When did we decide to stop talking to each other?
You could blame it on television, or on radio, or even on newspapers. At some point, we stopped learning the names of the shopkeepers who sold us groceries and focused all our attention on “brands.” We built institutions that insulated ourselves from talking to our customers. Even our language changed, morphing into “marketing speak” designed to shape thoughts and drive actions.
Then, the Internet happened.
Things didn’t change overnight. In fact, it took a good 25 years for the web to pull our attitudes back to those of a previous century. Like frogs in boiling water, many of the world’s best entrepreneurs and business leaders failed to see it coming. Institutions with decades of success in their field get called “tone deaf” by a more conversational crowd, only to find themselves “disrupted” by upstarts offering the same products with more transparency. Customers stopped listening to pitches about “leveraging synergy” and started asking companies to explain how they could solve real world problems in clear language.
We’re no longer taking brands at their word, either. Instead, we’re fact checking. We’re asking questions. We’re making decisions about where we shop and what we buy based on whether companies live up to our own ideals. We’re polling our friends and families for recommendations instead of just choosing the brand with the prettiest ad or the biggest listing in the phone book. We’re asking businesses of all kinds to work just like your favorite bartender—in plain view, making things happen in real time, and under constant scrutiny from patrons competing for their own attention. (Plus, some of those folks are clearly drunk.)
Your customers aren’t content with what you printed in your glossy brochure—they want to read reviews from real people that hired your company. You’re no longer fighting for new accounts with a big company from down the street—your biggest competitor might have nothing more than a Twitter handle and a smartphone.
At large, established companies, leaders with any hope of survival have to pick up new skills—fast. Instead of dropping ideas into suggestion boxes, they’ve got to put innovation front and center. That means helping teams build the courage to face real feedback and to take fearless action. Startups don’t have it any easier, though. While they don’t have to shed bad habits, they don’t enjoy the benefits of scale or traction in their markets.
Wherever your organization fits on this spectrum, your top job just became figuring out how you can put the best possible version of yourself in front of every customer and prospect, all the time.
We call this philosophy “D2C,” and it manifests in five distinct ways…
“Direct to customer.”
“Direct to consumer” gets a bad rap, especially after years of abuse at the hands of sketchy marketing gurus. We spent most of the last hundred years figuring out how to keep consumers as far away from business owners as possible. Yet, when we celebrate our favorite institutions, they’re often led by the mad geniuses, the charming mavericks, and the crazy ones who dared to speak directly to customers.
Who can really tell the difference between most “B2B” and “B2C” campaigns anymore, other than the different kinds of stock photos on the brochures? Direct to customer strategy requires learning about the human needs and wants that underly why we buy what we buy. We all want to do business with people we know, like, and trust. Getting your business to that point means learning how to stop looking at customers like you’re a cartoon character on a desert island, hallucinating about them transforming into frankfurters and hamburgers. That process works the same whether you’re selling to a “consumer” ready to buy a new couch or a “business professional” shopping for manufacturing vendors.
“Designed to captivate.”
Businesses behave better when a customer can deliver feedback directly. When you’re worried that someone’s going to bust down the door to your store over a minor complaint, you approach product development a little differently. You start by eliminating pain points. Before long, you’re designing solutions for real problems that your ideal customers might not even know about just yet.
“Design thinking” forces you to build empathy for your customer. You’ll draw on the opinions of key contributors, without falling victim to the “lowest common denominator” results of focus groups. Your inventions might seem so simple, so obvious, that your competitors will resort to laughing at you just to get you off their backs.
“Delivered to connections.”
Call it “the new public relations.” You’ll still need to interact with the journalists, investors, and community leaders who can shape public opinion about your brand. However, there’s a new kind of tastemaker in town. Like the YouTube technology reviewer who can make or break your next product launch. Or the self-described “sartorially offensive” blogger who’s driving fashion houses a little crazy.
Your best press releases and pitches won’t reach folks like them, and they’ll be among the first to tear your business apart if you can’t walk your talk on their turf. Unlike journalists, you won’t always be able to identify them from a byline. That means crafting websites and social streams that assume everyone’s capable of elevating your brand—or dragging it down. This isn’t a new idea. But the clock’s running out for leaders who won’t embrace both New PR and traditional corporate communications.
“Destined to converse.”
Culture shock really kicks in for business leaders who discover that, for the first time in decades, communicating with customers cuts both ways. Too many brands fill their social streams with toothless attempts at conversation. Other companies play nonstop defense, until their replies just echo constant disappointment.
Social media amplification and other outreach campaigns put your message in front of influencers. But they’re useless without strategies designed to celebrate your champions while minimizing your detractors. Authentic communication requires embracing your beliefs and backing them up with facts.
“Delighted to close.”
When we talk about “user experience,” we talk about how you surprise and delight your customer with every interaction. When your ideal customer gets excited just looking at your product. When your target audience can’t wait for you to take the stage. When customers actually start stalking your delivery trucks.
A magical thing happens when you structure your organization around your customers. They can’t wait to do business with you. Instead of churning sales teams through endless rounds of cold calls, you’re developing systems that simplify ordering and fulfillment. You’re reducing defects so you can minimize complaints, and you’re developing systems to care for the few customers that need a white glove touch to turn them back into raving fans.
How 2820 does D2C
The “magic numbers” two, eight, and twenty in our name hint at the power and strength that emerge from putting just the right particles together at the right time. Our team includes professionals with track records in academia, broadcasting, corporate communications, live entertainment production, UX consulting, and creative copywriting. We use content strategy as the foundation for promotions and marketing campaigns that build customer loyalty while capturing interest from journalists, investors, and tastemakers.
We’re using everything we’ve learned about D2C to build our business, the same way we can help build yours. We partner with traditional public relations and ad agencies, but we also work directly with some of today’s most daring business leaders to deliver outstanding customer experiences. Our clients include Fortune 500 companies, hard core bootstrappers, and venture-backed startups that can’t wait to ring the opening bell someday. We all share a passion for getting direct with our customers.
If you’re ready to do D2C with us, let’s get to work.
If you’re interested in starting a project with us, we’ll kick things off the fastest if you take a few moments to fill out our project request form below. Not long after you hit submit, a member of our team will contact you with an invitation to hop on a call and discuss your project further.