Would You Date Your Brand?
When social media disrupted marketing in the mid-2000s, it was seen as a revelation. Gone were the days of broadcast-style marketing whereby companies with the biggest bullhorn had their carefully selected talking points communicated to the largest number of consumers. In its place, marketers could have real conversations with real people who had the potential to acquire longtime customers due to their budding relationships with said brands.
Then, the broadcasting brands began a land rush for social media channels, and bad marketers took their old skills and applied them to these new channels, with some disastrous results. The cardinal sin of social media is to not be authentic, or speak to fans as though your brand is a person.
Customer relationships aren’t “important to” marketing online: they are marketing itself. What you save in media fees from not doing 30-second ad spots, your brand will have to make up for in personal touches and actively moving customer relationships forward.
Instead of looking at the path to purchase online as a “funnel,” it’s time to look at brands a little like dating: your customers have choice. They can find out online what your brand is really about before they commit, and they can ask their friends and family for intel on your brand.
Instead of focusing on clickthroughs and likes, brands should be asking themselves one important question:
If you didn’t work for your company, would you date your brand?
At each stage of a customer’s familiarity with your brand, there are opportunities for you to make a good impression, tell him or her about your brand in a flattering light, and deepen your relationship with an open dialogue.
Initial courting: Make your impressions flawless
As with any relationship, you want to lead with an idealized version of yourself. You want to tell stories about your brand that can help illustrate to customers what your brand is about and what values it holds dear. Keep these initial conversations light and make the customer want to know more. Just like in dating, you don’t want to seem weird or desperate. That customer will just find a brand who isn’t instead and leave yours in the dust.
First date: Make it count
If a customer comes to you wanting more information or a customized experience, you should roll out the red carpet. Treat them like they are the only person in the room and make sure they are taken care of. This way, you set the stage to talk more about your brand’s attributes and benefits, and let them come to the conclusion on their own about how great you are. Resist the urge to do a hard sell. You don’t want to move too fast for fear of scaring them off at this stage.
Keep up your friends
A common pitfall of relationships is focusing too much time on new relationships and not enough on the older ones. It’s important to maintain a balance, and to help your older friends promote you to your newer friends. Make sure you’re spending an equal amount of time seducing new fans and maintaining your more-established friendships. Look for opportunities for your older friends to help vouch for you, so you don’t have to always be “on.”
Deepen the relationship (inspire loyalty)
Once you sense your new relationship is deepening and you have effectively made a sale, don’t drop out of sight. It’s important to help your new-found relationship through the hurdles of closing the deal. During this time, it’s important to listen twice as much as you talk and make sure you’re giving your customers what they need when they need it. If they give you feedback, make sure their comments get acted upon.
Give more than you get
Just as in life, you have to prioritize your partner’s happiness over your own. In a world where customers are in the driver’s seat, you have to make sure to carry through the customer care at a high level throughout your relationship. Offer incentives. Tailor marketing programs, solicit feedback and input from customers and then actively give them what they want.
Fight for them
No relationship is without conflict. There may be times in your relationships with customers where your brand might let them down. Don’t accept “that’s the policy” from internal sources: fight for your customers. Whatever expense and time you put in, you will get back several-fold with loyalty and positive word-of-mouth. Retention is just as important as acquisition where customers are spoiled for choice.
It’s easy to look at social media and inbound marketing as just another channel to pour broadcast-style content into, but this will not net you the kind of passionate, loyal advocates your company needs to survive the new economy. Always ask yourself whether you would date your brand.