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Do you have a favorite lunch spot? Maybe a cafe that once made a great impression on you? If so, that’s the power of branding at work.
Your brand image is often the difference between having a lifelong relationship with loyal customers and never being discovered at all.
But, building an amazing brand doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to figure out how to reach your audience in the most effective way possible. By following these simple (but often ignored) steps, you’ll develop a better understanding of what your customers want and how to exceed their expectations.
1. Focus on storytelling, not product features
Without a good brand story, your product holds no inherent or emotional value for your customers. As author and story coach Lisa Cron tells us, humans are hardwired to respond to stories. When a brand makes a deep impression on us, it impacts our buying behaviour. A 2013 Psychology Today piece showed that, when evaluating multiple brands, “Consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes, features and facts).”
It’s about building a human connection with your customer, not touting the bells and whistles of your product.
Keep in mind that a good story needs to be backed up by an excellent product. Even the most talented creatives can’t change the perception of a poor product.
2. Don’t try to be something you’re not
In order to last the test of time, your brand message needs to be true to who you are as a company. Don’t get hung up on what’s cool or trending now. Instead, focus on how you solve a real and enduring problem for your customer. Some of the most ‘uncool’ products have the strongest brands. Think about online accounting software Freshbooks, major appliance company General Electric or toilet paper company Charmin — they know their customers and how to sell to them. Focus on what you do best and offer an authentic experience for your customer.
3. Give value to get brand love
Your content should focus on building relationships and helping your customers make informed and well-thought-out decisions. That way, when they choose your product or service, it’s because you’re actually the best fit, which will lead to stronger, longer lasting relationships. Not every piece of content you create should be about your product or lead to a direct sale. You need to understand your customer journey and where content fits in (that’s why you should have a documented strategy). With a strategy, you can develop a consistent brand experience across all of your channels, which is absolutely essential for long-term growth.
If you can nail down a content marketing strategy for your business, then you’ve discovered a cost-effective way to increase awareness about, and engagement with, your brand.
4. Be customer-centric on social
Focus on networks that are relevant to your target audience and start getting social. No matter how big or small your company is, around 67 percent of consumers in the U.S. expect to contact your brand on social. Good customer service on social is directly linked to business growth. A report by Aberdeen Group finds that businesses with social customer service experience around 7.5 percent year-over-year growth (compared to 2.9 percent without social customer service), so don’t underestimate its value.
Brands like Zappos have built their entire brand image and reputation around amazing customer service. They understand that having a loyal customer is 10 times more valuable than the customer’s first purchase.
5. Make connections offline
With so many branding opportunity opportunities online, it’s easy to forget about the importance of combining online and offline experiences. Going to conferences, meeting local people in your industry and public speaking are excellent ways to fast-track your brand’s visibility. These in-person events will help build your authority as a thought leader and get you facetime with key influencers in your industry. It really does pay to get outside. As CEO and professional speaker Jess Ekstrom points out, 90 percent of her leads come from connections made at conferences.
If you’re not sure where to start, think local. Host a small luncheon, run a seminar, or try career mentoring in your community. If you’re looking for conferences or events to attend in your industry, check out Meetup, AllConferences.com and Lanyrd. These are useful general directories that can get you on the right path.
Good brands understand what their customers want and find creative ways to deliver a memorable experience. If you aren’t doing that, then you won’t stand out against other brands that are constantly competing for your customers’ attention.