Sporting Human Connection in a Digital World

Even though my team wasn’t playing, like more than two million other viewers, I tuned into the AFL Grand Final this weekend.

It continues to fascinate me how powerful sport can be in creating a human connection – the spirit, the sense of belonging, the loyalty, the passion. It’s an instant conversation starter, a talking point or a reason to share a smile, a laugh or even a passionate dislike for a competing team. Above all though, it reinforces to me that as a sales-turned-marketer, creating human connection through customer qualification, is vital to a brands’ success.

We live in a digital world, with devices and the information and brands they project, readily accessible at any given moment, making data insights there for the taking. It is with this access, a brand can create that connection humans so intrinsically desire. When it’s done at the right moment, we see loyalty, a sense of connection and to some degree, belonging.

I read a piece from an industry expert recently stating that customer insights shouldn’t be at the centre of a business, the brand should be. In truth though, it’s both. For a business to grow, it needs to create a connection, to drive passion to generate loyalty. A brand can’t just exist on knowing itself – it needs to know its customers too.

Data building = relationship building

My AFL team, the Brisbane Lions, was created from the merging of the Brisbane Bears and the Fitzroy Lions, in 1996. It has enjoyed the success of three premiership flags in 2001, 2002 and 2003 and a loyal, dedicated fan base for more than 23 years (even longer if you look at the individual clubs). All of this comes from knowing the brand, but also its fans. The club kept a variation of the Fitzroy colours and replaced the bear logo with a lion. There was no mistaking which two clubs this new form was made from. A smart move, given the passion and strong sense of loyalty a sporting team can create.

Customer qualification in marketing is really no different. Using insights from data means we have greater information throughout the customer journey into what drives the human connection we seek. It’s about understanding at what point of the journey the customer is on and when that connection should be made. Very often this is the missing link, with salespeople speaking to potential customers before they are ready, missing the opportunity for a receptive response. Creating content, campaigns or websites (any customer contact point) that truly reflects your brand and what you stand for, at the right time, strengthens your chance to captivate your audience and capture their engagement. Knowing the customer and their journey, and knowing your brand, means qualifying and nurturing leads at the right time, driving human connection at a time that is appropriate and, eventually, breeds loyalty.

Expanding a business = trusting customer insight

Another argument around why customer insights and brand are equally important, is business expansion. To grow a brand is to know both your brand and your customers. In the words of the great Henry Ford, ‘if there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.’ Ford was always a company who understood their brand, believed in their product and knew how to drive passion and a sense of belonging to a very loyal fan base. Customer qualification allows you to do exactly that. With every touchpoint, it’s about understanding the customer and drive the decision-making process through human connection.

At NTWRK, we use customer qualification with our clients at every point. We take the time to understand the business and goals, all in the name of driving customer experience that delivers human connection and brand loyalty. But we know that it can only be done well – that is create passion and a sense of belonging – when we deliver it true to the brand. When the customer insights, or quantitative data tells us it’s time to qualify a lead, or make that human connection, it not only leads to success but also loyalty, just like those avid fans watching their teams run onto the ground. That said, this passionate Lions supporter will continue to wait patiently and hopefully for another chance at the premiership next year.

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