The humanization of business not only demands that a business recognizes the humanity in its consumers, but it also demands that a business – essentially – recognizes the humanity in itself. Consumers are well aware, no matter how nice a business is, that a business is in business. It is, therefore, quite normal to expect that in the search for a mutual value exchange the business too needs to receive value.
There are a variety of ways in which a business calculates value, but the bottom line is the bottom line. Value for a business usually comes in the form of a positive impact to the balance sheet. I know it. You know it. And, your consumers know it… so don’t hide it or pretend that’s not a fact.
Through all the posts on The Lemontwist, I’ve argued that an additional view to value has to be long-term. If your business wants to be around in ten, fifteen or twenty years, your actions today need to reflect your ambitions for tomorrow.
If the human business were a person, it would find an emotional connection to its consumer by feeling good about the value exchange. But how can we prove that our business feels good about the value exchange? Marketers frequently struggle with this question. Marketo’s 2010 Marketing Performance Measurement and Management Survey of 423 executives showcases that only 35% of CEOs surveyed can confirm that marketing made an impact on their business and that marketing was able to document their contribution.
In a field that is such a critical piece of the business, to deliver annual profit, long-term sustainability and a direct line to the consumer, we must be able to report on the contribution marketing makes. So, what if we reverse-engineered marketing initiatives?
Rather than starting with a new innovation that may or may not get more people through the door, what if we started with a specific business objective and clear desired ROI?
The marketer’s skills do not only lie in bringing in the voice of the customer, but in balancing value for the business and the consumer. The marketer stands at the intersection of the brand and the consumer; it is her job to play matchmaker and to showcase the value both parties will gain through their emotional connectedness.
These 6 steps can help guide you as you seek the balance:
1. Begin with the end in mind: Your ultimate desired outcome is a business outcome. What kind of return – short or long term – do you expect your marketing campaign will have? Some businesses have a business case minimum ROI ratio for each investment. If your business doesn’t have one, suggest one for your initiative; it’s OK to estimate.
I’ve worked in businesses where the required ROI estimate before approval needed to be 15%-20%. Consider annual and lifetime value. This number will depend on the industry you are in. Look at your historic data, ask questions, and make your best estimate. What do you expect the return will be for the business? This will become a more robust estimate the more you practice… but for now, it is the thought that counts.
2. Map it out: Your next series of estimates will be more familiar. By working your way backward look at the required metrics you need to achieve in order to bring your consumers to the ultimate destination. These could include: number of visits or views, engagements, eyeballs, etc. This exercise is wholly mathematic. How many eyeballs do you need to generate how many engagements, which will create how many transactions? Which interactions do you need to have today to generate mutually valuable transactions, which will generate premium loyalty from your existing and new consumers?
3. Design the experience: Select the path and design possible experiences for your consumer. Where will they start? How will they travel? What are they looking for? Who are they engaging with, where and when? Is your team ready?
4. Assess your risks: If you were investing your own money in this initiative, you’d want to know what could go wrong. Well, that’s what your executives are looking for too! Aaaand now, we come back to my deep-rooted philosophy of the emotional bond.
To achieve success, your main objective will be to create positive emotional triggers for the audience. If at each interaction your audience has with your brand they have a positive experience, they are more likely to continue on the journey… and the more likely you are to achieve your ultimate outcome.
What are the speed bumps, obstacles and potential challenges you see in your proposed experiences? Can you solve them? Can someone else solve them? Can they be circumvented?
5. Stop and smell the flowers: Keep in mind, people who travel like to take detours. Sometimes they take more (or less) time at a stop than anticipated. Sometimes, they like to talk to others who are also enjoying the trip. Your script – though necessary – may not always be adhered to. Be prepared for this. Adjust, course correct and support the journey.
If you pressure your consumer to progress along the journey at your rhythm without consideration for their needs, they will be put off. If on the other hand, you don’t participate in the journey and offer guidance to shape their experience, they may wander onto someone else’s highway. Designing the journey is a delicate balancing act.
6. Keep your eye on the prize: Steps 3 through 5 require a keen sense of humanity. The people taking this journey with you are in fact, people. Never forget that! You need to ensure that you are connecting deeply so that your results can achieve, perhaps surpass, your desired outcome. At the same time, your business must be as emotionally connected to your audience as they are to the business. Keep your eye on your established business objective.
Set up a frequency for measurement: Are you getting to your milestones? How long does it take to get to a marker? Are milestones helping consumers move to the next leg of the journey? Where are there questions? How are we responding? Are we delivering on consumers’ needs and desires?
Start your marketing journey with buy-in from your executives: present your plan from business objective to risk analysis to experience mapping. Track the results, course correct and finish off with a full report delivering on business objectives.
With practice, you will begin seeing patterns, but I caution you: patterns and numbers are only reliable for a spark of a moment. Human beings are fickle. Their tastes and behaviours change, and in this socially connected world, those changes happen at lightning speeds. You need to always be attentive to data: big and little. You need to keep your eye on the prize. And, never ever forget the consumer. If your focus is only on the monetized goal, you will forget the humanity in the whole equation and push your consumers away. Then, you will need to explain to your C-suite why the program failed.