The power of shared beliefs: Market what you believe, not only what you do
Rather than focusing on your products or services, contributor Matt Zilli suggests you'll be most successful if you demonstrate to customers that you share their values.
For decades, marketing has been a volume-driven game — more emails, more ad placements and bigger billboards. The goal, of course, is to capture increased numbers of eyeballs for brand messages and to achieve a supersaturated share of mind.
But today, volume-driven messaging is dropping in importance in favor of customer engagement, genuine dialogue and alignment with customers’ beliefs and values. What it comes down to now is how we engage with customers and convince them that we share a set of beliefs and are all moving toward the same goals that will benefit everyone.
For proof of the power of shared beliefs, consider these dominant brands:
- Apple — Apple customers firmly believe that Apple is always going to release the most innovative products and that they themselves will be more innovative, creative and cool for using them. For the legions of Apple faithful, this is not just a point of view or opinion, it’s an unassailable conviction. And as Winston Churchill said, “One man with a conviction will overwhelm a hundred who have only opinions.”
- Disney — Yes, they have movies, toys and theme parks galore, but the overriding sentiment among customers is that Disney and its properties exist to provide joy. The movies and venues are merely vehicles for sharing happiness with family and friends. That’s a very powerful and intergenerational belief, and it’s one which sells lots of tickets, as well as reservations and logoed goods.
- Nike — Nike is more than just a maker of shoes. Nike customers are convinced that the company believes in the power of sports and is doing everything to advance that power and release each athlete’s potential. Hence customers who also believe in the power of sports have become incredibly loyal to the Nike brand, literally “voting with their feet” time and again with each repeat purchase.
Driving the shared belief dynamic
So, how can progressive marketing organizations truly share beliefs with customers? Clearly, you must continue doing everything you can to service customers, including being able to scale your marketing activities. But just as important is doing whatever it takes to authentically communicate the company’s core beliefs through every marketing channel, organizational function and customer interaction.
This means that all people across the business, from sales and marketing to support, customer advocacy and fulfillment, must be on the same page with those core beliefs. Why? Because you have to be in a position to consistently and constantly communicate to customers not just what you do, but also what you stand for — whether it’s enabling innovation, promoting happiness, unleashing athletic potential, or, in my company’s case, empowering marketers to be successful.
When this happens — and if you have ever visited an Apple Store, Disney World or a Nike outlet, you know that it can happen — customers get that you stand behind your beliefs and gain a clear picture of where your company is going. And when every person in your business is steeped in the same company beliefs, they can engage in relevant conversations with customers around those shared beliefs, as opposed to just a tactical “Am I solving your problem today?”
Also, when customers believe with you, it becomes significantly easier to do all the things a company wants and needs to do. Service disruptions generate fewer hard feelings. The peaks and valleys of annoyance are shorter. And an incident here and there has less impact because customers know your company is in sync with their beliefs. In short, you are not just a vendor: You’re a partner.
Rally around the customer
We all know that a business succeeds or fails based on how much value it delivers to customers. Connecting with customer beliefs is an increasingly critical way to deliver value. There is no single touch point that can communicate everything that your business is about. It must be communicated over time, all the time, by everyone in the company.
Because marketing is normally responsible, directly or indirectly, for a customer’s first encounter with an enterprise, it is up to marketing to lead the charge and be responsible for every touch point along a customer journey.
Marketing needs to step up and ensure that every employee is:
- Immersed in the beliefs of the company and able to communicate those beliefs appropriately in every customer encounter.
- Able to know more about everything — from the industry to the company to customers — and approaches each day with that in mind.
- Cares more about customers and their situations than whatever is going on in the business — because it isn’t about us; it’s about our customers.
As more buyers choose to buy based on their beliefs and choose to walk away from other brands based on those same ideals, businesses will have no choice but to pay attention to the values of their audiences and work to fulfill them.