Designing Trust through Marketing Systems.  

I feel most marketing isn’t driven by the right intentions. Marketing these days is hardly involved with the concept of trust. Trust however is at the core of the relationship organizations and brands build with customers. Trust should be at the core of marketing.

People buy a product or use a service from an organization firstly because they genuinely believe the product will help them in one way or another to achieve a goal. This trust makes them a (paying) customer. Without trust, there’s not a chance that people will hand over their money.

Trust is mostly build through experiences with the organization: the things their latest blog posts state, a talk with a representative over the phone, the newsletter announcing the store promotions, an in-store experience, etc. All these touch points help to construct trust.

Over the last decade, we saw a huge rise in the amount of touch points. Just think about all the social media and messaging apps that brands and organizations started to use for many reasons. The number of touchpoints is increasing and will continue to rise in the future.

Wearables and other ‘internet-of-thing’-products will continue to shape a maze of connected touch points. Some of those will connect man with machine. Other solutions will connect machines to machines . But this impacts the human experience massively. And this is exactly what happens in the space of automation.

The human-machine interface disappears. Machines do the interpretation work and allows for the human to be at ease or to focus on other things. One could even state “the less UX, the better the CX” – thereby meaning that when the user experience (human-machine interaction) is downscaled to a minimum because of automation (machine-to-machine), the experience of the human being as such is smoother, easier and hence better.

When looking at the above, one needs to see that marketing should alter its motivation and how it approaches its domain. The motivation is to build trust.

The approach is to build trust through customer experiences in an interconnected system of touch points. This equally means that marketing is about system thinking, interaction/persuasion/service design, behavioural design and business model innovation.

Touch points are specifically designed to have a function within a larger system. It requires a holistic and strategic view upon the customer journey and touch point interactions. Marketing is about people’s behavior. Mostly you want them to buy something. But today people only buy from trusted sources. How to become a trusted brand or organization?

Marketing is customer experience and customer experience builds trust

Marketing’s motivation is to build trust with people so to spark a relationship that might end up in a recurring and paying loyal customer.

Trust isn’t built overnight. The number one marketing tool has always been advertising. The problem with advertising is that ads aren’t trusted by default these days. Ad-blocking is the new normal. But if I look at the postal boxes in my street, asking not to get any ads has always been the default. (pas de pub sticker). The same counts for so-called “marketing campaigns”. Marketing shouldn’t be about campaigning. Marketing should be about behavioural design and especially for a system of interactions that build trust.

Now, you might think that going inbound and content marketing is the right way to generate trust. That’s OK but there are plenty of pitfalls to this approach tough. Be aware that you truly understand and take that new approach, not an old one on new digital channels.

Regardless of the fact that a product or service is aimed at a consumer or a business (B2B, B2C), the goal is to design a system that resonates and generates trust with humans.

Designing a marketing system for trust is the new marketing plan. The new marketing plan designs and engineers a behavioural system of interaction for persuasion to trust the brand or organization.

Be aware that the layer on top of the marketing system is the core value / core message / core story of the organization or brand. “Stick to the brand promise. “ But make sure that brand promise is purpose-driven. Having a purpose, standing for something is very important to build trust.

Speaks for itself that consequently the goal of the holistic marketing system is to grow the business by growing new customers, keeping happy and loyal customers.

The first step in this “marketing plan 2.0” is to visualize all these (and future) touch points, their role and interactions. Next up of course is to map those with customer behaviour. Those are analyzed and reveal very interesting insights in both customers and internal processes. Furthermore, it allows to set new goals and KPI’s for each touch point. Those goals need to be realized through marketing and communication actions.

Conceiving those marketing and communication actions is a cool and creative exercise of how we can improve Trust through experiences. And that’s of course where the art and science of service design jumps in. Service design is all about the question “how can we serve our customer?” …

There’s no better question to ask when it comes down to building trust. You build trust when you help people out, when you are supportive.

