Marketing agencies like yours have conversations every day with clients and prospects about the importance of the customer journey and how it has changed in the digital era. Seamless transactions, self-service, information on demand on any device at any time — customer experience (CX) is the new sales and marketing priority. In fact, the 2017 Econsultancy/Adobe Digital Trends report revealed that survey respondents regard customer experience as the primary way for businesses to differentiate themselves from competitors this year.
Your marketing agency is all about providing service — an experience — to customers. But have you looked at customer experience as a strategic initiative to help you grow and maintain your business? The business-to-consumer model of “search, click, request information, and buy” has become a way of life, and these buying behaviors are bubbling up to B2B interactions and buying behaviors.
What’s the big deal with CX?
Customer experience differentiates your firm from the agency down the street, around the block, or across the continent. It’s no longer enough to deliver quality content, strategic direction, or design. There are plenty of agencies that do great work for their clients. So, how do you compete? Focusing on price alone leads to commoditization. Delivering a truly unique customer experience leads to loyalty, referrals, and repeat business.
Gartner has predicted that 89% of companies will compete primarily on customer experience in the coming years. Walker, a customer intelligence firm, predicts that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as key brand differentiators.
Winning agencies of the future will be those that understand how to deliver terrific customer service and experience. They will also master data and technology to leverage content and design across multiple touchpoints and devices to serve prospects and clients when, where, and how each contact prefers.
2020 is not that far away. Here are a few ways you can start building the foundation for better customer experience now.
1. Focus on the customer journey
You’ve done this exercise many times for clients, but have you done it for your agency? Think about the ways customers find your company. What channels do they use to find out about firms like yours? Consider developing a customer journey map — one built from the client’s perspective rather than your agency’s internal point of view. By viewing the journey from the client’s perspective, you can focus on what the customer does rather than thinking about the systems and business processes first.
When you have the customer journey mapped, review your website, social media channels, and other online touch points. Think about offline touch points, too — conferences, speaking engagements, association participation, word-of-mouth referrals. Are you where your customers would expect to encounter the agency of their dreams? Are you there when, where, and how they want to find you?
2. Consider your culture
While many people talk about CX in terms of great online experiences, it’s not just about how well you serve prospects and clients online. Your customers want a consistent brand experience throughout all the interactions with your business, from your website and social media to project deliverables, emails, phone calls, and onsite meetings. Technology goes a long way in delivering, scaling, and controlling the consistency of customer experience, but the authenticity of that experience stems from your firm’s corporate culture.
Build a culture focused on customer experience.
- Train all employees on the agency’s vision, mission, brand voice and customer service philosophy.
- Develop service level agreements — even if they are only measured internally — to ensure each client receives prompt responses to emails and phone calls.
- Empower employees to take ownership. Overly bureaucratized approval systems or workflows slow down productivity and diminish customer satisfaction. Make it easy for your employees to deliver.
- Encourage team members to share their expertise on the company blog, in professional associations, and as employee advocates online.
- Get yourself or your account teams involved in social helping — use social media to respond to questions and educate potential clients. Make it about solving problems and resolving pain points. The sales will follow.
- Make lead response a priority. InsideSales.com has found that 50% of buyers choose the vendor that responds first.
3. Audit your design, messaging, and channels
Take a step back and think about your firm’s brand presence and voice. Does each element of your corporate identity from your business cards to your website capture the essence of your brand from the customer’s perspective? As more millennials move into management and executive roles in marketing, the more valuable brand consistency becomes in purchasing decisions. As SDL revealed in its 2014 study, 60 percent of millennials surveyed expect brands to deliver a consistent experience across online channels, on the phone, and in person.
Audit your on and offline messaging, design and reach methods. Remember to consider the many ways your audience can now interact with you. If you were to erase the logo and company name from a channel or piece of collateral, would it still “feel” like it belongs to your brand’s customer experience? If not, it’s time to make some changes.
4. Scale through martech
All the points mentioned above are important to create the foundation for your agency’s CX initiatives, but you have to master technology if you want to scale customer experience efforts. Just remember that there is an art to technology-powered CX. You don’t want your outreach to seem robotic, overly automated, or stalker-creepy. With that in mind, get started by exploring these options for scaling.
Chatbots. Chatbots can help you engage with more customers and prospects without the addition of sales or service representatives. A well-conceived chatbot will answer questions and provide information intelligently and conversationally to prospects and leads. Imagine how these interactions could re-engage and warm up leads for you or your sales rep.
Personalization. Don’t you love how Amazon knows what other products you might like when you visit to make a purchase? Your company website and customers can benefit from personalization, too. With the right marketing automation tools, you can move a blog subscriber closer to close by enticing readers to download an e-book or join a webinar. A smart personalization strategy could prompt a repeat visitor, who has also engaged in other qualifying behaviors, to request a free consultation.
Personalization on your site and in your emails can help people locate the information that is relevant to them at their point in the buyer’s journey.
Other technology options for improving your agency’s customer experience include:
- Branded customer communities where you offer high-value content and tools to customers only.
- Website chat tools to answer prospects’ questions.
- Online appointment scheduling from your site.
- Automated email campaigns around customer anniversary dates and holidays.
- Platforms that help improve agency productivity by providing access to vetted freelance talent.
Make time for CX
Take some time to review your customer experience as part of your overall marketing strategy. Do your stories, designs, presentations, company culture and more resonate with the customers you want to attract and keep? If you integrate white label marketing tools, are they a good match for your customers’ needs? Share your thoughts on CX as a strategic initiative for marketing agency growth. What have you seen work? What pitfalls do agencies need to avoid?