, product or service is their “baby” leads to constant fussing over making it good enough, better or perhaps the best.

photo credit: atibens via photopin cc

photo credit: atibens via photopin cc

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for putting really good stuff out there, but at some point making it better becomes a game of diminishing returns or even a crutch for the real need – creating a remarkable customer experience.

If you really want to create a better product, service or company create a better experience and wrap it around what you actually sell.

I know a lot of people talk about customer experience these days, but I’m not simply talking about better customer service processes and response times.

I’m talking about the stuff most people never see, you probably don’t even know occurs, but your customers and prospect surely feel, even if they never say it.

I’m talking about the hidden processes or lack of processes that erode a great experience over time and keep you from building the kind of momentum that comes from something close to perfect.

I spent some time recently with a brilliant marketer named Dean Graziosi as he explained a recent process he undertook to expose the gaps that might exist in his organization’s customer experience.

His business does hundreds of millions of dollars a year in training and support services in the real estate industry. His customers are raving fans for his products, he uses his own products and advice to close thousands of personal real estate purchases each year so he knows is product is great.

He told me that he recently hired someone to “secret” shop all of his products, processes, policies and training. He had them sign up for information, attend workshops, buy products, return products, complain, question, inquire and enroll in all manner of training.

His number one goal throughout the research was to judge how his undercover customer “felt” throughout the process. He wanted to know what they were thinking, what seemed odd, what slowed them down, what made them doubt their purchase, what kept them from succeeding and what felt awesome.

By focusing on understanding the conversations his customers were having with themselves throughout he could go to work on creating the most positive narrative possible. Before he could do that however, he had to get inside the real story.

The distinction to measure how every interaction made a customer feel is key here. So, often we want to create what’s fast and efficient or what seems obvious to us, when the real money is in creating something that feels good and right and caring in the mind and heart of the customer.

While Graziosi runs an incredible company, with a complete customer focus, he readily admits that this process uncovered dozens of seemingly little things that, when viewed through the eyes of a newbie customer, became obvious places for improvement in how his customers feel about their experience.

It is very easy to get caught in the trap of creating a certain response or process that works for us, but sends an unintentional wrong signal to a customer. Simple things like email copy that is robotic or lack of communication while a customer waits for an order often work against us in ways we no longer even consider.

Take this idea seriously as it could unlock simple innovations that deliver far greater return than any improvement or tweak in what you sell could even offer.

Hire someone or, better yet, multiple someones, to go through everything you do as a business with an eye on how they feel throughout the process.. Require them to sign up for free stuff, get your newsletter, buy your products, engage your people, experience your service, follow-up and every form of communication. Give them each a journal and ask them to record how they feel about every email, conversation or interaction.

Then, map out every process, every touch point, every way in which someone comes into contact with your organization as a baseline and start taking it apart based on the feedback your shoppers give you.

Include every email, ad, form, response and timing as part of the map. Don’t forget seemingly unmarketing type contacts in things like shopping cart navigation, payment processing, returns and delivery.

So, where are the gaps? Where could you build trust, represent the brand and ease tension and remorse in ways that you are not. This process should reveal both ways that you are currently screwing up royally and opportunities to create some very elegant and profitable innovations.

Make this project a priority and watch your business magically experience a significant bump in business and referrals.

The Best Lead and Referral Generation Tool Is . . .

I suspect I’ve uttered the sentiment in the image below several thousand times over the past few years.

happycustomersmall

It sounds so simple, but it isn’t always easy. The greatest way to generate more referrals is to be more referable. The greatest way to generate more leads is to give your customers something to talk about. The greatest way to build a business is focus more energy on conversion and fulfillment than you do on creating awareness.

Teach

Few things sell better than teaching. Make it not only part of your marketing, make it part of your culture. Teach your people, teach your customers, teach your industry. When you become a education resource to your entire community you’ll become the company of obvious choice.

Overcommunicate

When you get a new customer teach them how everything works, who in your organization they’ll want to know and how to get more out of what you’ve agreed upon. Tell them what you’re working on for them, how their order is doing, when it will ship, why it will be late, when they can expect to get a new model and pretty much anything you can think of at least two or three times.

Surprise

Plan to surprise your customers in a good way. Few things get people talking more than a fun surprise. And the good news is we do it so infrequently that it’s just not that hard to do. Find someone in your organization, you know the one, and give them huge leeway in terms of creatively surprising your customers.