For every touch point matters: the more useful for a (potential) customer, the higher the appreciation, the higher the trust, the higher the chance this human believes it worthy to give you money in exchange for your product or service.

Designing Customer Trust – mind the inside as well.

It’s not possible or very hard to build trust in the outside world (customer) if there’s no trust internally (employee engagement). After all, it is through the actions of the employees that you build trust externally.

Your brand or organization is the sum of customer’s complete experiences with the organization across all touch points. Your brand isn’t your company. It isn’t your marketing message. It isn’t even your product. It is an experience — a holistic experience a customer has with your product, your content and your employees. It is the reason to choose you over your competitor.

Some businesses have recognized this seismic shift and managing consumer experiences became not only a challenge, but a priority. But as they started to implement strategies, solutions and tools across the organization, one critical gap became widely clear.

No matter how much you try to serve your customers, if the organization is internally siloed in mentality, processes and technology, no amount of delight will ever deliver a truly holistic experience that builds customer trust.

Employee experience is the internal precondition for a solid external customer experience. Stated differently: you need engaged employees who are proud and trust in the organization that they work for before you can successfully provide customer experiences.

Building trust is about building relationship capital through smart experience management. And the only way to achieve that is for all parts of the organization to work together, to become a connected company.

How does one design engaged employees that can help building a trusted organization through internal marketing systems? In other words, what is a great environment for the next-gen employees?

A company needs to have a purpose. It needs to stand for something. Something good. That’s the role of leadership. Leaders should be able to envision the company’s purpose and communicate that through good storytelling. How else are you going to motivate the people who are actually doing the work?

When it comes down to leadership, employees trusting the leaders is absolutely key. If a leader behaves in the internal marketing system like a bastard, trust is going down. And talented people might look to work elsewhere.

Actually these things heavily define the overall company culture. In case there’s no leader able to tell a vision and a roadmap, people are not going to get the purpose. They will just show up every day, do their tasks without any further. No passion, no drive. And then the organization or brand wonders why it is so hard to keep the sales funnel fueled or whines when the competitor does something cool, or why they don’t innovate…

Talking about innovation! You often here that companies need to “act like a startup” in order to innovate? I agree, but what does it mean – to act like a startup? If you look at some startup theories, it’s really important to start from and with the people in order to form a team. Select those people correctly, make sure they understand what they are supposed to do and why, have a clear communication channel (select a technology for collaboration) and allow them to grow through Learning & Development budgets and “pivot” their business together. When it comes down to “pivoting”, it means you need to be able to communicate visions and roadmaps and willing to discuss those with others.

Visions and roadmaps are the marketing systems you need to build trust. External customer trust. Internal employer trust.

Solving Business Problems with System Thinking.

Not rarely solving a business problem comes down to being able to reframe the situation and context. Most of the time de- and reconstructing the Marketing System as a framework to build Trust shows possible solutions to a problem.

This happens through workshops, research, training and doing.

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Why you better Cut the Crap: Service is the Old & New Gold.

Service is the new gold.

Service is the new gold. (credits: boomerang cards).

I agree. It’s been way too long since I pressed down another story here. Not without a reason though. I’ve been crazy busy visiting companies from about eight industries to perform in-depth interviews about their business and their future. It has been a wonderful experience so far. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I generated tons of insights from this qualitative market research period. I want to share my main insight today:
“Cut the crap and stop pushing it on to people. Be real, bring value, show respect and be helpful to every customer. In brief: stop screaming, start whispering.”

Service is the Old and New Gold.

Loads of consumers became disappointed in companies, products and services. As a result, corporations and organizations are sometimes seen as “evil”. I believe this is the result of what I call “the old marketing”. Most brands and organizations still rely on 20th century marketing principles: manufacture something against the lowest cost possible and consequently pay much money for advertising to create a positive image so that consumers buy your product. The only thing that matters is short-term profit, not a long-term sustainable contribution to society. I’ve always revolted against these types of companies. They are indeed “no good”. They don’t contribute to a positive society and consequently a better world. They do not “serve” their customers through good products, honest communication and real value.

