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Cyndi and I went out for dinner last night.  We were originally heading to a favorite restaurant that has been doing heavy discounting lately. They sent us each a 20% off coupon during the day, grabbing our top-of-mind attention as the best choice. Right before we left, we suddenly changed plans. Cyndi wanted to go somewhere she could eat a salad, so we chose a locally-based chain pizza restaurant instead.

At the counter, we ordered a large salad and a full-sized pizza. We paid the full price since we had just missed the happy hour specials.

A Bait and Avoid Customer Experience Strategy

Taking our seats, I noticed a tabletop card listing the regular daily specials. The Wednesday special was a large salad and a full-sized pizza for $15 – exactly what we ordered. Checking the bill, we paid for them separately to the tune of more than $20.

When a different person other than our original server delivered the salad, I had a look on my face. I was trying to decide whether to ask her or the young woman I thought was our server about the discrepancy. She saw my odd expression, walked back, and said, “You look like you have a question.”

I showed her the receipt and asked if our order did not qualify as the Wednesday special. She said it did, took the ticket, and promised to fix it.

Upon her return, I asked if the system doesn’t automatically recognize when someone orders a daily special. She said it doesn’t. In fact, the only way the cashier triggers the daily special pricing is if a customer asks for the special. As she flatly explained, the restaurant doesn’t want to leave money on the table (literally, I guess) when a guest visits the restaurant without knowledge of the special deal.

Her example was their all-day Happy Hour on Sundays. They wouldn’t want to give money away on appetizers and drink specials if people weren’t there specifically for the special prices.

Avoiding Doing Right by Customers

Stop there for a minute. Think about the customer experience strategy implications of this bait and avoid policy. The restaurant chain’s policy is to offer special prices to lure guests to the restaurant. If you weren’t drawn there by the lure of special prices and ready to mention that reason to the cashier when you order, the restaurant’s policy is to avoid extending the special offer it doesn’t think you deserve.

Stop again and consider whether this bait and avoid customer experience strategy is smart. I’m a member of the restaurant’s loyalty program. I presented my loyalty card when we ordered a food combination qualifying for the daily special. Despite my loyalty, the restaurant’s spin on its policy is that the best customer experience strategy is to not offer me a roughly 25% discount because I didn’t know about the offer before ordering and alert the cashier.

And just to strengthen the strategy’s avoid element, the restaurant doesn’t inform customers about their expected upfront role in signaling they qualify for discounts.

Choosing a Horrendous Strategy

As a customer and someone helping companies develop attractive customer experience strategy plans, this strategy is horrendous.

Bait and avoid lets the restaurant keep more revenue from customers like me, thereby boosting margins. At the same time, though, they provide the information at the table so customers can easily discover they got gypped. That triggers having to ask for money back, and creates a situation of heightened frustration.

If you are employing a similar bait and avoid customer experience strategy, do yourself a favor: ditch it and give all who qualify for deals the deals they deserve. That’s what builds loyalty; not fixing one-off situations AFTER customers discover your brand doesn’t stand by what it offers.

Always remember that bad customer experience strategy is NEVER good for business and brand building.  – Mike Brown

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“Do you see any returns from all the blogging and social media stuff you do?”

People routinely ask some variation on that question about our social-first content marketing strategy.

I understand why they ask.

If they follow the Brainzooming blog or our presences on Twitter and Facebook (where we are most active – so go follow us there, please!), it’s only natural to speculate about how much time it takes, what it is doing to help grow our business, and whether they stand to see comparable benefits from investing time, energy, or dollars in creating content.

23 Content Marketing Strategy Benefits for an Emerging Brand

The simple answer to the question is we certainly see returns from the blogging and social media sharing we have been doing since before the Brainzooming brand existed as an independent organization.