Exceed

Throw something in that they didn’t order, let them have samples from your strategic partners, ship early, ship free, do more than you said you would. Doing what you promised might actually exceed some people’s expectation, but it’s funny how complacent our customers can become when we merely do what was expected. Shake it up on purpose.

Measure

Are you measuring the results your customers are actually getting? Make it a point, no a process, to go back to every client and get some form of measurement. Are they thrilled, get a testimonial. Are they so-so, figure out how to improve. Are they unhappy, fix it! Any of these results are better than simply wondering or hoping.

Appreciate

Today, go order some simple thank you cards and start writing thank you notes to everyone that’s helping you build your dream into an empire.

I’ve just released a new free eBook that delves deeper into this topic and the subject of trust and referral building.

It’s called How to Build a Referral Engine, it’s free and I invite you to check it out here.

Begin With the Customer Experience in Mind

When most businesses create a new product or service offering they initially develop the attributes of the product or service. Makes sense, you don’t have anything to sell unless you create something people want to buy.

The Marketing Hourglass

Marketing Hourglass

But, the very next thing they do, once they think they have a winner of their hands, is go to work on the promotion of the new offering – the sales letter, landing page, brochure.

Again, another important marketing consideration, but I would like to suggest what is ultimately a much stronger path to take.

Begin with the end in mind.

In other words, the very first thing you should do when thinking about bringing a product or service to market is to think about what you want the customer to be thinking and feeling about your product or service180 days or so after they made the purchase and work backwards toward the point where they become interested in making a purchase.

The processes, touches and follow-ups you build by taking this “customer experience” approach can help ensure that you have a winner, promote a winner, and perhaps more importantly thrill your customer.

In the rush to create and promote our goods it’s this final, crucial point that often goes without thought or is made up after repeat sales and referrals lag.

Think of it this way – the sale is not complete until the customer is so happy they confidently make referrals.

So, a backwards process example for a training course you’re promoting might look something like this:

  • 180 days after purchase – customer receives free course updates and offer to meet with a select group of other course participants in an invitation only peer-to-peer group accountability program.
  • 90 days after purchase – customer receives email offering them 30% off of any other product or service of their choice as a current customer courtesy
  • 60 days after purchase – customer receives coupon offering free evaluation of their progress with the training course and the opportunity to engage a consultant to help them if they are stuck working on their own
  • 30 days after purchase – customer receives coupon for free 60 minute coaching session to help keep them on track
  • 14 days after purchase – customer receives coupon for 30 days of unlimited email support to keep them on track with their purchase
  • 7 days after purchase – customer receives mailing with additional bonus materials as a way of saying thank you for their purchase
  • Immediately on purchase – on successful shopping cart transaction customer is directed to Web page that hosts a welcome video that sets the expectation for when and how they will receive their purchase. Automated email provides instructions and orients the customer to the contents of their new purchase and how to receive support if they have questions.
  • Trial – After viewing video series prospect is offered the opportunity to download 2 free chapters from the course and receive free 30 minute coaching session to discuss their specific challenges.
  • Information gathering – After seminar prospect is offered opportunity to sign up to receive video series of client case studies and ebook featuring content covered in seminar
  • Awareness – Attends informational online seminar that dives into the problems most business face when trying to do X that your course addresses

Obviously, the components of this approach will vary greatly depending upon the offering and prospective customer, but it’s the thinking here that’s so important.

The process of beginning with the end in mind actually forces improvement on the product or service, creates opportunities to upsell and cross sell and focuses on the long term positive experience for the customer – which creates lead generation by way of referral and word of mouth.

Astute Duct Tape Marketing readers might recognize this as The Marketing Hourglass  – a process that suggests the development of logical processes that move prospects to customer and customers to loyal fans by way of 7 phases – know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer.

One final word of advice. Don’t make this a stiff, automated, spammy drip system. Put personality, fun, surprise and value in each and every contact.

How to Create the Ultimate Customer Experience

Everyone talks about creating a great customer experience, but few people really deliver one that’s special in any way. Creating an exceptional customer experience is pretty simple really – you only need to do one thing – pay attention.

Customer Touchpoint Map

Click to Download Map Form

Okay, I know you want more than that so I’ll expand on this thought and then break it back down again.

