- A great brand captures the essence of what an organization stands for in an authentic way that’s relevant and differentiated for its key audiences
- For many organizations, however, the brand becomes muddled because employees don’t know or don’t care about it – leading to inconsistent and frustrating customer experiences
- At Summit 2018, Julie Ogilvie and Lisa Nakano showed how to use the SiriusDecisions Brand Experience Navigator to build an integrated customer, employee and brand experience
A B2B organization’s employees and its customers are ideally on a shared journey toward a higher plane of customer experience, value delivery and loyalty. Uniting in the pursuit of shared goals can have an amazing, transporting effect. But customer experience is so complicated – with so many variables and so many people involved – that actually delivering on an inspiring brand promise can seem unreachable.
“Unfortunately, many B2B brands don’t inspire anyone,” said Julie Ogilvie in her keynote session today with Lisa Nakano at Summit 2018 in Las Vegas. “That’s because many companies don’t understand the crucial role that brands play in connecting to their buyer and customer audiences.”
SiriusDecisions’ research shows that the most significant driver of the purchase decision for 80 percent of B2B buyers is customer experience – either the buyer’s previous experience as a customer of the seller, or the impact on the buyer of customer experiences reported by others. “So, if you want to ignore customer experience as a part of growing your company and meeting your goals, you’re in for a rough ride,” Lisa warned. “Your brand is only as good as your customers say it is – brand experience and customer experience are two sides of the same coin.”
In today’s B2B organizations, the brand team is responsible for creating the expectations for customer experience. However, the multiple functions responsible for delivering the brand and customer experiences – the brand team, the customer engagement team and the employee lifecycle team – often don’t have a formalized working relationship.
“We need to tear down these silos and begin working together,” Julie emphasized. “To do that, we need to create a closed-loop system that gets us moving in the right direction, together, toward our goal.”
Components of the Brand Experience Navigator
The new model introduced by Julie and Lisa at Summit – the SiriusDecisions Brand Experience Navigator – uses the metaphor of a GPS to illustrate how a company’s brand, its customers and its employees should work together. A GPS needs three elements to work properly: the receiver (the device the driver uses to get from point A to point B), the satellite (which tracks the positioning of the receiver and provides feedback to the driver) and the destination (where the driver is going). In a brand context, the receiver is in the hands of the employees – the organization’s experience drivers – who are enabled by employee lifecycle marketing to transport customers toward the destination: the brand promise.
The customer engagement function is the satellite that provides guidance to employees and brand; it also fuels the brand with customer advocacy. “There’s also a continuous feedback loop between the brand and the experience drivers,” Lisa stated. “The brand helps attract and enable employees and customers while they amplify and support the brand.”
So, what makes a great B2B destination? “Great B2B brands transport their audiences by appealing to psychological and emotional needs that are below the surface,” Julie said. “This connection sets the stage for successful experience.”
The brand lifecycle can be divided into two parts: brand development and brand activation. Brand development is an internal process of developing the concepts and symbols that will represent the organization to audiences, while brand activation manifests the brand to the world.
“In brand development, failing to talk to actual prospects and customers is the number one bump in the road,” Julie said. “And in brand activation, unexpected things can happen.” The first step in creating a closed-loop system is formalizing the interlock through joint planning and ongoing collaboration – getting specific about the jobs each team is expected to do. The interlock between brand, customer engagement and the employee lifecycle team prescribed by the Brand Experience Navigator benefits all three teams:
- The brand team. Customer engagement contributes insights during brand development to ensure a truly customer-centric brand. This team is uniquely situated to understand, document and enable the organization to organize around the customer lifecycle, customer journey and customer experience. During activation, the brand team and customer engagement should work together to insert customer stories and customer advocates into marketing programs whenever possible. The employee lifecycle team helps make sure employees understand the brand and know how to deliver it through words and behavior. Employees should feel the impact of the brand every day in the company culture, whether or not they are customer facing.
- The employee lifecycle team. Interlock with customer engagement ensures that employees understand the customer journey and the customer roles the organization serves, and that customer stories are told in ways that are meaningful for employees. Interlock with the brand team ensures that every employee understands how his or her role contributes to the brand and what kinds of behavior reinforce the brand promise. Employees in all roles shape customer experience – they need training to do that well, but more importantly, they need to be committed to the organization’s brand promise and customers.
- Customer engagement. When the brand is strong and employees are consistently expressing brand through their own positive engagement, customers have better, more consistent experiences. Employees who are engaged go the extra mile to help customers when they’re in need. They understand and care about how their behavior affects customers and reflects on the brand. And through this virtuous cycle, the brand is continuously reinforced and strengthened through a motivated army of employee and customer advocates.
Launching the Closed-Loop System
Customer engagement should include brand consistency in its measurements and dashboards to help the organization focus on delivering on the brand promise. The brand team should obtain and integrate customer feedback early and often. The employee lifecycle team needs to understand that the brand is part of what attracts potential employees and retains current ones. Considering customer orientation as a recruiting and retention imperative will ensure the organization attracts, retains and grows employees who deliver the brand promise to its customers.
“And that brings me back to something the great philosopher Jerry Garcia once said: ‘Our strong suit is what we do, and our audience,’” Julie said her closing remarks to the Summit audience. “For SiriusDecisions, our strong suit is what we do through our audience – because what really represents our brand out in the market is all of the people sitting here in this room and all of the great work they do.”
- Introducing the SiriusDecisions Brand Lifecycle Framework
- The SiriusDecisions Employee Lifecycle Marketing Framework (client access)
- Foundations of a Customer Communications Program (client access)
- The SiriusDecisions Customer Lifecycle Framework
- The SiriusDecisions Customer Experience Design Framework (client access)
- Post-Sale Customer Communications Strategy: Getting Started (client access)