A recent survey by Gartner showed that 87% of organisations surveyed are prioritising customer-facing digital business initiatives. Why? They know that to stand out in a crowded market, they need to stand out online. They need to create content that a potential customer will devour, content that will build trust and credibility, content that will showcase their brand in a positive way, content that will deepen their relationship with their brand. Digital initiatives can go a long way in making your brand the preferred brand, possibly before the potential customer has even talked to you!
Now the words “digital business experience” can sound intimidating (and expensive!) but it doesn’t need to be. Examples include creating website enhancements (like those “You might also like this” or “Frequently bought together” suggestions for ecommerce sites), education hubs or Facebook groups, product videos, an expert series, webinars or apps relating to the product or service you are selling.
It can be as simple as a helpful checklist… Last year, when Covid hit, I wanted to help the wider business community. But how? We were all at home, in lockdown, and I knew I needed to go beyond emailing or calling my long list of clients. So I went online.
I produced a Covid checklist for business owners and senior leaders — practical tasks they could carry out to give them the best chance of success in what was a very uncertain, stressful and (we’re so over this word) unprecedented time. The checklist covered financials, expenditure, strategy, operations, marketing, employees, customers and the business owner themselves. My team loaded the checklist onto the Business Changing website and we sent out an email, put it on social media and told the media. At the time, no one else had anything like this checklist — as I say, the circumstances were exceptional and no one (even globally) had any advice on what a business owner could do to ward off the effects of a pandemic. I’m not understating it when I say business owners were feeling helpless, many of them wondering if they were watching their business unravel right before their eyes.
The downloads rolled in. From New Zealand, from Australia, from Canada, from the United States. People had a problem (“holy heck, what can I do to best protect my business?”) and I had a genuinely helpful checklist of tasks they could work on (from home in lockdown) to give them the best chance of survival. The feedback I got was exceptional. The impact it had on elevating the Business Changing brand by solving a problem for customers and potential customers when they really needed it? Priceless. I was invited onto numerous podcasts and I’m still getting client referrals as a result of that checklist.
Gartner suggested that to be effective, a digital initiative must result in one or more of these customer perceptions:
- Ease of Digital Experience (“The digital experience was easy to use and saved me time.”)
- Cross-channel Seamlessness (“Interactions with this brand are consistent and personalized.”)
- Negative Emotions (“I felt self-conscious, inexperienced, or worried.”)
- Positive Emotions (“I felt skilled, focused, or connected to others.”)
- Rational Engagement (“This brand helped me analyze, relate, or plan ahead.”)
Of these, it’s the last three that have the biggest effect – what the customers’ own self-reflective learning was as a result of their experience has TWICE the impact of the functionality of an experience. You need to make the experience easy and enjoyable for a customer but it’s taking them to a more emotional place that makes the difference.
Let’s take another example. Say you were buying one of those new robot lawnmowers — a relatively new release in the market. How will you choose which one to get if none of your friends or neighbours has owned one so you don’t have a referral to rely on? Will you choose from a website that has all the basics (images, copy, the pricing) or will you choose from a website that has enhanced their offering with a helpful video on how they work, video testimonials from clients similar to them on how the robot has changed their lawnmowing experience, a quiz on which robot lawn mower will best suit their needs, a payment plan calculator, and an after-sales app that helps you track the movements of the robot when you’re away from home? Now that’s a positive digital initiative.
Develop digital experiences that help customers analyze their situation and plan their path forward. Tap into customer emotions. Get them to recognise the problem they have to produce negative emotions that make them determined to solve it. (For the robot lawnmower, it might be that they spend hours of their precious free time during weekends hand-mowing their lawns.) Amplify the positive emotions they’ll have when they solve the problem, to make it clear what the next step they need to take is (ie they’ll get their weekends back and enjoy freshly cut grass every day if they reach out to you to buy your service or product).
Gartner shares Canadian bank BDC’s execution of this approach. They have an online tool “Quiz: Are you ready to apply for a business loan?” in recognition that the process of applying for a loan can be an intimidating task for entrepreneurs. Their quiz helps potential customers self-reflect on whether they have the knowledge and the resources required for a smooth application process and helps resolve any associated trepidation among customers, helping them take obligation-free baby steps towards actually applying for that loan.
So go deep! Take a look at the customer journey of 2-3 of your customer personas and tap into what your ideal customer’s real issues are and where they occur – and then develop digital offerings that hold their hand at that point! Be generous with your content and don’t be afraid to share some of your IP — instead of worrying that you’re giving it away for free, think of it as a marketing cost.
I look forward to hearing what digital initiatives you’ll be working on in 2021!