You spend a lot of time and resources developing your brand, creating marketing strategies, and making your publication the best it can be. But are you making those critical decisions from the wrong perspective?
Jim Joseph, for Entrepreneur Magazine, thinks it’s time for customer experience to come to the forefront. This doesn’t only apply to B2C. When staff only thinks about business from the vendor side, what’s truly happening on the customer side is a mystery.
The customer experience is what really supports audience engagement, and you can only know what that’s like if you step out from behind and look at what you’re offering from their point of view.
B2C Customer Experience Influences B2B Expectations
In a B2C publication, a customer focus is obvious. But B2B customers are people, too, regardless of how clichéd that sounds. The Temkin Group’s 2013 research, ”Best Practices in B2B Customer Experience” reminds that customer experience is what drives loyalty, but there’s more.
These customers, your audience, ”increasingly compare business interactions with their personal consumer experiences.” That’s raising the bar for B2B.
It’s a blending of expectations. What has become commonplace in the rest of your audience’s life can also have a place in your magazine, at least to a certain extent. It’s all about keeping up with the times.
Integrating Audience Engagement Expectations
Enhancing the customer experience doesn’t have to mean you’d copy a B2C platform, or even try to. It’s the elements, not necessarily a mirror-image experience, that’s important.
What this means is incorporating what your audience has come to expect elsewhere. Mobile is obviously a big one. There’s a mobile app for everything from buying movie tickets to checking the weather. When your magazine offers mobile, you’re making access easier for your audience. If an app doesn’t make sense for your magazine, then at least consider a mobile-optimized site.
Social media is another element. If you haven’t heard about how important social is for business, and not just B2C business, then you might not have your ear close enough to the ground. It’s one of the fastest ways to build a brand, network, increase customer loyalty, and boost visibility.
Social media is also one of the greatest advances in transparency, at least when it’s used well, and customers have come to expect that. It’s not all about sharing videos of cute baby animals; social has become a business tool.
SEE ALSO: Digital Natives: Your New Audience
Gauging the Customer Experience
The only way to know how your brand appears to customers is to pretend to be one. And even that’s not always good enough.
Anyone who has written copy knows how easy it is to overlook your own typo, but another person’s stands out like it’s created from neon. The same applies to gauging customer experience.
There are certain things that you can do, however. When you log in, is the interface friendly, or does it make you jump through hoops to get there? Are ads overwhelming? Is there something that you use every day, such as mobile, that would be a nice addition to your publication?
Some information, you can only get from an outside source or a team that’s dedicated to customer experience. Surveying readers is a great way to gather information. Is your magazine entertaining? This doesn’t mean there’s a circus on every page, but it does mean that readers aren’t falling asleep.
Comparing your magazine to the competition is another way to gauge where you stand. Nearly everyone has had the experience of stumbling across something so fresh and new that it makes you feel like your efforts are from the Stone Age. Those are learning experiences, so take notes. And don’t limit yourself to only reading trade magazines within your own field.
A customer-centric approach is becoming the best way to do business. The only way you’ll know is to stop thinking like a vendor and start thinking like a customer, at least long enough to get a clear view of how your customers perceive what you’re offering.
Are you giving your audience more than the competition, or just trying to keep up? Joseph gives this advice:
”Pretend you’re a customer one day and walk through your front door. Experience your brand the way they do, and see how you feel. Ask yourself if you are delivering the kind of experience you think you are, from front to back.”
Customers are savvy, and competition is fierce. If you’re offering something they want, and in a way that they want to receive it, you’re on the right track. If not, the competition is almost literally just one click away.
The customer-centric approach can only end well. Your publication has its own needs, and those can’t be ignored. But the way to stay in business is through your readership. When they are not just satisfied, but happy, that’s when the relationship grows. And when they are happy, they’re more likely to share with others.
Stepping out from “behind the counter” is about perspective. You can see and experience what your audience does instead of what you think they might. Reality isn’t always the kindest thing in the world, but it’s one of the best tools you’ve got. With those fresh new eyes, take a look at your magazine as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Only then can you really create an experience that draws in your readers and keeps them on board.