Customers and the Influence Continuum
We define, we debate, we dig deeper into what persuasion really means in this increasingly connected and intersecting offline and online worlds.
But perhaps the most significant change happening in the world of influence is occurring right under our nose.
In Are you connecting with your new generation of customers…Generation C?, Brian Solis discusses this in the context of how we think about social media.
In his words:
While social media is indeed a game changer, it is not the magnum opus of your legacy. I would like to introduce you to what really is important…your customers.
A widespread, but incorrect, assumption on social media is that it is a “make it or break it” scenario for all businesses, and that we risk falling behind the adoption curve and being the forgotten, irrelevant brand if we don’t build a sustainable presence on the newest darling platform or channel.
We saw it with the emergence of Facebook, with Twitter, with LinkedIn and with lesser surges on niche platforms in the social space.
I see influence marketing in the same boat as social media, too often viewed through a lens that is black and white. We row in circles, focusing all of our energy and mindshare on the bookends of influence.
Consequently, we risk missing what’s right in front of our face: Our customers.
The Next Gen of Influence is … Connected Consumerism?
When Brian talks of the ”connected consumer,” his Generation C, he is talking about a devoted champion of truly connected consumerism who is changing customer behavior as we know it. This generation of customers is more connected than those of us who depend on technology for our livelihoods. Technology is more than a means; it’s a part of their lifestyle, and to a larger degree, their identity.
Which means the potential to impact consumer behavior is tremendous. If we look to the Influencer Continuum™, our roadmap for how an influencer becomes a Super Advocate™, we’d likely place most active customers among the brand advocates, or those that are considered “fans” of a brand.
But we’re talking about this new generation of consumerism that goes well beyond being “fans” to a much deeper, more proactive and symbiotic relationship - not only with other customers, but with the brands and solutions that fuel their experiences, both good and bad.
The sea change that Brian speaks of presents an intriguing challenge in both social media and influence marketing:
How do we recognize and empower the connected consumer to find their rightful place along the Influence Continuum, fostering these shared experiences instead of trying to cattle herd?
Engaging Customers on the Influencer Continuum
One way to engage customers along the Continuum might be to look at a segment of online consumers that many brands are leery to engage with beyond arm’s length – the complainers.
In Don Peppers’ The Untapped Value Of Complainers, he offers insights into how brands can turn their most “vociferous complainers” into raving fans. Specifically, he discusses raving fans that experience an extreme shift from a negative sentiment or brand perception to one of positivity and satisfaction.
One of the key stages we talk about in relation to moving influencers along the Continuum toward advocacy is building trust and credibility. Likewise, Peppers talks extensively of the ever-growing significance of consumer trust in this increasingly transparent digital universe we live and operate in.
The process of regaining trust that can also turn the tide. Peppers points to this volatility as a potential catalyst for brands to shift the balance toward advocacy:
The more a business contradicts the customer’s own pessimistic expectations, the more noticeable and memorable its initiative will be. When done right, like the boiling pot of water that freezes faster, a boiling complainer will often become a highly convinced brand advocate even faster than someone who never had a complaint to begin with.
Fortunately, this is not the only way to view our relationship with the customer through the lens of influence. If we look at the four primary stages on the continuum - awareness, credibility, emotional connection and loyalty – there are ample opportunities to really engage with our customers, both uber connected and complainers alike.
Looking beyond our tunneled perceptions of influence to the landscape that is shifting right before our eyes, we think it’s a landscape that could - if we embrace and lead the charge – foster truly connected experiences that put brand, influencer and consumer on the same playing field.
What are your thoughts on customers and the Influence Continuum? Please share your insights in the comments below, and we’ll keep the conversation moving!
Image credit: Maryland GovPics