Digital marketing is young. The first clickable banner ad appeared on the Internet in 1993. Later, Google, which came on the scene in 1998, and MySpace, one of the first social media sites, opened greater digital marketing opportunities. If the Internet were a human, it would be an adolescent. It’s impetuous and unpredictable, and we don’t really know what we’ve got on our hands, although we know it abounds with potential. At its best, the Internet allows our businesses to interact with each customer individually and to change our strategies as our customers change, personalizing the experience for each person.
This paradigm shift in marketing strategies is inevitable. The Internet gives our audiences the power because it opens up a sea of available products. Businesses that have tried instituting one-on-one marketing to harness that power have learned that, like raising kids, it can be done well, moderately, or poorly.
To be successful in relationship marketing, you need to gain trust. Trust drives sales and customer satisfaction. And Omotenashi is the key to an open, caring relationship between businesses and customers. In previous posts, I defined Omotenashi and explained how it works. Now, I’d like to walk you through how Omotenashi can provide trust in relationship marketing.
5 Actions to Execute Omotenashi
Most businesses aren’t using Omotenashi as their primary marketing strategy, but the few that have adopted some of these principles have encouraged consumers to trust their brand, stick with their service, and become loyal customers. They’ve learned that this approach creates unparalleled relationships, which, from a business perspective, become exceedingly fruitful. Here are five actions you can take now to include Omotenashi in your marketing activities.
1. Show a warm sense of humor
Omotenashi can be difficult to grasp. You will not gain trust if you only care about personal gain. Allow yourself to truly care about your customers. A simple way to begin is to consider, “How can I make someone smile in a negative situation?”
It might be easier if you associate this concept with the hospitality industry. Hotel New Otani is one of the most popular hotel chains in Japan and the company’s action principle is based on the 4S model: smile, sincerity, sanitary, and safety. The latter three are not hard to imagine for a hotel. But the most difficult one, I believe, is “smile” because it requires advanced communication skills and sometimes a bit of good acting. Since relationship marketing is essential for digital marketing, we as marketers need to think of how to bring smiles to our customers.
Here is my favorite example of evoking a smile through Omotenashi marketing.
When the Baltimore Ravens played the San Francisco 49ers in the 2013 Super Bowl, something unusual happened—and it wasn’t a wardrobe malfunction during the halftime show. When a power outage occurred during the Super Bowl, Oreo Cookies created an ad that revolutionized how advertisers engage. The company used the power failure to create an ad that included the perfect amount of good humor in a frustrating situation. It lightened the mood and deepened peoples’ affinity for the brand, while costing zero Super Bowl ad dollars. TV audiences understood that Oreo “got” them and was making fun of the unfortunate situation. Instead of soliciting goods, Oreo thought of the audience’s situation and literally put smiles on their faces through its message.
The company also received 20,000 “likes” on Facebook, and its Instagram followers increased from 2,000 before the Super Bowl to more than 36,000 after the tweet. Was it blind luck that allowed Oreo to increase its fan base? No, they took advantage of situational timing and applied the concept of Omotenashi.
2. Let sincerity guide you
Customers now have many more products to choose from than ever before. People are tired of fast fashion and food and are willing to pay a price for value over discount.
Fast food, for example, is convenient and might satisfy your immediate needs, but as customers you can be overwhelmed by the availability of goods. It is natural to desire a service that caters to you. Blue Bottle Coffee started in San Francisco, serving coffee in an Omotenashi way. Coffee beans are roasted within 48 hours and brewed without the standard coffee machines that many other shops use. The coffee’s quality, as well as the way Blue Bottle serves it individually, touches customers’ emotions, making them instant fans. The company provides value over price, building its customers’ trust.
Businesses that infuse sincerity into every customer touchpoint leave a lasting impression on their customers. Over time, your customers will get to know you and your company, realizing that you’re thinking of their best interests. This goes far above doing something because it is simply your job; it extends into interpersonal interaction that is gracious and open-hearted.
3. Affect deeply with your sympathy
Sympathy can be a way to solve problems. Omotenashi stands for great customer experience. This means that even the smallest of problems needs to be addressed and resolved.
Facebook obviously understands this human need. The company provides Omotenashi by adding “like” buttons to each post, motivating users to post content and read content posted by others. Facebook has successfully gained trust through people’s proactive interactions. Understanding human needs and Omotenashi marketing allow a service be sympathetic to its customers.
You might have had the experience of trying to comfort your girlfriend when she’s upset by offering some advice, but instead of feeling better, she gets mad at you. Often people just need someone to listen to them rather than try to solve their problems. Providing sympathy is a way to be close to your customers, not too close but not too far away, so your customers feel comfortable with you. This relieves tension and establishes a deeper relationship.
4. Create a space for deep engagement
In sales, you must engage with customers in any number of ways. The touchpoint could be search ads, display, email, or word-of-mouth. Each of these channels provides many ways to better engage with customers, and as marketers we always optimize campaigns for this purpose. Over time, the services that succeed build good, lasting relationships. Line, a messenger service in Japan that is similar to What’s Up, understands what it means for customers to stay and use their service.
Line provides unique illustrated stamps that customers can use to show their emotions or message beyond texts. People purchase stamps that reflect their feelings and let them better engage with friends. The engagement is deeper than it is with simple text messages because the illustrated stamps are emotion-provoking, and they successfully create human relationships. This Omotenashi-style marketing made the hidden needs of deeper human engagement visible with illustrations. The service currently has 205 million monthly active users, of which 123 million are in Japan, and the company plans to expand to other regions. Line has implemented the practice of Omotenashi to enhance chat communication.
5. Stay ahead of trends
Omotenashi is unique in that it leads you to focus on your customers’ needs and on how to provide for them before they’re in need. This is one of the differentiators between providing “services” and Omotenashi. Once you learn about your customer, you take that information and look into the future to what your customer needs will be. As you focus on what is to come, you’ll be prepared to serve customers all the faster and—at times—even before they know to ask for it.
Without the right timing, you cannot move customers. Imagine you missed your love one’s birthday. It’s harder to make up for a missed birthday than it is to celebrate on the actual day. This is what solidifies trust and ties Omotenashi together. Amazon is a good example of getting the customer what they want before they ask. Amazon leverages product search histories, previous orders, shopping cart contents, and wishlists to anticipate their customers’ desires and provide service beyond expectations. The company practices Omotenashi by anticipating customers’ needs and shipping products to them before they even place their order.
Omotenashi consists of actions that make others smile, treating customers as though you care about them, being sympathetic enough to sit next to your customers, and proactively looking for timely engagement all the time. Your well-informed customers will be the first to know it. The care and attention to their needs that you naturally project will serve as a bonding tool that both allows them to trust you and puts them at ease. And those are the types of one-on-one relationships that people are looking for, not just in business, but in life.