With a small business, marketing can be defined as, “The experiences you create for your customers.”
One of the most powerful concepts in marketing is Brand Harmony, developed by Steve Yastrow. I work closely with Yastrow & Company, and have seen the benefits of Brand Harmony for our client companies. Steve Yastrow’s book of the same name, Brand Harmony, defines your brand as, “Every experience your customer has with your company.” (14) If these experiences blend into a harmonious whole, your customer develops a rich, positive brand impression of your company and products.
A company we work with, Prairie City Bakery, creates a great experience with their baked products. They sell baked goods such as cookies, muffins and doughnuts to food service vendors, convenience stores, drug stores, etc. They have faced the challenges of offering a great-tasting and high-quality product while also providing a quick snack for consumers. Part of this experience is the packaging, which makes it look homemade. President Bill Skeens is fond of saying, “People eat with their eyes,” a statement which shows an understanding of the importance of customer experience.
Netflix also creates good customer experiences. The system learns which movies you like and dislike to recommend other titles to you. If you lose a DVD, they don’t accuse you of stealing it. With their increasingly populated Watch Instantly section, you hardly even have to bother with DVDs. (But every company has room for improvement. Netflix team members…if you are reading this… please add a “Holiday” movies genre. It’s ridiculously difficult to find those titles.)
Each time a customer comes into contact with you or your products, you are creating an experience for that customer, even if you aren’t trying. Sometimes, especially if you aren’t trying. The worst– and most memorable–customer experiences come from brand disharmony.
How many times have you heard the phrase, “The system won’t let me.” from a customer service representative or retail store cashier? Technology is an area where many companies create disharmony. Rarely are systems designed with the customer experience in mind. Recently, I discovered that my bank’s idea of offering electronic payment is to print a physical check and mail it to my vendors for me. Imagine my surprise when I received a late notice from a vendor that I had paid “electronically.” The bank told me they needed four days’ notice to process the payment, and I had only given them two. How is that a better experience than simply writing and mailing a check myself? Why would they design such a useless system?
When you create brand disharmony, you confuse your customers. They don’t know what to think about you– Even worse, they know exactly what to think about you, and it’s unfit for print. But when the experiences you’ve created for your customers create Brand Harmony, they feel an affinity for your company and have a rich sense of why they want to buy from you.
Think of some companies you have an affinity for and that create great Brand Harmony with you. What experiences do you have with those companies? Now, ask yourself: How can I gain inspiration from these companies? What experiences should I create with my customers?
Don’t just think of your “traditional” marketing communications. Customers don’t care if your billing department and marketing department are separated by a chasm. If your invoices and advertisements don’t create complementary experiences, your brand will be weak in their minds.
By thoughtfully considering what experiences your customers should have and putting those thoughts into action, you can help your customers know exactly why they buy from you. If they have a good answer for that question, they will be less likely to switch to a competitor or make do with a substitute product or service.