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5 Takeaways from 2013 Engagement & Experience Expo

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Nov 14 2013, Posted by InReality
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Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at at the 2013 Engagement and Experience Expo in Dallas, TX. Here are a few key takeaways I wanted to share:

1. Good Experience Design Works Even in a Recession

Jamie Warren, CMO of Iron Tribe Fitness, shared an interesting account of how Iron Tribe Fitness created one of the most successful high-end fitness franchises on the heels of the Great Recession. Iron Tribe Fitness did not find success simply through its rigorous training regime, but rather through pairing its amazing regime with an amazing experience, by specifically focusing on social engagement and creating a community passionate about fitness. I will be watching this brand as it grows its presence across the U.S.

2. Speak to Your Customers About What’s Relevant to Them

Tracey Altman, another speaker this year and VP of Marketing at Fresherized Foods (brand Wholly Guacamole) shared how they used social media to engage their consumers directly through a strategic, authentic and timely approach. Their commitment to be interesting, relevant and useful to their consumer base delivered a powerhouse of energy through social media. One of their most effective tactics is a commentary on current world events relevant to their customers. Sometimes it means they need to be brave enough to engage in conversations about topics that may be very sensitive and even tragic, like the Sandy Hook, NJ shootings. It doesn’t always work and not everyone is always happy, but that’s what it means for a brand to have a human quality, and Wholly Guacamole embraces that.

3. The Customer Isn’t Always Right

“Customers are always right!” This statement has always sounded too absolutist to me. Surprisingly, many marketing professionals publicly agree with this statement, but don’t actually subscribe to it. The reality is that it’s not always practical or even the right thing to do. This takeaway is also from Wholly Guacamole, which firmly believes that customers are not always right and passionately protects its own culture and brand from unreasonable or inappropriate customer behavior. This creates a strong brand personality and allows the brand to remain authentic to consumers. It also empowers its marketing team to always stand for what’s right for the brand, even when it means disagreeing with a customer.

4. Access to Customer Data Is Not Enough 

A lot of the conversations at the conference focused on customer data in the context of loyalty programs, customer experience management, CRM, etc. It is not a secret that collecting, maintaining and distributing customer data across an organization is very difficult. Proverbial organizational silos, data security and infrastructure issues all add a certain level of difficulty to this process, but simply resolving all the these data problems is not enough. Michael Hooper, Director of Customer Research at American Airlines shed some light on this issue during a panel discussion. In fact, he shared a particular customer’s response to a research survey that really epitomized the issue of customer data: “Why are you asking all these questions. You should know this!” Data availability is one thing, but making it relevant to the day-to-day work of an organizations is where the real challenge lies.

5. Building A Community Around Your Brand Helps Its Social Resilience

This last takeaway comes from a panel with Ashley Sheetz, CMO of GameStop. It is well known that the gamer audience can be extremely vocal and passionate. Ms. Sheetz shared some of the challenges of dealing with such customers, and raised some interesting points. She stated that GameStop does not worry about fans who are clearly not constructive. If there is something wrong with the service or product they always try to address it, but if somebody is simply bashing GameStop on their Facebook page, the other fans usually step in to defend it. An online community is not just about providing an outlet for the consumers and the brand to interact with each other, it is about providing a platform for the consumers to interact amongst themselves about the brand. This could create social resilience that only a true community can have. The brand doesn’t always have to speak on behalf of itself because the community can.

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