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Manage Experience Consistency ... or Chase Your Customers Away

This Articles originally appeared on September 7, 2016 on CMSWire.com.

Consistent, relevant customer experiences don't happen by accident. 

They rely on setting an attainable vision and implementing a combination of tools, governance and resources to get you there. 

In other words, it takes work.

No one is promising this will be easy, but once you have a system and process in place, you can shape your customer's brand experience.

Close the Marketing Circle with Metadata 

Consistency doesn't mean pushing the same thing to everyone. Consistency means delivering the right message to the right customer that reflects your brand's style and tone2. 

And this starts by designing a model for the appropriate supporting metadata and taxonomy. 

One approach relies on figuring out what the customer experience should be like for a given persona and selecting the right digital assets: Does the customer like a certain color, style or product? What about activities, such as reading, or preference for certain visuals? 

A defined persona will determine what content should be used in marketing. For example, a postcard sent from a retailer can have products that match the interests of that persona. But that postcard must at the same time ladder up to an overall brand architecture so that the experience the customer has at every touchpoint is consistent and rewarding.

Sometimes models are “imposed.” In those cases, the company decides what it wants to sell, based on making a quick sale, developing brand loyalty or getting a purchaser to a store on a given day. The company might develop a campaign around a single idea, like best-selling products, back-to-school season or clothes from a specific designer. 

Personas and campaigns work effectively only when their attributes are matched with attributes of the products. Whether you’re trying to match the product to the person, the person to the campaign, or the campaign to the products, the models are key: metadata closes the marketing circle. Take the time to define rules for your associations, and enable them in advance.

DAM Boosts Operational Efficiency

Consistency in your marketing associations — personas, campaigns, products — also boosts the internal functioning of an organization. From an operations point of view, the purpose of digital asset management is findability and business efficiency. 

Findability leads people to desired results with greater speed. An internal user may need to find the right sized brand logo for a particular application, or find the best template for an upcoming promotion using social media. Fast findability is good by itself, but precision in findability is how you develop efficiency. 

The asset needs to be the right size, resolution and color depth, identical (or different) to the asset used last week’s promotion, and with the proper usage rights for your intentions.

These are consistent needs, and therefore should be managed consistently. By organizing things in a smart way, people can find what they need. 

It also helps to be consistent across people and roles so that you don’t have to rely on how other people store, tag and name things. 

Think about all of the workflow and technological bottlenecks that regularly disrupt your repeatable processes. Ask yourself if you have enough predictability in your digital workspace. Ask also if your customers have enough predictability when they interact with you.

The Hard Work: Linking Personas to Campaigns

The ways we describe digital assets in a DAM don't often lend themselves to mapping to a persona. 

There’s no easy way to know which imagery and styles are appropriate to work-at-home professionals, weekend adventurers, academics or parents. Attributes used to describe a particular shirt — pattern, material, style, designer, season — don’t inherently coordinate with the attributes of our customers: frugal, computer-savvy, after-work shoppers with children. 

Sometimes the art studio will juxtapose multiple ideas in an effort to make the connection, placing that shirt on a woman carrying a briefcase and four lattes, or a shopping bag and child, or a duffle bag and rifle. Studio work like this requires major coordination, knowing enough about both the product (shirt) and persona (customer) and building a juxtaposition with a clear message. 

Coordination like this is key to creating an experience that delivers consistently across all personas.

So what is the mapping? That’s the hard question to answer. But if you’ve done some research, you already know what your customers are buying and can find patterns — the primary goal of customer analytics. 

By integrating these patterns into your models, by expanding and enhancing your models, you can enable the connections you need. This requires both deep research, diligence and ongoing capability to fine-tune the mapping as learning evolves (and the resources to do so), and a shattering of internal silos so that your CRM, IT, business and design teams are truly sharing insights that support customer behaviors in a crowded, confusing marketplace. 

Maintaining Experiential Consistency

A leading automobile manufacture neglected to coordinate its branding, giving a clear picture of the hazards disjointed, inconsistent marketing experiences create.

Two communications received at nearly the same time were branded quite differently. One emphasized high-tech features of the car (remote startup, wireless dealership communications), and the other was text-heavy with benefits of routine maintenance. 

Add the softer nuance of design integrity (one communication was gorgeous and glossy and the other was of grade-school quality) and you create a negative brand impression, and negatively impact your customer’s experience and association with you. 

Every touchpoint matters. This kind of experiential inconsistency leads to inaccuracies and uncertainty about the manufacturer. At the very least, the branding vision of the company is lost.

Centralized coordination of templates, images and language delivers much stronger brand messages and helps to build customer relationships. Ideas like “high-tech” and “reliable” need to permeate your managed assets if you’re going to deliver these ideas. Messaging needs to be part of your existing brand standards, and then enforced in a DAM system.

Tools for Creating Consistent Experiences

How can you make all of this possible? Information management offers us several tools to work with. 

Models for your business objects, expanded to achieve these broader requirements around customer experience 
Metadata to describe and connect together your assets, people and initiatives, with taxonomy to ensure use of a consistent common language across business units and roles 
Information architecture to construct the user experience overall, from template automation and document assembly to workflow and rights management 
Governance to keep everything current and accurate, and everyone aware and involved. 

Technologically, toolkits that synthesize guidelines and offer re-usable digital assets that align to brand standards enable designers and developers to maintain a consistent customer experience across your digital universe. These libraries help organizations make sure that technologies are coordinated, and empower and contain stakeholders who may otherwise seek customization to align to consistent choices that improve efficiency, reduce resourcing challenges and create synergy across the enterprise.  

This digitized library needs to be maintained with a high degree of content and information governance, populated and managed by various internal groups that each need a voice in delivering the customer experience.

It Takes a Village to Keep Assets Flowing

Amidst the details metadata and taxonomy, it is important not to overlook the larger concept of collaboration. Developing the persona has typically been the responsibility of marketing, while the DAM system has been a support or IT function that serves marketing as well as other departments. On the creative side, developers need to know how the artwork is being used, and why. The view of digital assets needs to be holistic. 

Although the taxonomy is developed to build a customer experience, the process is not plug-and-play. A lot of upstream activities need to be integrated. Everyone involved in this process needs to work collaboratively to ensure the flow of assets continues and that work isn't repeated.

Get Started: Don't Drive Away Your Customers

Delivering consistent customer experiences starts the day you decide to make it happen. All of the above can and should happen incrementally. 

Organize a governance team. Re-evaluate your taxonomy and metadata rules. Prioritize a set of digital assets that are commonly used across your enterprise. 

But above all, get started. If your customers can’t expect consistency in their experience with you, where will they go?

Earley Information Science Team
Earley Information Science Team
We're passionate about enterprise data and love discussing industry knowledge, best practices, and insights. We look forward to hearing from you! Comment below to join the conversation.

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