Building an Experience-Focused Marketing Strategy
Jordan Kraus: Thank you for joining us for this episode of Level Up, the podcast for marketers by marketers created by love, that distills best practices and strategies, focusing on helping marketers increase their EXP, one up their strategy and grow personally and professionally. I'm your host, Jordan Kraus, and I'm joined by a very special guest with us today, senior marketing consultant, Angela Ely.
Angela Ely: Hi, this is Angela. I've been doing marketing for more than 25 years. And Lev, I am on Laura Madden's marketing and strategy and services team. I work a lot with highly regulated clients, so insurance, healthcare, financial services, pharmaceuticals, those kinds of projects. I'm excited to be here today.
Jordan Kraus: Thanks. Thanks, Angela. Well, today we are talking about experience focused marketing, which is why we have Angela joining us today from our strategy team to talk about her experiences, some of what she hears from clients and some of the advice that she would give to anyone wondering where to start with their experience focused marketing strategy. But to get things started, we thought we would start off by sharing our best customer experience. We know it's so much more than advertising. The communication, the service, the whole process from meeting a new brand to working with it really makes the difference and creates loyalty with our customers. I'll start by asking you, Angela, what was the best customer experience you've ever had?
Angela Ely: Well, I was thinking about this and the one that I came up with is going to sound really strange, but it was for a mortgage company. It was one of my husband and I recently purchased a property, and it seems strange to go through that mortgage loan process and have a good customer experience, but it was amazing. Our loan officer was very personable, but you could tell that they leveraged their technology at every step of their process. I was constantly getting email updates. I could have opted in for text updates, I didn't want that, but I got email updates. But the emails, even though I knew as a marketer and especially someone working in technology, I knew that they were automated, but they felt personal. That was a little video from the loan officer in some of the emails. They kept me updated every step. I knew exactly where we were in the process and about how much longer the process was going to take. So that was amazing and it really stuck. Every email I got. I'm like, " This is just the best experience ever." It sounds very strange to have a good experience for a mortgage company, but I did.
Jordan Kraus: The funny thing is my experience story was also a bank.
Angela Ely: Oh, really?
Jordan Kraus: But I wonder if it's, maybe it's just because especially in the mortgage process, there's so much unknown and building trust is so important. And I like your example of what steps need to be completed. It reminds me of the Domino's Pizza tracker. There's like something great about the transparency for where are we at in the steps, how many steps do we have left?
Angela Ely: Yeah. Yeah.
Jordan Kraus: And when it comes to money, I mean you just said you are in very regulated industries that you work with when it comes to money, that trust is more important than anything else.
Angela Ely: Yeah. A very, very key important time in your life too, that you're making a big purchase or taking a big step. Yeah.
Jordan Kraus: You have that relationship for decades.
Angela Ely: That's true too.
Jordan Kraus: It's like this isn't a one- time thing, a one- time transaction where you make the purchase and maybe never see that company again. Mine is with my best customer experience has been with Belco Credit Union. I have a handful of brands that I'm very loyal to and one of them is this credit union. It's local to Colorado. And I first started banking with them when I was a kid. My grandmother co- signed on a checking account for me when I was 15, starting my first job. And I'll never forget the welcome campaign that I got, they sent when I turned 16, they sent me an iTunes gift card, and this is mid early two thousands. I was like, this is the coolest bank ever. I just thought it was so cool. And since then, there's just been one thing after another of excellent customer service. Every time I call, every time I go into a branch, they also reward us with loyalty for being a member. The longer that you're a member, the better benefits you have for interest rates for CD offers. And then last but not least, I also talked to this bank about my mortgage, about opening a mortgage as well, because when it came time to decide who I wanted to have a mortgage with, I was going to want to work with this bank that I had trusted for so long. And eventually I wrote a better business bureau review for the Belco Credit Union because I loved them so much. And I thought my service experience was so impressive. And again, it's every channel. It's like I call the call center great experience, go into the bank branch, great experience, the email communication, personalized. And so I wrote this great Better Business Beer Review, and the marketing team sent me a quote, Belco fan club box with a t- shirt and a beer can opener and a cozy and sunglasses, all of this merch. And a handwritten note that was like, " Thank you for your review and your membership for blah, blah, blah years. We appreciate you," and I obviously ran to my Instagram to post all of this because I thought it was so cool because I'm a huge nerd. This is a bank who I've been banking with now for almost 20 years, and it's just the best relationship I've ever had brand.
Angela Ely: That's amazing. That's amazing. And you will probably be them, be with them for the rest of your life because they've built that relationship with you.
Jordan Kraus: Isn't that funny? And it's just little things.