Thinking about the list of impacts for our emerging brand, our content marketing strategy:

  1. Built and and continues to cultivate a global audience for the brand
  2. Paved the way for transitioning a capability inside a Fortune 500 organization into the separate and standalone Brainzooming brand
  3. Provides credibility with human and search engine audiences that the website is a worthwhile place to go for information on strategy, innovation, and branding
  4. Attracts audiences on social media networks
  5. Demonstrates how and what we think
  6. Helps new people begin to understand what we do
  7. Allows us to demonstrate what we know and what we can do without having to beat down doors or pester people with phone calls they don’t want
  8. Offers a reason for people to come to the website or subscribe to our content (which leads to them seeing information about what we do and can offer them)
  9. Keeps our name in front of people interested in our brand that develop into clients later
  10. Has created (and continues to create) fans for the brand
  11. Sustains relationships with current and future clients until they are ready to buy our services
  12. Attracts potential partners
  13. Provides the ability to create new formats (such as custom tools for clients) in a fraction of the time that creating brand new content would require
  14. Creates interest in our services among social media audiences, leading to new clients
  15. Leads to speaking opportunities, which create income and new blog readers and then lead to additional new clients
  16. Sends a message that the brand has substance
  17. Lets us rapidly answer questions for potential clients with little incremental time or dollar investment
  18. Is a source for new presentations, workshops, and keynotes
  19. Turns into diagnostics that become core pieces of our service offering
  20. Interests like-minded people in wanting to work for us
  21. Opens the door for us to compete for and win work against some of the world’s top strategy and branding consultancies
  22. Allows us to deliver on client projects more quickly and efficiently than we otherwise could
  23. Feeds into creating downloadable eBooks that attract major new clients

That’s a quick list of what all the blogging and social media sharing (in short, our content marketing strategy) has done for Brainzooming as an emerging brand. We’re a brand that started from scratch and bootstrapped into a viable business and an emerging brand, largely based on a content marketing strategy.

So yes, we do see results from all our content. Moreover, we are committed to the strategy and benefits we can deliver with our social-first content. Thanks for being a part of it!  – Mike Brown

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What can you expect from a strategic planning process?

That question was the topic of several recent conversations.

As I explained it, our objective when leading a strategic planning process is to make sure the result is an innovative, implementable strategy.

9 Things to Deliver in a Strategic Planning Process

That specific phrase (an innovative, implementable strategy) is very important to a strategic planning process. It creates a definition and set of expectations around what the process we’re facilitating needs to deliver.

With innovative, we look to deliver ideas that:

  • Are better than current strategies
  • Are differentiated relative to competitors
  • Create exceptional benefits and value for important audiences

In terms of implementable, the strategy needs to:

And if it’s a solid strategy, it:

These specifics help determine what we need to prioritize within any strategic planning process:

As you look ahead toward strategic planning, think about where you legitimately need to concentrate your efforts. Where do you need to focus to create an innovative, implementable strategy for your organization’s success? – Mike Brown

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I delivered a keynote on the importance of collaborative internal branding during the SMC3 2017 Connections conference.

The talk prompted several conversations about the distinctions between branding strategy and advertising. I surprised several attendees by discussing branding strategy as a fundamental element of business strategy for any organization.

When first visiting a branding agency years ago, I didn’t understand the distinction between what it and an advertising agency would do. They kept talking about the design of our facilities and employee behaviors, making me wonder why we were there. Those topics seemed far removed from what our marketing team could effectively improve and align in our company. My boss, the CMO, insisted we needed to take the lead on these important people and service elements of our operationally-driven business.

via Shutterstock

Over time, it became clear that we needed to lead the way because only the marketing team would approach these areas strategically. It was also clear that branding agency thought about them strategically while our advertising agency didn’t. That experience solidified for me why branding and advertising agencies were typically two different organizations.

3 Big Differences between Branding Strategy and Advertising

Thinking about the questions attendees asked after my talk and a career of working with some great branding people, here are several distinctions between branding strategy and advertising:

  • Branding relates to business strategy. Advertising relates to marketing strategy.
  • Branding determines the essentials of the customer experience and designs it. Advertising focuses on depicting the marketable aspects of the customer experience, communicating them to prospects and reinforcing them with current customers.
  • Branding incorporates communications plus people, product, and physical evidence. Advertising focuses on communications and promotional activities.

