One thing successful brands have in common is that their customers trust and, in many cases, even have an emotional connection with them.
Once a customer loves your brand, you become their first port of call for your product or service and they inadvertently become a brand ambassador, recommending you to the people around them.
A brand affinity is one of the most valuable assets to any business. But why do we choose one brand over another?
Brand loyalty isn’t just based on a rational appraisal of your products; it is also a sentimental attachment. One famous study – ‘Marketing in the Era of Accountability’ – concluded that campaigns are more effective when they appeal to people’s emotions, rather than their critical faculties.
Love at first sight
Everyone’s heard of love at first sight. But you need more than flashy gimmicks and introductory offers to achieve anything beyond a superficial and brief ‘fling’.
Like personal relationships, a strong customer relationship takes time and hard work to build and keep that spark alive.
What brands really want is the reliability of a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with loyal customers – the holy grail of ‘repeat business’. So how can brands turn that first date into a long and happy marriage?
Find your type
Know your target customer – their aspirations, frustrations and fears – and tailor your marketing approach accordingly.
Say your product targets stay-at-home mums: your research might reveal a desire to meet other mums, frustrations about looking good on limited time and budget, and fears about losing their independence. If your product can legitimately address these issues, then you might have a marketing angle.
In the age of ‘big data’, getting to know your customer is becoming easier: you can find out what they like, where they are and what they do for a living at the click of a button.
Consider using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like Salesforce. Or you can upload a contact list to Facebook to find existing customers and find out what media they like to consume and share.
Analytics platforms like KISSmetrics, meanwhile, help you track consumer behaviour, for example whether they prefer using tablets, mobiles or desktop PCs.
Which social networks do they prefer? You can gauge whether they prefer Twitter, Facebook or Instagram by monitoring social engagement through platforms like HootSuite.
Communicate openly with your customers. Customers love a brand they can interact with and social media is the best place for it. So reply to tweets and ‘like’ Facebook and Instagram posts.
Give personalised responses so your customer knows you’re not just a robot. Personalised communication puts a face to your brand, builds trust and makes them feel valued.
Look the part
Every brand has an image. Whether it be a set of signature colours or a design style, logo or particular tone of voice, this gives your customer something to identify with and provokes a reaction when recognised.
Almost everyone – from your mum to celebrities, the Prime Minister and now even dogs – seems to have a social media profile these days. Your business needs one too.
Decide on a distinctive voice, then complete all relevant fields – profile pic, bio and so on – and engage customers through written content, eye-catching visuals, competitions and polls with this ‘voice’ in mind. Give your brand a personality, whether through amusing videos, memes or hashtags.
Tell your story
Everyone loves a good story, which makes it easier for customers to relate to your brand. If your brand has an interesting story to tell – then tell it.
Did you come from humble beginnings and triumph over adversity? Has the business been in your family for generations? Did you come up with your business idea in the pub?
Stand for something
A brand that gives something back appeals to many customers. Buying your products then makes them feel that they’re helping you to make a difference.
If your brand donates 2p of every sale to charity, sponsors charity events or uses fair-trade or recycled materials – shout about it.
Honour your promises
Your brand promises are what you guarantee to your customer each time they buy from you. Be clear and consistent with your message and stick to your promises or they will quickly lose faith in you.
Respect your customer
Empathy goes a long way. Consider training sales and customer-service staff to use the customer’s name and empathetic language when something goes wrong (“That must have been really annoying, John”), respond quickly to enquiries and treat customers like a person rather than just a consumer. Focus groups can help you and your staff understand and empathise with your customer’s needs.
Don’t take customer loyalty for granted. Rewarding loyalty will prevent customers from being lured away by competitors, while new customers will be enticed by the long-term benefits.
Loyalty-card schemes, rewarding referrals and inviting customers to trial new products or new services for free are just three ways of rewarding repeat custom.