The Missing Element in Most Marketing

SVP Digital Marketing, US

June 05, 2015

Today's customers not only want to get a good deal, they want to buy from businesses they trust and from businesses who are doing the right thing.

I love Augie Ray. Augie is a self-styled Customer Experience Leader, but he is really a marketing activist, constantly forcing people like me to rethink how we talk to our clients about building relationships with customers and creating the holy grail of lifetime value.

Recently, he published the following Customer Experience (CX) pyramid. I encourage you to check out the accompanying article at his blog:

Customer Experience (CX) Pyramid

I often find myself talking to my clients about the need to build relationships with customers, especially in this age of transparency and authenticity. And that talk frequently turns to the need to build trust. Today's customers not only want to get a good deal, they want to buy from businesses they trust and from businesses who are doing the right thing. Such conversation leads me to talk with them about what builds trust.

For instance, a cornerstone of trust is keeping promises. In marketing, we have forever discussed what is the "brand promise" and the need to keep the brand promise. Yes, that is clearly foundational to building trust. But it is table stakes. Today, if you as a brand don't keep your promises, you might as well pack up the tent, McGuinn, you ain't goin' nowhere. (with all apologies to Bob Dylan).

Another key to building trust is for brands to share their values and share how they live those values daily. Brands such as Whole Foods, Patagonia, Southwest Airlines, and Harley-Davidson have strong enterprise values that attract customers with similar values. Research teaches us that we trust people with similar values more, and much more quickly. So I encourage my clients to share their values and stories of how they live them. It will help build trust and their customers quickly become partners in a greater endeavour.

But the steep climb outlined by Mr. Ray reminds me of that final element of trust that is so often missing from marketing. If a brand is to ever make the customer more powerful, safer, or better, if the brand is going to meet needs and wants without even asking the customer what those are, it is going to have to be able to strongly empathize with people. Empathy: that feeling that is perhaps the most human of all emotions. Carl Rogers, the father of humanistic psychology, had some thoughts about the value of empathy:

Quote by Carl Rogers

This leads me to a couple of questions. How will I get my clients to exercise a strong empathy for people? How will I get them to listen and feel what people are saying? Because a message, no matter how well-targeted, no matter how moving, no matter how well-designed for multiple channels, is not a pair of ears, or a full set of mirror neurons.

What brands are masters of listening? What companies are so good at understanding people that they meet even the unstated wants and needs? As businesses, we ask a lot when we ask people to trust us. How can we develop the empathy needed to earn that trust?

Thanks, Augie, for making me think again. I am not worthy.

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