There are many factors that affect your business performance. In this article I’d like to explore one of the most important: the connection between what customers believe about your organization and your results.
Your business results are affected by the actions your customers take, and those customer actions are directly influenced by the beliefs customers have about you:
What kinds of customer beliefs most improve your business results?
If your customers have beliefs about your organization and its products that are clear, compelling and differentiated, they will be more likely to act in ways that drive your results. I summarize this idea of “clear, compelling and differentiated” in the following three phrases:
“I get it”
“I want it”
“I can’t get it anywhere else”
“I get it:” your customer has a clear and deep understanding of who you are, what you do and what you do for them.
“I want it:” your customer believes you are important to them in a compelling way.
“I can’t get it anywhere else:” your customer believes that you are different from other providers in a meaningful way. They can’t substitute anyone for you.
“I can’t get it anywhere else” is tricky, since today’s customers, living in our marketplace of abundance, believe that they have a vast array of purchasing sources for most products and services they buy. This means that, to truly differentiate yourself from the competition, you want your customers to have beliefs about you that go beyond your core products and services. Examples of these kinds of beliefs include: how easy it is to interact with your company, their relationship with you, how you personalize for them, how attractive your company culture is to customers, or many other things that customers can appreciate about you that transcend your products and services.
How do you create these powerful customer beliefs?
For more than a century, the primary mode of marketing and sales has been one of “brute force,” i.e., if you expend a lot of resources “capturing eyeballs” and exposing customers to powerful messages, they will want to buy from you. The two most important reasons brute force is an out-of-date marketing model are:
- Today’s customers are savvy and self-reliant, and don’t want to be told how to think about your company. They will make their own decisions about you.
- There is too much clutter in the marketplace for brute force marketing and sales to cut through, unless you have a Geico-sized ad budget. (About $1 billion/year)
Combine these two reasons with the expanding array of information channels that customers have access to, and it’s clear that the old models of marketing are less useful than ever before.
To create compelling customer beliefs, you need to ensure that all interactions customers have with your company blend to tell one, powerful, integrated story. This idea, brand harmony, recognizes that customers can (and will) assess you at every touchpoint they have with your company, not just those that you call “marketing.” (Visit my Brand Harmony page for more informatio.n)
The most important touchpoints are those between people
Of the wide range of touchpoints that influence customer beliefs, those between customers and the employees of your organization are generally the most powerful. This isn’t surprising; your customers are much more tuned in to interactions with other people than they to interactions with inanimate objects, such as ads, websites, brochures and PowerPoint decks.
Here are two principles that can guide your thinking about how touchpoints between people in your company and customers can create compelling customer beliefs:
- Every interaction should be a relationship-building encounter
The goal of every interaction between someone in your company and a customer is to build your relationship with that customer. I define this as creating a relationship-building encounter vs. a relationship-eroding transaction. (Visit my We: The Ideal Customer Relationship page for more information on encounters.)
- Create conversations, not presentations
Customers don’t want to listen to you present, explain or pitch. They would much rather be in a conversation with you than hear your monologue. For this reason, in all customer conversations, you need toditch the pitch and engage customers in conversations that matter to them. Otherwise, you will be talking, but your customers won’t be listening. (Visit my Ditch the Pitch page for more information.)
Customer beliefs are the keys to driving results. You can’t tell your customers what to believe about you, but you can create a sense of brand harmony, focus on relationship-building encounters, and ditch the pitch every time you speak with them. If you follow these principles, your customers will have more compelling beliefs about you. And you will have a more successful business.