Don't you wish marketing were as easy as waving a magic wand? Unfortunately, marketers must create their own magic to drive sales, raise awareness and generate qualified leads, in the face of ever changing customer needs and expectations.

In order to capture, cater to, and retain a customer's interest, CMOs and entrepreneurs need to make it more rewarding to choose their company. In the words of Hilton Chief Marketing Officer Geraldine Calpin, "We have to get customers really engaged and addicted to what we as a brand stand for. The way you get brand loyalty, love and stickiness, is through world class hospitality and technology. Simple, beautiful, useful technology makes travel easier."

Technology must move faster to keep up

The challenge, Calpin believes, is that consumers are moving even faster than technology. "Every time something new comes out, it's the instant basic standard required for all brands. CMOs and technology are very, very close, because it's how a customer wants to engage with any product, any service, or any brand. I'd get technology to move faster."

Calpin's approach is backed by data. Gartner predicts that by 2018, more than 50 percent of organizations will redirect their investments to customer experience innovations.

The hotel chain's app, Hilton Honors, offers digital check-in, a digital key and the ability to order room service from the app so your order is waiting for you in your room when you arrive at the hotel. This isn't technology for technology's sake: It's convenience. "Most people don't want to pick up the phone, phone down to the front desk, and say, "The air conditioning is a bit noisy," Calpin says. "If you can do it on your app, just like you do it in your Uber or your Lyft, or whatever. That's what people want."

So how do you give the people what they want? The methods and mindsets below will help steer you in the right direction.

Make your whole business customer centric

Charlene Li, a principal analyst at the market research and consulting firm Altimeter, thinks Calpin has the right strategy. "What successfully disruptive brands are doing right is putting the customer at the heart of everything they do," says Li. "It can't just be the focus of a few people in product development or marketing. What about the accounting and finance departments? Even if they don't come in contact with the customer - it must always be about serving them."

Calpin advises you pay attention to consumers, whether it's your own customers, the competition's, or general consumers. "I'm interested to hear what people are talking about. What they love about XYZ brand, be it Starbucks or Nike or Coke or Hilton. What do you like about different experiences with the brand?"

Execute for tomorrow -- today

Marketers tend to be more reactive than proactive. As Li sees it, "Most brands are executing for today, but they aren't executing for tomorrow." Any good marketer practices defensive listening to address people's pain points. A great marketer also practices constructive listening, to create the best possible customer experience. As Calpin reminds us, "What your customers love today will become intimately expected of any brand that they want to deal with tomorrow."

Disruption starts at the top

For Li, disruption is a leadership issue. "Leaders need to better describe their ideal -- that bright, shiny thing on the hill we are all aiming for." Li refers to Jim Collins' book Good to Great and Collins' focus on the need for humility. Leaders don't have all the answers, nor should they pretend to. Li's advice is that entrepreneurs and CMOs must say to themselves and their employees - I don't know exactly what the plan is going to be. I don't know exactly how we are going to get there. But I am confident we can achieve these goals."

Get the whole team to play

How can we satisfy, surprise, and delight our customers? When leadership puts out the challenge, the team rises to the occasion. Calpin has seen this happen at the Hilton organization. "We have team members all over the world to smile at guests and engage with guests every day...so we have feedback mechanisms for them to give us feedback on their interactions. Stories about what happened in the hotel, great, beautiful stories. And that helps us evolve our product, evolve how we engage and talk to our customers."

Put on the empathy glasses

Li recommends putting on "empathy glasses," to see your brand from your customer's point of view. As entrepreneurs, you must be constantly consider what makes your customer's smile, but also evaluate their pain points, stresses and fears. Reflect on how you can make your brand experience a little better. These experts insist it is time to stop talking at people and start understanding how customers relate to your brand.

Published on: Mar 30, 2017
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