Influence has been quite the buzzword the last few months. Klout and Fast Company's Influence Project are examples of "measuring" influence, but not the ones I want to focus on for this blog post. I still have a hard time trying to figure out just how important a Klout number is and never got into Fast Company's project because similar to Danny Sullivan's write-up, it's easy to manipulate. Manipulation is not influence.  So, let's get back to the basics, shall we?

The topic of last week's Twitter #IMCChat was "IMC & Influence: How Do Customers & Companies Influence Each Other?" (Transcript).  Because we didn't want to talk fluff, we defined influence right out of the dictionary: the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command.

Influence is more about action than talk. It also has to be taken within context to mean anything. Companies influence customers in positive ways because they empower customers to influence them. These companies have three basic characteristics that set them apart from the rest.

1. They Offer an Excellent Experience at Every Touchpoint

2. Service and Quality is Their Priority

3. They Recognize That Communication with Employees & Customers is Key to Their Success

Excellent Experience at Every Touchpoint

Influential companies offer customers the best experience at every touchpoint. We all have good experience stories. One example for me has been Coach.  I've been a Coach customer since the late 80's when the small company at the time wasn't mainstream. Through it's evolution, Coach has delivered a consistently great customer experience.  From the beautiful, easy to navigate website and branding that flows consistently through its stores, Coach knows a thing or two about an amazing customer experience.  Make every touchpoint a wonderful experience for your customers. Make your website speak to them from the moment they land on your pages. Make the ordering process easy for them. Be there for them if they have service questions. You may not keep them for life, but you will have a time period when they are buying from you and sharing their experiences with others. Be consistent at every touchpoint - branding, sales and service. Collect experience data and continuously evaluate it for improvement.

Service and Quality is Their Priority

No lip service here! Influential companies are relentless about product and service quality. The customer is always at the center, and they design company-wide internal systems to support this. I'm not just talking about technology, but procedures to make it easy for employees to communicate with and service customers. FedEx has done an amazing job with focusing their products and services on customers' needs and has designed internal systems to support these products and services. Read the FedEx story. I highly recommend it for companies who are committed to creating a CustomerCulture focused on customers.

Communication with Employees & Customers is Key

Some companies do this really well. Whether they are communicating results to stakeholders or personalizing products, these companies are savvy enough to use every relevant communication channel. Keyword here is relevant. Communicate with customers the way they want to be communicated with. How do you do this? You ask through interactions with them. Since people consume media in different ways, knowing the right channels of communication makes all the difference when it comes to things resonating with customers.

Do you agree that true influence is measured through action and many times goes unspoken? For companies these actions result in happy, loyal customers (who tell their family and friends) and recurring revenue. That's the bottom line in business.

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