Customer Experience: Phase 2 – Assess

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How to get prospective customers to assess your product or service.

Note: this article series is written for both Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) companies. In today’s world, many B2B products and services are discovered and decided upon using only online investigation without the benefit of a salesperson. Our methodology using 10 Phases of Customer Experience was developed using the customer’s point of view and utilizes powerful tools and approaches appropriate for any type of product or service business. The 10 Phases are:

Our previous article in this series covered Phase 1: Discovery, the approach necessary to prepare a company’s product or service to get noticed in the first place. This second article in the series covers how to turn that initial awareness into actual engagement, moving one step closer to a prospect’s assessment of whether to consider for purchase.

Phase 2 Goals: Engage & Assess

Many companies believe the next step after driving awareness for their product or service is to prompt consideration of purchase. Doing so assumes that after the prospect becomes aware of their offering, they have already decided they liked what they saw and wanted to know more. This is often far from the case. Smart companies do not assume positive motion after getting noticed, they take definitive steps to earn customer engagement and assessment prior to purchase consideration.

Our first article in this series presented the accepted psychology that purchase decisions are made by satisfying emotional, not rational, needs. Therefore, if a company is trying to earn a prospect’s engagement, they need to provide more than answers to rational questions of whether they understand a product’s function and benefits. They need to answer the unstated emotional question of whether the prospect will enjoy their product. The best way to do this after initially gaining awareness is to provoke joy and encourage closer inspection.

To many companies, especially those with engineering-based cultures, this will sound extremely foreign and is often easily passed off as being merely for consumer products but not for B2B services such as enterprise software. But that is not the case. Provoking joy in people has an incredibly powerful effect in gaining their attention and interest regardless of the type of product, service, or intended market.

Also mentioned in the previous article is the well-understood precept that all purchases are made for one of two reasons: to avoid pain, or to gain pleasure. So, if a company is able to provoke joy, they are overcoming issues of both pain and pleasure and are taking a very positive step towards getting a prospect to engage and assess their offering.

How to Provoke Joy

Getting a product or service noticed is often accomplished through visual means such as an evocative industrial design or product attribute that can be easily communicated through an image. Provoking joy can likewise benefit from using visual tools but on an attribute of the product not seen at first glance. One example of this that provoked a lot of joy was the Tesla Model-S door handles that ‘magically’ appeared when the owner approached the car.

Not only did this spark a lot of interest in prospective buyers, it caused quite a stir online with a half-million views across just ten YouTube videos showcasing the feature. All this interest from an almost unknown company at the time selling an $80,000 electric car. Now, clearly, no one bought a Tesla because of the door handles. But many smiles were put on prospect’s faces seeing them open and close autonomously. And this easily could have been the trigger to get them to engage and assess whether a Tesla was bound for their garage.

Another way to provoke joy is to promote play when a prospect is first deciding whether to engage. An example of this was the Drobolator a playful online tool we designed that allowed prospects to see precisely how much capacity was made available in the Drobo digital storage robot when initially mixing hard drives of different sizes, or when upgrading them later.

For context, it’s important to understand that the Drobolator tool would be used by IT and other professionals who already knew that it was impossible to mix different size hard drives when using a traditional multi-drive RAID array. So, the very fact that Drobo made this possible and promoted switching the drive sizes as needed was not only revolutionary, it provoked a lot of joy among people who used digital storage to support their businesses. The playful aspect of being able to play capacity ‘what-if’ games with different size hard drives was an added bonus.

Plus, by forcing the prospect to use a kinesthetic approach to learning about the revolutionary product benefits as opposed to a linear video presentation, it reinforced the joyful aspects of managing digital storage, which up until Drobo, was anything but joyful.

Here are a few other methods companies have used to provoke joy and get prospects to engage and assess:

Use an Evocative Name

When you think of well-known companies and their brands, what one word do you associate with them? We think: Apple = cool, Volvo = safe, FedEx = fast, and Disney = happy. If you were a company trying to bring a new line of polyurethane-based adhesives to market, what one word would you want to be associated with your brand?

The founder of this new company chose ‘strong’ for his brand and he named it ‘Gorilla Glue.’ This evocative and memorable name not only helped communicate strength it was the perfect vehicle to stand out from competitors with an evocative message to prospective buyers. The Gorilla brand is now applied across a number of product categories, but always communicating strength through its distinctive character.

Insert Layers of Product Discoverables

Long before there were dozens of drones to choose from, a Kickstarter campaign was launched for the Lily flying camera. What was particularly interesting about lily was that it was the first drone or quadcopter to position itself as a ‘flying selfie-camera.’ They did an excellent job with their brand strategy, product positioning, and messaging, all aimed at provoking joy and getting noticed. Lily had an interesting industrial design that was decidedly less industrial looking than competing quadcopters. It’s placement of indicator LEDs for ‘eyes’ and camera for its ‘mouth’ gave Lily a friendly, surprising, and playful look that encouraged the prospect to want to know more.

But it was their incredible video that allowed the viewer to discover multiple shocking attributes—one after another—that earned engagement and assessment from prospective buyers. The video presented a skier who took Lily out of a backpack and then just tossed it into the air, whereupon it would start flying all by itself and following him down the ski run. No need for a controller with joysticks or a viewing screen. In 2015, this was revolutionary.

Next, a hiker casually tosses Lily over the side of a bridge, a shocking thing to do with an expensive quadcopter. It immediately recovers and starts shooting video from above. Finally, a kayaker tosses Lily into the water and it flies upward autonomously, first following, then leading the kayaker down the rapids. More surprises showcase all of Lily’s features later in the video, but the first three were unlike anything else available to adventure seekers at the time. The makers of Lily crafted this video very carefully to include layers of discoverables that each provoked joy and amazement to prospects who could imagine effortlessly capturing their exploits to later share with friends. This video provoked so much joy that the company raised $34 million in crowdfunding based on the video alone and a follow-on $14 million in venture investment.

This shows the incredible power of when brand strategy is in alignment with product positioning and customer experience. For Lily, the result was a story so joyful and compelling it literally prompted people to say, “Shut up and take my money” in addition to “I’ve got to share this with my friends.” Very unfortunately, not one Lily flying selfie-cam was delivered because they couldn’t get the technology to work, which shows the dark side of overselling a story and underperforming on customer experience. Be incredibly careful when setting expectations and be sure you always exceed them, otherwise you’ll find yourself distributing refunds and in trouble with the law as did the founders of Lily.

How to Get Prospects To Assess Your Product or Service

Become a student of how companies succeed or fail at getting you to engage with and assess their products after you first take notice. Ask yourself…

  • Did they employ an evocative product name?
  • Are there layers of discoverables that entice you to learn more?
  • Is there a great product story or company backstory?
  • What tools and approaches do they use to drive engagement?

Even outstanding marketing and product development teams often neglect focusing on the ASSESS phase and thereby lose much of the momentum they gained by getting noticed. Investment in the DISCOVER phase is squandered when a prospect who was initially interested decides to move on.  To ensure companies have the best chance of driving assessment, we recommend the following:

1. Treat the ASSESS phase as a separate process from capturing initial awareness (previous phase) and driving consideration (next phase).

2. Bring in an outside expert in branding, product development, & customer experience who is familiar with these techniques and who can help structure the ASSESS process. It helps if this role is treated as independent and accountable to the CEO or business unit executive.

Just as with Phase 1: DISCOVER, gaining professional outside assistance is a low cost, high return investment and insurance at the same time.


Next Article in Series: “Phase 3: Consider” (coming soon)

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