Frameworks help with developing solutions and the means to communicate those solutions effectively. Sounds simple right? That’s because it is. But let’s dive a little deeper into what that looks like. Frameworks may seem obvious to every business; You make X, sell X to Y which equates into sales/profit. But why would Y buy X? How does Y get to the decision that they need X? And when they do purchase X, what comes next? Ok so maybe this scenario isn’t the most obvious example, but developing a framework for your business when you establish your marketing plan should be the very first step you take. It not only will help you understand your customers better, but you may learn a thing or two about how you can improve your business model along the way.
First, you need to map out the process as you see it and how you wish for your customer to see it as well. From that process, you should then list out what would help and what would hinder the customer experience. Then you determine what is the awareness at each touchpoint of that customer journey. And finally, once that conversion takes place, why would your customer need your product or service again and would they recommend it to others. This is where a Framework would come into play.
Let’s use the STCQ (Stages, Touchpoints, Contexts, Qualities) Framework model (introduced in The Journal of Marketing, Lemon and Verhoef 2016, and expanded and applied by the team at Zion & Zion to numerous global clients) for this example:
Each of these four pieces identify when the customer is in their journey, what are the points of interaction between the customer and business that exist throughout the journey, what are the opportunities and constraints that affect the customer experience creating potential opportunities for new ideas and competitive advantages, and what qualities empower customers to describe their experience based on its value.
It’s important for businesses to understand where their customers are in their journey, or the stage of that journey. Within the stages there are three categories: Pre-Purchase, Purchase and Post-Purchase. Are they recognizing your business for the first time and researching what it’s about? Are they making the decision to buy into your business, or are they consuming/using your business offering and engaging with it? Because this part of the customer journey is dynamic, we also need to keep in mind what their previous experience was like with a similar offering, as well as how it will impact the future experiences they have with your business or others like it. Within this part of the framework, there are a variety of touchpoints that can impact the customer experience throughout their journey.
Touchpoints are considered the points of interaction between the business and the customer throughout their journey. These can be physical touchpoints through human interaction or digital, which continues to increase as a main touchpoint in the “digital” age we live in. There are different owners of touchpoints a customer may have in their journey:
- Brand-Owned – these are designed and managed by the business (i.e. advertising, pricing, website)
- Customer-Owned – this is based on the customer experience, related to their thoughts, feelings, and actions
- Partner-Owned – this is based on a partnership with the business that’s managed by the business (i.e. Google or Amazon)
- Social/External – this is based on external factors such as others who have used or purchased the product through reviews, family or friends’ recommendations, and even social media
Context is based on the customers conditional state, a situational opportunity or constraint that allows for the chance to think innovatively and provide a competitive edge that others might not be doing within the same industry. There are four contexts a customer could be experiencing at any given point in their journey:
- Individual Context – this is based on the customers self-generated experience, either from a previous experience, their own personal preference, or even their physical/mental capability or accessibility
- Social Context – this is based on the condition created by their social relationships with family and friends, what other customers have said, even social roles and cultural norms
- Market Context – this is the most controlled context. It is a condition created by a business providing their customers access to the product or service (i.e. competitive positioning and brand equity)
- Environmental Context – there are two degrees of conditional factors that are mostly outside the control of the customer and the business. The first degree is on a micro level, such as the time of day or the weather. The second degree is on a macro level, related to regulations or laws and even the economy
Qualities are what allow customers to describe their experience giving it value in their journey. Changes in any type of quality could also alter the customer experience altogether. There are five qualities we recognize:
- Dimensionality – this is based on how intellectual, emotional, physical, sensorial, or social the experience is for the customer
- Interactionality – this is the varying degree of how the product or service is interactive
- Temporality – this is how customers perceive the tempo or duration
- Ordinariness – this is based on the level of “commonness” between the business and customer interaction. For example, ordinary can be everyday tasks. Extraordinary are activities that extend beyond the day to day
- Valence – the validity, whether negative, neutral, or positive, as it directly related to the customers experience
Ok, this is great. But why is it important?
Frameworks should be a key component when establishing your marketing plan. Understanding where your customer is in their journey, the variety of ways you can communicate to them, how you can use the contextual state they are in to provide opportunities for innovation and a competitive edge and what qualities the customer can relate your product or service, should be at the core of how you market your business. This is the epitome of truly understanding what your customer is thinking, feeling and doing. It’s what we live by at Zion & Zion. It’s where strategy meets creativity. It’s how we help our partners market their businesses successfully and in turn provide them with the best possible experience in their journey with us.