Angela Ely: And not just... Yeah, it's at every step you said, you call customer service, great experience. You go into the branch, great experience. So across the board, your experience is phenomenal and that's your expectation.
Jordan Kraus: That ties very nicely into the topic that we have today about marketing. Because as marketers, I think, well, I also think a lot of folks think that simplify marketing to advertising. And as marketers we are really thinking about marketing from a customer viewpoint and thinking about a customer centric marketing experience and approach to our strategies and everything that we do from gathering data, telling our customers how we're going to be using that data, posting a blog, affects how the customer base interacts with your brand. Just like my Belco story. Every single touch point is so critical to how you feel about that brand and maybe also takes into consideration the feelings that you come into the interaction that have nothing to do with the brand that, for example, buying a mortgage. You might be feeling unsure, you might be feeling confused. And so that's something to take into consideration when you're building an experience focused marketing strategy is what your customer might be feeling in that moment and how do you anticipate their needs. We have broken this down into four steps to establishing a successful experience focused marketing strategy. And Angela and I are going to walk you through what those steps are, what we would recommend you start to think about when you're building out an experienced focused strategy. And Angela, why don't you start us out by telling us what is the very first step that somebody who doesn't know where to start could start with building out a strategy?
Angela Ely: Yeah, sure. If you're going to build an experience focused strategy, start with your customers. Researching what do your customers expect? What do they like? What do they dislike? Thinking about not only their demographics but their psychographics. How old are they? Where do they live? What's their income? Those kinds of demographic statistics, good to know. But think about their psychographics. What are they interested in? What activities do they like to do? What are their opinions? Those kinds of the psychographic things attempt to help identify their beliefs and their emotions. Emotions motivate people so often to make purchases. And if you don't try to understand that about your customers, you're not going to have the greatest experience if you don't understand a little bit about their emotions, what drives them, what motivates them to make purchasing decisions. Understanding a lot of those things and then put together some audience strategy documents, personas, if you want to call them personas. Figuring out your different audience segments and writing those personas. What do those people look like? In the mortgage company example, you might have a young couple that's in their twenties, very different experience from a couple in their fifties or sixties that are getting a second mortgage. They've been through it before. They know what the process is. Those people that are in their twenties are going to have a very different experience. Thinking about that experience and what's different about those customers allows you to then build a marketing plan that's targeted directly towards them.
Jordan Kraus: I think it's hard too for folks to build these marketing experience strategies because they do get caught up. We do get caught up in demographics. I think also we get caught up in feeling like we don't have enough data. If I, for example, have a CRM, maybe I don't have all of the information that I want to personalize on a customer's interest because they haven't explicitly told me what they are. And so I think in this point, this is where you can think about the other touch points that your customer has with you where you can capture some sort of data and still build an experience focused marketing strategy. And that really comes from inferring preferences based on how they're engaging with you, based on how many times are they visiting your website, what kind of content they're looking at at your website. If it's housing loans, then maybe that this user is interested in housing loans. And if you don't even have... Let's say you don't even have their email address, right? Let's say they're just anonymous, you can still build a personalization strategy with technology to personalize the website based on how somebody is engaging with the website. I think too, I really like this conversation about psychographics because it moves beyond explicit preferences to inferred preferences. And there are tools that can help folks build an experience this way.
Angela Ely: Yeah, there's some great free tools. There's some paid tools. Salesforce Marketing Cloud Personalization, formerly known as Interaction Studio, that enables you to collect data on your website that has visitors anonymously. Even if you don't get their name, anonymous data can be useful to understand how people are interacting with your site. Website heat maps, even your email heat maps, where are people clicking, where are people engaging? Free tools like Google Analytics allow you to see what people are doing when they get to your site. Are they bouncing? Are they completing forms? Are they downloading assets? Understanding those types of things, helps you understand customer behavior. And then you can build strategies that target those types of things.
