Brands are at a crossroads. Everyone wants to enter the customer’s inner circle (the narrow list of 3-6 organisations you truly allow to have an important role in your life), but making the transition from focusing purely on the basis on the cost or quality of their core product and service isn’t an easy one to make.

To my mind, to enter the inner circle, and understand the benefits it brings, there are three things you should be doing:

1. Define your promise

The core of the crisis organisations face today is existential – what type of organisation do you want to be? Where can you deliver and drive value?

Are you a brand helping individuals to reach their sporting potential, or a company that is trusted for health and beauty guidance or helping parents to be confident whilst navigating them through pregnancy and the early life of their child? Or are you simply trying to make the cheapest or the fastest widget in a specific category?

If consumers realise that your company has a greater purpose than just profitability, you will accelerate on the path to the inner circle. It’s worth noting that in a recent study, we found that just under three quarters (73%) of brand marketers respondents agree that customer loyalty is lost through not having a focused brand experience for consumers

Find the content and services that will help

The combination of content and commerce infused in both the purchase and ownership experience can transform customer experience and create new business models.

It takes a new skillset; people who not only get omnichannel marketing and all the data, analytics and customer experience skills that requires, but also people with the capacity to identify new partnerships or commercial relationships.

These may come from partnerships, acquisitions or they might just be content you write or curate. A whole new ecosystem of services and content partnerships may drive new revenue for you AND new value to your customers.

We’ve known of the importance of content and invested aggressively in its quality. Content marketing has a much bigger role to play that extends beyond the funnel and into the lifecycle and becomes so much more valuable – it has the potential to be the essence of customer experience and perhaps much more; to become part of a new business model.

Deliver experience continuity

Over the last several years we saw a dramatic change in experience continuity. We’ve gone from completely separate experiences for online and in-store to various combinations of the two. We also see an expectation from consumers that they could move seamlessly from a PC to a device continuing the same purchase journey.

Now we’re at the point where the worlds of online and offline have collided.

My daughter will begin a journey by researching on her laptop. She will stream live content about the product on her iPad (YouTube, blogs etc). She will then go into a physical store to validate and browse, then she will receive an email offer and perhaps transact via an in-App purchase. Three different devices (Laptop, iPad, Smartphone) using three different channels (web, email, video).

The challenge is to deliver a consistent experience with engaging content in a relevant and contextual way, and most importantly, know exactly when to do it and how to sequence it. She was hit with generic content that became more contextual and relevant with each engagement, then served up the offer once she was informed and showed buy signs…well, you wouldn’t stand a chance of resisting!

An experience is never about one or the other channel; they must continuously build on the other, developing trust (as we gather more data) and take you to each new stage of a developing relationship. And sometimes you sell more, by not selling or marketing more.

The magic number

Evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar says that 150 is the magic number. That’s the maximum number of people we can maintain a meaningful relationship with. Which coincidentally is the number of friends I put on my initial list of guests at my wedding. Which my wife immediately dismissed, saying there’s no way in hell I had 150 friends!

However, brands have it much harder. Consumers typically only allow the top three-six companies to be in their inner circle of loyalty, and have a meaningful relationship with. A relationship that is much more than about product or price, but one that delivers purpose to their lives.

Only you can determine who make it into your inner circle of friends. But in business, if we can work through these three stages, that we can move from the Product to the Purpose category and be in our customer’s top relationships they will maintain for life.


By Mark Zablan, chief revenue officer at Sitecore

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