We lose customers and erode what could be a great customer experience when we fail to pay attention to every possible way that our business comes into contact with a customer, or for that matter, a prospect.

Everyone works in the marketing department

No matter what department bumps into a customer in the name of your business that department is performing a marketing and overall customer experience function.

So you see Stan from Accounting is equally capable of creating or ruining a great customer experience as Sandy from Customer Service, but I wonder how often you pay attention to that fact.

There’s plenty of evidence out there to suggest that our perceived experience with a company is often formed by our last contact, not the first impression, put on your Sunday best, marketing contact we’ve had.

Map the touchpoints

One of the most potent tools you can create for your business is something I call a Customer TouchPoint Map. (Click to download sample map form) The idea behind this tool is to use it to chart every way your business comes into, or should come into, contact with a customer and then set out to make sure that each touchpoint is designed to create a better customer experience. (This dovetails nicely with our Marketing Hourglass)

See, we’ve been trained to think that the marketing department is the only place where marketing messages, brand flourishes and little things matter.

One of the most effective marketing things the Natural Running Store did for me as a customer is slip a handwritten note and some samples from strategic partners into the box of running shoes I purchased recently.

What if your invoices had humorous quotes related to how super-excited you were to present them with this representation of the value delivered in every order? What if you delivered products on a bike?

What if you made it a point to follow-up with every customer using a simple tool that made it easy for them to vote on how good of a job you did? What if your CEO wrote hand-written notes of thanks?

What if you sent timely messages with videos educating customers on how to use or get more from their purchase? What if you included more than they expected?

What if you sent them flowers just because? What if your phone hold message wasn’t painful to listen too? What if you wrapped your shipments in works from local artists? What if . . .

All of the things mentioned above are examples of touches that could enhance your customer experience and get people talking, but it’s the collective focus on the entire map that really pays off.

It’s not really that hard, map it out – pay attention to how your business comes into contact with customers and make every touchpoint, with every department, thoughtful and downright enjoyable.

Why Social Media Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Talk to the handThe hype over social media still echos, but it just doesn’t really matter anymore. Recent surveys suggest that small businesses are still slow to adopt social media and it also doesn’t matter anymore. Social media agencies, departments, and experts don’t matter anymore.

The idea behind the hype, measurement and rush to claim guru status revolved around the tools and the platforms, all of which were new, none of which really were the point.

The reason social media doesn’t matter is because, upon further review, it doesn’t exist beyond a label. While all the categorizing, classifying and departmentalizing was going on, that which was called social media simply settled into the center of marketing and business strategy and behavior. Everything that we called social media is irrelevant and mislabed – there’s a new way of doing business and marketing for sure, but it’s a behavior and focus on customer involvement that’s become a new norm – and that’s all there is to it.

We don’t need social media tools, social media plans, social media agencies, or social media departments, we need marketing strategies and tactics that are informed by a terribly heightened customer expectation. I’m not the first marketer to suggest this for sure, the idea of engagement has always been a part of the social media thread, but we aren’t moving fast enough to stamp out this idea that social media is somehow still a new and meaningful concept – now that we understand what actually happened it’s time to drop the term, concept, and confusion and focus on what really matters.

Prospect engagement matters

If we’ve learned one thing over the last year or two, it’s that prospects are drawn to the ability to interact with the companies, brands, and messages that they choose to absorb. Marketing and sales must include this desired behavior in order to even get an invitation into the prospect’s decision making world.

Customer experience matters

Traditional lead generation is dead, we’ve all accepted this by now, but what’s replaced it? If being found by prospects is the new form of lead generation awareness, then trust is the new form of lead conversion. Trust happens rapidly when customers have an experience worth talking about. A remarkable customer experience is the most effective form of lead generation

Collaboration matters

The Internet has enabled a world where we can work in conjunction with prospects, customers, suppliers, mentors, advisors, and staff in ways that make the finished work a personalized experience infused with the real time input. Community sourcing is a practice that underpins all product, service and business development activities.

Fusion matters

Another powerful lesson gained over the last few years is that offline activity is enhanced, rather than replaced, by online activity. The careful fusion of hi touch business building that’s done face to face with hi tech business building that enables more frequent, personalized contact and communication is the secret to delivering the most advanced customer experience.

Let’s stop measuring adoption of social media and go to work on simply measuring effective interaction in marketing. I suppose as much as anything this is the major thread that runs through The Referral Engine