Love is in the air and not just because of Valentine’s Day. Brands like Starbucks, Nike, Netflix, iPhone, Samsung and others have been winning hearts over the years, creating strong communities and advocacy. All of these brands are great examples of what it means to cultivate and encourage brand loyalty, creating deep and meaningful relationships with their customers – digital playing a huge role in their success but not the only factor.
Social media has given brands the ability to connect with their customers on a deeper more personal level in real time. Brands now have a wider range of platforms to foster more emotional connections with their customers which for many has meant the difference between short-term flings (single-purchase customers) and long-term relationships.
So how do you create the kind of brand love that lasts a lifetime? Like any relationship, the journey to happily ever after isn’t easy and will present many challenges along the way.
THE FIRST “DATE”
Much like a first date, brands need to prepare themselves to ensure a positive outcome or a result. On a first date, you need confidence – you need to know yourself, understand fully who you are before you can attract the right person. The same can be said for brands and attracting the right customers. In the 5 Gates, we talk about position and how for many brands their biggest obstacle is understanding and defining it. Your position is the foundation for which you build brand recognition and loyalty, it’s your stake in the ground. Giving your customers a great brand experience comes from knowing fully who you are as a brand, what differentiates you and makes you stand out among your customers. If you don’t know who you are, how can you attract the right fit for your brand? The spark starts with position and owning it. Position can be the difference between, “I’m just not that into you” or “We’re meant to be” for your consumer. Just like on first dates, first impressions are everything. In most cases, when a customer takes the time to find and follow you on social networks, it means they’re vested and are interested in hearing from you, so as a brand, you have a huge opportunity to start building that connection the moment that they do follow you.
Twitter is being used by many brands as a customer service platform, but the brands who are using it as a catalyst for meaningful conversation with their customers are seeing huge results. Personalize the experience with a hello, a welcome, an offer or incentive at the time of the follow. Customers want to feel like they are of value to you, that they are part of a community. Starting that relationship with a great first experience is what will keep them coming back for more. In dating, chivalry stands out, showing that you care leaves a lasting impression. So go ahead, hold the door open for your customer.
FINDING THE PERFECT MATCH
Every brand has an ideal customer. The trick is in identifying and reaching them, but knowing what you have to offer and understanding the needs, both functional and emotional, of your customer is where the synergy lies. Determine the real benefit of your brand to the customer and tell that story. Don’t just talk though, listen. Be present and engage with your consumer on a regular basis and just like dating, communication is the glue that holds relationships together. Brands with long-term love are the ones who are in the conversation, surprising and delighting their customers on a regular basis – not because you have to, because you want to. Reward your ambassadors, but don’t just focus on your influencers – encourage and acknowledge your entire community. Love them for who they are not only what they can do for you, find your shared passion and build upon that.
Remember, a great experience travels a long way this day and age. Happy customers talk and just like fix-ups, there is a higher success rate for customers who recommend your brand to other consumers. They feel more connected having heard about your brand through other consumers so give them an experience worth talking about.
Once you’ve made the connection, be careful not to be too aggressive or pushy. It’s important to really find a balance between promotional content and real conversation. A key thing to remember is that one size doesn’t fit all. Use insights and social data to understand what your customers are engaging with and then tailor your content strategy to support those findings. The more you learn to anticipate the needs and desires of your audience, the more effective your content will be.
BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO
Break-ups happen. Turmoil can exist in all relationships and at one point or another, a crisis may threaten your brand’s reputation. How you handle it will determine the difference between a long-term or a short-term break. Identify the problems and create a customer centric action plan. Be transparent and execute fast. Just like good news travels fast, so does bad – especially in social media. One angry fan can quickly result in thousands if you’re not swift to act. Transparency is still uncomfortable for many brands but at the end of the day, if you can’t be truthful and clear with your audience, the connection is lost. Making up will sometimes require admitting that you made a mistake. Despite your efforts though, sometimes customers will break up with you for good and that’s okay. Relationships end. Just like in dating, it’s important to move on and start engaging with new consumers, using what you’ve learned from past relationships to develop new ones.
KEEPING THE SPARK
For the ones that do last though, you need to keep the spark alive and that takes effort. As your relationship with your consumer matures, it’s important to frequently rejuvenate it with new ideas. Keep close to real-time trends and how they resonate with your customer. Use key insights and conversation to create content that resonates with your changing customer.
In dating, there’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to fully understanding your mate. The same can be said for customers. Things can change in the blink of an eye but the more you focus on being active and present, staying close to the customer and building a deep emotional connection – the more chance you have at creating a long lasting relationship, at creating brand love.
If you’re interested in learning more about connected audiences and creating meaningful engagement with your online community, let’s chat! Contact us today.Contact Us