What I enjoy most about consulting is helping clients step outside of their day-to-day routine and take a fresh look at their brand experience. We all get so wrapped up in our daily activities that we lose sight of the broader customer journey -- how our audience discovers, engages, transacts with and ultimately advocates for us.

I’ll admit to falling into this trap myself. On a whim, I recently called my own company’s 1-800 number and was disappointed to learn that we’d not updated our address on our automated phone prompt following a recent move. Small in the grand scheme of things, but a good reminder that we must keep a constant and watchful eye on our various customer touchpoints.

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When was the last time you tried engaging your brand not as an employee, but rather a prospect, customer or partner? ...I didn’t think so.

To that end, I thought I’d pull some examples from past client work for each phase of the journey with hopes that it encourages you to step back and take a fresh look at your brand experience.

Discover.

Here’s the hard truth: just because you’ve built it, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to come.

I’ll start by sharing an example from a recent CPG client. For context, this particular client has a great value proposition around nightlife and had built a strong digital presence focused on making a memorable night. The challenge was that consumers weren’t naturally associating their evening activities with the brand and, as a result, the rich content the client had created online was not getting the exposure it deserved.

With few exceptions (I’m looking at you Apple and Tesla), I’ve never jumped out of bed in the morning wondering what a particular brand was up to. Sure you can create a media strategy that drops your content into my news feed on a variety of channels, but that’s more like a commercial break. In that moment, you’re not on my radar, and I likely don’t care.

When I do care is when I, as a consumer, am trying to solve a problem in which you can help me with. I may not even know you exist as a brand yet, but I’m likely to be seeking opinions from people like me through online conversations that you’re not present in.

Conducting your own diagnostics. To do a little research here, start by taking off your brand hat and put your consumer hat on. Now go search the web using the expressions consumers are most likely to use regarding your products or services. If you’re using product names here, you’re getting it wrong.

You’re going to encounter blogs, forums, tweets, etc. where conversations related to your business are taking place.

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Is your brand present in these conversations?

In my experience, usually not. In the interest of helping your target find you, stretching beyond the confines of your channels and engaging where consumers are is a huge step in driving brand awareness.

Engage.

We recently helped a consumer technology company audit their post-sale experience with a focus on customer service. At the onset of the engagement, they were quite confident that the experience was bullet-proof but, to their credit, were looking for an outside perspective.

The findings were amazing.

We tried to engage the company through branded online customer support channels like Twitter but couldn’t get a response. We ultimately discovered that these channels weren’t even managed by the brand. Rather, they’d been created by unscrupulous individuals who were looking to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers by gathering their login credentials as part of a perceived support experience.

Imagine the potential risk here from a brand perspective.

Also through this work we learned that over half of the support related conversations were taking place beyond the ‘owned’ support channels. As consumers were craving far more than the brand was offering, a myriad of destinations cropped up to fill the void.

Ultimately, the brand was on the verge of losing control of the post sale experience. Armed with this observation, they were able to quickly reinvent their strategy.

Conducting your own diagnostics. Much like in discovery, search is your friend here. But, instead of searching for more ambiguous terms like we did in discovery, rather focus on product names. If you’re looking through the support lens as we did in our example, add in terms like “Help”, “Broken”, “Hate”, etc. to find the right discussions.

Hopefully, you’ll find the majority of discussions are taking place where you’d expect them to and consumers are getting the response they deserve. If not, congratulations, you just found an opportunity to improve the customer experience.

Related: Here's why Twitter Is the Best Customer Engagement Platform for Startups

Transact.

One of my favorite examples… We helped a B2B technology company conduct a ‘secret shopper’ exercise. This included trying to engage them as a prospect via online channels.

We started subtly by asking for additional information on a particular product.

Nothing.

We upped our urgency by asking to be connected to a local salesperson for additional discussion. After all, nothing sends a buying signal like actually asking to talk to someone in sales.

Nada.

By this point, we’re two weeks into the test without a response. Time to get extreme. Our messaging turned to “Dear (brand), we are trying like hell to give you our money but you don’t seem to want it. Please call us.”

Nope.

We never did get a response, and suffice it to say the client wasn’t thrilled when we shared our findings.

Digging in a bit, we ultimately learned that some channels had been abandoned and were no longer monitored while others focused more on broadcasting marketing messaging versus paying attention to inbound requests. In the worst scenario where a human did receive our response, the internal hand offs were so unclear that our requests were never routed to the right person for response.

Conducting your own diagnostics. This one is straight forward. Simply try to engage your brand through external channels. You don’t even have to play the secret shopper game, rather you can simply advise that you’re working to ensure your customer experience is water-tight and are curious as to where this message (or phone call) lands.

Surprisingly simple, but often exposes some big gaps.

Advocate.

A recent Financial Services client was looking to grow a particular portion of their business. We started out by discussing typical marketing and sales strategies but then quickly immersed ourselves into the most important piece of our research -- the voice of the customer.

Where most brands have to work to build advocates, this client was so good at what they did that customers were simply gushing about them online. However, without a comprehensive approach to social listening and digital insights, they were unaware of the amount of organic advocacy that was taking place online.

We ultimately helped this client develop an influencer and advocate strategy designed to systemically enable their best marketers to do what they were already doing naturally, celebrating the brand.

Conducting your own diagnostics. Back to your favorite search engine. Experiment with different permutations of your brand name and key products but add search terms like “Love”, “Best”, “Recommend”, etc.

If you don’t find anything, we have a different set of problems to work on. But hopefully you do find your most passionate customers out there celebrating their affinity. Now look to see if your brand is engaged in the activity. Are you recognizing them? Are you giving them a big digital hug? Are you hoisting them up for the heroes that they are?

While these all might feel woefully simple, you’ll be surprised at how many brands lose sight of the fundamental customer experience. So do yourself, and your company, a favor. Step outside of the norm and see what you look like from the outside. I guarantee you’ll identify at least one opportunity to improve your customer experience, and that’s a win / win proposition for you, your company and your customer.