Jordan Kraus: We'll talk about this more later, but I think what's critical here is having a customer focused marketing experience instead of a technology focused marketing experience. Start with sitting in the brain of the customer. That's really step one. I remember I listened to another podcast where they said the best money you could spend is by getting to know your customer. They even offer to small businesses, pay a customer to allow you to follow them through their day to see what are they experiencing, what stresses do they have, what challenges do they have, what are ways that the conveniences of your company improve their life? And so I think that really kind of encapsulates step number one, which is research your customer. You can make some assumptions and build a strategy around those assumptions, but test them, document it. And a lot like what Angela said, build a persona strategy. Who's your audience and what are their psychographics? Because you might find out that you have very separate experiences. Your example of having somebody who's buying a second home versus a first home buyer, same thing in insurance. Maybe somebody who's just getting off of their parent's insurance when they're 26 is going to be very different than somebody who is in a retirement phase of their life. Thinking about the hat of the customer is wearing what their day- to- day experience is like and how can you anticipate their needs. Now step number two, easier said than done, is to break down silos between marketing, sales and service. Essentially any departments that are your customers interacting with. And I say too, like easier said than done partly because a part of this is a people process engagement that you have here, which is so much harder than technology. It's much easier to implement a piece of technology than this to implement people changes and process changes. And also these teams are all incented very differently. Your sales team, your service team, your e- commerce team, your marketing team are incented very differently. And so you need someone internally to pull everyone together to think about the customer experience. My Belco example, again, I'm talking to somebody in the customer service department, marketing is emailing me, I'm in person in a branch. Those are completely different departments and those people probably don't talk to each other. What kind of information do they have about me to give me the personalized experience? And I think that goes to building a first party strategy, a first party data strategy, having something to start with so that you can start to build on top of that and have an experience. But it does take someone centrally to pull everyone together because at the end of the day, those teams are probably competing for the same budget. Their data is probably siloed, they might not have any visibility into what the other departments are doing. And so how does that affect the customer experience? Maybe that means that as a customer, I'm giving information several times. I might be repeating myself. I might have a really terrible experience at one touch point and a great experience at other touchpoints that feels a little disjointed and frankly, one weak experience can ruin the whole customer experience even if every other touchpoint was really strong. A few ways to think about how do we ensure that these processes are working together? Where can a customer even start?
Angela Ely: Yeah, I think that creating this experience focused strategy is the perfect opportunity to be able to break down those silos, bring those teams together, gives you an internal focus, a goal. Everybody cares about the customer no matter where in the organization you work. And so when you're creating something like this, it allows you to bring those teams together and give those teams a centralized, focused goal to move towards that. That will in the end, help break down those silos.
Jordan Kraus: When we were preparing for this podcast too, something Angela that you said that really resonated with me that I have quoted is every interaction is going to continue that story for your customer. And you were talking about the brand story. And so that, I just love this because I think as brands we have an idea of who we want to be for the customer we like. Even as Lev, I have an idea of what I want to represent to our prospects and to our customers. And so I love this. Every interaction is going to continue that story for your customer. Because you're thinking about your brand story, your voice, your tone, the benefits that you have to offer your customer, and how does every interaction that you have with them continue to reiterate whatever that story is, continue to tell them what your values are, tell them what your benefits are, just keep reminding them that every single time that they're going to interact with you, they're going to get this experience. I really loved that sentence.
Angela Ely: A lot of times marketing teams think in terms of a calendar. Each quarter or each season, we have a campaign we need to get out the door. And while that's true where who's receiving those campaigns, it's the customer. The days of batch and blasts are over. If you send the same communication out to everybody in your database, it's not going to work. They're going to have very different experiences with that message or that campaign. And so it's a way to think about what does this consumer need? What does this consumer need? Think about people as individuals and personalities and think about what's driving them, will help the marketing teams be better personalizing those campaigns to those personas. Again, back to those personas, thinking about who you're talking to and how you need to maybe customize your message a little bit differently based on that persona, based on their interest and what's driving them to make a decision.
Jordan Kraus: I think this also ties back to the conversation we were having earlier about a technology first approach. A lot of folks will, again, like I mentioned, it's much easier to implement technology, than it is to get everyone to come along with you. And that's for a good reason. And too as an implementation partner, we find a lot of folks who come to us with a technology that they want to use, but they're not sure how it fits into their big picture. And so I think marketers sometimes, to your point, Angela, do the same thing where we are campaign focused, not customer focused. And so in our campaign focused mindset, we're thinking about what campaigns do I need to get out before the holidays? What do I need to do for this quarter? What are my KPIs as a marketer? Maybe my KPIs are email lists, maybe my KPIs are X amount of campaigns in their performance. And so you can see how you gradually lose sight of the customer experience by being campaign focused. And also in this topic of breaking down silos, when those teams are all incented differently, you lose sight of the full customer experience. And I actually think this is a decent segue into the next topic.
