As Voxpopme CEO Dave Carruthers has said, “Influence is everybody’s job. Everybody needs to understand the customer better.” And through this understanding, brands can influence customers in a way that’s relevant and useful.
“The start is ‘what is my message and how do I want to inspire my audience,” said Emmanuel Probst, brand thought leadership executive at Ipsos, on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “And from there gain influence.”
- What’s needed to influence customers?
- Connecting to the right audience
- Understanding people’s ‘why’
- Realizing who influences your customers
- The types of influence
- Influencing the internal system
What’s needed to influence customers?
Large brands and their employees, as well as solo creators, can be powerful influencers. However, Emmanuel said they have to understand their audience and provide value to get started and decide on what you will build your stories around.
“From some brands, those are purpose-based initiatives, and some brands should stay away from purpose,” he said. “How does brand benefit the community, and what is your brand truly invested in?”
But what every brand should do is to know what they stand for and consumers expect brands to demonstrate that.
When brands educate consumers and are relevant to them, they can become an influencer, Emmanuel said.
Influence goes beyond words, Emmanuel said. Brands that talk the talk must also walk the walk. Do what you say you are standing for.
And people rely on brands to educate them, Emmanuel said.
“I feel there’s a role for brands to play in content creation, in thought leadership and influence by educating people,” he said. “What I mean by ‘educating’ is to share information that is useful, insightful, valuable to the audience beyond products, features, and benefits.”
Connecting to your right audience
We have to connect with the right people to influence customers. That includes having the right demographic questions in our surveys.
“If the demographic questions don’t reflect true in heart, the identity with who we’re trying to influence,” that’s going to be a problem, said Tchicaya Robertson, a research veteran, on “Reel Talk.” “It’s about how we ask the right questions to bucket people correctly.”
That includes understanding their backgrounds.
For example, Hana Ben-Shabat, a Gen Z. expert and author, said that the events of people’s childhood influence generations. Therefore, understanding those events is essential for anyone trying to understand their customers.
“Because culture is dynamic and we’re culturally embedded,” said Kalil Vicioso, a board member of Insights in Color. “So we’re all being kind of shaped and influenced by the culture that we’re in.”
Understanding people’s why
We can certainly see people’s actions of what they are doing. But then also ask why they are doing it, said Melina Palmer, an applied behavioral economics expert, on “Reel Talk.”
Understanding people’s why is much easier when you have a connection with them, when you understand why they are doing something but also when you can ask them questions.
“Collect as much data as you can in what is reasonable,” Emmanuel said. “Then analyze their feedback and let that inform your strategy.”
No matter how you communicate with customers, make sure it can happen instantly or at least conveniently. For example, chatbots on the website, ways to get called back when calling customer support and there’s a wait or the ability to give feedback quickly from their smartphone.
Pick the right channels to get useful insights from customers, Emmanuel said, adding that we should also find the right mix of analyzing behavior data while also asking consumers questions about their actions and thoughts.
“Technology helps you onboarding and analyzing the data and skills, knowledge and expertise is what you need to translate these insights into action,” Emmanuel said.
Understanding who else influences customers
Understanding who our customers listen to is also essential. For example, Jenn Vogel, SVP of marketing at Voxpopme, said that Gen. Z influences many other generations. So to what extent is it worth understanding if you are trying to reach those audiences.
Read next: How to go about understanding Gen Z
As Jamin Brazil said, consider the networks your target consumer is on. If they are on TikTok, reach them there. If they are somewhere else, connect with them there.
Brands can influence through authority and intimacy and while these sound perhaps like polar opposites there are benefits to each and they can be used at different times. And you can do both, Emmanuel said.
“And as I’m thinking through this, you probably should do both,” he said.
The type of influence used can also depend on where the customer relationship is. For example, top-of-the-funnel relationships might be better off being influenced through authority while an ongoing relationship could be better served by influence through intimacy.
Let’s define each of these two types to influence customers.
Influence through intimacy
Brand-consumer intimacy can happen when the brand understands the consumer. When they hear their feedback, act on it and consumers feel like they were listened to.
“That’s where you leverage first-party data,” Emmanuel said. “You enter into an intimate relationship with your customers because you know a lot about them and monetize this in a smart way by recommending products and content that are relevant to this individual.
Influence is scalable because of big data and first-party data of consumers, he explained. Influence through intimacy is not possible if you can’t connect with your audiences.
“Direct-to-consumer brands – what they have going for themselves is they are built on technology and a culture of data science,” he said. “They do a great job at analyzing and monetizing that first-party data.”
He shares the example of Gillette and Dollar Shave Club in the men’s razor vertical. When somebody buys Gillette blades at a store, Gillette knows nothing about that customer.
“They know nothing about my skin type, how often I shave or my pre-shave and after-shave rituals,” Emmanuel said.
On the flipside, Dollar Shave Club – a subscription model – knows a lot about each customer they mail razors to.
“They can analyze their basket data and then upsell me for sensitive skin as an example,” Emmanuel said. But then to expand a DTC brand may have to expand into other areas – like retail – where influence through authority is more common, Emmanuel said.
Influence through authority
Influencing through authority is a bit more of a permeating message that replays in different areas.
“It’s a message that reaches a wider audience and then becomes the authority,” Emmanuel said.
A good rule of thumb is that influencing through authority is a one-to-the masses activity while intimacy is more of a 1-on-1 relationship – even when it’s automated.
Advertising is an example of influence through authority.
Influencing the internal system
To truly understand customers, we must set up the correct systems internally. And that means we have buy-in and support across teams.
“If you’re running these types of experience management programs, it is my job to influence the entire ecosystem,” said Luke Williams, now with Microsoft, on an episode of “Reel Talk.” “The service manager matters, the product gets delivered matters, how we price and package – these things matter.”
And some experiences that influence the customer don’t need to be a massive production, said Gia Laudi, founder of Forget the Funnel, on “Reel Talk.”
“I try as much as possible to influence the customer experience without having to hold everything up with product development,” she said.
Understanding how to convince customers
Elena Lyrintzis, marketing and culture insights lead, Devices and Services at Google, discussed on “Reel Talk,” how more and more people started using the iPhone when it first came out. People weren’t used to touchscreens. It was the Blackberry era of smartphones with little keyboards.
She mentioned an app that showed how a beer mug was moving by the iPhone moving.
“It was educational,” she said. “It showed you how moving the screen can change what’s on your phone.”
All these strategies work best at different times and for different consumers. It’s good to understand the options and then use the one that works best for a particular consumer.