On his excellent Marketing Shift blog, Jason Dowdell’s recent post “Forget Your Product, Market to the People,” states “We trust people more when we don’t feel like they are selling us on something.”
He’s tapping into a powerful idea: building trust and establishing relationships is the key to survival for brands, non-profits, sports franchises, academia and other organizations that depend on individuals to commit their time, energy and money in return for some kind of value.
In the current environment, marketing and sales has to be about powerfully and personally interacting with customers and prospects to generate that sense of immediacy, differentiation and trust-based communication.
To do this, you have to quickly close the trust and relationship gaps that exist between your organization and its most important audience – the customer and prospect base.
A big part of the solution: you have to re-align your marketing mix to increase investment in those customer interactions that generate high-value interactions – those moments when your customers make a conscious decision to commit to you instead of your biggest competitor.
Getting Closer than Ever to Customers
The anemic economy is amplifying problems for organizations whose marketing is off-kilter. You can’t fake a bad relationship when things get tough. This is when the cracks appear.
After all, committing to a decision right now often means sacrificing another relationship that is also important to you: think cutting back on entertainment while getting your MBA. Or putting your email marketing database upgrade on hold to focus on that content-driven community portal you’re building online.
Marketing teams that recognize the importance of customers’ trust and relationships in overcoming these obstacles are guided by a strategy based on getting up close and personal with customers in the most optimized fashion possible.
One way to accomplish this is through Experiential Marketing
Experiential Marketing facilitates a conversation and a relationship between person and a brand. It creates an environment of trust that drives deep and meaningful engagements, helping people internalize how their life is improved by the brand, increasing sales and improving loyalty. It happens where people get together and share common interests – where they live, work and play. Brand values are not forced, but discovered through emotional and intellectual interactions designed with the audience’s needs first.
Understanding where to deploy these tactics within a sales cycle is both an art and a science. For every company, for every brand and for every product, its different. Some tactics are best used in the awareness stage of a relationship, others for consideration and preference, still others for action and loyalty. Regardless of the sales funnel model you use, (AIDA, etc.) this challenge remains the same. Like expert craftsmen, smart marketers understand the task at hand and choose the right tool for every stage of the job.
Here are a few principals from successful Experiential Marketing programs marketers can use to stay on track:
It’s about the customer: Put the needs of your audience first. Make it intimate, personal, and help them feel like a hero in their own story.
Be on brand and be honest: Everything you do should project an authentic and appropriate brand message.
Engage your audience: People have five senses, try to influence them all. Engaging your audience in a way that allows them to participate and control their own experience helps them to learn and internalize your message.
Tell a story: Weave a tale that has a beginning, middle and end to help audiences visualize their own success as a result of using your products.
Make it last: Use big, impactful ideas that are exciting enough to resonate over time. Give your audience every opportunity to share their experience online and otherwise.
The New Gameplan
Using these principles as part of a larger a decision-making framework, evaluate your current marketing mix with eye towards maximizing interactions between your organization and your customers/prospects.
Ask your teams questions such as:
What marketing activities generate sustained relationships with loyal, repeat business customers in the fastest amount of time?
What kinds of relationships are you generating with your activities and where do they fit into the customer sales cycle?
What types of interactions do your customers and prospects require in order to move more deeply through the sales cycle?
These questions and others oriented around the importance of building trust and forging true customers / prospect relationships can serve as a useful guide to insure your marketing is precise, powerful, measurable and ROI-driven.
first published on AMA Boston Blog 4/7/09