From Stories to Experiences: Marketing’s Evolving Role in Creating Value

Posted on September 27, 2016 · Posted in Branding, Customer Experience

September 27, 2016

If ever there were a profession suffering from motion sickness, it’s marketing. Upheaval from a sea of constant change is truly the new norm. Sure footing is a thing of the past. As we look to deliver value within our organizations, we find that our arms need to span greater breadths and depths. First we thought alignment with sales was big. Then we took on technology. Now we see another progression as conversations expand into customer experience. It’s no longer enough to tell the story of the good you deliver. Now, brands have to pony up on that expectation at every touchpoint with uber relevant experiences.

We’ve seen great companies make the transition from traditional marketing into content and bring it to life through stellar storytelling. That’s still comfortably within the realm of expectations for marketing’s responsibilities. But there’s more looming on the horizon and we’re picking up speed fast.

Marketers must take our deep understanding of customers and now take action to drive revenue. In this case, it means opening up our arms to embrace the entire customer experience. From awareness to customer retention, from sales to service – the experience that customers have with our brand is a prime consideration in every marketing channel. Reviews of a company’s performance trump claims in high-priced advertisements. It’s the customer experience that creates brand value, not reach and awareness.

The emotion that people feel when they interact with a brand is the emotion they attach to the brand. Happy. Sad. Frustrated. Relieved. It’s the sum of digital, social and fact-to-face experiences that determine whether someone becomes a customer and how long they stay.  It’s no longer enough to tell the story of why a brand is different. It’s time to put ideas into action and organize around creating stellar customer experiences as a core strategy for creating and growing the value of brands.

The Experience Evolution

Where do you begin? Wherever you are in your marketing journey today. If you’re smart and want to stay employable, you’ve already come to the realization that your role has changed drastically over the last few years. The 20 percent of marketers who think that what they do will remain basically the same through 2020 have their head in the sand. Don’t be one of them.

Traditional marketing

Since the dawn of marketing companies have been selling in a seemingly sensible way: Trumpet features and benefits, advertise prices, argue the value prop and, of course, location, location, location. It’s what Michigan State University professor Edmund Jerome McCarthy summarized in 1960 with his idea of the Marketing Mix, which we know as the classic 4 Ps of marketing – product, price, place and promotion. While revolutionary at the time, the 4 Ps are woefully outdated in today’s digital world where pushing products does more to push audiences away than it does to attract them.

Not all classic marketing tactics will never go away, and that’s OK…to a degree. But marketers do need to happen is to bring classic tactics under a more integrated strategy that connects all functions of the business. That’s where many marketers still fall short.

Content marketing

Consumers took hold of the traditional world of marketing. They skip TV commercials and ignore magazine ads. The odds are higher of getting struck by lightning, winning the lottery or surviving a plane crash than getting someone to click on a banner ad. This has led to the dramatic growth of content marketing over the last 10 years. The idea is that content, not just products, solves problems. Content can also create value that’s separate and distinct from the products or services a company sells. Building trust earlier by helping people solve problems leads to deeper relationships that drive greater revenue and loyalty.

Relevancy is key here, and when that happens results are far beyond what brands experienced with traditional marketing. This is why businesses are shifting more of their marketing budget toward content marketing. The latest research on content marketing trends for 2016 from the Content Marketing Institute shows that the best B2B marketers commit 42 percent of their budget to content marketing and B2C 32 percent. That’s up 5 percent and 7 percent respectively from 2015.

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From Ideas to Action: Why Marketing Will Evolve Great Brand Stories into Stellar Customer Experiences.

Brand storytelling

Storytelling isn’t a selling tool, but rather a way to build relationships with customers and passionate supporters over time. A strong brand story conveys the type of value delivered and is something that audiences easily remember. It’s an important aspect of content marketing that’s either overlooked or not done well. This is particularly important in complex B2B buying that involves dozens of people over several years. Storytelling is how you move beyond talking about what you sell (products and services) and talk about the different you make in the lives of your audience.

Stories have characters – heroes, villains and mentors. They have a setting. They have plots that evolve over time. And they have themes. The same must be true for story’s function in marketing. Brands that make themselves the hero of the story waste opportunities to become relevant to their audience. Customers’ worlds revolve around the customer, not what a brand sells. Companies need to evolve stories over time that help customers identify their problems, find a solution and help their wishes come true in the end.

It’s only through a solid storytelling foundation instilled within an organizational culture that companies can springboard into creating stellar customer experiences. But there’s a stark contrast between the stories brands tell and the experiences they create.

Customer experience

One of the reasons marketers have a hard time shifting into a customer experience mindset is because they don’t understand the significance of what they need to orchestrate. Marketing automation brought the spotlight on moving prospects through a buying process. But customers don’t care where they are in your organization’s structure. They care about the experiences they have with your brand. Instead of demand gen and MQLs/SQLs, marketers need to bridge silos and create rich experiences for customers that make them want to come back for more content that’s valuable, entertaining and inspires continual engagement.

More and more, the customer experience is seen as the major competitive differentiator in every industry. By consistently delivering personal and memorable experiences, companies can create a distinct offering that engages customers and creates advocates and loyalists.

Are you interested in creating a stronger brand story that you can turn into stellar customer experiences? Contact me and let’s talk about how we can help. Or follow me on LinkedIn, and  Twitter, and if you like what you see, Subscribe here for regular updates.

About Carla Johnson

Consistently recognized as one oCarla Johnsonf the top influencers in content marketing,as well as one of the top 25 in B2B marketing and one of the Top 50 Women in Marketing, Carla’s latest book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, teaches marketers how to develop, manage and lead the creation of valuable experiences in their organizations. Carla serves on the Executive Board and as the Vice Chair for the Business Marketing Association (a division of the ANA) and is an instructor for the Content Marketing Institute. Carla also contributes to industry wide news outlets, forums and conferences on the future of marketing, leading through innovation, and the power of storytelling.