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The New Experts: Win Today’s Newly Empowered Customers at Their 4 Decisive Moments

Another month, another book on Customer Empowerment – how customers, not brands or retailers, are in now in control, empowered by technology, information and choice.  From price comparison to real-time consumer reviews, technology is turning shoppers into experts in the art of shopping; smarter shopping decisions are just a mobile barcode scan away.

The casualties in this rise of the new expert?  There are three; 1) Retailers – because buyers no longer care who they buy from. 2) Marketers – because their ability to extract margin through branding is being eroded by expert shoppers.  And 3) Customer Loyalty – if you’re in marketing and you want loyalty, then get a dog – it’s the only place you’ll find it. In the 1980s, 80% of car buyers were brand loyal, today only 20% are brand loyal. In 2007, 42% of business travelers were brand loyal; two years later in 2009, it had dropped to 37%.

So what’s a marketer to do in the ruthless post-loyalty world?  Well, according Robert Bloom, former US Chairman and CEO of marketing communications group Publicis, you start by thinking of customers as experts, not consumers – and focus on buyer behaviour and not brand claptrap.  Forget brand loyalty – what you’re looking for is something more volatile, more real, and more powerful – customer preference.

Customer preference is about being the #1 choice, the choice over other options because you offer a better benefit – whether real or perceived.  Customer preference, we learn, turns out to be predicated on four key decisive and emotionally charged moments of truth.

  • 1. The Now-or-Never Moment: Consistently converting prospects into customers at their first point of contact with you
  • 2. The Make-or-Break Moment: Demonstrating that you will remain consistently engaged over the transaction process
  • 3. The Keep-or Lose Moment: Ensuring that your customer is benefiting from your product or service
  • 4. The Multiplier Moment: Generating multiple sales from each customer – both directly through repurchase and indirectly through advocacy and referral

Bloom argues that brands and retailers need to win customer preference at each of these four moments of truth. Embracing customer preference does not require rewiring your marketing department, but does mean a refocusing of on these four moments of truth.

Specifically, Bloom suggests that marketers should be in the business of building benefits, not brands.  Marketing to create customer preference is not about selling a brand promise, its about creating a better benefit to promise.   A customer benefit is something that is useful, helpful or desirable — a wanted service, a product attribute or a purchasing experience that the buyer considers advantageous from their personal perspective.

In essence, Bloom advocates a buyer-focused approach to marketing – a ‘get real’ call to marketers who still think of clients, customers and consumers as audiences to be influenced through campaigns.  Instead, think of them – and respect them – as expert buyers, who increasingly have more in common with professional hard-nosed trade “buyers” than the people formally known as the audience.  The implication?  If you want insight into your market – then ditch the focus group junkies and talk to the trade – you might uncover some enlightening new truths.

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