May 25, 2011

What’s Really Motivating My Customers To Buy Or Advocate?

Even in today’s information-rich environment, the answer to this age-old question remains elusive for many businesses.

Leveraging “why” consumers are more willing to pay a higher price, tweet about your brand, or forward information about your products to friends requires new understanding about customers and how they connect to brands. Consumer connection isn’t the physical interactions occurring between consumers and their brands, the likes and dislikes about product features, or even the so-called “levels of engagement” used to observe and frame online behavior [...]

Creating a better future. Fitting in with others. Feeling smart. Becoming a more interesting person. Consumer connection occurs when an individual customer “connects” with your brand as a means to realize these ends. Combined with the right messages about your brand and its products, customers can connect to your brand beyond what is simply rational. These connections drive steep increases in purchase, loyalty, and advocacy. Now, put marketers in the driver’s seat. If they could leverage these powerful motivators, then their brands--and customers--would become much more valuable.

You can't blame marketers for failing to harness the power of customer connection. The truth is that until data on these kinds of connections fits into the fast, fragmented, results-driven reality of marketing today, marketers will lean only on the data that’s already on hand.

Where’s My Connection Intelligence?
Even though it’s 2011 and data is everywhere, marketers still operate every day without actionable data on consumer connection. In almost every other aspect of business--sales, finance, operations--current data is available to apply to and justify business decisions. While senior marketers--and CEOs in their speeches and annual reports--frequently talk about the importance of building connections with their customers, marketers simply don’t have real-time access to the intelligence they need.

Where do they turn to now? Custom market research is how most marketers go about it. Interestingly, not much has really changed in the way custom research is implemented since the days portrayed in TV’s “Mad Men.” Custom research still starts with a narrow problem, a budget allocation, vendor selection, survey design, research fielded, results gathered, data analyzed--and then, a couple of months and tens of thousands of dollars later, comes the deck and presentation. While custom research can be extremely valuable, marketers can’t possibly apply it to build consumer connection across today’s myriad marketing programs and diverse segments at the pace of business today.

The Missing Piece
Reluctance to go out on a limb to promote, for example, more emotional or human creative ideas within today’s more accountable, data-driven world is understandable. Unfortunately, what’s measured and in hand today misses the upside of consumer connection.

Satisfaction has been a measure of customer loyalty for decades, but it alone doesn’t explain why a customer becomes a raving advocate. And it doesn’t really address what might attract a prospective customer to the brand in the first place.

A recent study looked at two very different categories, e-readers and banking, and focused on mothers as a segment to find out what was motivating them to advocate. It found that moms who feel emotionally connected to their e-readers and banks are far more likely to advocate for their brands in social media, recommend their brands directly to friends, be more loyal, and purchase additional products.

Consider this: While connected and nonconnected moms both give their brands almost identical scores on satisfaction and quality, connected e-reader moms are significantly more likely to feel their e-reader brand helps them be closer to loved ones, express who they want to be, and fit in with friends. The same kind of “delta” occurs with connected moms in banking and with all segments and categories across the spectrum.

Clearly, connection is the difference. Striving for connection is one part of marketing that cannot be overlooked, even in the B2B space. It's still people making decisions on your brand's, product's, or service's worthiness.