Your brand is an experience. It’s what you sell. It’s who you are. It’s how you do things. It’s the way you answer the phone. It’s how you separate yourself from your competition. It’s not just about your website or that email campaign you send out. It’s a combination of everything you do to form the experience people are looking for. Viewing your brand as an experience will change the way you develop your strategies and make understanding “what” to do much easier. Let’s walk through the concept of creating the ultimate brand experience.
Find out what experiences people are looking for in your product/service/company
The first step to identifying the ultimate brand experience is to simply immerse yourself into the your customers mind. If you developed a product or service to solve a problem that you had yourself, this will be much easier. If you haven’t experienced it yourself, start taking time to learn more about what people are thinking and what emotions are involved. You can do this simply by joining relevant LinkedIn groups or niche communities on the web. This can take a bit longer sometimes, but is worth doing. The people you build relationships with in these communities might be your number one referral source or customer one day.
Another thing you can do to immerse yourself into the mind of your ideal customer is to pay attention to the comments section of articles and discussions centered around what it is that you do. For example, if you own a software business you would want to find out what people are thinking by going onto relevant forums. Look for common pain points in the comments and start thinking how you can turn that around into an opportunity or even a new product. Surveys are another great way to gather this type of information.
The experience people are looking for will shape your product/service to meet real needs
I struggled for 2 years to get Social HubSite off the ground. The reason was I never took enough time in the beginning to identify specifically what people in the market were saying about the struggles of traditional website builders and the problems they were having with existing online community software products. I knew I wanted to provide people/organizations with a better way to share their voice and build a better sense of community around their brand by integrating all of the right tools in one place. What I didn’t fully understand was what the market of people that would use this type of service (especially designers and marketers) were saying. Essentially I knew the opportunity for the end client, but didn’t realize what my customer (which usually isn’t the end client in this case) was asking for.
This past year I started listening and asking a lot more questions with designers and marketers. I understood what they wanted to experience from a website/online community building software. I understood who is using Social HubSite (designers/marketers), versus who is benefiting from it (their customers). Ultimately I identified what experience was needed. Everything else fell into place. The pricing model. The service model. The way the product is delivered. The support that is necessary. Future upgrades and integration’s that will be necessary. Social HubSite offers a solution around the same vision, but now the product, messaging and marketing channels are all in line with the experience our customer want to achieve. This decision has led to an average of 3-5 new clients added to the system everyday. That rate will only increase as we focus on expanding our reach and refining our experience.
Outside of Social HubSite, another great example of a company shaping their product based on what their customers want to experience is TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor understood that people want to review hotels before booking them. They realized that your decisions to choose what places to visit or stay are heavily dependent on what your friends and family say about them. This is why they have integrated services such as Foursquare (check-ins) and Facebook (likes) next to their listings. Again, this is all part of the brand experience. Here is a link to a great article written by the Harvard Business Review that talks about how TripAdvisor understood what people want when planning a trip and how they shifted their business model to it: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/10/the_secrets_to_tripadvisors_im.html
Stop focusing on “What” you offer
Part of identifying the ultimate experience you want for your brand is to focus less on “what” you offer and more on “how” you offer it. If you think you offer a product that is totally unique in the market, you are wrong, or at least it won’t be unique for very long as competition comes in for a chunk of the pie. A great example of this is the tablet market. Apple’s successful launch of the iPad spawned a number of other large companies to join that space. Why haven’t any of them surpassed Apple in the tablet market? Because Apple focuses on the experience. Their commercials focus on a human emotional experience, not a bunch of techie’s dancing around in a room flipping tablets around.
Buying an Apple product is an experience. Their stores are an experience. Their friendly support is an experience. Even the way they design their products is part of the experience. It’s the way they make you feel. That’s what a brand is supposed to do. That’s also the reason why companies like Apple are the largest and most well respected brands in the world and others struggle to survive.
Selling an experience removes the need to focus solely on price
When you understand the experience people are looking for from your brand, price becomes less of a factor. For example, when you go to a fancy restaurant you are not buying the steak, you are buying the atmosphere, the people, the service, etc. Keep in mind there are limits to what experience people want and what they are willing to pay for. Again, if you immerse yourself into your customers mind, questions regarding price, product and experience become easier to answer. Apple figured out that it could charge practically double the price for products (especially desktops and laptops) by focusing on selling an experience and not solely a product. Think of this in your own business.
Take your brand experience offline
Start thinking of ways that you can engage your customers/potential customers offline. Don’t worry if it’s not scalable. Building even 10 real relationships offline can lead to hundreds if not thousands of people online by them spreading sharing the fact that they were at your event. I’m not saying that you need to start planning events right away. Just think about the kind of network effect that can happen from making it part of your own brand experience.
Getting started in developing your own unique brand experience
Here are a few questions that will help you shape your brand experience:
- What first impression do you want to make with new prospects?
- What do you want your customers to feel like when they sleep at night?
- What do people want to feel when using your type of product or service?
- What kind of interactions are people searching for when deciding to buy your product or service?
- Where do people want to interact with your brand?
- How do your customers want to be treated?
Make sure your brand experience is in line with your goals
It starts with a vision
Your brand experience starts with vision for what you want the brand to become. The experience is your vision in action.
Understanding this concept will change the way you look at your business. You will start to understand the true value of time and money invested into your efforts.
What I just explained here is the methodology behind the way I consult with organizations. I’ve worked and continue to work with solopreneurs all the way up to the Fortune 500. No matter the size of organization, the metholody is still the same.
I’d be happy to chat with you regarding your brand experience and overall online marketing strategy. I invite you to take the next step by contacting me. We can discuss your current objectives and challenges and get you going down a path toward your own vision.