Angela Ely: Yeah, so making sure that the tech that you have enhances the customer experience and that can be challenging. It's the new shiny thing that we all get excited about and we want to implement this new technology and we want to tell our managers and our leaders that we're doing this cool new thing. And while that's great, it's ultimately the customer. We need to make sure that that technology is enhancing that customer experience. I've seen examples of companies that SMS is a good example. It's a tricky one. Everybody wants to use it, but figuring out the right use case. Does it make sense. The way we sometimes send out a lot of emails in a campaign might be okay for the email channel, but then when you flip that to the SMS channel, sometimes marketers want to just send out that same message in a text message. And we all know from the text messages we receive, that's not always the right thing to do. What's the right message for the right customer at the right time? And so implementing those new technologies and new things are great, but make sure you have the use cases, the data that's going to drive that, so if you want to create a new SMS campaign, but you have nobody opted into SMS, what's that value proposition? Why should the customer opt into SMS? What kind of information are you going to send me in text message that you can't send me via email? So making sure you have those use cases before you implement that new technology. Otherwise you end up with technology that you can't really leverage, isn't useful, is either costing you money or creating technical debt. And it's not valuable to the company or the consumer.
Jordan Kraus: I think, and to your point Angela, you have to start with those customer use cases first. I think it's hard too because if you're a marketer with technology, you might have a lot of vendors who are trying to get you to maximize the use of their product. That's their jobs. They're trying to get you to maximize all the features that you have available to you. And so you can get really stuck into a rabbit hole of feature focused marketing when you're just trying to execute campaigns to use a feature and technology. Now I will say part of me thinks like, sure, go test it. Go see if the feature works and if it works, great. Great. I think that's the other thing too as a marketer is like we're not know- it- alls, we're learn it alls. We just want to go out and hypothesize, test it, see if it works. We don't know everything. You can make some assumptions, but I'm a full believer in testing. But that said, when you get stuck into a feature focused technology conversation, you lose sight of the customer experience. Your example of SMS being so much more invasive than email is. And so the same campaigns that you apply in your email channel cannot be applied on your SMS channel. But take it a step further and think about where are the steps within my customer's process from awareness to acquisition to nurturing to loyalty? Where in that customer lifecycle would this tool be useful? I've seen a lot of consulting agencies or marketing strategy teams build what they call like a customer experience journey, not to be confused with Journey Builder inside of Marketing Cloud, but an actual map of what the customer is feeling, every point of contact, with every touchpoint. And some of the sentiment can be captured from how they're engaging in social media, how they're talking to customer service, what are they saying to you in the branch? There's places where you can get the explicit feedback from your customers, but there's also places where you can infer, we were talking about with a mortgage company that what the customer might be feeling, maybe uncertain. Can we send them an email with some more information? Now that they have a little bit more information? Do they have more questions? Can we get them connected to customer service? Now that they're talking to customer service, is there an opportunity for another offer that they're not aware of? Now we can connect them with the sales team. I think when it comes to making sure that your tech is working for you, you have to take a step back, look at that full customer journey map and then see the points where the technology enhances that experience, versus let's look at all of our technology and make sure we're maximizing the potential of the technology. Again, I think that that's a noteworthy cause, but you just don't want to lose sight of your customer.
Angela Ely: Yeah, I think that another way to look at it is again, taking that map that the customer's on, that journey that the customer's on and think about the emotions that the customer's feeling at each step and where are the struggles? Where might the customer be struggling or where are people falling out of your funnel? And look at technology solutions that help solve those struggles that the customer's feeling or operational struggles, struggles that the marketing team is having. Customers are falling out at a certain point, try to figure out why and then figure out a technology solution that might help solve that with some additional strategies to focus on that.
Jordan Kraus: A really good exercise to start that, if you're thinking that's great, I don't work with a big four consulting agency to build me a journey map. Create a chart, just literally just go into Excel, create a chart and write down the steps that the customer's going through from sign in to registering their account, getting their first email. Create another column about what you think their expectations are of that experience, and then create another column that says what's actually being delivered and then create another column which what technology are they're engaging with. And slowly you can start to align the lifecycle with the expectations that they might have, the expectations that are being met. And then you can find your gaps. And you can also see if you go through that step- by- step process of which technology they're engaging with, you might find redundancies and your technology and see that maybe there's technology you're investing in that just isn't creating a good enough customer experience that you can eliminate or that can be a done by another piece of technology. But at the end of the day, go through the exercise of figuring out what are my customer's expectations through every step of the way and where's the gap? Where am I missing every step of the way where I can potentially fill in with technology, with communication, with service?
Angela Ely: Yeah, I love that idea. That's a great idea that anybody can do. Also, go back to your personas. How is that different maybe for your different personas? How are those experiences maybe different? There might be some personas that aren't struggling and there might be some that are. Thinking about again, how they're feeling, what are their behaviors, what are their attitudes, those kinds of things as they're going through those processes. And I think that that leads nicely into our last step about ask your customers for feedback. Ask them what do they think. I mean that that's going to be your best opportunity to learn and to get information directly from your customers, either through surveys.