Service is Gold.

Service is Gold.

That marketing-enforced image however has always been put in perspective by the customers themselves by sharing their experiences: word of mouth. And what’s even more, word of mouth has always been the most trusted source of product or service information. Unfortunately it had little to no big scale leverage so that “evil” corporations could live happily ever after. So, if one customer was dissatisfied by the service he told it to about 20 people and didn’t rely on the company in the future any more. But for the company, that was not really a problem. The customers that decided to leave were replaced by new customers who bought the marketing story.

I truly believe (and hope) the days of “high churn because we produce crap is solved by acquisition campaigns” are over as social peer-to-peer technologies became mainstream and leverage Word of Mouth on a huge scale.

What is Service? Think long-term reputation vs. short-term profit.

If one states that service is key, he needs to define what exactly is service. Based on my interviews, I’d say service is about small things, but things that can make someone’s day and stick in their memory. It’s about going the extra mile, about doing something you actually didn’t have to do. It’s about the goal to serve in order the make life (or businesses) easier and better. It’s the social aspect, it’s the human touch. It’s not about social media. Those only give large-scale opportunities to foster on this service behavior.

Research details

As stated above and in the introduction, the above isn’t just a gut feeling. It’s inspired by real-life (analog) talks with leading people within several industries. Below is a small overview of my data sample. Please allow me to just recycle one of the original research presentation slides. It’s important to realize that within this sample some of the companies were active on social media – which was the drive to act more service-wise – and others who were completely inactive on social but have always put the customer in the center of its existence.

Quali Research Data Sample

Quali Research Data Sample

Web as Service Platform. Marketing with an SD-logic?

stuck in the spider's web by looking at the web as a marcomm channel.

stuck in the spider's web by looking at the web as a marcomm channel.

Social media: marketing’s new wonder channel?

I often hear and read marketers about the opportunities brought along by social media. Now, I don’t want to dismiss these opportunities. Those are certainly there. The type of opportunities however are often misunderstood by marketers. They tend to see this as nothing more than a new marketing and communication channel. Consequently, social platforms are tools to push messages towards potential customers. Of course, social can be used for the purpose of lead generation or just mind-blowing advertising, but it won’t bring the benefits expected by marketers. My point here is that the ‘Web’ and the ‘social web’ in particular ought to be looked at from a Service-Design logic instead of a Good-Design logic. I believe it will help marketers realize there goals by deploying the web and social platforms in the correct manner.

SD-logic versus GD-logic: basic principle

In the industrial age, the dominant logic about economic exchange was based on the exchange of “goods”. As a result, a GD-logic focuses on tangible resources, added value and (monetary) transactions. Over time however new perspectives emerged. Those new visions look at intangible resources, co-created value and relationships. This new perspective is commonly known as a SD-logic or service design. I believe that marketing should start thinking from this perspective. A perspective in which service provision is fundamental to economic exchange rather than goods.

Marketing logic: SD-logic versus GD-logic

A GD marketing logic limits marketers in creativity for seeing opportunities in value co-creation with customers and other stakeholders. What’s more, this focus on transactional exchange ignores aspects like customer loyalty and puts constraints on developing the lifetime value of the customer for the company at stake. The S-D logic on the other hand broadens the logic of exchange – both socially and economically.

Web as Service Platform

Web as Service Platform

The Web and The Social Web from an SD-Logic

The internet and the web are well-known and mostly deployed as a mean to share information. Or: the web is seen as just another marketing communication channel.

That’s actually a pity because the web also brings along loads of opportunities for process optimization. And process optimization is often about service design thinking, which I believe is at the core about ‘servicing a.k.a. making things easier’.

Improving a business process is making things easier. And what’s more, it often means that you build strategic competitive advantages – as you’re able to get the same (better) result at lower costs.

To overcome overlooking the options when developing a digital-enabled enterprise and/or marketing strategy, one better investigates and lists down the options for process integration.

Who’s in for an exercise on process optimization through the web and the social web?

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