Delivering seamless, consistent, and engaging experiences starts with a customer-centered digital strategy. This ongoing series explores the characteristics that make up a great digital strategy and how to deliver powerful brand moments that solidify customer loyalty and drive differentiation for your organization.
Every single customer interaction with your brand has an impact on sales, retention, reputation, and stock price. And while providing a good customer experience helps, good isn’t always enough in today’s customer-centric market. Every touchpoint, every impression, every interaction, and even employee or customer reactions on social media can impact your brand’s perceived value. And with digital driving even greater transparency, a brand’s values and mission are an even greater part of the equation. This is why everything your company does, from your customer experience to your internal culture initiatives, should be grounded in your mission.
The Association of National Advertisers’ Bob Liodice said it best: “Research shows that purpose-led brands grow two to three times faster than their competitors… Purpose is not simply a nice thing to have – it’s imperative in this day and age.” We see this every day, and the digital space is the first stop in either grounding your mission – or losing all control of it.
Customers care about what you stand for
Brands, products, and services are fully integrated into everything we do, both as consumers and in our professional lives. This constant stream of communication, access, and transparency has given customers the ability to shape the brands with which they engage, regardless of industry.
Today’s customers expect a measure of control over the products and services they use. So much so that control over a brand is now a shared partnership between the organization and the customer. This creates an enormous shift in power, as customers no longer just purchase from brands. They join them. You don’t just buy a Big Green Egg. You become an Egghead. However, before customers align themselves with your brand, they want to know that you will deliver on your promises, meet their needs, and uphold the values they share with you.
If your organization is struggling to define and hold to your mission, you’re not alone. Here’s what you need to do.
Start with authenticity
Your company’s mission tells your customers, your competitors, and your employees what you do, what you stand for, and how you are distinctive. It must be memorable, impactful, and concise, but most of all, it must be authentic – organic to your business, not simply imposed upon it.
When an authentic purpose permeates your business strategy and decision making, your goals, business interests, and higher purpose become one. Collaboration increases, learning accelerates, and performance climbs. You are truly grounded in your mission.
Every touchpoint should align with your mission
Customers see very little difference between their experiences with your brand and the brand itself. In today’s world, brand perceptions create customer expectations and shape the customer experience (CX), bringing brand and CX together in a way unlike any before.
Your brand’s digital channels (including websites, apps, social media, advertising, and – most importantly – digital customer service) are the avenues through which you can convey and reinforce your mission and the value you can provide. The obvious: your aesthetic design choices, photography, language, and tone should certainly match up with your brand architecture. Other, more subtle elements of the experience can also reinforce or confuse your mission. For example, if you stand for an environmental cause, you might offer carbon offsets during checkout. A healthcare organization’s website would surely be WC3 compliant for accessibility. An organic food product might provide a means to find local organic farmers.
We believe the most effective way to influence customer perception is to constantly deliver on your brand’s mission through valuable, compelling, and relevant experiences. To do this, your digital strategy should be built to align with and support your overall mission. Its role is to ensure that every channel you communicate through, every piece of content you publish, and every digital experience you offer reflects your mission and makes your customer’s life easier.
It’s about your employees as much as your customers
The best missions are developed with your employees at all levels, but the front line employees who deal with customers every day are critical. Work with them to build alignment into your mission, don’t ask them to buy into it after the fact. To create a consistent experience that is truly grounded in your mission, everyone from Sales and Operations to Legal and Human Resources has to be on board. Aligning your company’s internal strategies, processes, and culture to embody your mission increases engagement and performance among your employees, which translates directly to the experience they provide your customers.
When you’ve built a mission with your employees, customers, and with an awareness of your competitors’ missions, recruiting and retaining employees becomes easier as well. Because you have clearly identified who you are – and perhaps most importantly, who you are not – hiring those who are aligned with your business becomes second nature. Employees are much more likely to go the extra mile for a mission than they are for a dollar goal.
Leadership needs to set the standard
When shaping (and re-shaping) your company’s mission, look to build consensus among leadership early on. Without mission-based behavior from leadership, you won’t be able to achieve alignment throughout the rest of the organization – or be grounded in your mission.
When employees have a higher purpose to strive for, they will bring more energy and creativity to their jobs. If they feel their work has meaning, they will become more committed and engaged. Given the responsibility for the mission, they will rise to deliver it. Though to be truly effective, authority must also be delivered with that responsibility.
Your job as a leader is to communicate that higher cause, to live it through your actions – inspiring people to work to make it a reality. Your job is to create an environment and culture that sustains that mission.
Articulating your mission is a never-ending task
Once you have defined your mission, prepare yourself for perseverance and consistency. It’s not an exercise you can just check off your to-do list and forget about. You need to constantly live your mission, both internally and externally.
A lot of CMOs may deal with the curse of knowledge when it comes to their company’s mission. They know it, they understand it, and they assume everyone else – customers and employees alike – does as well. In reality, you may be talking to someone who’s only hearing it for the first time. When you’re getting tired of reiterating your mission, there’s a good chance that a lot of people are just starting to get it.
Evolve while holding true to your mission
If you think about it, a brand is the personification of an organization. Brands evolve just as people do – they grow, the market changes, and the products or services may change. However, this shouldn’t change the DNA of your organization and what it stands for. And this is good for more than just your bottom line – brands that have built a mission for the long run are more valuable than brands that follow the latest fads and solely quarter-by-quarter returns.
The Key Takeaway
The best digital strategies are actually strategies based on an understanding of what motivates humans and what motivates humans is emotional truth. A lot of research has been done that shows that, whether B2B or B2C, many buyers choose by emotion, then rationalize their choice with facts. When your mission is your North Star, it also becomes the starting point to inform the digital choices you make for your business, your employees, and your customers.
Creating stand-out digital customer experiences that attract, engage, and retain customers is a tall order. Perhaps you’ve already done some of the foundational work, and you need help with the next step.
When working with clients, we help make sure you know your customers and understand their journeys. Through design-thinking tools, industry research, and pragmatic ideation to execute from end-to-end, you will have what it takes to deliver experiences that surprise and delight your customers.
Ready to get started with your digital strategy? Dive in for more resources.