Can You Offer Emotional Value to Your Customers?
[For the December cover story, Target Marketing asked a field of marketing experts the top four questions facing marketers in 2015. This is the third question in the series.]
With all the emphasis on data and technology in today's marketing, it's too easy to forget that marketing is an emotional discipline. As the recession falls further into the past, we're seeing more and more that customers who've been primarily concerned about price for years are now looking for a reason, almost any reason, to choose a brand based on something more. Can your marketing meet the needs of these customers?
"In 2012, the principal issues [facing marketers] had much to do with evolving reach and inclusion approaches—multichannel integration, social media impact, mobile accessibility and effect, growing consumer privacy concerns," etc., says Michael Lowenstein, Ph.D., CMC, who is a thought leadership principal for U.S.-based international customer experience consultancy Beyond Philosophy. "In 2015, the emphasis will be more back-to-basics, with a focus on emotional value drivers: Trust, reputation/image, experience journey and relevance, building an engaged and bonded relationship, employee ambassadorship, etc."
Amanda G. Watlington, founder of Searching for Strategy, agrees the focus will be human.
"Since the consumer is the real driver of the bus, really top marketers must and do keep their eyes on the consumer and are ever-vigilant to changing patterns of behavior," she says. "The growth of couch-commerce post introduction of tablets is an example of the type of behavioral change that we must be on the lookout for. The best companies are scanning how consumers are using all of the technologies at hand and adapting to what the consumer wants. Given the fickleness of the consumer and fragility of brand loyalty, we must watch carefully for anything that might erode loyalty or change consumer behavior—credit card data breaches, poor delivery performance and weak customer service are all potential enemies."
Omer Artun, Ph.D., CEO of Mountain View, Calif.-based AgilOne says the challenge in a tech-driven world is being familiar to and with customers.
"All marketers should ask themselves: How can I restore the personal, unique relationships companies once had with customers in the days of the corner butcher shop," he asks. "Not too long ago, salespeople would know your name, know what kind of things you bought, how long you've been a customer, and other important information about your personality and behavior. This would make the buying process pleasant, so customers would be more likely to return, spend more, and develop a sense of brand loyalty and trust. Today, because of the exponential growth in both the number and type of customer interactions, companies have struggled to maintain the kind of personal relationships that used to be an important aspect of doing business with buyers. Even small and mid-sized businesses interact with customers on an enormous scale through a wide variety of channels, including websites, social media, mobile apps and actual visits to the store."
Paige Musto, director of corporate marketing for Beaverton, Ore.-based marketing automation platform Act-On Software, suggests an option.
"We're seeing a lot done with social ad geo-targeting, which we think will be huge in terms of organic and paid ad reach," she says. "With this capability, global brands have the ability to provide a more personalized experience for their followers based on location and interest, creating a one-to-few kind of communication vs. a one-to-many."
Lowenstein knows about this bond.
"Marketers now have a much greater realization of the importance of the emotional elements of perceived value, in addition to the traditional focus on the functional, tangible and rational elements of value delivery," he says. "Emotions, in both B-to-B and B-to-C markets, are the principal drivers of customer trust."