Jordan Kraus: Customer service.
Angela Ely: Yeah. Gathering feedback from customer service, what are those other teams here? That's another great opportunity to bring in some of those teams that might feel a little siloed at times. Bring those teams together. Tell us what you're hearing from the customers. As marketers, we don't always get to talk to customers directly, but those customer service teams or sales agents or whoever you have that has that direct connection with the customer, what are they hearing? They talk to customers every day. What are they hearing? What do they know? What do they want the marketing team to know?
Jordan Kraus: I could not be shaking my head hard enough because before getting into marketing, I worked for a call center for just under 10 years and you are the frontline. And so something that seems so obvious to frontline employees, we can see those gaps at the frontline so clearly, and it doesn't always make it all the way up to where experience change can actually happen. And so I think to your point, continually ask your customers for feedback. Pull those frontline employees together. Just to your point, what are they saying to customer service? What are they saying to sales? You'd be shocked at how much information you could get from those employees about customer experience. Because the customers are complaining to them day in and day out. So yeah, not only is it a better customer experience, it's a better experience for your frontline employees. It's just a good... It's just a win, win, win. And they would love to be a part of those conversations, those employees who are contacted by the customer constantly and they would love to be able to say to those customers, " That's great feedback. Let me make sure that my leader knows so that we can implement a change." I think it's important because again, back to my conversation about making assumptions. You just got to test stuff and have a two- way conversation with your customer. This is not just you spitting out information at your customer. We have to have... Every customer is different, to your point, Angela. Those personas are not going to be on the same journey. It reminds me of when Marketing Cloud personalization, formally Interaction Studio first launched, there was a lot of conversation about like, well, how is this journey, " journey" that I put a customer on in Interaction Studio different than what's happening inside of Journey Builder inside of Marketing Cloud? And the conversation became, well, what's happening inside of Journey Builder is you can set them on a number of paths, but once you get on the path, some of that content is dictated, maybe changing based on how they engage. The idea of a tool like Personalization Studio is that every single journey is different. Every single journey is a different touchpoint. Every single individual user is having a different experience. You go from having 12 versions of a communication kind of experience that you can create for your customer to hundreds. And the reason why is because every time they're giving you feedback, you're reacting to it and you're also gathering that information because it gives you a better understanding of what content is engaging, what is helpful, what's not helpful, how does it work across all of my personas, maybe it works for one persona, it doesn't work for the other. You don't have to throw it all out just because it doesn't work for one audience.
Angela Ely: Yeah. And I think the important thing is once you gather that information, you learn that, go back to step one. Go back to what you know about your customers, how you created those personas. Are they accurate? Are they correct? Are they helping us? Or do we need to adjust them a little bit based on what we've learned based on customer feedback or your surveys or the data that you're gathering through Personalization Studio or other things? Make sure that you're continually revisiting those personas, revisiting that plan, revisiting that strategy because people change, behaviors change and you're going to want to make sure you're changing your strategy along with that. Never, ever rinse and repeat.
Jordan Kraus: That is such great advice. I mean, if we think about, if you had heard that before the pandemic, if you're a rinse and repeater, then when the pandemic hits like you're an emergency state to create some new content compared to if you have an agile marketing process with some automated campaigns and you can go in and make adjustments and personalize on the fly. The only constant is change, so not only are your personas going to be constantly changing, changing and evolving, but the environment they live in is going to be constantly changing and evolving.
Angela Ely: You're constantly learning about your customers and their behaviors and the sky's the limit there is in terms of what you can learn and how you can apply those learnings.
Jordan Kraus: If anything, I hope that Angela and I have inspired you to take off your marketing cap for a day, put on your customer cap for a day and think about the experience holistically.
Angela Ely: Thanks everyone for joining us for this episode of Level Up. Looking to continue to level up your knowledge on the latest news, technology and marketing trends affecting marketers day- to- day, new episodes of Level Up, come out every other Thursday on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Until next time, thank you for leveling up your marketing knowledge with us.
In this insightful Level Up episode, join host Jordan Kraus and special guest Angela Ely, a seasoned senior marketing consultant at Lev, as they delve into how to create a customer experience-focused marketing strategy. Learn the four key steps to crafting exceptional customer experiences, including becoming customer-centric, breaking down organizational silos, leveraging technology wisely, gathering valuable customer feedback, and embracing adaptability.
By the end, you’ll discover how to create personalized and emotionally resonant experiences that leave a lasting impact on your customers. Whether you're a seasoned marketer or a newcomer to the field, this episode will equip you with actionable strategies to elevate your marketing and boost customer loyalty. Tune in to level up your marketing knowledge!