“As practitioners, we have a responsibility to know what we are doing,” says Faris Yakob in a recent conversation# about strategy. There's a time for every purpose. But there isn't an infinite amount of time (or customers) we can burn through.
With digital media, building brands has become more approachable by many (see social media)… and more difficult. Because when we make the mistake of conflating short term, direct marketing-like ROI with what we should do to build for the mind- and long-er sustainability, we maximize for confusion.
Brands doing it well are the ones doing holistic comms planning, stimulating and capturing demand, and not confusing the two. Additionally, there is a large middle ground between immediate sales response and long term brand building that needs considering.
The market for building websites and banners might have gotten commoditized, see for example Carrd# and Fiverr#, but if you need help putting it all together in a way that is sustainable, and finding the actual value in what you offer, there's still a demand for skilled talent.
For example, how do you grow your audience, or authority, or identify the right product (and validate it) that is unique to you? Even better, how do you identify if the problem you have is awareness, or if it's value?
Everyone has been pivoting to customer experience in recent years. But it's hard to understand what it means. “Making things worth people's time is the job of everything,” but there are still distinctions in the continuum. What kind of need do you have? Are you already doing business together?
To me, the more productive space for consultants and agencies is product innovation (I've helped many professional organizations with service as a product), and business innovation (as in building capabilities.) Growth comes from doing what we do better, doing more of it, telling a better story, and becoming better at doing that.
The conversation brings up many good points, including a mention of Joe Pine's The Experience Economy update#. Which reminds me of a diagram I pulled together to describe product innovation. Because there's no doubt that in many cases, we're seeking experiences where the product is a better self.
So I did a bit of an experiment and integrated some of @Faris' comments about the distinction between brand experience and customer experience, as well as @JoePine's thoughts on separating time saved from time well spent (it's still an important conversation for social media/attention trade-offs.)
See the diagram above. It's adapted from the proven integrated marketing blueprint I've been using with clients for years.
Does it open new possibilities for you? What would you change?
Your brand is a proxy that helps ease choice overwhelm ― people spend zero time thinking about you and your content (or new campaign.) They do want to make their choices count. For some products and services we go for good enough. Think about it.
Which means the options are clear ― we either impress and reset the bar (mostly people do that, but luxury experiences also come to mind), or we're the easiest people to deal with and meet the competence requirement.
Making time an investment ― e.g., removing obstacles, building capabilities, creating exponential growth, delivering highly entertaining experiences that give joy… all these things have value. Then the question of how valuable becomes how close are you to the problem your specific clients face?
On the product side, saving time, or creating a new type of experience ― with trade-offs as appropriate ― works well. Take for example Southwest, easiest to buy, but no reserved seats (though you can pay extra to board early) and paid luggage. It redefined the airline category. Amazon redefined the commerce category.
A deeper understanding of client requirements is useful in both cases (remembering that we say one thing, and do another.) Word of mouth recommendations and positive reviews depend on your understanding of where you stand on value and whether you deliver on it consistently (including perception.)