Customer Delight Is Better Than Marketing

We often think of disruption coming from a new product, the way computers seemed to. “Here’s this thing we never had before, and it changes everything.” But in reality, disruption comes from changes in service. It’s the new, easier ways to do things that create customer delight … and disruption.

We often think of disruption coming from new products, the way computers seemed to. “Here’s this thing we never had before, and it changes everything.” But in reality, disruption comes from changes in service. It’s the new, easier way to do things that creates customer delight … and disruption.

New Service Systems = Disruption

The computer didn’t create a new kind of ledger, writing or art (at least initially), but it made them easier to do. It improved the service to users.

In the keynote at Inbound17, Brian Halligan, CEO and founder of HubSpot, showed how, today, it’s not the new product that disrupts an industry, it’s the new service. Disruption comes not from a new thing, but a new way of delivering a thing people love and need that eliminates the hassles they hated in the old delivery system.

He specifically pointed to Uber, iTunes and NetFlix, three companies credited with single-handedly destroying industries.

But Uber didn’t create a new kind of car ride. It delivered the car ride in a way that eliminated the things  people hate about using taxis and other ride services: Unreliability, waits, the inability to get a taxi, and in some cases exorbitant prices.

And customers were delighted.

Disruption = Customer Delight

iTunes didn’t create a new kind of music and NetFlix didn’t create a new kind of TV show. Instead, they both changed the way these things were delivered.

iTunes meant music lovers no longer had to buy a whole album to get just the songs they wanted, or limit playing those songs to CDs or other physical media they were packaged in.

NetFlix originally eliminated late fees, allowing customers to keep the DVDs they took out as long as they wanted. Later, it introduced streaming, so you could watch whatever you wanted (in its library) at any time from anywhere. No longer were you limited to a couple DVDs (again, the limits of physical media), or TV channel schedules. Whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted it — that was the promise of NetFlix.

And people love it. NetFlix is now a synonym for watching long periods of TV at home, and “NetFlix and chill” has come to mean a date night you definitely are not going out for.

Customer Delight > Marketing

These services all delighted customers. That’s how they won.

Delighting customers — making sure they get what they want the way they want it — creates a kind of goodwill marketing money can’t buy.

“In 2018, delighted customers are better at marketing for you than your own marketing department,” said Halligan. And he’s right.

Perhaps the best example is Amazon. Jeff Bezos believes in the flywheel strategy: Offer what customers want at the lowest prices possible and optimize for the customer experience — which for Amazon means making sure the the site interface, delivery and customer service aspects are all top-notch.

Do those things, and your customers will be delighted. then they’ll talk about how delighted they are, and that attracts other customers — and the flywheel just keeps expanding and expanding.

They say one of Bezos’s favorite expressions is, “Your margin in my opportunity.” But make no mistake, the opportunity he sees is a chance to delight your customers in a way you aren’t.

If that feels personal … well, a little bit, it is. Marketing in 2018 is not monolithic. It’s not broadcast. It’s not talking at customers who will have to work with you in the end. Every aspects of the customer experience is personal to the customer, and they will judge you based on that experience and very publicly discuss how it made them feel.

If you can make them feel delighted, that market is yours.

5 Data-Driven Strategies to Feed Your Customer Obsession

The digitization of our culture and marketplace has made it even more important for marketers to be customer advocates. Every bit of content we create, every retargeting campaign we develop and every customer journey we attempt to map … all this must be tied to superior and engaging customer experiences. It’s the only reason marketing exists.

The digitization of our culture and marketplace has made it even more important for marketers to be customer advocates. Every bit of content we create, every retargeting campaign we develop and every customer journey we attempt to map … all this must be tied to superior and engaging customer experiences. It’s the only reason marketing exists.

This Forrester Research recently claimed that companies obsessed with customer experience are more profitable and see higher growth. Consider Amazon, Nike or Mercedes Benz, where innovation is part of the culture. Consider how an obsession with innovation at Apple and Google translates to customer delight in their products. For the rest of us, it may be harder without that kind of a culture behind us, but frankly, there is no longer a choice for marketers: Each of us must adopt an attitude of obsession with customer satisfaction. Then, we need to employ a systematic approach to optimizing everything we do toward customer value. The key question to ask at every point in your day, “Is what I’m doing adding real value to a large number of high-value customers?” If not, change it or dump it.

