There is a myth out there among CMOs that they are being hired because they are talented at coming up with ideas, talented with words, talented at hiring other creatives. Unfortunately, that myth feeds the ego of the CMO, who then feels pressured to come up with and execute on the next big idea. But the consumer landscape has changed. The cleverness that once defined great marketing is no longer creating brand loyalty. Our ability to super-connect has consumers clamoring for what is real about the brands they purchase from. That reality is challenging for a CMO who is working hard to show off their “talent” to keep their job.
Talent will not keep a CMO working. Loving the customer will.
So how do CMOs convert to loving their customer when they have been taught to love themselves at the altar of talent? First, loving your customer requires a different ecosystem than the one CMOs have relied on. This ecosystem requires them to capture truth. It requires romance of the customer through intimacy, not manipulation. It requires showing what is real and vulnerable about the organization so that customers can trust and respect and get into bed with the brand. But bedding is not the end goal: Companies have to be committed for the long haul, nurturing that bond so it grows into a marriage.
To do so, CMOs must adopt an entirely new ecosystem:
Social media: In the relationship life cycle, social media is the flirting of the brand dating game. It should reflect the company’s essence and core values to catch the eyes of passersby. It should be honest enough to repel those not in alignment with the brand, while attracting those looking for the brand’s value.
Story-based content: When a lead clicks from social media, the brand needs to deliver story-based, emotional content that reflects the lead’s understanding of themselves. “Hey, that’s me!” Content like this takes investment to be created in alignment with the brand. Like enjoying a cup of coffee together, this encounter increases the leads curiosity while inviting them out on another date.
Resources: Resources attached to each story are the first surprise the lead feels from the brand. These free and loving resources deliver value based on the topic the brand is championing. Like an unexpected gift, this experience creates a magic moment when the lead sees a beautiful version of themselves reflected in the brand. They actually like themselves more when around the brand. In the dating cycle, this is also when the brand asks for the lead’s figurative phone number (their email).
Videos (or customer service): It’s time to offer the first in-person exposure of the brand to the lead. These are an opportunity to show the humanity of the brand and further enhance the lead’s impression. In the dating cycle, these are like having dinner. When done well, these deliver vulnerability, charm, passion and mystery to ensure that the lead leaves with an augmented expectation for what’s next. You’re looking to create a full-body experience for the lead here, not an intellectual one.
A Book or Stunning Product or Service. When a lead converts to a customer by picking up the company’s book, engaging in an in-depth service experience, or buying a signature product, they are getting in bed with the brand, and hoping for the night of their lives. Seriously. A book, when done well, is a six- to 10-hour commitment and must deliver an intimate experience for it to be effective in the ecosystem. Beautiful products or in-depth service offerings can also be substituted. Those of us who are iPhone users feel an intimate connection with our phone. An agency leading a full day listening session can elicit a similar response. Focus on the user experience. Deliver an intimate opportunity full of human truths. The goal here is to help a customer to fall madly in love with the brand.
Regular interaction: Once a customer has fallen in love, we enter the honeymoon phase. Here, the brand has a huge responsibility to nurture that relationship through regular interactions: workflows sent via email. Forget traditional advertising—email is most easily measured and controlled, and can lead customers to more resources where their profile can be enhanced so the brand can better get to know them as individuals. The brand must serve the customer with kindness, and most importantly, it must deliver on their individual needs. When it does so, the customer converts to a brand ambassador who shouts from the mountaintops about their new love affair. The brand should give them the tools to do so, while respecting the relationship and helping it move into a long-term commitment.
Monetization: Brand ambassadors are the ones who exchange money for products. Their love for the brand inspires them to wear the brand’s clothing, hang the brand on their walls, use the brand’s products and services, drink from branded mugs, or wear branded jewelry. Pride of association and value they have received from the brand is reciprocated through purchases.
Workshops and conferences: Create small romantic getaways that help the relationship mature through direct interaction between customer and brand. Apple does this through the Genius Bar. Thought leaders do this through workshops. Some companies do this through conferences. Not only do these deepen the relationship between the brand and the customer, they also create space for brand ambassadors to meet like minds and share their common love of the brand.
Loving your customer is simple and intuitive, yet it requires tremendous courage. When executed well, love can help any CMO look brilliant and retain their position. Yes, love is risky. Love scares most people. But love is also where life exists. As prolific screenwriter and author Ben Hecht once said, “Love is the magician that pulls man out of his own hat.”
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