Creating more customers by creating better customers.

Not digital marketing. Just digital.

Usually when we hear people talk about ‘digital marketing’ we initially think of display ads, CTA modals, AdWords and sponsored posts. And then, more pessimistically, we start thinking about the murky analytics, complex attribution models, ad blocking and click fraud that accompanies all of it.

The common line of thinking has long been that digital marketing, as defined as distributing communication through digital channels to build a brand, is mostly about renting space on a platform. But that line of thinking is slowly changing. With the surge of investment in digital, comes the need to evolve our thinking and expand our definition of what digital marketing should be.

The purpose of investing more into digital shouldn’t be to just hand more money over to Google and Facebook, and it’s not to try and built yet another attribution model to somehow make us feel better about spending money on ads that we know are low-impact at best.

Rather than see digital as a method of scaling and targeting marketing communications, digital should be viewed as a way to scale the the customer experience; the idea being that technology can help businesses create better customers by creating a more inclusive and integrated customer experience.

Of course an improved customer experience could be as analog as having a great training program for sales-people or as complex as using and IOT connected wristband to experience an amusement park. At it’s core, customer experience is simply following through on your brand promise in way that can be experienced. None of this is truly breakthrough thinking, but it’s a sizable shift in how we think normally think about communications.

As marketers we pride ourselves on being able to craft a message that hits home with consumers. We started in the early days of the marketing profession by communicated features and benefits to consumers in sales pitches and ads. Later on we developed branding and changed the way we crafted our messaging to appeal to consumers’ emotions and aspirations by showing them how our products would make them feel and who they could be with our products in their life. But in a great customer experience, marketers aren’t doing any talking or even listening, instead they are finding ways to integrate the brand with the product. In other words, a successful customer experience should have customers validating the brand promise for themselves as they use the product or service and experiencing an ‘Aha’ moment somewhere in the process. Developing such experiences requires a rock solid brand and for company to fully understand who it is and what it aims to provide. It’s also a unique challenge for marketers requiring them to leverage the same creative and empathetic muscles that they use to craft messages, and instead use them to extract communications opportunities from within a product.

This is where digital investment comes back into play.

We’re all familiar with the concept of paid vs. owned channels, and as evidenced by the massive advertising revenues of Google and Facebook, the overwhelming majority of us feel much, much safer renting space on a platform than building one of our own. This is more than understandable; I mean, why would you build your own platform? Your business most likely has no interest in becoming a media company. After-all, you’re convinced the point of digital is to find potential customers of which Google and Facebook have in the billions.

But what if we think about digital marketing less as fishing for customers and more about growing them. Our idea of a digital platform then becomes less of a channel on which to distribute perfectly crafted messages, and more of an enhancement to the product or category experience providing customers access to an experience they otherwise would not have access to. Essentially, such platform can provide brands the opportunity to go above and beyond for customers, but at scale.

There are already a million examples of “being digital” in creating great customer experiences, but perhaps the most attractive thing about investing in a great customer experience is the potential for it to be a completely unique differentiator for the business. A great customer experience is crafted to a businesses unique voice and brand, and reflects their unique values and mission, something that is impossible to achieve with a paid placement.

The challenge for marketers, and key to customer experience, is to show rather than tell and for organizations to combine marketing and technological skill sets to develop creative methods for the product to communicate with customers. A great customer experience makes for great content for your customers to talk about, and last time I checked word-of-mouth still works pretty well.