A Communication Architecture to Improve Customer Engagement & Company Outcomes
- Every customer communication is an opportunity to advance a customer goal, enhance the company brand, and influence the customers perception of your company or its products.
- When communications are on point and consistently delivered the messages resonate with customers, drive predicted responses, and enhance the company brand. However, when customer communications are ad hoc and inconsistent the messages are far less effective and diminish the brand.
- A strategic communication architecture can be used to build clear messaging that serves a purpose, drives an intentional result, and improves both customer and company business outcomes.
Why a Communication Architecture is Essential
Customers fail to understand how companies can help them when companies fail to deliver relevant, purposeful and unique messaging that resonates. This occurs for two reasons.
First, company communication struggles with me-too'isms. For example, corporate messaging proclaiming a company is great because its people are great, its technology is leading edge, its products are high quality and it is customer centric lacks differentiation.
The message may be true. But when everyone says it, it's lost in a sea of sameness. Without differentiation the message does not resonate and company positioning is ineffective.
Second, company value messaging is deteriorated when it is not consistently communicated. When I ask my clients what makes them different, what problems they solve or their unique value proposition, I usually get answers with overlapping concepts but I seldom get consistent responses.
If your staff cannot communicate consistent answers to these everyday questions, there is little to no possibility customers will recognize how you stand out.
The remedy for these challenges and the solution to deliver messaging that positions the company apart from competitors is define or refine your most strategic customer communications.
A Strategic Communication Architecture
A Strategic Communication Architecture is a framework to develop simple, on point and purposeful company messaging. Some marketing consultants like to call this your verbal brand identity. It shifts customer communications from individually developed responses to consistent messages that are designed to maximize outcomes.
There are many types of recurring customer messaging but for this blog post I'll focus on five everyday communications that directly impact a customer goal and the company brand.
But first a point of order. Customer value messaging will be most effective when it cascades from the company brand. Your brand is the customers perception of your company or its products.
Companies proactively design and build their brand to influence that perception and drive increased customer acquisitions, customer share and customer retention.
Designing or refining your company brand does not need to be a long or complex process. Using a Brand Pyramid template to design your brand is a fast and effective way to create an identity that reaches more prospects, converts more customers and grows revenues.
Starting with a well-designed brand will also accelerate the design of the most impactful customer communications. Otherwise, answering lower level questions will miss the opportunity for those positioning statements to support an overarching brand – which is one of your most valuable assets.
Below are some insights for the five communication architecture building blocks.
- Competitive Advantages
Being competitive starts by understanding exactly how customers make purchase decisions, what they want from their vendors, and how to use that information to create or expand competitive advantages.
No company can invest in everything, nor be the best in everything, so it's important to focus on the areas you choose to be best. You must also be certain those areas matter to customers and will grow your business, and that you can create or extend competitive advantages in those areas. However, this is where most companies fall short with me-too'isms.
You have to recognize that an advantage is only a competitive advantage if it meets the four criteria of being relevant, measurable, unique, and sustainable. The first two – relevant and measurable – are much easier to achieve than the latter two – unique and sustainable.
It's no small nut to crack but some examples of sustainable competitive advantages include innovation, company culture, customer affinity and a data-driven operating model.
When company staff are able to consistently deliver real competitive advantages, the company brand stands apart and sales conversions skyrocket.
- Unique Value Proposition
A unique value proposition, sometimes called a unique selling proposition (USP), is a concise, straight-to-the-point declaration of a company's unique value. It shares the reason why a buyer should buy from one company over another.
It's powerful because it answers every customer's first question: What makes you different from the competition?
It's also powerful because it answers that question with a concise statement that drives contrast. That's important because contrast drives customer decision making. So, unless your value proposition shows a big enough surplus between the customer's problem and your solution the status quo will prevail. Unless your value proposition shows enough difference between your product and the competitors, the customer will choose the most familiar or low-cost solution.
- Brand Identifiers
Sometimes called brand elements, these are visual cues to support the company identity. They include things like tag lines, slogans, trademarks and your logo.
Brand research shows that these identifiers are ineffective on their own. However, when they are integrated to support the overarching identity, they become effective in improving company recall and recognition.
These identifiers should be used on your website and social channels. Staff should include them in email signatures, marketing collaterals, sales proposals or other correspondence. When all staff consistently and properly use the identifiers, customers will take note and differentiation will be enhanced.
- Company Stories
Neuroscience clearly tells us what savvy sales professionals have known for years. That is buyer purchase decisions are heavily influenced by their emotions. In fact, many neuroscience studies show emotions play a more dominant role than logic in business decision-making.
Emotions can be triggered and reinforced with stories. Savvy marketers, sellers and executives use purposeful stories to motivate staff, persuade customers, demonstrate values and encourage behaviors.
Stories may include significant company events, experiences with other customers or purpose-based messaging such as that found in corporate social responsibility programs. When stories are frequently shared throughout the company they become signature stories and staff in turn share them with a pride that engages customers.
- Elevator Pitch
This is an everyday message that tends to vary dramatically.
The pitch needs to describe your company and the problems you solve. But in a way that invokes curiosity and sparks an interest. It may reference a statistic or proof point that shows clear value.
For maximum effect, the elevator pitch must be succinct, memorable and describe how you are unique. It also needs to be short. No more than two short sentences.
Getting this message right will increase customer inquiries and engagement.
Once designed, it's time to move from words to actions. Messaging must be tested to validate customer response and then be consistently communicated. Messages won't be perfect out of the gate, and continued refinement will directly correlate with increased customer receptivity, conversions and spend.
The Point is This
Consistent messaging that achieves a goal does not occur by happenstance. It happens by design, testing, education and periodic refreshers. A communication architecture can bring structure and measurability to these tasks.
Everyday messaging is simplest and works best when it aligns with the company brand.