I have a great friend, Marty Vian, who has always said that “Marketing is what you promise, but Brand is what you experience.” I’ve named this Vian’s Axiom.
Now take that to heart for a moment and apply that to your customer’s experience. How much time to you spend extolling the benefits/virtues/outcomes of your product? How much time do you spend trying to cut through the noise and get potential customers to at least be interested or aware of your product?
If you’re like most companies this is the entire focus of your marketing and advertising effort.
Now take everything you know about your marketing and throw it away for the next fifteen minutes. Forget about all of the effort you’ve put into positioning, promotion and communications.
Make yourself a customer and do the following.
- Respond to your own marketing offers.
- Click on social media link, go to your website and pretend you know nothing about your offering
- Post a question to your company on Twitter, Facebook, Etc and see who’s listening
- Contact your customer support with an issue
- Call your customer support phone number and see what happens
- Call the main phone number of your company and see what happens
- Send in an email inquiry through the website
- Fill out a contact form on the website.
If you do these things, the response/result you are experiencing is your brand: as Vian’s Axiom goes, this is what you’re actually delivering to your customers therefore, it is your brand.
You probably know where to go from here, but make sure the response from these experiences matches your marketing…that’s real brand alignment.
Here are a few things we’ve worked with our clients to align; all the company names have been replaced with Green-Widget.
Do Not Reply
Don’t send emails out to anyone, under any circumstances, with a return email address that starts with “firstname.lastname@example.org” all this tells the customer is that you don’t really care about what they have to say and you are making them look for a way to respond if they need to.
If you have to do this because your IT department is making your marketing decisions, then provide a contact email in the body of the message. Never, ever make your customer have to hunt for a way to contact you.
You’re Valuable, but not That Valuable
Do not send an automated reply to a customer service inquiry that says
**This is an Automated Message to confirm that we have received your inquiry.**
Thank you for contacting Green-widget Support.
As a valued customer of Green-widget, you will receive support within 1 business day.
How’s that for mixed messaging?
Setting expectations is a good thing but try something like, “Thank you for contacting us. We want you to know we have received your request and are reviewing it now. It may take us up to a day to review it and respond. However, If your matter is urgent, please get in touch with us at 123-123-12345 or email@example.com and we’ll get on it immediately.
To contact us…aww, we’re only kidding.
Recently we encountered a firm whose website contact page had no email address or contact form. It simply listed Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, etc
We sent them a question via Twitter…no response.
We sent the same question to them via Facebook…no response.
We looked up their Chief Operations Officer on LinkedIn and send him an InMail…no response.
We looked up their VP of North American Sales on LinkedIn and sent him an InMail…no response.
That’s their brand you hear not talking, very loudly.
If you want your customer to love you and what you’re doing, listen to them, engage them, and applaud them…but do not ignore them; what you say is marketing, and what you do is branding.
Photo Credit: aldenjewell
Backstory on Photo
The Chevrolet Corvair was an entirely new approach to car design, fun, fuel-efficient, and inexpensive: a marketer’s dream. Then reality set in when Ralph Nader published Unsafe at any Speed. It crushed the Chevrolet Brand for years. Thus a great case for Vian’s Axiom.