|Are You Neglecting Your Brand Touchpoints?|
|by Teresa Schell, Strategic Marketing Partners, LLC|
|Strategies Fall 2011|
My what? For plastic processors, itís not an everyday water cooler conversation that evaluates the effective use of the companyís touchpoints, which is the image that is formed as a direct result of the experience customers have as they engage with your company and your brand. How your customers perceive you and how they choose to speak of your unique offerings during word-of-mouth or networking experiences deserves a moment of your time. Many small- to mid-size manufacturing companies donít consciously think about branding because they think itís a concept for consumer markets, not business-to-business markets. However, branding is important to your company and should be a part of your water cooler conversations.
Your brand, as recognized by the best critics Ė your customers Ė is the sum of all their interactions with your company. Every place a customer can interact with your company is a touchpoint, and that touchpoint affects how you are perceived. A dreadful experience with one touchpoint can negate all the brand equity you built through other touchpoints.
You might recall the marketing snafu that happened with Burger King in 2008. The company spent millions of dollars traveling to Greenland, Romania and Thailand searching for hamburger-illiterate people to try the Whopper in an on-the-spot comparative taste test against the Big Mac. Burger King was criticized for not being more sensitive in acknowledging that hunger exists in some of the areas where they filmed, citing Thailand in particular, where 30 percent of people would never be able to afford a hamburger. Touchpoint management is a strategic approach directed toward high level awareness to a companyís marketing performance across all touchpoints.
For the plastic processor, touchpoint experiences fall into three categories: pre-purchase order, usage and post-purchase order. Pre-purchase order touchpoints include websites, word of mouth, direct mail, public relations, sponsorships or advertising. Usage touchpoints would include how the customer perceives the PPAP submittal process, sampling and receipt of plastic parts. Obviously, the post-purchase touchpoint would include the maintained level of satisfaction the customer receives years after the program is in place through customer service, quality or customer loyalty programs. All these factors contribute to a customerís impression of your brand. To create and manage your brand Ė that is, to make your audience think and feel what you want them to Ė you must create your brand through all these touchpoints.
Challenges in Touchpoint Communication
Iíve interviewed hundreds of OEM customers to realize that the most effective resource for finding a new plastics supplier is by word of mouth and networking with peers. Our customers are our most powerful communication channel. So how do you get people to talk about you? How does an organization go about identifying which touchpoints works best in the customer decision process?
Defining and Establishing Your Touchpoints
Customers are looking for indications that tell them they made the right choice in selecting you as a plastic processor, so how you map and present those touchpoints will build loyalty over time.
Your brand will stand out if it delivers a positive customer experience Ė whenever and wherever the customer interacts in the plastic product buying cycle. Keeping customers, adding new ones and creating connections with all customers is verification of the overall achievement of the customer-experience focus. Companies with a successful marketing approach will define the touchpoints, refine how each touchpoint reinforces the brand and create harmony across the communication strategies.
Manufacturing companies that strive to stand out from the competition value the brand investments that are most likely to establish new opportunities. The most effective touchpoints encourage customers to get closer to your company. Ineffective touchpoints can suffer needless expense or even push customers away. Your customers buy into your brand if they perceive a true differentiation, a high level of service and consistent value. Thatís why the touchpoints in the customer experience are critical at multiple levels of engagement.
Is Your Marketing Working?
Teresa Schell is the marketing director for Strategic Marketing Partners, LLC, a consultant to marketing platforms and communication strategies for manufacturing companies. Schell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.