You’re a business owner or representative who is proud of what you’re selling. You believe in your brand and think potential customers will, too.
But it isn’t that simple. We live in a world saturated with noise and distractions. Competitors are trying to steal your market share. The demands of your job keep you from focusing as deeply on communications as you’d like.
How do you cut through the noise and win new converts to your brand? Beyond that, how can you turn those new customers into evangelists for your company?
Know your target
It’s Marketing 101 that you can’t sell your brand without establishing a profile of your target customer. But that’s even more important when you’re soliciting brand advocacy. It isn’t enough to think your brand will resonate with the customers you’re targeting. You need to know how and why they will respond to it.
That’s why it’s important to conduct market research to determine your brand’s strengths and discern your target audience’s needs and aspirations. Once you know what they stand for, you’ll know how to communicate with them.
Sometimes, research will take you somewhere different than you expect – and not only is that okay, it’s wonderful! Forbes Magazine cites Jet Blue as a strong example of adapting to unexpected research results. Before the airline took off, it used research to determine that flyers prioritized cushy seats and televisions more than the perks offered by most airlines. They used that information to follow a new direction – and have since been acknowledged as “marketing pioneers” for their interaction with passengers.
Craft your story
If you’ve spent much time around communications types, you’ve heard a new axiom – these days, consumers crave stories, not just good products. This is particularly true for the millennial market, whose legions are ripe for leveraging as brand advocates. Ad Week tells us that when it comes to millennials, “authenticity matters more than content.” Powerfully, six in ten millennials are brand loyal, which means they’re going to tell your story – that is, if you tell it effectively first.
How? By catering to their interests through content marketing – generating material that adds value to potential customers’ lives through the lens of your brand’s mission (because, remember, it has to be authentic content).
What does content marketing accomplish? Simple: It makes your customers feel like they’re part of something greater. And if there’s one thing war, religion, sales and college football have taught us over the centuries, it’s that people will go to drastic lengths to support a cause that is bigger than themselves.
If you can align your company with a social cause that truly is larger than any one of us – a la TOMS – you are even more likely to earn passionate brand loyalists.
To take your customers across the threshold into brand advocacy, it’s important to continue to connect with them. Create what I’ll call loops of engagement – surveys, rewards programs, social media promotions and other initiatives aimed at securing loyalty and creating ambassadors.
Marketing expert Sujan Patel says it perfectly: “If you want to turn your customers into brand advocates, you can’t just be meeting their expectations – you need to go above and beyond and exceed them.”
Patel advises asking for feedback, offering referral programs and surprising customers with special, personalized perks. Continue adding value to customers’ lives, and they’ll continue adding equity to your brand.
At Mary Beth West Communications, we work with clients to galvanize their target audiences through a four-step process: research, planning, implementation and evaluation. We help our partners examine the market, convey their stories in a way that engages their target audience and continually evaluate their success by following up – and evolving strategic communications as audiences and client needs evolve as well.