Account Planning in the New Age of Customer Centricity

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2) Another short-cut is to identify what Procter & Gamble calls “Moments of Truth” in the customer’s experience and to focus our efforts on those. For instance, a critical point for any brand is at the point of purchase.

To better understand how the consumer navigates the final stages of the decision-making process, and what they’re looking for by way of guidance at that point, there is no substitute for getting out of the office and hearing customer feedback firsthand. In working with Dell we spent a lot of time eavesdropping on the dialogue between customers and salespeople. That enabled us to identify the questions typically asked by a tech-savvy consumer looking to buy a new laptop compared to a more mainstream consumer, and how the salesperson deals with each type of customer.

In this instance, the mainstream shopper tends to see the computer as a functional tool; he starts the conversation with an everyday problem he wants to solve and the salesperson’s role is primarily to turn technical “gobblydeegook” into practical benefits. In contrast, the salesperson’s role with the tech-savvy shopper is primarily to acknowledge and match the shopper’s expertise and help him feel he’s configured the optimal system for improved performance.

Of course, Dell is a direct marketer and does not sell through bricks and mortar stores, but the lessons we learned in the physical environment enabled us to design a better catalog experience for these two key customer segments with a corresponding increase in sales and ROI.

3) A third short-cut is to take a leaf out of the book of leading design companies such as Ideo, which have been finding imaginative ways to understand brand experience for many years. Ideo has crafted a set of systematic research methods for understanding what the firm calls “human factors”, organized under the headings “Learn”, “Look”, “Ask” and “Try”. If you don’t have time to undertake even a compressed ethnographic study of actual brand users, Ideo has developed techniques for enabling you to re-create the experience for yourself. And after years of internal use, it has collected those techniques into a set of 51 funky oversized cards that anyone can buy for $49.

As the power of the image makers is eroded, we now have an opportunity to re-invent ourselves as “experience planners” and borrow new tools of insight from the worlds of anthropology, psychology, biomechanics and similar disciplines to power our success. While unexplored territory for some, the more we can guide the overall brand experience across the customer lifecycle, the more value we will add to both our agency and our clients.

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