Brands with the mindset of evolve, innovate and disrupt, are best suited to defend themselves against the overthrows and revolutions on the horizon.
What can be done right now if you are not one of those brands?
1. Evolve: Understand customer sentiment at all times and adjust to it. Sentiment isn’t just about surveys or polls you deploy yearly. It’s understanding the marketplace all of the time. This means understanding both what your customers love and dislike about you. The latter is difficult because brands do not like to respond to criticism. But this is how we learn and grow.
What should replace polls and surveys? Let’s look at three alternatives that all brands intent on relevance should be using.
- Social Listening Tools – Social listening powered by big data science gives us the ability to harvest the discussion around us and use it to understand what people think from a brand health perspective. Most good social listening tools allow you to mine positive and negative conversations. It’s the latter conversations you want to key in on. Those that reveal raw opinions like, “This product sucks, I wish they would do…” or “How terrible is this service?” Remember, service is part of your product now. It’s not a separate entity. Brands must realize that they are the sum of the customer experience. Brands may try and manage product and service as separate entities but to customers they are not.
- Customer Interviews – Brands that earn a place in the future will share one critical characteristic – great listening skills. Listening to learn is how to prevent getting caught up in the know it all mindset that often leads brands into irrelevance. When you know everything, you lack curiosity, when you lack curiosity you miss the opportunities and threats circling your brand. When you miss those, well, you’re dead or dying. As Bill Gates said so eloquently, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest sources of learning.”
- Customer Think Tanks – These are not focus groups. These are groups of people who love your brand and talk about it at all times. They are true influencers, not the type you pay who could care less about what your brand represents. The reason you create think tanks is to gather information from highly influential customers – your super users to figure out tweaks and moonshots. No longer do we live in a world where employees are the know-it-all’s. Especially if those employees are biased based on the fact the brand employs them. Think tanks are also great places to show you really care about your diehard customers and don’t take them for granted. Public companies treat their shareholders well, why shouldn’t we treat those who share and influence in the same manner?
2. Innovate: When we talk about brand innovation this covers a variety of areas from your products, services, solutions and branding but it also is in the people you hire and how you unleash their power into the marketplace. Today, where it’s impossible to talk to a real person but easier to chat with a bot we need to understand the touchpoints of the customer experience so we can improve everything as a holistic customer experience. This means it’s not enough to simply rebrand if your products still don’t work. Or to improve your products without raising your customer service in the process.
3. Disrupt: Don’t settle on conventions. In our social by design network connected world, information travels quickly. One of the best forms of discussion in this era is one we’ve been taught to never be a part of. It goes like this: “I can’t believe that so and so did that!” Your parents probably said to never be the “so and so” in those conversations. Well guess what? You need to be part of those conversations. Don’t sit idly, push the boundaries of creativity and new possibilities, the world rewards brands who do. When they speak about you, your brand name travels and begins to influence others. Think of some of these conversations, some of them went like this: “I can’t believe Microsoft built the Surface Studio.” Or, “I can’t believe Spotify now has The Beatles catalog.” Or this famous one, “I can’t believe it’s not butter.”
The more you can defy the conventional, the better chance you have of being in the hearts and minds of your target audiences no matter what happens in the world around us.
Learn how to keep your brand relevant in the 21st Century in my new book Disruptive Marketing.
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