This past week we attended the PR Summit in San Francisco, a small but immensely valuable conference that attracts a healthy mix of marketers, entrepreneurs, journalists and PR professionals. *By “healthy mix” I also mean it’s not a bunch of people all trying to sell to each other. The focus of this year’s summit seemed to be on content & story-telling, particularly how that adds to customer experience and enables real-time marketing.
One of the first sessions was a fireside chat with Kara Swisher and Brian Solis, to discuss his latest book, What’s the Future of New Business? They went back and forth on several main points, but the one that stuck with me was the idea of the “ultimate moment of truth,” which is not the point of purchase, or even the point of product experience, but the point at which a customer decides to share their experience, either positive or negative.
What’s interesting to us is the role that content plays at that moment. Yes, we now live in what everyone is calling a shareable economy. But what is it, exactly, that you share? Solis is clear that what drives you to share at that moment is the emotion that you feel with the product or service — you “are either delighted or [you] are not.”
Not everyone is good at expressing their emotions.
That’s the disconnect that marketers deal with every day: They can seek out and find positive reviews of their brand, whether it’s a shoe, an airline, or a restaurant that are full of enthusiasm and exclamation points and respond, or amplify that message further via their own channel. They can count the number of “likes” or heck, “loves” on a particular product or brand page. But how much do these flat and somewhat generic expressions of emotion really help the next customer on their own path to purchase?
Because of the holidays, we’re going to see lots of studies come up in the next few months about the “customer journey” and the way in which they begin their path to purchase. A vast majority of us now conduct research on products and services through a number of channels: mobile search, product review sites, YouTube videos, and of course our social graph. I can’t even count the number of times I see a Facebook post where someone just throws a question out like, “Looking for a wedding photographer — any recs?” You’ll see a handful of people respond, with the name of a person they’ve had a good experience with, or even just a simple, “Yes! Call me.”
This is the moment where content comes into play like never before. “Delighted” customers may take the time to write a detailed review of their positive experience, but then again they may not. The era of long-form user-generated content that has enabled platforms like Wikia, TripAdvisor and Yelp to grow exponentially may soon be ending, as people are less likely to take the time to type out a review, especially on their phone, or engage in other time-sucking tasks like filling out a survey or creating a video.
It’s not laziness.
It’s a learned impatience with anything that requires more thought and energy than what they’re used to (i.e., clicking a “like” button). As Solis puts it: “Customers will then share whatever it is they encounter because that moment is left for them to define instead of you.” Social media is not your saving grace.
This is exactly where branded content comes in. Don’t let the delighted customer off the hook so easily. That moment deserves much more than a “like” or a retweet, even if it is a canned brand message that you created.
But if we don’t want the easy reaction, and can’t expect them to create in-depth material on their own, what’s the happy medium? For B2C companies, that’s a constant struggle — creating a body of high quality branded content that customers can refer to in their recommendations (e.g., the wedding photographer’s Pinterest boards) or a series of video spots that humorously chronicle common customer experiences that someone can share if they relate to it.
However, we work with a lot of B2B companies, where this type of content is less relevant. Now, the first battle for most vendors is avoiding the cluster funnel effect that tends to happen after the deal is closed, which eventually leads to the customer resenting the brand that doesn’t deliver fully on their promise. Only a handful of B2B’s are doing this right. Most, in our opinion, are really good at distancing themselves once you sign your contract, only to magically reappear again one month before renewal. (I’m talking to you, Cision.)
But for those that do get it, and provide great customer service all the way through, there is opportunity to leverage the customer’s delight and create dazzling content during their ultimate moment of truth that will positively influence others at the beginning of zero moment, i.e., the beginning of the funnel. And we’re not just talking about the usual stuff like case studies and testimonials… there is so much more your company can develop that will have deeper impact on potential customers.