In paraphrasing Lewis Carroll’s famous conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, what I’m principally doing is calling out poorly designed and executed customer experiences, fuzzy value propositions, communication and marketing inconsistencies, unclear or nonexistent strategies, insufficiency of customer and competitive insights and profile data, and an overall lack of focus too often evident in product and service programs.
Just as the Cheshire Cat asked Alice some important questions to help guide her way through a strange, unfamiliar land, here are some basic, critical marketing and channel questions for companies to consider in strategizing and managing the customer journey:
1. Can your essential tangible and emotional business, or value, proposition for customers (expressed in the customer’s terms) be easily stated, i.e. “Do you have a ‘why’ as well as a ‘what’?” Is there insight on how this compares with competitors’ value propositions, and how your customers perceive their strengths and weaknesses?
2. Who are your customers, who are your best customers, and do they want what you make available, i.e. “Do you have a process for identifying, and analyzing, the reasons customers buy, or don’t buy, what you offer?” What is the customers’ competitive brand set, and why have these alternative brands been selected?
3. How do your customers ‘learn’ and make decisions, i.e.”Where do they get product and brand information, how do they process and share it, and is it personalized for their specific requirements and needs?” Where are these customers in the life cycle?
4. Are your customers involved in all phases of product, service, brand, communication, and marketing development, i.e. “How much, and how well, do customers participate in the conversation, and partner and co-create on all elements of value and messaging?”
5. Do employees, irrespective of level or function within the enterprise, help you deliver perceived brand, product, and service benefit, i.e., “Do customers see employees as ambassadors or saboteurs?”
6. Does the business – and everyone in it – have a passion, sets of processes, and shared level of understanding (through messaging, programs and training) for truly valuing, respecting, and cherishing its customers (and employees), i.e. “Do you have a customer-centric culture?”
As a strategic, customer-focused marketer, the Cheshire Cat is a pretty reasonable and fundamentally logical character, even if the customer behavior realm in which he exists often is not: “You just go where your high-top sneakers sneak, and don’t forget to use your head.” Living in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat understands the value of good planning, and getting intelligent answers to essential value proposition and brand equity questions; and he also appreciates the beneficial, and often elusive, forming and executing of customer strategies. As he notes: “Only a few find the way, some don’t recognize it when they do – some… don’t ever want to.”
Occasionally, just like in the Cheshire Cat’s mythical world, marketing, brand-building, and experience programs can seem to vanish altogether, at least insofar as customers are concerned. The challenge for enterprises is to make sure that there is an end goal, or strategic set of value objectives, always in sight and mind for all stakeholders, and that everyone understands it. Remember how easy it is to stray off the right path, recognizing, as the Cheshire Cat sagely quoted: “Oh, you can’t help that. We’re all mad here.”