We ordered Domino’s pizza last weekend.
I know, I know. But hang with me for a moment.
Do you know the scene in the movie Reality Bites where they order Domino’s pizza, and Lelaina, played by Winona Ryder, asks, “Do they take checks?”
The last time I ordered Domino’s, that movie was a year old. That’s right. It’s been 28 years.
In the mid-1990s, apps, websites, and pizza trackers didn’t exist. Much like receiving your 100th “Try America Online” CD in the mail, you would get Domino’s magnet with its menu hung on your doorknob and promptly attach it to your fridge. On that menu was … wait for it … pizza. Big or small. 11 toppings. And sometimes, thick or regular crust.
In 1995, when I ordered my last Domino’s pizza, it was an inherently efficient transaction. I called, ordered the number of pizzas, and specified the toppings. Thirty efficient minutes later, the pizza arrived at my door.
Dominos became known for that – average, efficient pizza.
So last week, after three neighbors said we were “missing out,” we ordered Domino’s. I went through the 2023 experience with a bit of a twist: I came with a 28-year-old notion of the Domino’s customer experience – an average, efficient pizza.
Domino’s iPhone app stepped up on the “efficient.” The menu expanded (adding chicken, tater tots, sandwiches, pasta, salads, and desserts), and the pizza had five crust options, but the app got me through all those options efficiently. I ordered a few pizzas and went wild when I clicked on the standard cheesy tater tots (don’t judge). The GPS-suggested delivery address was spooky in its accuracy, and away my order went.
Less than 30 minutes later, we had Domino’s pizza and tater tots at the door.
It was average, efficient pizza and tater tots.
The ‘right’ way to buy
When I shared the experience with the friends who highly recommended Domino’s, they scoffed. “You didn’t do it right,” they said. “You have to highly customize and always ask for double cheese. You need to add garlic. The basic tots are fine, but the cheddar bacon tots are killer.”
I was fascinated. They indicated the “meh” experience was somehow my fault. I had manifested the suboptimal experience because I didn’t take enough time to order.
I don’t necessarily disagree. But my experience with Domino’s is a great lesson for B2B marketers who facilitate complex sales.
Can friction be a good thing?
Over the last 20 years or so, marketers have worked hard to reduce or remove friction in the buying process. You implemented digital technology that said it would “remove the friction from your customer’s journey.” You streamlined your websites, thinned the product pages, and provided sales enablement scenarios so tightly scripted as to eliminate any ability for a sales rep to “read the room.”
But your B2B products and services are likely complex. Your many “toppings” and “sides” can differentiate your solution or at least make it more contextually valuable to a customer. For example, “marketing cloud” and “marketing hub” technology products offer so many choices. Whether it’s HubSpot, Oracle, Salesforce, or Adobe, their clients haven’t a clue of all the components in the complete package.
Balancing the B2B customer’s journey presents a challenge: How do you offer customized choices without overwhelming the customer?
You introduce friction that may slow down – or pause – the buyer’s journey and provide value that ultimately enhances their overall experience.
I’ve seen a few successful methods used by B2B companies.
Use content-generated data to tailor and prioritize
Many B2B companies use first-party data to get personal rather than to help them target a solution for the person. They focus on the data fields that capture the who and almost ignore the buyer’s why or what.
A smarter B2B content marketing strategy tags data with attributes so you can refine the suggested solutions or highlight unique features that will prompt the customer to pause and become aware of that unique combination.
Default feature packages can differentiate
I learned this lesson the hard way. As the CMO of an enterprise web content management company, I believed one of the greatest features was our flexible approach to content translation and localization. Our customers couldn’t dream up a scenario that we couldn’t meet. We thought it removed friction because if a customer asked, “Can you handle our translation and workflow process,” we would confidently say, “Yes.” However, the brand continually lost customers to solutions with only one translation and localization method.
It turns out customers – on the whole – sought an alternative because they were dissatisfied with their translation and workflow process. They wanted to learn the competition’s default way of doing it rather than make their existing technology bend to their perceived bad process.
By recommending options with verbiage, such as “many customers choose this,” “recommended for you,” or even “editor’s choice,” you slow the customer’s decision, but you also provide easier ways to make their decision.
Sustained audience engagement: marketing after the transaction
What I call the “dead zone” presents a fantastic opportunity for B2B content marketers to slow the process. The dead zone occurs after the customer says “yes” to your solution and before and/or during delivery and implementation. Emotions run high on both sides. Remember, the endpoint for marketing and sales is the beginning point for the new customer. So the elated sales side usually says, “Leave the customer alone. Don’t slow things down.” While the buyers, though usually happy, can be uneasy. They may lose the “new-car-smell” happiness well before they use the product.
Slowing down by adding friction to this process can actually help. During the dead zone, thought leadership can sustain engagement. Experiences can help the customer get ready, learn, prepare, and generally understand how they can get the most out of what they just bought.
More than upselling the vinyl mats or undercoating for the new car, valuable content marketing experiences enhance the customer’s experience to prevent second thoughts or a lack of enthusiasm when recommending the brand to their peers.
Slower can be easier
Your overall goal should not streamline the buyer’s journey so efficiently that you miss opportunities where the customer could benefit from a pause. In my Domino’s experience, the app was remarkably efficient. It took me through identifying the delivery location and scheduling a delivery time before it even asked what I wanted. Then, the super-efficient configurator zoomed me through the process. Pizza. Big. Thin Crust. Pepperoni and Onions. Tots. Checkout. Done.
When I selected the first three attributes, it could have replied, “Whoa, did you know that many of our customers in your area say ‘double cheese’ really makes their pizza special?” What if it recognized I hadn’t ordered in a while and offered a welcome-back special, using the most popular orders as a default? I would have had to pause to learn about that package, but perhaps I would have purchased more. Or maybe I would have made more enjoyable choices.
Remember, sometimes your customers don’t know what they want exactly or have preconceived notions that don’t match the optimal experience. You and your major competitors may offer almost the same thing. But you can differentiate by slowing down the buying process to make it easier for the customers to understand the combinations that make your solution better for them.
As you double down on creating more valuable customers who stay longer and evangelize more loudly, remember it’s better to slow down and delay the right decision than speed up the wrong one.
It’s your story. Tell it well.