Does Your Tech Business Overlook This Critical Marketing Tactic?
Marketing has come to mean much more than attracting the attention of a target audience and communicating the value of products.
It’s about inventing a product … by influencing all aspects from design to production, and from pricing to sales. And while you’re at it, you must give the product a competitive advantage, an edge if you will, that will make it stand out, get attention and be remarkable.
Without this, your product drowns in a sea of sameness.
Customers have so much choice, they’re starting to distinguish the companies that they’ll do business with, not just based on service, but based on the entire experience.
Jerry Gregoire, former CIO of Dell once said “The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.”
Customer experience is derived from all interactions that occur during the buying lifecycle. But it can make a product stand out or sink into oblivion. You’ve got to get it right.
Tom Knighton, customer experience theorist and practitioner, added “That’s where business is going to be won or lost. The companies that are going to stand out are going to provide more than what satisfies customers.”
Today, we seem to fuss most over manipulating the experience customers have with a company’s brand, and managing a company’s relationship with its prospects and customers.
However, this is overlooking a critical disruptive marketing tactic.
Service is the foundation of customer experience. But, a good foundation of service will not create all the differentiation you need in the marketplace.
Steve Jobs understood that design and functionality dictated customer experience. “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology—not the other way around.”
Focusing on the experience a prospective customer is expected to have with your product may be THE most critical aspect of a marketing lifecycle. And yet it is usually overlooked and neglected, or gets the least amount of attention.
Without having an opportunity for a hands-on connection with the product, the experience has a gaping hole.
So how do we do this?
Transforming customer experience
We know that emotions are most important in motivating purchases of inexpensive products.
But it’s a little harder to part with the funds for expensive technical products because there’s more rational consideration involved.
By the time prospects reach a late stage of the buying journey, they recognize a need, have formulated ideas about how to solve it and explored options. They’ve down-selected to a short list of products that they’ve discovered.
At this stage, tech prospects begin evaluating possible solutions on their short list. They’ll go beyond the features and benefits of products or services.
Not only is the product on trial, but so is your company.
Tech-savvy prospects use all of their senses as they gear up to finalize their purchasing decision. This is liberating in the prospect’s mind. The purchase is immanent for them. The possibilities for new discoveries or capabilities are transformative! This state of mind starts to engage their emotional side so they are now receptive to persuasive content.
Exposure to written content alone does not fulfill a company’s need to provide customer experience. Information is not fun or engaging.
Most tech-savvy leads need some type of direct experience with the product prior to making the purchase. This is where you need to give your prospects a realistic experience of what it is like doing business with your company.
Simulated customer experiences are a form of “experience products.” They stand out and are disruptive of the status quo by providing hands-on opportunities to experience the product. By doing this, your company is demonstrating that you are giving customers what they want.
Experience products lead your prospect on a positive experience that escalates. They tap into their natural motivation and commitment to achieve results. Your tech prospects are envisioning all the ways that your product will lead them to greatness.
Your product now stands out from everybody else … by giving people what they really want — fun and engaging experiences, not more information.
How to simulate customer experience
Simulating customer experience happens two ways: by being a user of your products or services, and by being a customer of your company.
First there is the experience of using your product. Sometimes, but rarely, videos are sufficient. Demonstrations delivered in house or via webinar can impart a sense of what it’s like operating your equipment. Actual use of loaned equipment is even better.
For software a fully-functional temporary software license will give unencumbered opportunity for hands-on use of the product. These are some of the more common ways companies can fulfill the role of simulating customer experience.
When instrument loans are unrealistic or require too much specialized operational training, some prospects will go so far as to have your company produce some experimental data. You shouldn’t be surprised if they request data from their own samples. They want to compare directly how your product performs relative to their existing methods.
All the while, they are trying to get the most realistic experience possible of what it will be like to do business with your company. They will be hyper-sensitive to the interactions that take place and the relationship that develops.
Other ideas for your company might come from looking at what’s happening in using simulation exercises to train employees.
For companies across industries, simulated training exercises have become a way to engage service professionals in real scenarios to hone their abilities, learn new skills, and adjust to the constantly changing support environment. With minor modifications, these types of exercises can be used to engage prospective customers.
“Simulations are a really great way of immersing people in the role and letting them practice in a risk-free environment so they can make mistakes and learn by trial and error,” says Rommin Adl, Executive Vice President at BTS.
Adl adds that employees typically emerge from simulation training a lot more confident in their abilities and they have a deeper sense of ownership. “They’ve done it, they’ve been there, and they know what the consequences are from an employee satisfaction perspective, a customer perspective, and a financial perspective,” he says.
“Electronic simulations are good for knowing if the employee understands the application of the information, yet it is completely different when you have a person in front of you or on the phone and you are trying to perform the simulation.” Lamont Exeter, Executive Director of Learning Solutions and Delivery, TeleTech.
The true value of simulated customer experiences is realized when prospects receive immediate feedback on their performance.
Just as companies are beginning to realize that employee training is no longer a one-time event, the same can be said of customer experience. Leads’ and Customers’ habits evolve. So the simulated experiences must also.
Simulating customer experience is a critical tactic of your overall lifecycle marketing campaign. It is particularly relevant to tech-minded prospects who must rationalize their purchasing decision to multiple decision makers. It can often be THE differentiating factor that makes your product and your company stand out as remarkable. Overlook it and you will soon fade into obscurity.
If you have any thoughts on this topic, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or initiate a conversation below.