Jim Dicso Tue Dec 9, 2014

This post originally appeared on CMO Essentials on December 8, 2014. 

On a matrix of customer profitability and advocacy, every brand has an ideal customer profile. The ideal customer is more engaged, more loyal, transacts more frequently, costs less to serve, and is more willing to recommend the brand than the average customer.

Whether a company has a strategic imperative focused on brand advocacy (improved JD Power Rankings or Net Promoter Scores) or expense reduction (improved adoption of digital channels to reduce use of human-assisted channels), the first step is to segment its customers into a profitability-advocacy matrix and determine the gap between each segment and the ideal customer profile. Key questions emerge from this segmentation. How do we turn a new customer at risk of churning into a brand advocate? How do we turn a frequent caller into a digital-first customer? How do we increase the purchase frequency of our lower-spending customers?

The business challenge in this case is actually a human engagement challenge: how does a brand influence customer behaviors to compel actions (spending more or telling a friend) or avoid actions (cancelling a service or calling customer support)? Many brands recognize the power of storytelling as a means of driving behavioral change. Effective storytelling appeals to the senses, drives emotional investment and keeps people engaged. Storytelling enables a brand’s message to resonate to the target audience beyond a tagline, logo or celebrity endorsement. Meaningful engagement and sensory appeal is why storytelling has always been a standard in the marketing mix. The more a brand can make the story personally relevant to the individual, with calls-to-action that resonate, the more effective a brand can be in driving the desired behavior changes that compel an average customer to adopt the behaviors of the ideal customer profile.

Brands have many options to tell effective stories and many channels available to deliver these stories. The most effective stories are easy to digest and simple to understand, yet are peppered with information that helps the customer make better decisions. If a picture is worth a thousand words, video – with the power of sight, sound and motion – has been described as being worth a thousand pictures. Video has emerged as one of the strongest storytelling mediums because it captivates the viewer, earns her attention and keeps her engaged for more than a few seconds.

Think about the effectiveness of Apple’s 2014 collection of ads centered on the storyline, “You’re more powerful than you think.” Each ad takes viewers through the everyday lives of parents and kids, teachers and students, athletes and dreamers, all while delivering the message that the iPhone 5S and its mobile apps help improve your life. The ad can be significantly powerful for both a new dad bringing home his newborn and a mom dropping her oldest child off at college. Good stories describe a firsthand account: the customer wants to feel and witness the experience. Putting the audience at the center of these stories allows them to connect and relate to these unknown strangers. Apple’s customers connect to these experiences of inspiring students, crossing the finish line and seeing the world. Apple is driving consumer behavior to adopt the device at every point in a customer’s life infusing the product and its third-party apps with emotions and sensation, thereby driving brand stickiness through advocacy.

When combining the power of video as a storytelling medium with big data and personalization strategies, marketers have the ability to tell stories in video that are personalized to the viewer based on her interests, profile, transactional history and current behavior. True one-to-one personalized storytelling in video occurs when every viewer watches a video that has unique content, context and calls-to-action.

So how does personalized storytelling via video drive behavior change, and how can brands transition customers toward the ideal customer profile?

Let’s assume that a company in the telecommunications industry wants its customers to adopt a digital-first relationship. This means that the customer will use the company website, mobile app, customer service channel on the TV or other digital medium as the first option when looking to transact or request customer service. Many customers start by visiting the retail store or calling the contact center. One way of changing customer behavior is to educate them that it is possible to complete that same transaction via digital channels in a way that is much easier and more efficient for the customer. The challenge is that when communicated ineffectively, this can result in customer frustration and churn risk.

Using video and personalized storytelling, the company can communicate this message in an entertaining and educational manner that results in a positive experience while also driving the desired behavior change. For example, the video starts by speaking to the customer by name and includes a welcome message from the customer support representative who spoke with the customer. The video story recaps the recent transaction and confirms the details to avoid a repeat contact. Then it continues with an explanation of how to complete that transaction via digital options in the future to save time. If appropriate, the video can highlight value-added services, features or accessories the customer may want to add, before closing with calls-to-action that are specific to the content and recommendations of the story.

The story, because it is personally relevant to the individual and based on a recent event that is unique to her, is engaging enough to keep her attention. It proactively answers the most frequently asked questions to avoid future calls related to the same subject and provides a reason to adopt digital channels first to change the customer’s future behaviors. Stories can be told in a series of personalized videos that are triggered not only by transactional events, but by time-based stages in the customer lifecycle, allowing for an ongoing conversation that can drive behavior changes that yield a measurable transformation of the customer toward the ideal customer profile.


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