In case you missed the first post of this blog series, How to Connect Through Experience, this blog post is part of a three post series which serves as an overview/background for an upcoming National ABSDC Conference presentation delivered by Michael Myers (Consultant for UGA SBDC in Athens) and myself (J. Ashley Panter, Marketing Manager at the UGA SBDC). A question posted in the first blog post, “How can you as a business owner provide a seamless, quality experience to retain long-term, happy customers?” Essentially, the post concluded that in order for business owners to continue to be successful, they must evolve their ways of thinking about marketing and management and must REALLY learn how to connect with your customers. So… let’s start with marketing:
User experience in marketing is EVERYWHERE, but not many people realize it… especially in the business world. And when they do think of UX in marketing, generally, it’s very basic thinking like, “did the customer/user have a positive interaction with my business?” However, as we learned in the first part of this blog series (How to Connect Through Experience), great user experience, often times, isn’t recognizable. But, on the flip side, if a user has bad experience, they notice. So, the question is… “How can we ensure that our users have a positive experience with each and every touchpoint of our marketing?”
The answer… through great design. So yes, business folk, GOOD DESIGN MATTERS!!! It matters.
As part of my Masters program, we got to watch a private screening of InVision’s “Design Disruptors. That’s when I REALLY started thinking about the world in a different way. I mean, I have always thought about the user and their needs, but I hadn’t really thought about the role that design plays in marketing (which was extremely validating for me since I consider myself both a marketer and a designer… so realizing that great marketers are also great designers made feel like I could be the next Seth Godin… minus the baldness). Most people think that marketing is all about “sales” and “ROI,” and yes, to some extent it is, but REALLY… marketing is about brand connection and loyalty.
You could have the world’s best product, but if your website/packaging/advertisements/social media doesn’t resonate with potential customers, then you’re not going to make a sale and you’re not going to see ROI. Right?
So, how can you ensure that you’re marketing game is up to par and creates an experience for your customers that keeps them coming back for more? Here are five things to consider:
Branding and Consistency Matter
For a lot of people, a brand is just a logo, but it’s not. It’s more than that. And when a brand is consistent, it not only takes your business to the next level in marketing, but it does a few things for the customer as well. First, consistency makes your brand feel more dependable. Think about it this way… if you see someone and they are dressed in a suit and are all business one day, cargo shorts and an old t-shirt the next day, and then a tank top and jorts (jean shorts) the next, it could be pretty difficult to get a sense of that person’s style. Your business can be perceived the same way. Don’t believe me? …check out this article from the team at North Star Marketing, click here.
Customers want to know exactly what they’re going to get from your business each and every time. So, whether you are developing a website, a social media image, a promotional piece, or whatever else, be sure that each and every element can be tied back to your brand. These elements could include specific shapes (you wouldn’t want to use circles one day and triangles the next), colors, writing styles and tone (if you sound casual on social media, but very proper in person, that’s not a great mix), and even photography used to represent your brand (don’t use people one day and cartoons/clipart the next).
If They Can’t Find It, They Won’t Buy It
I can’t talk about this area enough. If you make the path to the finish line difficult, most customers won’t make it. Take your website for instance. If you design a website that is “super pretty” or “wicked cool,” but you haven’t properly thought about how a user get’s from the home page to your products (or services), then you have a problem.
When a user visits your website, they should be able to look at your site and navigate very similarly as they would with many other websites. It’s great to be different sometimes, but not when it comes to website navigation. As a small business, you want your site to include very common elements that your users are used to seeing. For instance, navigation at the top of the page, clicking the logo to go back to the homepage, the sidebar being on the right side of inner pages, or having your contact information at the bottom of the page. These are just a few common elements that are pretty standard from site to site. If your site tries to be different, you could lose customers.
This practice also applied to promotional pieces. A LOT of people want to cram every. single. piece. of information on a flyer. DON’T!!!!!!! I can’t stress that enough. If a flyer or promotional piece is overwhelming, the potential customer will lose interest and move onto something else. However, if the flyer/promotional piece is clean (has a lot of white space), lists the important details (date/cost/location) and a URL providing more information, the odds are, the potential customer will be much more likely to follow the URL and seek more information. And don’t forget, include familiar elements throughout all of your promotional pieces. This also helps the user feel more comfortable reading your message and more connected to your brand. Believe it or not, this helps to create a better experience. As you can imagine, forming that connection will likely increasing the chance the user follows up with your business in the future. Here is a great article that showcases 50 successful flyer design examples and what makes them successful.
