The digital era we live in gives consumers a world of choices. That means brands are competing for business more than ever before. Unfortunately, too many struggle to share their message in a way that makes them stand out as the clear best choice.
At the same time, consumers are looking for more personalized experiences — talk about a double whammy. In fact, experience is one of the major factors people take into consideration when deciding to make a purchase. Because of this, being a store with cool products is no longer enough, nor is having the friendliest employees in town. While those things are great, consumers want their exchanges with brands to be more than just a transaction. Now, it’s all about the experience.
The struggle to create this memorable experience often starts with the disconnect between departments. As companies work to grow revenue, they sometimes try to introduce new products and services as quickly as they can. But if they rapidly expand their offerings without sharing their story in a way that makes them stand out, they’re making customers sort through more options and not telling them why they should care.
While this has certainly changed the power dynamic between consumers and brands, it’s also resulted in choice overload, which can make customers feel unsatisfied with their purchases. Even worse, they might develop purchase paralysis and make no choice at all because of the overwhelming number of options available to them.
Rapid product or service expansion can also make it harder for the brand’s employees to keep up. It’s critical that the people talking to customers can deliver a clear and consistent story. For this to happen, salespeople face the unique challenge of understanding the customer and helping the customer understand. As if these demands didn’t feel like enough already, salespeople often have to handle this on their own when their companies don’t prepare them.
When people aren’t satisfied with their experiences, 13 percent will share their unhappiness with 15 or more people. Worse, 67 percent will switch to another brand altogether. Understandably, that’s an outcome every brand would rather not face. To give customers the experience they seek — and the one that will make your brand stand out in the crowd — employees at all levels have to share the brand story in one understanding and passionate voice. From the marketing department down to the salespeople on the front lines, messaging has to be connected.
Employees have to be able to share that messaging with confidence and awareness. Until they do, the gap between the strategy that was brainstormed in the boardroom and the execution of it in the showroom will continue to widen.
Rogers Communications, Canada’s largest cable and wireless provider, gets this. The company implemented an initiative called Voice of the Frontlines, which creates a direct line of communication between its marketing team and customer-facing representatives, ensuring a seamless and engaging customer experience. This Voice of the Frontlines program lets customers hear the same story, regardless of which department the storyteller works in. Most importantly, it means the company can connect with its customers, enhance their experience, and exceed service expectations.
Be a good storyteller, but, more importantly, have good follow-through. Make sure you aren’t just creating a message and then leaving employees to their own devices to interpret and recite it. Brand stories can’t live only in the marketing department where they’re developed; otherwise, the people telling them on the front lines won’t know what to share and how to share it.
Think of the last time you noticed a promotion going on at a car dealership. Now think about how you would feel if the deal was so good that you decided to buy a car, but the salesperson offered you an entirely different price when you got there because he had no idea about the advertised deal. Frustrated, right? Mixed messages are a headache for everyone involved, so it’s critically important to make sure your employees are on the same page before they start telling the story.
I once got to be a part of a project with a consumer company that did a major overhaul of its brand. While it garnered great reactions from customers, none of the salespeople ever saw the campaign. The company completely refreshed its identity, but none of the frontline employees who have to share that identity got to be a part of the process. In fact, they didn’t even know it was happening. If you overlook internal team members when developing your brand story, the potential for misrepresentation skyrockets.
Don’t stop at just making employees aware of your marketing plans, though. Translate messages and put them into context for the frontline staff who communicates them daily. What words should frontline employees use and think about when connecting with customers? How should the message fit into customer interactions?
Just telling employees to use language from the website when they interact with customers isn’t enough to ensure alignment. When a message doesn’t make sense and employees don’t feel like they understand it, they can’t apply it in their conversations with potential buyers. Take Subaru’s “Share the Love” slogan. It has a nice ring to it, but it would be hard for employees to convey that message if they didn’t know what it meant in practice. In reality, Subaru does a great job of this.
When you train employees on brand messaging, make some noise. Get people excited about it. Your team will never tell your story better than when they’re authentically enthusiastic about it. Be interactive, and try getting frontline team members to learn from each other and get up to speed on a new campaign launch.
It’s time to commit to brand storytelling. When your marketing department doesn’t just write the story but also supports customer-facing employees and helps them to understand and feel passionate about it, your company will set itself up for success. In today’s digital age that everyone is trying to navigate, consumers have endless options, and with options comes power. Create good storytellers, and you’ll be amazed by how much they can make your brand story stand out in the crowd.
Originally posted on Total Retail on September 16, 2019