Creating an effective customer experience: Sweezey taught me

“Marketing creates experiences, not messages.” – Mathew Sweezey, Principal of Marketing Insights, Salesforce

Close your eyes and think back to the last product or service you were truly excited to purchase. What captured your attention and drew you to your purchase? Was it just the appeal of the product itself, or was it a culmination of experiences that led you to your decision – the personalized messages that connect with values you care about, the way the brand understood you and answered your questions through a channel that was convenient to access and easy to understand?

The most effective marketing doesn’t send a message, it creates an experience. Does “creating an experience” sound like marketing fluff to you? It doesn’t have to! It’s not only possible to create an experience led by strategy and supported by data – we actually recommend it (If you want to be effective, that is). So what makes creating an experience different from just sending a message, and how can marketers do so in a concrete way? Have a seat and take notes – marketing guru and influencer Mathew Sweezey is here to answer your questions.

What is an experience?

An experience can be interpreted in two ways: a singular moment or as the collection of connected moments as a whole. For example, there’s the experience of hearing the opening riff of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and instantly recognizing it, and there’s the experience of listening to the whole song and completely immersing yourself. Marketing is the same way. There’s the experience at the moment when a potential customer first finds out about your brand, and there’s the collection of moments where the potential customer learns more, weighs various options, and makes a decision.

What makes the experience important, and how do we approach creating one?

It’s important to define each moment of experience as well as view the big-picture, collective experience of moments in order to understand how a potential customer interacts with your business. You can’t create an effective experience without understanding each step of customer interaction and what your customer desires at each step of interaction. According to Sweezey, you can create an effective customer experience in two ways:

    1. Be conversational with your audience, find a shared passion, and highlight the areas where those passions align.
    2. Find out your potential customer’s specific questions, understand how they connect, and create a “pathway of breadcrumbs” to lead them to the information they’re looking for.

How do I find shared passions and use them to create an experience?

As a business, reach out to your audience and other business leaders and ask them what causes, philanthropic efforts, and values are important to them. What really matters to your audience? Having conversations past the product and about passion and values “allows a brand to stay in front of [their] core constituents…constantly and in a valued way without constantly having to talk about the product,” Sweezey said. Incorporate this feedback it mix into your marketing efforts and your company culture while staying true to your brand.

How do I understand a potential customer’s questions and move them to the next one?

Consumers make decisions by a series of questions and steps. Your goal is to connect each interaction with the next and make it easy for your potential customer to ask their next question and receive an answer. Is it easier for a customer to look at packaging for an electric toothbrush and read a block of information, or is it easier to open the phone in their pocket, use Google to search for “best toothbrush,” and get an answer in less than a second?

Effective marketers think about the natural pathways potential customers use to gain information. If you know a potential customer’s goal is to gain enough information to reach a decision, then focus on using the proper media and digital technology to help them move from question to question. In doing so, you can “create a reliable pathway of demand that operates a lot more effectively and is much powerful at motivating people towards the goal that [you] want,” Sweezey said. This journey of connected questions and answers, or “pathway of breadcrumbs,” leads the potential customer to the information they’re looking for, and ultimately, to a conversion.

What kind of information is your potential customer looking for, how are they searching for that information, and how can you deliver that information in a way that’s easiest for them to locate and understand? If your potential customer is performing a search on mobile that spikes during a certain season, that might give you a clue as to how to target your efforts.

Creating an experience isn’t about repeating a message over and over and hoping it sticks, it’s guiding them through a series of steps. Creating an experience is the process of guiding your potential customer through each question and interaction, piquing their interest, and making it easy for them to get answers.

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