As business leaders, we need to consider how to deliver personally relevant experiences to customers that help them achieve a goal. This means moving from ‘transactional’ to an integral part of helping customers achieve their ambition. This transformation requires a fundamental change to the way brands see themselves, and what they offer to consumers.  

Surveys say that whether you're an enterprise buying software or services or a consumer buying a device or an experience, we maintain relationships with companies that have a purpose.

How many friends are in your inner circle? Why are they your friends?  

Research reveals that we all have between three and six close friends we consider our “inner circle”. The same is true for us as consumers – we only allow certain brands, and only have room for a finite number of brands, into our inner circle. But how do you break into that inner circle?

It starts with the need to understand what brands your potential customers really value, and what you are doing to earn your place. You need to work hard to justify inclusion, looking at the following factors: 

1. Understand your customer/future customer – look not at what your product is, but of what your product is for in their lives. Once we truly understand their motivations, we are able to deliver products and services in a highly relevant, engaging way. 

2. Surprise/delight your audience -  The core of this today is personalisation; across different channels and using different approaches and data. It’s a complex equation and mustn’t be an afterthought. The best consumer experiences are delivered to a person who is not expecting anything, and without strings attached. This requires a marketer to identify a person’s interests and preferences and ensure that the feature, promotion, or item that’s provided interests the customer. 

3. Be useful/of purpose to them - Key to this lies in providing additional benefits and services that makes your offer completely interwoven with the fabric of your customers’ lives, helping our customers fulfil their goals.

To make it into the inner circle, you must become a brand that is associated with being helpful, purposeful, and one that understands its customers.

A better athlete 

To illustrate this, imagine a wearable band company that didn’t focus on giving you the cheapest or most fully featured smartband, but one that used the data it derived to deliver a personalised experience. For example, after a run, with headless content management device support, it might give you advice on how to improve your pace, suggestions on why you might have been slower today than usual, or offer you a token towards an energy drink or protein shake purchase. That way, you understand that they don’t want the best GPS smartwatch money can buy, but that they want to be a better athlete, and you can help them. 

Marketers can start to turn their content into a vehicle, that in this instance, transforms a technology device into a new business model that provides an entry point into adjacent markets – sportswear and nutrition - that consumers will trust. 

A better parent 

Another example comes from a Sitecore customer who has made it to the inner circle. In Europe, Danone Nutricia makes baby food for infants and toddlers up to two years of age. Danone could have purely kept its focus on the products, trying to convince its customers that its products were marginally better than a myriad of other competitors. But they took a different tack. 

Their approach was based on a simple but profound realisation: First time parents are terrified. They don’t know what to expect. So, Danone set about being helpful on the parent’s journey. They stopped being transactional, instead working to be an advisor and friend to new or pregnant mums as they embark on their motherhood journey. This way, the company gains loyalty and brand advocacy. 

Danone found that the baby’s due date is the number one driver of everything the prospective mum does. This allowed them to offer meaningful, contextual, and timely advice and support to mothers on any issue—from ailments to bottle feeding. Danone made sharing data a beneficial thing for the mother to do and turned that information into benefits and value.   

They’ve been able to build some incredible experiences and as a result, 23% of pregnant women in the Netherlands use their mobile app.  

They’ve been able to tie together a single and continuous experience across all channels. Whether attending a prenatal event, a retail environment or even an out-of-hours vending machine, Danone delivered a purpose that was far greater than just selling baby food.  

This is just one example of how a company embraced its bigger purpose and transformed its relationship with its customers from ‘another commodity product’ provider into a key partner in the journey of parenthood. 

Delivering the purpose agenda 

Driving this agenda takes leadership. Leaders need to identify what their organisation needs to do to deliver a purpose, identify what it can do to change their customer’s perception, and gauge whether customers consider them as transactional or integral.  It isn’t just a marketing narrative, it’s a business narrative. 

At Apple, it took Steve Job’s leadership to turn the company away from its race to the bottom in consumer electronics in the late 1990s. Charting a course through it is a job for the leadership of the business. You need to have the vision for how things could be for your customers, and commit to delivering it. 

 

By Mark Zablan, chief revenue officer at Sitecore 


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