Like any change, in life or business, it starts with attitude. If you don’t work for a customer-obsessed company, can you successfully meet the demands of your market and rise above the competition? At a minimum, companies must embrace that digital and customer experience is everyone’s business—great ideas and the seeds of change can come from anywhere, regardless of title, but do need to be cross-functional and valued to blossom.

It’s time to make this transformation personal. Consider how you can use the technology you have to adapt the customer experiences that you do control, and demonstrate success to the rest of the organization. This proof of concept approach is a great way to get more budget, too. Incremental change is great—improvements to a campaign for next time or an adjustment to the timing for a triggered message are good starting points. However, more is needed.

We must re-think the customer experience across an ecosystem, and not just a set of interactions with owned media or branded touchpoints. Collaborate with other suppliers and influencers to focus on digital efficiency so that you can react in “right time.” Right time is an alternate to “real time” that recognizes that immediacy is not the most effective reaction in all situations. This is especially true since the customer journey is non-linear.

Thinking differently can be difficult inside an organization—especially if you are successful. Often, good ideas are limited because of the way we ask questions about our customers or our marketing programs. A research experiment with third graders provides some proof of why creativity goes beyond tactical application of cleverness or humor. (The video is about two minutes long.)

The project gave two groups of third graders the same assignment—to make a picture out of a triangle. When the assignment was narrowly defined, the pictures came out nicely, but not that different from each other. When the assignment was not defined, the pictures came out wildly different—and much more creative!

Don’t just wait for disruption to come to your industry—learn to disrupt your own business. Truly aim to understand whatever is blocking your path to innovation and customer connection. Consider some of these strategic elements that can help you break free of legacy patterns and test new ideas.

1. Use the Data You Have to Zero-in on Key Segments. Use microtargeting to really get to know your customers. Dig deep into customization and personalization opportunities to find the small, yet potentially profitable subsets of your market and niche offerings.

2. Separate the Signal From the Noise. Being able to do so is a powerful intoxicant: If I can just repeatedly do that one perfect thing that will really drive our business forward, I’d dominate our market and be a hero. Problem is, identifying that one perfect thing is very hard. Marketing analytic models may be more accessible than you think—and perhaps are no longer a luxury, but an imperative for understanding the customer needs—and predicting future behavior. Bring these practices closer to the campaign management and segmentation strategy—and give your analytics teams a seat at the table. Consider some of these key questions that analytics models can answer:

a. What dynamic forces are affecting my customer and how effectively am I changing to meet these changes?
b. Are there new market opportunities developing that I can take advantage of and become the industry leader?
c. Would this new product be interesting to our current customers? What must be true for customers to feel pain? Who are our most valuable customers, and over time? What outside factors impact customer loyalty and retention?
d. What are the characteristics of our best prospects?
e. Which marketing messages and campaigns are contributing, and when do they contribute during the lifecycle?

3. Marketing Automation Tools Are Slowly Evolving to Help You Manage These Changes, but you may need to bolt together point solutions in the meantime (especially if a big upgrade is not in your budget this year). Look to consolidate applications into a platform with data and process level integration to improve efficiency and effectiveness; work to integrate marketing technology with the enterprise infrastructure to reveal deeper insights into customers, partners and market opportunities. Here is a good reason to establish inter-disciplinary teams with IT and sales and customer service and legal to improve marketing contribution, vendor management, due diligence and governance practices.

4. Paid Placements (Native Advertising) Are Here to Stay. Spend your money on the right content and platform and understand which digital properties are performing best. Build budgets and relationships around content placement, sponsorship opportunities, syndication services and content recommendation platforms. Content marketing can’t be limited to owned and earned media if you need to reach larger and broader audiences.

5. Focus on Quality Content; we are all publishers now. Mobile will continue to dominate, so master its impact on your content and targeting. All our writing has to be compelling and adaptable across platforms, and written to the tastes of narrowly targeted personas. Automation tools help to make sure your content is repurposed with panache and context.

Clearly there’s lots of opportunity for growth in many areas of marketing success, particularly as we align our investments in areas where vendors have incentives to innovate. Scouring your budget for “past success” might be a good place to start: Given the advances in technology, will what worked in 2010 or even in 2014 work now in 2015? Please share your own tips and challenges for creating a customer-obsessed culture in your organization in the comments section below.