Marketing stoicism and growth

Simon Breed is a founding partner and Managing Director of Twenty CX, a marketing and technology firm that specialises in audience engagement. With expertise in digital engagement, marketing automation and customer experience design, he lets us in on how his agency is working with ambitious organisations looking to reduce uncertainty and fast-track their growth. 

The uncertainties of the past year saw Kiwis embrace the opportunity to support local, explore our own backyard and make the best of things with our typical “She’ll be right” attitude. The result is that despite the pandemic’s best efforts, many organisations have flourished. Indeed, year on year, the economy has done remarkably well. 

Among Twenty CX’s immediate customer base, we have an insurance firm that’s seen a 110 percent growth in new business (it was well-positioned to cope with the onslaught), a global exporter that’s realised a 30 percent growth in B2B sales, a home builder that’s increased its nationwide lead pool by 54 percent, and a national energy business that’s managed an impressive 24 percent growth in online-driven leads – with similar lifts in sales. So why, given this backdrop, are we advocating for marketers to become stoics? 

Focus where it counts

The Letters of Seneca and Marcus Aurelias’ classic are both ever-present on my bookshelf. They contain the wisdom of the ages. Stoicism emphasises that we focus our energy on things we can do something about and accept the rest for what it is. This approach helped Aurelias, the famous emperor philosopher, navigate the uncertainties inherent in governing a war-torn Roman empire. Surely, then, a healthy dose of stoicism would be good for tackling the trivialities of strategic marketing today. There’s so much in the mix that we can’t do much about, so let’s spend time and resources where we can make a real difference. 

The power to influence

The good folk of Twenty CX have been fortunate enough to emerge well from the year that was – something for which we’re incredibly grateful. After the initial shock of lockdown (yep, we endured the inevitable early fee hits too), we regrouped and took advantage of the downtime to re-examine what brands could do to secure their futures, and what part we could play in helping that. 

The outcome of this thinking is a planning framework that works to mitigate uncertainty and fast-track growth by influencing the aspects of our audience engagement that we can at least exert some control over. Across four strategic imperatives – visibility, digital experience, buyer influence and customer experience – the framework unlocks opportunities to intelligently influence how people find, connect with and experience a brand. Starting with visibility, here are three tangible ways that marketers can put this thinking into action.

Simon Breed

1. Increase your visibility 

Influence starts with showing up. Today, we flag our interest in a category by searching online. The moment we need inspiration, education or plain old information, we check in with Google, effectively raising a hand to any would-be suitor waiting in the wings. Perhaps because this is so obvious, it’s easy to overlook, yet if our goal is to increase brand consideration, leads or sales, this is the low-hanging fruit. 

Merely being present in these crucial moments is enough to win brand share, and what’s more, we can directly influence how often we appear when someone does a relevant search. The key is to isolate what signifies purchase intent when people search in your category. Benchmark your visibility for those search terms across both paid and organic – including competitor terms – then invest up to an allowable cost per acquisition in paid search, SEO and content marketing, so your brand is found more of the time. If this sounds like a basic concept, it probably is, yet so many of us continue to miss low-cost sales opportunities by not showing up. 

The Power to Influence framework works across four strategic imperatives to benchmark and prioritise opportunities to influence how people find, connect with and experience a brand over time.

2. Turn interest into action 

We all exhibit strong unconscious preferences when making purchase decisions. Released last year, Google’s ‘Messy Middle’ study proved that even unknown brands can significantly disrupt a category to win a high proportion of sales, even when only some of the biases are activated. Here’s a warning for brand leaders: when supercharged across all these biases, fictional brands could steal up to 87 percent of preference. 

Google didn’t undertake some lightweight study, either – they tested this across many sectors and 310,000 purchase scenarios. Six significant biases were identified: category heuristics (the points of reference we all use to judge a product or service given its category norms), authority bias, social proof, ‘the power of now’, scarcity bias and ‘the power of free’ (we all love something for nothing). 

Here’s how to use this insight. Score your performance against each of your competitors across all six biases. The outcome of this work may have implications for your product design, distribution, pricing, communications and delivery; however, you’ll likely be able to tune and control aspects of your presentation to influence sales quickly (the study also proved that to be true).

An example of the power of this in action, our client Mariner Insurance used Trustpilot to make it easier for people to review them. Social proof is the most powerful bias in the Google study, and with almost 1000 reviews now and an ‘excellent’ rating, this is likely to have contributed strongly to Mariner’s 110 percent lift in new business. 

3. Get the experience right to convert more sales 

You also control your technology environment and how you deploy it. Marketing automation and CRM demonstrably contribute to improved CX and business growth, but the trick is applying them well. 

To help turn anonymous website traffic into known prospects, leads and sales, and to get full value out of your technology investment, start by mapping your critical customer journeys as they are now. Identify the gaps and opportunities to create CX excellence. Customer service, sales and marketing come together in this process. The outcome is a definition of what good can look like and a shortlist of immediate, quick-win action plans for implementation.

Seek expert support

One of the biggest challenges in the current environment is the availability of people with deep knowledge and experience of audience engagement in the world of digital CX. Although nothing we’ve talked about here is particularly complex, many are left short-changed by inexperience. The real opportunity is making the world of digital sing for your organisation as part of a wider actionable customer-engagement plan. That takes knowledge and experience beyond the reach of many small general marketing teams. Partnering enables you to bring in the right experience at the right time to fast-track your results. 

Back to Marcus Aurelius and those stoics. Remember, focus on what you can influence. The rest will be better taking care of itself. Here’s to a positive year ahead!  

If you want to take a deeper dive into the topics of visibility and buyer influence, check out the Stories page at twentycx.co.nz

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