By Luz Plaza, contributor of the Underground Group
⏰ 4-minute read
In a market increasingly driven by social media and word of mouth, having a stellar product or service isn’t enough. Connecting emotionally with your customers plays a major role in growing the bottom line.
No matter your company’s size or where it’s headed, the core rules of customer relationship-building remain the same.
Design a consistent brand experience, create a community, and construct a value-add like the three breakout brands listed below, and you’ll be on your way to boosted customer connection.
Perhaps your direct-to-consumer brand has a fantastic product, but it's not getting the response you anticipated. Or maybe there was initial demand that has since slowed and now your customers are mostly one-time-only.
These symptoms beg the question: Are you trying to sell a product or connect with your customer? In a market increasingly driven by social media, offering a solid product or service isn’t enough. It’s critical to also deliver a consistent brand experience, build an engaged community and provide something customers can’t get anywhere else.
Magnetizing new customers and retaining old ones is a matter of emotional connection.
Emotionally-connected customers are more than twice as valuable in terms of loyalty, according to research results recently published in the Harvard Business Review. They buy more, engage more and exhibit less price sensitivity. Buying a product is a transaction. Connecting emotionally with a brand is a relationship.
Here are three universally-applicable ways to build that valuable relationship with your audience.
1. Design a consistent brand experience.
Consider each of a customer’s interactions with your brand when designing marketing and branding. This applies to items beyond logo and brand colors, although consistency in those alone increases brand recognition by 80 percent, according to a study conducted at Loyola University Maryland. Consistency should also apply to the voice and tone of customer care, the content you produce and the locations in which you set up shop. Each of these communicates its own message about your brand.
When executed well, consistency in brand representation increases revenue by 23 percent on average, according to a recent Demand Metrics Benchmark Report.
Trader Joe's is an excellent example of brand consistency. As a result, it’s one of only two food retailers--and the leading grocer--on Prophet’s 2017 Brand Relevance Index, which polled nearly 13,500 U.S. customers about their impressions of 275 brands like Apple, Marvel, Tide and Adidas.
Trader Joe's delivers a consistent brand experience in channels including Instagram. (credit: Instagram/traderjoes)
The Trader Joe’s brand is consistent across each of its assets: the quaint in-store experience, the quirky merchandising, the “Fearless Flyer” brochure distributed in stores and by mail, the "Inside Trader Joe’s" podcast and the (limited) radio spots it runs. Each method of Trader Joe’s communication tells the same story of value, differentiation and customer care.
2. Create a community around candid content.
Your “community” is the group of people talking about your brand, whether online or off. An active community fosters conversation about a brand and its products while providing audience insight for the retailer. Community conversations are also usually where social proof (i.e. customer testimonials) originates.
Cosmetics company Glossier knew this from the start. Founder Emily Weiss launched a beauty website, Into The Gloss, in 2010 to democratize the beauty sector. The site’s content was honest and witty as it shed light on the skin care practices of influential women. Weiss’ candid point of view made her posts engaging, approachable and shareable. Into the Gloss fostered conversation with women across social media, and after just one year, the site was racking up 10 million page views per month. A few years later, when Weiss announced her direct-to-consumer brand Glossier and its first four products, she already had a captive and trusting audience. She had a community.
Beauty brand Glossier plugged into the audience of Emily Weiss' fashion blog. (credit: Instagram/glossier)
Weiss herself attributes most of Glossier’s growth to its community of loyal fans, per a 2017 interview with Entrepreneur. From Into the Gloss’ early days, Weiss worked to ensure customers were heard, responding to every social media comment and email. The Glossier brand later used that community as mini focus groups, creating products based on what fans had to say.
This community-driven approach created brand loyalty.
"Seventy percent of [Glossier’s] online sales and traffic comes through peer-to-peer referrals, a number that’s remained constant,” Weiss told Entreprenuer.
Your business can apply lessons from Weiss and other community-driven brands by paying close attention to interactions with your audience on social media. Ask for feedback from, connect with and listen to your customers. Tools that can help with this include Social Mention, a free tool that displays your brand’s reach, sentiment, top hashtags and user metrics so you can understand how consumers are engaging. More robust, paid options include Brickfish and CX Social.
3. Define your value add.
In simple terms, a value add is a special manufacturing, marketing or processing factor that increases a product or service's actual value. At your brand, value adds can take the form of contests, newsletters, videos, events or something else entirely. Value adds create more consumer touchpoints and can help a brand stay top-of-mind.
At Airbnb, for example, it’s content (in the form of website articles) that adds value to the customer experience. The site answers common traveler questions and helps customers plan trips in its Guidebooks and community stories. It’s a win for the brand, because users don’t have to leave Airbnb’s site or app to find trip-planning information. Airbnb also uses articles to highlight its positive economic impact in communities around the world.
Airbnb provides "Guidebooks" on its site as a value add. (credit: Airbnb.com)
"As a community-driven company, we don't want to just talk about our product, but instead put our community front and center of any campaign," Airbnb’s CMO Jonathan Mildenhall said in a recent interview with Inc.
Imagine ways your brand can add value to its core product, and you’ll be on your way to connecting emotionally with your customer.
🌱 The bottom line
Whichever direction your company is headed, the best practices for customer connection remain the same. Focus on your customers’ needs as much as or more than your core product, and ensure you build your brand with that connection top-of-mind.
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