There is nothing more powerful—and useful for your brand—than converting your customers into brand evangelists. These are customers who will take every opportunity to recommend your business to their friends, families, business partners, tennis coach, and anyone else who will listen.
Unfortunately, the process of creating such evangelists has long been something of a mystery. In the absence of a clear plan, many digital marketers have become overly reliant on incorrectly received wisdom. They’ve known for a long time, for instance, that digital marketing increases online engagement and that marketing automation makes this process even more efficient. Yet, recent research indicates personalized content marketing—on its own—is less effective than we might think for creating brand evangelists.
Instead, it appears, personalized service is what counts: providing a unique, relevant experience for each customer. These systems can be implemented via an automated segmentation system, or simply through motivated customer advisors, but they all aim at the same thing – making sure that each customer gets exactly what they want from your organization.
In this article, we'll take a look at this research and think about what it means for companies looking to create brand evangelists.
Personalized service vs. personalized marketing
Take a quick look through recent research on personalization in marketing, and you'll immediately spot a slightly curious trend: Customers seem to be responding to personalized marketing.
The recent Gladly 2020 Customer Expectations Report gives a more nuanced picture. In this survey, 79% of respondents said that personalized service is more important than personalized marketing. In other words, personalized ads are still important, but their impact is minuscule compared to the personalization of services.
If "personalized service" is a new concept for you, this insight might need a little extra explanation. Think of it like this: once upon a time, cookies revolutionized online marketing. They allowed brands to offer highly personalized online experiences to all of their visitors. Today's data acquisition systems allow the same level of personalization to be offered throughout the marketing, purchasing, and nurturing lifecycles.
To see how this works in practice, it's worth going back to basics. In the early days of content personalization, brands would use data analytics platforms—typically deployed on their websites—in order to gather key information on their potential customers. These customers were then "segmented" into "personas," which described their typical behavior and which products they were likely to buy.
Until recently, the primary use of these personas involved sending customers personalized emails or showing them personalized social media ads. The challenge today is to extend this level of personalization to customer service itself. Based on their persona, different customers may be offered a radically different experience.
For instance, how customers shop varies hugely between people. Some customers prefer to browse and compare many items before making a purchase, while others rely on expert recommendations. The type of site that converts the former persona will be radically different from the one that is effective for the latter, and brands should therefore offer each a different site to meet both groups' needs.
There are many examples of this level of service personalization. It’s no secret that preferred payment methods vary by persona and that brands should therefore offer varied, easy ways to accept payments, which should be tailored to the known preferences of individual customers.
The same Gladly report as cited earlier goes on to give further details of what personalized experience means in practice and how brands can work toward it. In the process of doing so, this research directly challenges some of the axioms of digital marketing that have come to be unquestionable.
For instance, brands only have mere seconds to make this first impression. However, recent research revealed that our long-term relationships with brands are also important in generating sales.
In other words, first impressions remain important in encouraging new customers to make their first purchase, but it is a quality, personalized service that will turn these customers into evangelists for your brand.
Above all, this means ensuring that every interaction you have with your customers is professional, efficient, and effective. Research indicates that 72% of people will switch brands after just one or two bad experiences, after all.
In terms of your approach to customer service, this insight indicates the importance of treating every customer as an individual. From the perspective of your customer service software—and maybe even from your customer service agents' perspective—it may seem that every interaction with a customer is a discrete event. However, this is not how the customer sees it. For them, every interaction they have with your brand is part of an ongoing, developing relationship, and they will remember the aggregate impression of these interactions far more clearly than you will.
In practice, this means smart brands will spend more time with each customer to offer the level of personalized service their customers expect. That might sound expensive, but don't worry. Research also shows that eighty-four percent of customers will “go out of their way” to spend more money to get a great experience.
Spending the time to understand your customers—and tailor their experience to their individual needs—may dramatically improve your business's profitability.
This is because the old ways of generating customers are still the most effective. While there are certainly benefits to marketing automation, the “traditional” ways of generating sales still provide the best ROI for most businesses. As an example, email marketing has an average ROI of 4300%, far outperforming more "sophisticated" forms of advertising.
For most brands, achieving this level of personalized experience requires a combination of different approaches. Ensure that you hire well-trained employees who can understand your customers and keep them motivated. Invest in a software system that allows you to track interactions with your customers across multiple channels. Above all, take the time to research your customers' personas, and understand their needs.
Marketing is just one integral part of CX
If there is one key takeaway from this recent research, it's that content marketing might not be as important as you think. While it's certainly crucial to reach out to your customers with content that is relevant and inspiring for them if you want them to recommend your company, it’s also important to apply the same level of insight, and the same level of care, to every interaction they have with your business.