People Want to Connect With Friends
People are tired to cold relationships. That can be anything from a cold professional relationship to a cold brand relationship. One of the best ways to ensure that your customers feel warm and fuzzy about your brand is to be active and consistent on social media. Social media is FREE. Why not take advantage of it?
Social media should be more than just posting every single product or service you have. If you do that, your customers will unfollow you. Once they unfollow you, it’s very hard to win back their trust. Social media should also be more than just the sharing of third-party articles (third-party in this context means articles that aren’t your own). Social media should be a happy balance of a little bit of everything. Easy enough right?
The best way to go about balance is to create a loose social media plan. It doesn’t have to be a solid day-by-day calendar that you follow. It can be something as simple as, “Ok. So, I need to post something about the impact my business has made on the community or an accomplishment one day this week. I also need to advertise this product or service one day this week. And I also need to share an interesting article this week.” That’s pretty much the perfect combo.
For a small business, you also want to make sure you’re posting content that your audience wants to see, in addition to content that might strike up a conversation between your brand and audience (because as you know, with Facebook’s new algorithm, conversation is key). For example, let’s say it’s Pie Day (3.14) and you’re a pizza company, you could post an image of a cheese pizza and say something like, “It’s Pie Day! our favorite day of the year. If you were given a blank slate, which toppings would make your favorite pizza?” Just a simple question and a post that is very timely could be a game changer for brand engagement.
Another game changer for a brand is to never ignore a shoutout. If someone tags you in a positive post, comment back and let them know you care. You wouldn’t believe the loyalty this creates between a customer and a brand. One example of this is if someone visits your pizza restaurant and takes a picture of their spaghetti and posts to Instagram saying, “Who knew a pizza place could also have great spaghetti?!” Your brand could reply back to the comment and say something like, “We’re a jack of all trades and would never put something on our menu that we weren’t confident you would love! I bet there are other hidden gems on the menu you might like too!” I will bet you my bottom dollar that by your brand replying, that customer would come back to your restaurant and give something else a try. #GainAndRetain
It’s Not All About You
A LOT of businesses create/design/make decisions based upon what THEY want. They don’t take the user into consideration. This is a huge mistake. As mentioned before, without the user, your product or service is worthless. There is an ongoing battle in the UX world of “usability vs. desirability.” Usability is considered to be the base level of UX, while without desirability, it’s not likely that the experience will leave a lasting impression. With so much going on in the world, businesses HAVE TO make a lasting impression.
For successful UX, as defined by the Nielsen Norman Group, there are four areas that you must succeed in: Utility, Usability, Desirability, and Brand Experience.
Take Time To Do a Little Homework
If you haven’t realized this by now… the user’s experience matters. One of the most effective, tried and true, strategies you can implement to ensure your users enjoy your products or services is to simply ask them. Gather a few current users and a few new users and conduct a focus group styled discussion. Ask them what type of marketing of the product/service would resonate with them (i.e. social media ad, flyer, email promotion, personal recommendation, etc.), which features of the product or service are most engaging to them, what would get them to buy and recommend the product or service, then maybe some additional questions to help create the perfect buyer persona. You can also do all of this in a SHORT survey. Once you’ve gathered enough information, use it to create a successful marketing campaign that is tailored specifically for the users. Taking time to do a little homework could save you a lot of time and money.
- Know the value of experience. Provide an experience superior to that of the competition.
- Be consistent with your branding. Customers want to know exactly what they’re going to get from your business each and every time.
- Make the process user friendly. If you make a path to the finish line difficult, most customers won’t make it.
- People want to connect with friends. Curate content that encourages a conversation between your brand and audience.
- It’s not all about you. Focus on your user and make sure they feel good about your company and using your product.
- Do your homework. Invest time in the beginning to understand your users and what THEY want before investing time and energy into a marketing campaign or product that doesn’t resonate with your users.
In order for business owners to continue to be successful, you must evolve your ways of thinking about marketing and management and must REALLY learn how to connect with your customers.
Forward-thinking business owners who learn how to connect with their users, invest in UXM, change their viewpoints and begin looking from the outside of their business-in will have a huge competitive advantage in the future.
Whether it be face-to-face, social media, website communication, or customer service in general, by focusing on providing users with more value and more meaningful relationships, will set your business apart from others.
The marketing world is beginning to look drastically different for businesses. Small businesses can compete with big box stores more easily by staying ahead of the game and preparing for UXM before the big companies catch on.
(Source: J. Ashley Panter, Marketing Manager, UGA SBDC | Michael Myers, Consultant, UGA SBDC in Athens | Christopher Meyer & Andre Schwager, Understanding Customer Experience)