It belongs to those whose marketing puts customers at the center of their universe.
It takes a lot to stop us in our tracks. We are constantly entertained, and when we’re not, we can turn to our bloated newsfeeds for a dose of information, inspiration, sarcasm or anxiety, with promoted content interspersed in between. With the average U.S. consumer checking his or her smartphone 47 times a day, and the average millennial checking 86 times per day, that equates to a lot of views and opportunities. So, when it comes to marketing, most of us feel as though we’ve seen it all all.
But every now and then a brand or a product will strike a different note that makes us pause. It’s the kind of messaging that makes us take action:
- We stop scrolling and click to learn more.
- We read the comments section.
- We sign up.
- We purchase.
These companies have tapped the elusive “IT” factor that can be difficult to describe but is something we all know when we see it.
In a content cacophony, how do these “IT” factor brands talk about themselves in a way that makes customers sit up and listen? For starters, they aren’t talking about themselves.
You wouldn’t write a love note to yourself, but that’s exactly what many companies instinctively do. Home pages often tell long origin stories, introduce the executive team and show glamour shots of their home office building and flagship product. However, most of us would have a difficult time listing the last few ads or landing pages we saw. Why? Because they don’t benefit or serve the viewer, therefore they’re forgettable.
What customers remember is the way a brand made them feel, how it inspired them to act or the problem it solved. Marketing may seem like it’s all about selling to the customer, but it’s actually about engaging with the customer—creating a relationship. Seth Godin, bestselling author and renowned marketing expert, describes messaging that isn’t customer-focused as selfish. “We have a choice,” Godin says, “and if we sense that this is all about you, not us, our choice will be to go somewhere else.”
The “IT” factor belongs to those who make customers the center of their universe, but standing out is just the beginning. Relevancy is everything in a world filled with distraction. Messages that don’t resonate with customers or speak to their unmet needs simply become part of the noise.
“What customers remember is the way a brand made them feel, how it inspired them to act or the problem it solved.”
The Rules Of Engagement
Relevant, simple and repeatable is marketing gospel. Developing a catchy slogan isn’t enough. Customers need to connect with the emotion or solution that your brand is offering. That starts with paring down the complexity. If your executive team can’t explain what you do in a few sentences, your distributors won’t know how to either. So, cut the clutter of difficult vocabulary, lengthy product explanations and excessive company accolades that focus too much on the brand and not enough on the customer. What is intended to be informative and catchy could actually be disruptive. It’s essential to savagely simplify every customer touchpoint, including websites, collateral, social content and mobile alerts.
Simplicity doesn’t mean boring. Companies seem to be waging a constant battle to prove that they are (often, only marginally) better than their competitors. While everyone else is jockeying to be the winner by a slim margin, brands with the “IT” factor spend more effort illustrating how they are different.
When Tesla entered the heavily guarded automotive segment, they leveraged their differences—selling electric cars and having no traditional dealerships—to make their mark. But where Tesla really disrupted the industry gatekeepers was their approach to customer service. Instead of marking up costs on parts and services, Tesla created a system that is essentially profit-free and includes technicians scheduling house calls to make car repairs, often at no cost to the owner. Individuality paired with a beneficial and easy customer experience stands out, especially in a category so entrenched with tradition and the expected. For Tesla, that meant taking a predictable pain point for customers and turning it into marketing gold. Customers are drawn to dynamic and confident brands just as they are charismatic personas. Not only did Tesla’s innovations make their competitors look dated and greedy, they appeared to be bold, confident new leaders in the industry—a trait that turns customers into eager and loyal followers.
Consumers are more selective than ever with where they spend their time and attention. With them in the driver’s seat, brands need to deliver not just quality products, but an exceptional experience as well. Customers want to see for themselves how the product’s benefits will come to life for them in tangible ways. They expect to have more to show for their purchase than the product in their hands. They want Instagram-worthy packaging, VIP-level customer service or digital marketing that makes them feel like part of the in-crowd—something that gives them a unique edge over the rest of their social media feed.
One or two generations ago, Barbie could maintain the lion’s share of the market simply by creating new doll characters. Today, the American Girl doll brand feeds its loyal customers not only dolls but historical dramas through books and a physical store filled with experiences including a café, doll hospital, a salon and details that suit their most important customers: kids.
When customers interact with a brand like American Girl doll, who is designed to narrowly target the niche likes and purchasing habits of their intended audience, they feel seen. In his bestselling book Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen, Donald Miller describes this commercial connection like a relationship. “People trust those who understand them, and they trust brands that understand them too.” When brands quit marketing to the widest audience possible and drill down to find the smaller audience that is more in tune with their voice, products and mission, they become more effective engines for change and develop more profit potential. No one can be all things to all customers, but brands who seek to serve their specific audience with reckless abandon will find they’ve found that ultimate, elusive reward: The “IT” factor.
Women not only make up three-quarters of the direct selling workforce, but they also make up 70-80 percent of global household purchasing decisions as well. And since statistically women serve as the caregivers for all generations—aging parents, children—their buying power encompasses multiple demographics in one. Companies who make women’s interests a priority and recognize their representation can supercharge their marketing efforts, but many brands aren’t considering women when they build their content strategies. One solution: create a more gender-diverse leadership team. If brands want to speak to women in a way that will solicit a call to action, it makes sense to tap into a woman’s nuanced and experienced perspective. In the absence of that diversity, a simple guide for content creators—“We want value, we want to feel valued and we want to know how your product, service or opportunity solves a problem that we have.”