”Irresistable freshness, unbelievable value” states a bottle of Fairy detergent. Ridiculously over the top statement, but even this tacky value proposition doesn’t shake my loyalty off. Brand interaction goes on every single time the foam starts to rise in my sink. It won’t be easy to convince me to try some other product.
As an entrepreneur, I’m a very satisfied customer of Tommi Kivistö. He sells me the phones I need and takes care of the cell phone plans. He makes sure I’m satisfied and explains all the bureaucracy in a way I can understand. The new logo of the Finnish operator Elisa decorates his workspace. Sometimes I wonder, how that money could’ve been spent to train other people to be more like Tommi.
Because that’s what marketing and selling to human beings is all about: encounters and experience. For there is no more B-to-C or B-to-B; there’s only Human-to-Human (H2H). There are people even behind that plastic bottle of Fairy detergent.
Indeed, It Was So Much Easier Before
I look back at the good old times somewhat amused. In consumer marketing, it used to suffice that the brand focused on 25–40-year-old women, whereas in B-to-B, dozens of product press releases were written and hundreds of cold calls made. Brand promises were sharpened, but few thought about how the promises should be redeemed. Corporate logos were used as references, past years and projects were supposed to be a guarantee of competence, and innovation was demonstrated with the company Flash site administrated by IT department.
One after another, leading companies’ offered their cost-effective value-added services. Presentations were filled with stock photo handshakes and graphs. But did they cut off the fat and improve the service?
More Listening and Service, Less Spam
The most typical way of listening to the customers has been using forms once a year. In H2H business, listening happens all the time in all the channels. Knowledge can be collected, analyzed and reacted to easily and inexpensively if you know how and what you want to measure. When you’re well aware of what makes your customers happy, you can use the knowledge to choose the right direction and the right actions.
Customer service should not be separated from sales. A service ticket or in-store customer service is just a grain of sand in Sahara. You’ve got to recognize the customer paths and moments of truth both online and offline, and offer a great customer experience in all of these. This can only happen by salesperson, who is 100 % present and professional, or by perfectly functioning service machine. Even a solution salesperson will get better results by following, liking and listening. When these experiences are shared through the CRM system, it’s much easier for the salespeople to make use of the information and materials provided by marketing, and other colleagues.
You need to optimize your communication far more than search engine rankings. You need to sharpen, focus and distribute the message in many channels. You need to try new things and fail fast. You need to produce content that develops the customer’s skills, and customer stories and examples that increase desired actions. You need to communicate to potential and current customers – even those that are about to leave you. Marketing automation can help you, but it won’t produce the content for you.
Manage Encounters and Reward Satisfaction
A modern H2H company can witness on their dashboards, how good employee experience will result both in excellent customer experience and great profits in the long run. In order to achieve this, a change in leadership and management is needed. The grass-roots level needs knowledge, skills, tools and power to strive for excellent customer service. Continuous interaction should be allowed, and good achievements should be shared and rewarded instantly when they take place. Encouraging social sharing and liking will be a great start, but more complex social technologies are also available.
Fairy detergent could occasionally ask me in Facebook, what odors I prefer, or proactively offer me chances to try out their new dishwasher tablets. Tommi could call or mail me slightly more often or follow me on Twitter. On the other hand, everything is fine as it is at the moment. We’re having a dialogue.
Writer is the CEO and founding partner of Kram as well as a tech-savvy business thinker and a wannabe blogger, who loves easygoing and important knowledge work and plans to write a book titled “Culture Happens”.