Business are People Too
A good friend of mine has three cats. They rule her home with iron impudence, deviously arranged furry obstacles, and the occasional glass tipping intimidation tactic. My friend finds it adorable and every time one of the little demons breaks, shreds or pees on something she says something like, "Oh aren't you a bad boy Heathcliff!" or "I'm gonna make you clean that up Mr. Muggles!"
I can remember last month or so just staring at her, head leaning slightly to the left, perplexed, and wondering if I should have her committed before she actual morphs into a half cat creature. Her textbook response to my vapid stares is always the same, "Cats are people too Alfred!"
This same friend recently berated me for spending my weekend working on a branding strategy for a new client. I don't do it often, but sometimes you just get in that groove, and no amount of laughter or libations can break your concentration.
After declining a night of debauchery, she says to me, "My God man, you spend more time with your projects than you do living!"
This is not true, by the way. My life is awesome...
Still, to her snarky remark I replied "Business are people too Kell!" Of course, I got an eye-rolling emoji in my message screen and went back to work, but that silly retort began churning a concept somewhere deep inside my mind.
Sense and Sensibility
Maybe I'll lose you here, but I'd ask you to hear me out.
The idea that "business are people too" is not totally unfounded. In fact, governments treat corporations as living humans in the way they are accounted for, taxed, and protected.
Just like any living thing, business are exposed to and reacts to stimuli. Through its employees and stakeholders businesses:
See and hear feedback about themselves and their competitors
Develop a nose for changes in trends and technologies
Sample the flavors of new strategies and tactics
Touch the emotions of customers & stakeholders through interaction points
Did you ever put any thought toward the idea that only one of the five senses actually affects things outside of us?
Taste, smell, hearing, and sight are all inputs, forms of data to be analyzed. Our sense of touch, however, provides both input and output to the physical world. And while feedback, research, and analysis are critical to growth and success of a business, only one aspect of a business system actually affects its customers.
The Power of Touch
There is nothing quite as soothing as a great massage or a friendly hug when things are not going your way. A firm handshake can be the difference between landing a client or turning someone away, and a pat on the back will usually boost confidence greater than a punch in the face.
In the moments after our birth, we cry out to be swaddled and crave a caring touch. As children and adults we still seek positive interaction from our personal relationships and, believe it or not, from the companies with which we chose to spend our money.
If you've ever been ignored by a store employee, mishandled by customer service, or condescended to by IT personnel, you've experienced the negative aspect of a business's sense of touch.
There is an entire discipline of business (called six sigma) that I believe is dedicated to understanding and improving "Consumer Touch Points." These are the multiple moments when potential buyers, current customers, and stakeholders interact with your product and brand. Each interaction shapes an opinion of how valuable your company is to the person experiencing that interaction. I'll likely have a whole other rant on the importance of Six Sigma and optimizing touch points but for now let's talk branding.
I don't believe I've ever created a brand strategy that did not include capitalizing on consumer touch points. I've come to understand that these interactions are much more powerful than any amount of advertising or promotional selling.
Moreover, touch point branding is integral to the concept of customer and brand loyalty. Businesses who put a focus on providing the best and most useful interactions with its stakeholders can reduce ad spending, increase sales multiples, and generate far more repeat customers than companies who do not.
I put together the graphic below to help explain the concept of touch point branding to my clients. It represents a typical life cycle of a customer and the moments of interaction that can help or hurt a company's brand.
These are very sensitive moments where a business's sense of touch can win a customer for life or destroy its value in the mind of that person. Yellow represents a slightly uncomfortable moment with potential to be a positive moment given the right process and amount of care.
Lotion Up Those Hands People
Take a look at Apple Inc. This is one company that takes customer touch points and touch point branding very seriously. Every touch point is deliberately designed to soothe and relax customers into enjoying their experiences with Apple products and its company as a whole.
The simple yet clean website and storefront imparts a feeling of freshness and new technology. The seemingly always cheerful mac geniuses give customers a sense that Apple is knowledgeable and helpful. Even apple's billing is so simple and effortless that you're always tempted to click the link at the bottom of your e-bill to purchase the next Apple product being offered.
They also happen to be one of the most powerful brands in the world. I'd like to believe their executives also think "Business are People Too."
Whether you do or not, you should always be aware that you're touching your customers hearts and minds with each and every interaction. So lotion up and make sure the touch is a soothing one.
Thanks for reading! Cheers!
-Alfred E McNair III, MBA