I could expand the comparisons, but the role branding plays in strategy, customer experience, and addressing a breadth of business variables sets up a solid distinction between branding strategy and advertising.  – Mike Brown

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A common fear about selecting a single target market or audience persona is that focusing on one market when making branding strategy decisions is risky. The fear is target marketing will cause a brand to miss stellar growth opportunities coming from other markets or audiences. That rationale suggests the best course to capitalize on a brand’s full market potential is to avoid targeting any markets or audiences and instead do what you do with every market or audience in mind.

I can understand why a brand owner may think that. Unless you pick a market or audience that is so narrow and a position so extreme that it is off-putting to everyone not targeted, however, it’s not likely to play out that way.

Why Target Marketing Won’t Cripple Your Branding Strategy

Here’s an example of how target marketing helps your branding strategy:

From the outside, one suspects Starbucks targets only a coffee drinking audience. Maybe there are multiple targets, but they all revolve around coffee drinkers. I haven’t had a cup of coffee since I was three years old, so I am clearly not in a Starbucks target market.

Since Starbucks doesn’t offer Diet Dr. Pepper (my preferred caffeine delivery vehicle), it is foregoing revenue from me and others not buying soft drinks. Yet even though I’m not a coffee drinker, that doesn’t mean, I am not a Starbucks customer. When traveling, I seek out the Starbucks brand for food. It’s a known brand, and its standard food items are nearly as ubiquitous as its retail presences. They have water, which I’m also buying when I travel. In the grand scheme of things, I’m guessing Starbucks doesn’t lose tremendous growth opportunities by not selling soft drinks since doing so would be off-brand.

Working with this example, here’s an alternative way to think about targeting markets and personas: Consider your strategic targeting moves as making strategic prioritization decisions for your brand.

Starbucks would be foolish to prioritize anything I personally wanted from the brand (get rid of the coffee smell, add soft drinks, have a food-only payment line to speed things up) since my preferences are way outside its target market. By prioritizing product development, brand experience, innovation, and everything else around its target markets, Starbucks maintains the strength of its brand. It is in a much better position to grow its presence thanks to picking a target market and prioritizing what it does based on choices the target audience expects and will reward.

If you have hesitated embracing a more focused marketing and messaging strategy focused around a target market, now is the time to get over it! – Mike Brown

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I’m in West Palm Beach, FL today speaking at the Connections 2017 conference sponsored by SMC3. The topic is about engaging your internal brand team and delivering on a great customer experience strategy.

This Brainzooming branding keynote is built around eight questions for senior executives to ask themselves about how they are preparing their teams to help shape brand strategy and deliver incredible experiences to customers. It starts by asking how easy it would be to walk past a $100 million idea in your organization because you just didn’t recognize it. My contention is that it’s easy to miss a $100 million idea in a big company because it is probably coming from somebody completely surprising and it doesn’t show up looking like a big idea. It may be a failed attempt. It may be a small idea that needs a lot of work. It may be what seems like a misguided attempt today that will only make sense once you see it from a different future perspective.

Along the way, the talk covers these other aspects of customer experience strategy:

I’m excited about the keynote, because it’s the first time back speaking in front of this big a group of transportation professionals for a few years. Having come from the transportation industry, and seeing so many people I knew and faces I recognized at the January 2017 SMC3 conference, I can’t wait to share these ideas with them.

In the meantime, if you’d like to grab a free copy of the diagnostic we’re offering to Connections 2017 attendees to assess their big strategy statements, you can do so for a limited time. – Mike Brown

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We say it so often, particularly during brand strategy workshops: a brand is more than a logo, a color, and a look. A brand encompasses the people, products, services, messages, promises, and reinforcing cues that create a complete customer experience strategy.

Against that backdrop, a properly-crafted branding strategy should do a variety of things that most standard, garden-variety strategies don’t have to do.

4 Customer Experience Strategy Questions Strong Branding Addresses

To determine whether your branding strategy is working properly and as hard for your brand as it should to shape your customer experience strategy, it’s a good idea to review it both in writing and in practice.

Your brand strategy should help your employees know:

These four considerations give you a quick way to figure out how your brand strategy stacks up.

What did you discover? Is it working hard enough to shape your customer experience strategy?

If not, contact us, and let’s talk about efficient ways to develop the ideas and modifications to strengthen your branding strategy and the experience you deliver to your customers every day. – Mike Brown

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